Sundance Institute Launches Future Of Culture Initiative To Advocate For Equity In Media


The Sundance Institute revealed today that they are teaming with Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University for the newly launched Future of Culture Initiative, an action plan that “implements key recommendations from a two-year global field scan that analyzed strategies for improving equity and inclusion in emerging media.”

So what does that mean? The new initiative further moves the needle of diversity and inclusion and looks to connect artists with technologists, scientists, policymakers, advocates and business leaders to imagine and design for the future of culture.

“Sundance Institute has long celebrated the creative cases for inclusion — audiences have appetites for diverse creators, and they benefit the culture at large, as well as prove good business,” Ruthie Doyle, Interim Director, New Frontier Lab Programs, told Deadline. “As the emerging technology sphere develops, we are in a fertile place of exploration — and have the chance, with the birth of new mediums, to address what have historically been pipeline issues in media. Inclusion of all kinds also gives an opportunity to bridge gaps in thinking in the development of some very powerful tech.”

The aforementioned field scan field scan is named “Making a New Reality” comes from Sundance Institute Senior Consultant Kamal Sinclair and features interviews with more than 100 media experts and practitioners and investigates strategies for achieving equality and justice in emerging media. It sheds light on the importance of breaking 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.

To even further this initiative, the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Lab Programs has teamed with Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technology (ISET) as well as Stanford University’s Office of the Vice President for the Arts and the new Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (Stanford HAI). The collaborations will include artists’ residency programs with cross-disciplinary summits on arts and technology to bring together thought leaders in the field to catalyze further action.

Below are the initiative’s participating artists and their projects.

2019 Talent Forum Fellow and grantee Diego Galafassi’s Breathe is a collaboration with Jess Engel, 2016 New Frontier Story Lab Fellow and Phi-Centre. The project 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.

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, a 2019 grantee, is also at Johns Hopkins ISET and is currently chipping away at her project 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.

Stephanie Dinkins (2018 New Frontier Story Lab Fellow and grantee) was in residency at Stanford University and is developing 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. Dinkins is set to return in the Spring.

On top of the artists residency program, the Future of Culture initiative is working on two cross-disciplinary summits on arts and technology. This included The Future Imagination Summit which was held earlier this month as well as a Sundance-Stanford symposium which will take place on April 6, 2020. The symposium will bring together Stanford faculty, students as well as artists, researchers, technologists and members of Silicon Valley to explore the intersections of artificial intelligence with identity and culture. This will be followed by the Sundance Impact Intensive on April 7, 2020. This will include up to six Sundance artist fellows to workshop their film, theatre or emerging media projects exploring similar themes, and plan impact distribution strategies.


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