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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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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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