EMAC Prof Challenges Old School News Approaches

Go digital or go home. That was the message Dr. Dave Parry, assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) at UT Dallas, told an audience of journalists at the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW), held Sept. 22–25 in Dallas.

UT Dallas was a sponsor of the event, which included an appearance by Gov. Rick Perry and a keynote address by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Dr. Dave Parry urged the news business to make use of digital media formats. “There is a larger opportunity for journalists to do something new,” he said.

In a session titled, “Emerging Media: What Works, What Doesn’t: How You Can Get Ahead of the Curve,” Parry sat on a panel alongside Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly; and Mark Medici, director of audience development at The Dallas Morning News.

While each discussed their connection to and thoughts on emerging media, Parry differentiated himself right away, saying, “I am not a journalist. It is my job to look at broad cultural changes.” He went on to say that newspapers and their vertical communication business model were in decline and had no future.

“There is a larger opportunity for journalists to do something new,” Parry said. “They have an inherent value and social function. The Internet is creating a sense of horizontal communication, where readers can address other readers and form a crowd, a consensus. Now that anyone with a smartphone can be a ‘reporter,’ journalists are hosting, not driving, conversations.”

According to Parry, within five years the desktop computer will disappear, as the Internet moves into “real space” via mobile devices. He added that this shift means “online and offline aren’t separate spaces anymore.” Journalists must move with this trend, or be left behind, he said.

Parry’s co-panelists had varied opinions about his assessment. Burka, who said he was told to start blogging by his boss, at first felt it was a demotion from his magazine column. But he now feels that the power to reach an audience in the electronic world is much greater than what he experienced  in print-only media.

As a newspaper man, Medici took issue with some of Parry’s points, but acknowledged the growing importance of mobile devices and the need to re-evaluate the large core audiences of newspapers to better address their wants and needs.

When an audience member asked how journalists should best strike a balance between their newspaper columns and their online presence, the panel was split. O. Ricardo Pimentel, an editorial writer at The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, said, “The answer was elusive, but all speakers urged editorial boards to go digital as a concrete means to address the changing needs of new audiences.”

And Parry went for broke, advising, “Burn the presses. The more you try to have one foot in each, the more you’ll fail at both.”

Now Playing: Thought-Provoking Video Games

Parents tend to scoff at video games for turning brains to “mush.” But game design students at The University of Texas at Dallas are creating games of introspection and intellect that serve as jumping-off points for deeper, more nuanced thinking about life choices.

The Values Game Initiative is a project intended to create and develop serious games that further the mission and themes of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology at UT Dallas. These games are designed to teach and explore pressing issues  through new models for digital education. The games tie into the Center’s Incite Your Curiosity lectures, a series focused on the possibilities and implications of human enhancement.

The first game to be produced, Marching Ever Onward, was rolled out on the Center for Values website Sept. 20. Marching deals with immortality and enhanced life, asking the question, is it better to live a short but moral life, or to live a lengthy but immoral life? The player’s life ticks away as the game goes on, and although life can be extended by costly trips to pop-up “clinics,” non-enhanced friends die away, and the value of other experiences, such as traveling or making money, must be weighed against each additional extension of life.

Marching Ever Onward simulates a series of life choices - and consequences. ATEC design students created the game to go with a series of lectures planned by the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology.

The game examines the costs, benefits and disadvantages of artificially lengthened lifespans. The player must ultimately choose whether to live life to its fullest or to its longest.

Dr. Dennis Kratz

Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts & Humanities at UT Dallas, is spearheading this project with Dr. Monica Evans, assistant professor in the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program. Evans helped ATEC students select the top six game design proposals (culled from more than 100) to produce.

Upcoming games include:

  • Endless Life, scheduled for release in late October, which deals with immortality and taking risks.
  • HAPPEE, a game centered around emotional manipulation through drugs, with a release date in early 2011.
  • Best in Show, a strategy game dealing with designer babies and informed consent, slated for release in late spring 2011.
Dr. Monica Evans

The game design team, made up of 15 graduate and undergraduate ATEC students who serve roles from animator to artist to programmer, aims to produce the remaining three games by the end of the lecture series in April.

Evans assures that the games are “intended to be short, introspective experiences, about 10 minutes each, and all the games require minimal gaming literacy, so that the widest possible demographic can play.”

Translation: you don’t have to be a master of World of Warcraft to understand and appreciate them.

Double Exposure: Artist’s Work Shown in 2 Exhibits

ATEC Graduate Student Weaves Rich Creations of Color With Thread

Gabriel Dawe, a student in the Arts and Technology (ATEC) MFA program at The University of Texas at Dallas, has been busy. He is involved in two concurrent exhibitions in Dallas: a one-man show at Guerilla Arts, Plexus No. 3, and an installation, Plexus No. 4, at the Dallas Contemporary. Both are site-specific installations made from thread.

Plexus No. 3 by Gabriel Dawe is on display at the Guerilla Arts gallery.

Dawe explains, “These installations are about the human need to shelter from the elements. Architecture and fashion partly come from those needs. I am taking the main material clothes are made out of – thread – and making an architectural structure with it. By reversing material and scale, I ended up with something ethereal that speaks to the need for social structures that we require to survive as a species.”

His work can also be seen in the “Indig-nation” exhibition at UT Dallas in late October, as well as a group show in November at the Kellogg Gallery at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.

He is an artist in residence at CentralTrak, and will have his MFA show there in April.

Plexus No. 4 (shown here in detail) is on display at the Dallas Contemporary museum.