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

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Sounds uncannily like what we are facing now in the digital age. Perhaps creative types have always learned this way and the generations growing up digital are realizing that education might catalyze talent but it does not create it. Instructors and institutions by their very nature hold on to what came before and receive their authority because they consider themselves experts.

Most art students live digitally on social networks, twittering, texting and weaving their real world existence seamlessly with their digital existence. It is a world with new ways of being, creating and understanding; perhaps just outside the grasp of those who are rooted in the analog concept of reality. For those raised in digital culture, who know nothing else, expertise is everywhere and anyone with the will can find and learn what they need according to their own learning rhythms.

Notice to academia: the marching band has stopped and you are not in charge anymore. Industrialization is dead and it does not know it yet. African polyrhythms provide a better metaphor to understand the potential unfolding in digital culture.

Insights from the Private Sector

Gurval Caer, the CEO of Blast Radius, spoke to the quanta of potential in interactive narratives that never end. He waxed poetically about how game mechanics create new creative potential and financial opportunities compared to the traditional linear narrative.

Caer explained how game mechanics now dominate the linear narrative. With game mechanics influencing the design of narrative, the brand story is expected to continuously morph and flex. The narrative is both fixed and adaptive. The narrative can evolve and can be co-created. People are co-creating the brand narrative. The audience is no longer captive to the marketing machine; the audience is in complete control and may generate multiple narratives. The story is now about ideas and what a brand and people have in common.

Caer emphasized that the successful brand empowers people to pursue passions, narratives and interests with others. That brand becomes glue by connecting us through shared ideals. Blast Radius' success demonstrates that a company can get it right.

The creative tension between the private sector, academia, and digital artists

The design and intention of the conference was to explore the generative space between the private sector, academia and digital art production.

In the knowledge economy, the private sector wants to enhance its ability to make money by using the insights gleaned by how people engage with digital narrative. Ultimately, academia wants to explore the ideas behind generating the digital narrative and cultivate artists that can do so with some depth. Digital artists want to make art - and a living.

What was missing - the big gap - was a dialogue between the two conversation threads engaging the artist-as-entrepreneur in the emerging knowledge economy, the economy where big business does not necessarily dominate. 

Artists and entrepreneurs share a quality of seeing opportunities where others see none. Artists-as-entrepreneurs are enabled to find ways to create economically viable art practices while reconfiguring the world by offering new meanings and enhancing our understanding of the world.

This seems like fruitful ground - one where businesses can make money and where creatives can be rewarded and recognized for their talents and role in the world. Right now it seems as if businesses are making big money, academics are speaking about big ideas, instructors are earning salaries, and students, the generators of future high-quality content and creative processes are not being engaged as the potential entrepreneurs that they are. 

But perhaps that is a story that is still be generated, and will evolve, according to multiple perspectives. From the ground up, from the top down and the inside out, like a self-aware eco-system emerging from the slumber of a brave new world. After all, this is one thread in a much more complex and self-evolving digital narrative that will continue of its own accord.

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