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23 directions MA Digital Direction might take you

MA Digital Direction explores and challenges the limits of storytelling across social and political contexts. This year’s graduate projects engage with diverse topics, from the climate crisis, to cultural heritage, spirituality, communal experiences in music and the virtualities of storytelling itself. Over the last 15 months, Digital Direction, students have been mapping out new storytelling practices that by no means point in a single direction. Rather, the 23 graduate projects each presents a different direction that Digital Direction might take you.

‘This year's MA Digital Direction Show represents the second year of the course's evolution, with 23 students exhibiting works which both criticality and playfully interrogate stories that matter,’ explained Dr Eleanor Dare. ‘As Acting Head of Programme, I am immensely proud of the hard work and critical depth of all 23 students. Their work is socially engaged and also often subtly political, addressing, for example, AI and discrimination, censorship online of LGBTQIA images, robot love lives and unsustainability.’

‘I'm amazed and impressed by the hard work and the array of skills evidenced in their final show – technical skills, philosophical skills, skills of storytelling and audience engagement. The cohort have thrown themselves into the many workshops and lectures provided by the course and wider college. They have also run their own workshops, in areas such as VR and storytelling, film and audience evaluation; worked closely with Dr Matt Lewis our permanent tutor, who is an expert on the politics of sound and music; and worked with communities and organisations outside of the college, participating in the Hammersmith and Fulham Arts Festival with visiting lecturer and transmedia storyteller, Yomi Ayeni, to tell stories in Shepherd's Bush Market.’

 ‘Watch this lot – they are the future of digital storytelling but they do not use cliches to describe their work, such as 'immersive' and 'disruptive', instead they address projects with an approach grounded in research and, very often, in lived experience. They are bravely ethical and outward looking, witty and hard working – there are so many reasons for the RCA to be proud of them!’

Here are a selection of just a few:

Synaesthetic compositions

Synphony, Anttek Jancelewicz
Synphony, Antek Jancelewicz
Antek Jancelewicz’s Synphony is a mixed reality interactive system that augments the experience of playing instruments to facilitate the first steps in musical improvisation, or help more experienced musicians look at music from a different angle. Inspired by the naturally-occurring phenomenon of synaesthesia (the merging of senses), Synphony gives users the ability to see music in colours, providing “a playground for creative harmony exploration” that rewards collaborators and audiences alike.

The limits of classification 

TROCHILIDAE [HUMMINGBIRD], Jack Kardiker
TROCHILIDAE [HUMMINGBIRD], Jack Hardiker
Hummingbirds have puzzled scientists for centuries by defying classification. Their complex history serves as an allegory for the wider challenges we face today in artificial intelligence and classification. This becomes increasingly urgent as AI technologies are introduced into vital services like policing and healthcare. Jack Hardiker’s collaborative storytelling app explores the complexity of scientific classification and liberates installation art from the gallery environment, by putting it in the hands of anyone, anywhere.  

Writing in virtual reality

Olivia Powell, Writing in virtual reality
With words that don't exist, Olivia Powell
Through combining traditional analogue methods of writing with virtual workspaces for developing and editing the text, Olivia Powell celebrates, challenges and expands her way of writing, which is embodied and spatial, archival and performative. She explains: 'I made 'With words that don’t exist, using VR as a platform for writing and developing stories that maybe can’t be told, only held.'

Rotten robots and posthumanity

Matt Watkins, Rotten robots and posthumanity
Rotten Robots (Aibo's Epiphany), Matt Watkins
Matt Watkins considers what the role of artificial life might be in an age of extinction. His installation of a miniature robotic world powered by microbial life invites the viewer into an interactive narrative. Two puzzled robots, powered by Microbial Fuel Cells that run on a substrate of mud and urine, attempt to understand the current mess we find ourselves.  

Synchronised dancing

UNITY, Interactive Installation. Music: DJ Mate, Alberto Bonnani
UNITY, Interactive Installation. Music: DJ Mate, Alberto Bonnani
Alberto Bonnani’s project UNITY is an interactive dance installation that explores and questions the relationship between music and consciousness and how it reflects our sensorimotor response to music. Each participant’s dance is stored and projected for the next one, to visually compare their synchronisation through motion capture. He explained: “By dancing with others and watching them synchronise to the rhythm, we synchronise ourselves, creating a feedback loop of positive vibrations similar to a collective effervescence.”

Blurring Boundaries

Erotic Fumble, Mengge Qin
Erotic Fumble, Mengge Qin
Mengge Qin presents a provocative warning not to lose ourselves in the blurred boundaries between virtual and real in a simulation society. A writing robot triggers five buttons hidden in a silicone and sand sculpture that is shaped like the internal wall of human sexual organs. These buttons play sounds through a bone conduction headset that mimic hidden information in an erotic text written by Mengge. 

Decolonising narrative structures

Agential Storytelling, Vivek Menon
Agential Storytelling, Vivek Menon
Vivek Muralidhar’s investigation into indigenous, collective methods of storytelling, uses narrative structures from Indian culture as a means to decolonise. While the natural order of colonisation was to predefine a narrative, Vivek has created a fluid storytelling experience that shifts agency away from a centralised author or authority, back to the audience.  

Ritual and virtual objects

Transgression and Submission, Xi Chen
Transgression and Submission, Xi Chen
Xi Chen presents a disassembled trophy composed of weapons, armour and trees, which represents transgression, narcissism and submission, commemorating three different ways of experiencing images.



Find out more about MA Digital Direction and how to apply.

Check out more on their website, where all of the student’s projects can be found.

Check out their graduate Show at RCA Kensington, 21–23 February 2020.