A brief history:
The Convergent Media Showcase is relatively young. There had only been one before it. That was last year.
However, the tradition of the Convergent Media Showcase goes back much further. It all began at the University of Texas at Austin’s ACTLab. The ACTLab, one of the founding programs of the new media/convergent media fields, held end of semester showcases for every class. They were unique from other end of semester critiques or art shows in that the students not only showed their projects, but presented their documentation as well. The audience was also invited to ask questions and prompt a full discussion after every presentation.
The ACTLab presentation days were known for lasting up to 6 hours. Sandy Stone, the founder of the ACTLab, provided food, students would bring snacks, and everyone in the class were required to attend all the presentations. The public was invited and could come and go as they pleased.
I utilized the model that her, myself, Brandon Wiley, Dustin Younse and a slew of other ACTLabbers developed over the years and modified it.
In addition to having worked in academia, many ACTLabbers, including myself, have worked in the “startup world” (think The Social Network or Silicon Valley). So I took the medium of ACTLab presentations and applied a time limit for pitches. The presentations needed to contain both the students’ projects and documentation. They were also required to present them in a compelling manner, so as to keep the audience’s attention.
I also made it clear that if a student’s work was not up to par, they would not present. That part of their project, was, in fact, the presentation itself.
The first Convergent Media Showcase took place at the Institute of Texan Cultures. We had over 10 presenters, and over 100 attendees. It was well received and the students’ review of the experience was spot on, as well as the attendees and the Institute’s.
So, for this year, we started the semester with a bar we could work from. From the very beginning the students knew they would be presenting their projects in front of a large audience and would also be in charge of hosting the event along with the Convergent Media Collective.
What progressed from this is documented below and is truly transformative.
Operation Big Screen:
Operation Big Screen was imagined by the students and myself after having a series of “Maker Days” (aka days where I invite the students to come to campus and I teach them how to do anything they want to learn). We did a series of “Maker Days,” where I taught them projection mapping, and how to prototype projection arrays.
We then had Joao Data come and give a talk about doing large scale projections. After his visually driven presentation, the CMC were sold!
After an array of prototypes, we finally settled on a design. This design was influenced by the physical space we decided to use. CM student Robert had learned about the Radius Center, a community space that supports the arts, and insisted we should go check it out. As the time to have the large projection screen built came, we went to the space and took measurements. We then met up and talked about specifics of the prototypes and arrived at Home Depot to get a more hands-on experience and explore various materials needed for the showcase.
Working with Jeremy Zunker, a CMC member and local engineer, we developed a model, and as a group decided on days and times to meet to actually build the structure. Thanks to CMC member Andy Castillo we were able to go pick up the materials from Lowes and take them over to a garage in the apartment complex where I live to begin construction.
Our model for responsibilities was modeled after 10bitworks (a local maker space) and the CMC itself. We used a “doacracy”. Meaning people did what they could when they had time. I was the constant in the equation, but other then that, we had people who would come and help in no particular order. This resulted in fresh minds who showed up at every meeting ready to get work done.
So, in roughly 3 days, we went from an idea to having a full screen built!
The screen came out to be 36′ x 8′. Once installed, it amazed us all! It truly represented a bonded effort by individuals to create something “new.”
The day of, we spent quite some time setting up. The screen was fully operational by noon. The students worked to the very end putting finalizing touches on their projects.
I worked with Brittany and Mercedes to develop an “errand to-do list,” and the next thing I knew it was 5-something, and they were back with our printed programs, pizza, snacks, drinks, and pan dulce!
The crowds flooded in and the students were ready to present their final projects on the 36′ x 8′ projection screen. The evening displayed an array of projects, taking on various topics and tones throughout the night. Audience members asked thought-provoking questions and students answered them accordingly, sparing no details on setbacks and success.
The presentations flowed smoothly and together, the students and audience helped create an immersive evening filled with constructive feedback, creative projects and emotionally-charged presentations. From short films, to narrative projects, to full-scale musical performances, the showcase exhibited different aspects of the students’ diverse creations.
At the end, students commiserated with one another and basked in the glory of their accomplishments. For them, the night represented the culmination of a year’s worth of collegiate discovery, academic growth, and creative experimentation. It truly embodied the motto of Convergent Media: “Make stuff, take risks, and be awesome,” and showed future generations of Convergers what’s possible when they apply themselves and invest fully in their ideas.