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Joburg festival highlights role of women in digital arts

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The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, taking place from 19 August to 3 September 2016, will not only celebrate digital art and its impact on culture, but will also shine a light on the role women play in digital arts.

With its Afro Tech Riot theme, festival organiser, Tegan Bristow, says that this year’s line-up will illustrate how creativity and technology are becoming more mainstream and the important role women are playing in this space: “We are very proud of the line-up of women this year. The successful engagement of arts, culture, creativity and technology by women is inspiring, and worthy of a spotlight at this year’s Fak’ugesi festival.”

Taking place at The Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, Bristow adds: “I have several incredible women collaborating with us this year to showcase the possibilities within culture and technology: Janine Johnston, national coordinator of the Maker Library Network in South Africa who is working with the British Council to bring a host of free maker workshops to the festival; Kerry Friend, executive creative director, Isobar, is working with teams of musicians and technologists, including female performer Lindiwe Matshikiza, for the Festival’s “Future Sounds” project; and Thato Noinyane, project manager, British Council Connect ZA who bring us the Festival’s Market Hack and Soweto Pop Up projects among many other activities. They have all assisted in developing an exciting, and much, needed focus on women in digital arts.”

An exciting element of the festival is the Artist Residency and this year will also feature the talents of two up-and-coming African women: Vuyi Chaza and Regina Kgatle.

Chaza wants to create spaces and opportunities where women in Zimbabwe can pursue a career in digital arts: “This is not only about growing the art form, but more importantly for Chaza, it is about shaping the narrative surrounding women in Zimbabwe.”

For Regina Kgatle digital arts is a way in which she can use games to educate people no matter where they live or what school they go to. She is the founder of Educade and a non-profit start-up called 67games, which is how Kgatle reaches schools around South Africa. She is one of the Mail & Guardians top 200 Young people and has been nominated for the African Alliance award by the United Nations.

The Festival will host with Women in Tech ZA a special Festival focused networking session on the evening of the 25th of August as part of its Fak’ugesi Talks program, book online to join.

Adding some international flavour to lineup is London-based digital artist Valentina Floris and immersive filmmaker Karen Palmer from SDNA, who will not only share how they are breaking boundaries in their mediums, but explore the intersections between technology, creativity and innovation.

“We are both excited and honoured to feature these collaborations. The festival aims to be a location for both development and celebration of technology and culture in Africa,” says Bristow.

Biographies

 

Janine Johnston:

Janine Johnston is a creative consultant, with more than 10years experience in skills development, sustainable design and in facilitating international exchange programs. A passionate ambassador for the South African maker movement, Johnston is the national coordinator of the Maker Library Network in South Africa. She is the managing partner of JA JA Consulting, a boutique agency, specializing in strategic communication, event production and creative project management.

Kerry Friend:

Kerry currently works at a digital agency, Isobar, as an Exec Creative Director and heads up their innovation programme, NowLab. She’s also part of a collective, Create Africa, who run workshops and events at the intersection of tech, culture and education. As a member of the IAB Agency Council she currently drives the Innovation Programme, which aims to encourage agencies to explore new ways of working and thinking as they seek to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the age of digital transformation.

Lindiwe Matshikiza:

Is an artist who uses theatre making tools to extend into film, music and various other disciplines. She is interested in work that is collaborative, process-driven and experimental. A performer, director and writer, she has initiated projects such as The Donkey Child – a devised theatre piece involving 40 players of all ages – in collaboration with Hillbrow Theatre Project, and JHB MASSIVE: Jozi <-> Accra, a temporary collective of 15 artists that combined forces to get to Chale Wote Street Art Festival in James Town, Accra.

Thato Noiyane:

Currently offering her skills as a Project Manager for the British Council Connect ZA team, her career started after completing a BA degree in Audiovisual Production Management where she worked in the film and television industry. She has over 8 years’ experience managing projects from conception right through to delivery and has worn a few hats along the way including director, event manager, scriptwriter, social media/content manager and mentor. She has since ventured into managing projects focused around youth empowerment particularly in the creative and digital space. She is interested in this rapidly growing industry and excited to be part of a team which works along partners who are pioneers in the sector.

Vuyi Chaza:

Vuyi Chaza is a 24-year-old woman from Zimbabwe. She wants to live in a world where video games and cartoon watching are mandatory subjects at school, and extra cheesy pizza becomes a staple food in her country. As a self-proclaimed, amateur designer, she’s been designing officially for one year and has her designs on billboards, publications, books and album covers.

When she’s not trying to navigate the choppy waters of freelancing/starting a business, she creates weird art pieces that leave people either scratching their heads or jaws dropped in fascination. Vuyi hopes to create spaces and opportunities where women in Zimbabwe can pursue a career in digital arts, while shaping the narrative surrounding women and Zimbabwe.

instagram: @__vuyi__

Twitter: @vuyi_chaza

Regina Kgatle:

Regina Kgatle is the founder and MD of Educade [http://educade.co.za/], and its sister non-profit startup, 67games. An Electrical and Computer Engineering student (University of Cape Town, Honors) she believes we can use games to educate people no matter where they come from or where they go to school. At Educade, Regina focuses on designing and building educational games based on The Promise Curriculum, installing them on custom stand-up arcades that can be taken on the road to South African schools.  67games engages continues this mission by engaging with developers from around the world to create new games for these cabinets, which are then promoted throughout South Africa by means of game pop up installations.

For her efforts, Regina has received national and international awards – listed as Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young people contributing to bettering the quality of life for South Africans, nominated for the African Alliance award by the UN. In 2014 Facebook flew her to the US together with other 24 young students worldwide to receive an award for changing lives through technology. She has recently been honored with “Amplifying new voices” award from Oculus.

Instagram: @rrrreegina

Twitter: @RrrEeGina

Valentina Floris:

Valentina is a London based digital artist. After moving from Italy in 1994, she studied Mixed Media Art at the University of Westminster where she graduated in 1997. During that time, she started to experiment with audio visual techniques and site specific installations. In 1997 she co-founded Luna Nera, an artist-curator organisation that aimed to stimulate interest in the environmental and architectural heritage of localities. By asking the audience to re-look at sites in a new way, Luna Nera addressed a series of issues around ideas of society, community, history, memory and public space. In 2001 she started to work with Ben Foot and co funded SDNA, a creative studio based in London producing distinctive digital artwork.

SDNA’s objective is to explore techniques of interaction within public spaces, using emerging technologies and unusual presentation media. Their interdisciplinary approach, integrating site-responsive installation and live performance, aims to widen the scope of digital art.

Karen Palmer:

Summer 2016 Karen was a Speaker at Tedx Australia at the Sydney Opera House, at Games for Change Festival New York and an invited guest on a International Women Think Tank working in new media Mutek Festival Cannada. Prior she was also a keynote speaker at DiGRA 2015 The World’s leading Academic Digital Games Conference in Germany. Her recent neurogaming parkour installation SYNCSELF 2 was a key exhibit at the prestigious Sheffield Film Festival 2015. In conjunction with being a Panel Speaker on Neuroscience in Gaming. She discussed the SYNCSELF 2 Neurogame that recreates the process of transcending fear. This is an interactive parkour film experience which is controlled by the user’s mental focus. There was a very favourable article in The Guardian on Karen and the impact of her work. Initially SYNCSELF 2 was exhibited at the V&A as part of the Digital Design Weekend (Sept 2014), and discussed her journey to the V&A at the WOW Talks series at the Apple Store Regent Street. Previously her work received exposure and critical acclaim at Festivals and Galleries Internationally. 2015 she spoke on her unique form of Storytelling and Tech at various renowned institutions such as The Watershed Bristol, Uppsala University Sweden and Conducttr Transmedia Conference to name a few.

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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