Through the international collaboration between UT Austin and the government of Portugal, researchers have been given the opportunity to explore emerging technologies and new media, as they push the scope of their research to a global scale. Earlier this summer, however, this collaboration reached new heights as many of program’s current researchers and alumni came together not to do research, but to learn how to more effectively communicate it to mass audiences.
At the intersection of science and digital media, EMERGENCE Hackathon 2018 was a unique experience—communicating science through art and innovation. Bringing together an interdisciplinary team, ranging from artists to neuroscientists, this hackathon conveyed complex science through interactive exhibits. And going beyond the finished projects, EMERGENCE fostered a community where each individual shared their talents and learned new skills along the way.
The concept of the hackathon was ambitious but simple—to “create digital media-based projects that communicate complex concepts in scientific research”.
“These types of projects are something that only manifests from large, talented groups of people” says Tiago Gama Rocha, Co-Organizer of the event. “It’s about science communication that takes advantage of the great digital technologies that are now available.”
“This is not a closed circuit… we [wanted] to create an open and collaborative environment.”
Though the four final groups that presented at the end of the week-long event tackled completely different scientific concepts, this collaborative environment was key in elevating them all. Together the groups worked through training exercises, discussed methods of communicating science, and ultimately gave one-another feedback through collaboration and at daily milestone meetings. When one team lacked a skill that was necessary for their project, for example sound design, a trade of time and effort was made that benefitted them all. The event organizers also assigned each team a mentor, who was a veteran in their given industry, and each group found a unique way to work together.
Throughout week the projects went through many iterations of concepts and even more of their medium and design, but by the end-of-day Friday all the bugs were worked out and the projects were ready to be displayed. The final presentation invited locals in Lisbon to the Pavilhão do Conhecimento—Ciência Viva science museum so that the teams and the public could test their efforts and see if they could in fact communicate science to lay audiences.
The groups and the audience agreed: It was a success!
“Having the kernel of this idea several months ago, you were able to share it, and grow it, and build it along with all of your compadres here” says Dr. Sharon Strover, Director of Digital Media for the UT Austin|Portugal Program. “We had a digital media program for years, and a
lot of these people have had links of one sort or another to that institution, and I feel so privileged to see this as yet another outcome related to that endeavor.”
Want to explore the projects for yourself? The organizers of the event have posted the media projects online for those who are interested in interacting with the group. Please feel free to interact and learn from them at: www.emergencehackathon.com
Author: Ryan Wallace