The Ford Foundation’s JustFilms program with supplemental support from the Sundance Institute commissioned Kamal Sinclair to do an intensive research project called “Making a New Reality.” She looked at a number of questions including: “What is emerging media? What are the concerns related to equality and equity in emerging media? What interventions can mitigate inequality and inequity in emerging media?” She published a series of articles on Immersed between November 2017 and May 2018 that can be seen here in this summary.

She covered topics such as “The High Stakes of Limited Inclusion,” “Silos, Groupthink and Knowledge Ghettos,” and “Design for Justice, Well-Being, and Prosperity.” She also goes into “Categories of Emerging Media” as well as the challenges, interventions, and a framework for action.

At Sundance 2019, I had a chance to talk to Kamal Sinclair, who at the time was the Director of Sundance’s New Frontier Lab Programs. We talk about the role of independent film festivals to support underrepresented minorities, the evolution of Traveling While Black, some of her work towards diversity, inclusion, equity, and equality in emerging media, and the challenges around privacy and ethics.

She shared a story of Sundance founder Robert Redford telling her and Shari Frilot that he’s got many scars and bruises from 40 years in independent film in trying to push back market forces long enough for artists to find their voices and their creativity. He said that the challenge for emerging media is that you don’t have to just face these pressures from the film industry, but also the technology industry and commerce itself. He predicted a long and hard journey for independent artists to be able to create sustainable living, but that if there is action taken earlier in the development of the industry, then it’ll be easier for underrepresented voices to find representation.

We also have an intense discussion about Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s artwork of using found DNA to recreate people’s faces. Sinclair says that Dewey-Hagborg’s that we’re entering a new phase of post-privacy, and I was really resistant to this as an underlying premise. But Sinclair said that “artists interrogate the world around us so that we can define what we want to be in that future.” So there is a provocation embedded into these types of art projects that cause us to reflect on our technological trajectory, and how to organize the required ethical frameworks to respond to it. This conversation was certainly a catalyst for me to continue to do some foundational work in different XR ethical frameworks to help make sense of the landscape of moral dilemmas that come up in emerging technology. See the following thread for a culmination of some of those interviews, panel discussions, keynotes, and ultimately an XR Ethics Manifesto.

Sinclair also comes from a performance background, and so she had some really fascinating closing thoughts around how emerging technologies will start to integrate more and more aspects of live performance, theater, the visceral power of real-time, ephemeral moments, the power of ritual and the sacred, and the uncovering the ghost of place.

There’s a lot more of Sinclair’s Making a New Reality research that we did not get a chance to dive into here. We merely had a chance to skim the surface, but I’d encourage you to take a look at the summary article, which links off to the different essays and reflections. Sinclair is now the executive director of Guild of Future Architects, which is a continuation of this intersectional work to become “a home, refuge and resource for people collaboratively shaping a kind, just, inclusive, and prosperous world.”


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Music: Fatality

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