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"The Digital Narrative" at Emily Carr explores storytelling in the digital age

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Photos and video by Sara Dent

The digital medium offers new ways and structures to tell stories. It offers us the ability to re-create our stories in a style where authority does not rest with an expert but is co-generated from multiple perspectives. Non-linearity, virtual and interactive, weave together, augmenting or replacing the linear, the physical and the one-way in the digital realm.

Hyper text, hyper art, hyper ideas.  

Last week, savvy business people in sharp suits, academics who might have spent an hour too many in front of their laptops and bright eyed technician-artists came together on Granville Island with the intention of harvesting a crop of digital insight. The 2010 International Digital Media and Arts Association conference "The Digital Narrative" was held at Emily Carr University (ECU).  The aim: to explore ideas of how storytelling and communication is influencing and influenced by new and emerging technologies.

A creative mix thick with possibility

The business people came to explore ways to drive and draw consumers by engaging them in stories that are re-generated and reworked as they move from film, to game boxes, games and through social networking websites. These presenters talked about brands that maximize profit and drive down production costs through narratives designed from the ground up for transmedia.  

Academics discussed new ways to engage students and creative and ethical issues involved in digital production.

Artists shared their works and discovered new tools to explore and weave the deep and complex concepts and behaviours that hold the story of us all together. 

We need an evolution in the development of creative talent

In his opening address, Ron Burnett, President of ECU, emphasized the importance of creativity in society. He discussed how educational institutions need to evolve to prepare young people for the knowledge economy. He noted that talent is not manufactured and that, in reality, people are learning all the time. Learning is organic but educational institutions are still designed as halls with boxes attached to them, based on an antiquated industrial model with regimented learning schedules.

Burnett asked whether institutions of the future would actually need instructors. He wondered how their buildings and the students’ experiences might be designed without the artefacts of industrial thinking.

The President of ECU is clearly a person of vision and someone who is going to rustle some feathers. The digital times they are a changin' - again.

Learning from the past

Recent history provides us with clues about the digital future of education and insight into how to navigate the entrepreneurial possibility of the digital age.

According to the recently released film Radiant Child,  in the late 70s and early 80s Manhattan,  Basquiat, Madonna and Deborah Harry played and created among Downtown 500. At this time, a creative simply picked up a camera and declared themselves a filmmaker. It was messy, unsanitized, non uniform - and creativity prospered.

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