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Spring 2008

| v.04 n.01|

Beyond Boundaries, Digital Change and Revolution: iDMAa Conference, November 8-10, 2007

  • Rebecca Gallagher
  • Touro College, NYC

The International Digital Media and Arts Association recently welcomed professionals and academics from around the world to their annual conference held in Philadelphia. This year’s theme, Beyond Boundaries, explored the new trends in emerging media and examined recent practices in education and creation:

With 23 conference sessions offered there was a vast array of topics and discussion. In addition, two local galleries, F.U.E.L and Painted Bride, hosted exhibitions of digital artwork and media projects created by both professionals and students, including a live performance by artist David Bithell. David’s stellar performance of The President Has His Photograph Taken, included video, trumpet and facial gestures. You may see some of David’s contemporary performance pieces at

 trumpet david bithell

David Bithell The President Has His Photograph Taken - Video Still
©David Bithell, 2005.

sitting David Bithell

David Bithell The President Has His Photograph Taken - Video Still
©Andy Mogg, ODC Theater - San Francisco, 2005.

The conference opened with an introduction and overview of the current climate in the professional realm, presented by Peter Rivera, Senior Vice President, Interactive Design and Development for AOL Programming. He discussed AOL’s desire to hire generalists and not specialists, not to say that any of their designers are not experts in one area over another, but that they should have working knowledge of all other facets of the design process as well. They look for new hires who are quite savvy in three important, broad, categories; aesthetics, technology, and business. This key point, which is often debated in the educational realm when discussing how to best prepare students for life after graduation, set the tone for the remainder of the conference.

Within the larger theme of digital change and revolution, a continued reference of the conference was the integration of new media into all facets of study and popular culture. How can digital media be used to engage and inform? This question threaded through each of the panels and was answered with varying degrees of complexity and new thought. Long past are the days where a simple animation or rollover action suffices as new media. Artists and educators alike are now looking towards new means of interaction and global engagement. On the arts side of this discussion, Kristen Johnson, a graduate student in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University, produced an interactive film, Lost Cause. This film allows viewers the opportunity to participate by choosing which character’s perspective to see the film through. At any given time the viewer can switch back and forth between characters, thus allowing them to interact with and be part-creator of the film:

lost cause

lost cause

Fig.1, Fig.2 Stills from Lost Cause, Kristen Johnson, interactive film

On the education side, Peg Faimon and Glenn Platt of the department of Interactive Media Studies at Miami University (in Ohio) presented an overview of new directions of academic studies within new media. They discussed the integration of new media and digital arts into all departments in the college with the vision of transforming the traditional university model into a new flexible one of interdisciplinary studies. By bringing together faculty and students from across the university, each with knowledge and expertise in their given fields, they hope to bridge the contemporary technology gap by examining how interactive media informs each of us and transforms our work, no matter what our chosen discipline. The language of technology ties us all together and this new interdisciplinary approach breaks down the traditional university walls that confine us within individual departments:

Unlike many other conferences specializing in new media and digital design, Beyond Boundaries catered primarily to educators and approached all topics as such. iDMAa offered a full mix of panels to choose from, covering topics from theory to practice from the perspective of both the educator and creator, and encouraged discussion among the attendees. Still a growing organization, iDMAa conferences have proved to be a valuable resource for all new media and digital art educators as a source of information, a forum for discussion, and a place for networking.