Sundance Institute Announces Future of Culture Initiative

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Sundance Institute Announces Future of Culture Initiative

Sundance Institute today announced the Future of Culture Initiative, an action plan that includes partnerships with Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University in order to implement key recommendations from a two-year global field scan that analyzed strategies for improving equity and inclusion in emerging media. The initiative puts artists in discourse with technologists, scientists, policymakers, advocates and business leaders to imagine and design for the future of culture.

"New Frontier is dedicated to creating, advancing and deepening partnerships that put 'artists at the table' in sectors where their voices could be transformative but, historically, haven't been heard," interim Director, New Frontier Lab Programs, Ruthie Doyle said of the program. "By collaborating with experts across a range of sectors and institutions, we hope to further critical conversations about social impact and inclusivity when it comes to the application of Science and new media technologies across a wide range of evolving practices."

The field scan, funded by the Ford Foundation and supported by Sundance Institute, is titled Making a New Reality. Authored by Kamal Sinclair, Sundance Institute Senior Consultant and former director of the New Frontier Labs Program, it features interviews with more than 100 media experts and practitioners and investigates strategies for achieving equality and justice in emerging media, highlighting the need to break down barriers between tech, arts, media, science, policy and commerce in order to promote intersectional perspectives and values, mitigate bias and blind spots, and advance equity and inclusion.

In response, Sundance Institute's New Frontier Lab Programs has formed unique collaborations with two trailblazing university research centers and arts programs: Johns Hopkins University's Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technology (ISET) concentration, and Stanford University's Office of the Vice President for the Arts and the new Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (Stanford HAI). Artists' residency programs are at the core of both collaborations, with cross-disciplinary summits on arts and technology to bring together thought leaders in the field to catalyze further action.

"Connections between immersive art and Science have the ability to create new ways of learning and seeing the world. Universities are uniquely positioned to forge inclusive and diverse partnerships between technology, science, and immersive filmmaking," said Beverly Wendland, James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

"At Stanford HAI, we believe technology should improve the human condition, said Fei-Fei Li, Co-Director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (Stanford HAI). If we want technology to serve humanity, the creators and users of technology need to be representative of humanity. Interdisciplinary collaboration is central to all of our work at HAI."

Participating Artists, Already Hard at Work

Diego Galafassi (2019 Talent Forum Fellow and grantee) began working in residence at Johns Hopkins University ISET in Spring 2019. His project, Breathe (in collaboration with Jess Engel, 2016 New Frontier Story Lab Fellow and Phi-Centre), is a mixed-reality application that utilizes the Magic Leap headset to enhance understanding of climate change by inviting viewers to break free from their bodies in order to experience themselves as a cohesive part of the greater living world.

Joining Diego at Johns Hopkins ISET this fall is Penelope Jagessar Chaffer (2019 grantee), who is working on Toxic, a documentary app based on her TED Talk that uses artificial intelligence to piece together a variety of personalized data sources in order to present an interactive non-fiction story about the effects of environmental pollution on children.

"At Johns Hopkins ISET we believe storytelling merged with emerging technologies-like VR, AR, and AI-brings new perspectives and possibilities for technology's role in shaping our relation to the world, to others and ourselves," Added Founding Director of Johns Hopkins' ISET, Gabo Arora. "Storytellers are what will change dominant status quo narratives, values and perspectives, and show the humanizing potential for a future that is more equitable and just."

Earlier this fall, Stephanie Dinkins (2018 New Frontier Story Lab Fellow and grantee) was in residency at Stanford University. Dinkins is developing her project, Not the Only One, a multigenerational memoir of one black American family told from the "mind" of a social artificial intelligence with an evolving intellect. The artist will be returning in the Spring.

"So much of the discussion about technology today is narrowly focused on algorithms," Li continues. "We need a broader discussion - something deeper that is linked to our shared future. We are proud to host a residency for Stephanie Dinkins and support the New Frontier Lab Programs in the hope that it helps to bring more people into the discussion and expand our collective mindset."

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