Media innovations event to unite students, professionals

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This poster offers specific details for the “Media of Today and Tomorrow” event, which will be held on March 29 in the HFAC. (Benjamin Thevenin)

BYU media arts professor Benjamin Thevenin planned and produced the Video Game Studies Symposium in 2015, an event that highlighted the growing innovation and interest in video games.

Thevenin is back for more next week, this time broadening his focus to include new, emerging forms of media like virtual and augmented reality and other creative innovations.

The event, “The Media of Today and Tomorrow,” will be held March 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Harris Fine Arts Center, and it will spotlight growing advancements in technology and media.

Thevenin said the event was organized to help the community think critically about social media, video games and other emerging technology.

“We have a tendency in our culture to emphasize the ‘potential perils,’ to quote Elder Bednar, of media without also acknowledging the ‘powerful possibilities,'” Thevenin said via email.

Thevenin said he hopes the event will encourage BYU and high school students to “express, create, collaborate and connect with others” through new media technology.

“I’ve been excited for another opportunity to bring together students and faculty from across campus to have some more conversations about new media,” Thevenin said.

Media arts students Jessica Runyan and Jared Richardson have worked alongside Thevenin since late 2018 to produce the event. Runyan previously worked with BYU’s game development program to produce the award-winning game “Beat Boxers.” She currently serves as director on their new game, “Avast Ye,” which The Daily Universe recently previewed. Richardson is a sound engineer with interest in video games and new media, Thevenin said.

The event will feature an “impressive” lineup of guest speakers, according to Thevenin. Mike Rugnetta, the creator of the PBS Idea Channel, will offer a keynote address at 9:30 a.m. in the Nelke Theatre about collaborating and creating with others over the internet.

Rugnetta will later host a panel discussion on creativity and emerging media at 1:30 p.m. in the Nelke Theatre. The panel will include BYU alum Mallory Bigler of JK! Studios and Curtis Hickman, the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of The VOID — a Utah-based developer behind immersive VR experiences like “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire,” “Ghostbusters Dimension,” “Ralph Breaks VR” and horror experience “Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment.”

The event will also feature speakers from Salt Lake City-based Avalanche Studios and presentations from BYU students and faculty from the media arts, animation, engineering, computer science, communications and English departments. Topics will include holographic technology, YouTube’s cultural identity and “Stranger Things‘” remix of 80s pop culture.

A maker space featuring Nintendo’s Labo cardboard creation kits will also be open all day in the HFAC’s reception gallery. Event attendees can build and test cardboard battle-bots before competing in an infrared maze and battle arena.

Thevenin hopes the event will bring together students, faculty, professionals and the wider community and enable critical conversations about new media. He also hopes high school and university students will feel “empowered to pursue their interests in emerging media” as scholars and creators.

“I hope that this will help shift the conversations in our culture to emphasize the powerful possibilities of emerging media,” Thevenin said.

The event is free to the public, and no registration is necessary. A free breakfast will be offered at 8:45 a.m. in the reception gallery. For more information, visit the event’s website.

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