How are we changing the stories we tell?

So-called “participatory culture” went from neologism to the new normal so quickly, it makes your head spin. Social media, mobile devices, and an increasing array of digital tools have made it possible for more people than ever to create and distribute movies, songs, publications and electronic games.

But because this transition is so technologically driven, it risks leaving behind non-technophiles, or even creatives who work in any one industry, meaning that participatory culture may not be as diverse as the general population.

Ryerson University researcher Richard Lachman examines how best to foster and maintain diversity in this shifting landscape. One of his methods is to focus less on the tools and more on what you can do with them.

“It’s not about the technology,” he says. “It’s that the technology is creating different ways of connecting with one another. Different ways of creating and sharing.”

Lachman leads a research project in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) called TIFF.nexus, a digital media project aimed at breaking down barriers in the world of game development.

The project brings together media-makers, artists, programmers and game developers to equip a new generation of storytellers with the creative/collaborative skills and the professional relationships they need to innovate in a fast-changing digital media environment.

“Collaboration between academia, industry and the creative community is absolutely a priority in the 21st century. It’s not possible to segment out one sector from another – there are too many factors at play driving media innovation,” he says. “We’re seeing experimentation at the creative, industry, artistic and research level. It all cross-pollinates, driven by easy access to high-level tools, a growing body of experience among content creators, media convergence and sheer computer-power.”

One of the TIFF.Nexus projects is “The Difference Engine,” a video-game incubator designed to help more women get involved in game design and creation. Organizers also held a conference called “Women in Film, Games and New Media” that facilitated discussions about gender imbalance across diverse media sectors. A second project brought educators, children’s television producers, artists and digital designers together to explore New Media Literacies for today’s youth.

“Canada is a leader in culture and digital media,” said Lachman. “We have a massive opportunity to bring our skill sets to the world, and universities are at the centre of connecting the industry’s best talent, research and companies for innovation.”

**Major funders for this research include The Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund (Ministry of Tourism and Culture), and Autodesk. TIFF.Nexus is a partnership between TIFF, Ryerson University, The Hand-Eye Society and Interactive Ontario.

Richard Lachman

Richard Lachman

Ryerson University

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