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FESTIVAL SLIDESHOW

What We Learned at TFI's 2015 Interactive Day

Hundreds of brilliant interactive storytellers, impressive tech minds, and eager multimedia enthusiasts came out this Saturday, April 18th, when TFI Interactive Day returned for a fourth year -- debuting at Spring Studios' spacious 150,000-square-foot creative hub. Tech, art, and creativity converged in one spot, and led to endless takeaways. Here are a few of our favorites.

We Are in a Brave New World of Tech-Minded Activism
Two of the most rousing talks of the day came courtesy of Sam Gregory (Program Director of international organization WITNESS), and writer, filmmaker, and activist Astra Teller.

Each are making huge and humbling efforts to fight social injustice via modern technological activism. In his talk See, Hear - Act?, Gregory highlighted the strategic, creative methods by which WITNESS works to bring about a shared, human experience. By posting live and immersive videos of human rights abuses, Gregory and the WITNESS team hope to ignite compassion, support, and solidarity, not only within individual viewers, but to bring us, as media-consumers, out of our stolidity and into action.

Teller, meanwhile, spoke in-depth on the ways in which the Web can be used as a broader cultural space to unite activists and promote important causes, among them the Occupy Student Debt social movement with which Teller is deeply involved.

As Teller puts it, "Social movements are the ultimate forms of multimedia making."

Both speakers skillfully waded past the Web's compulsive (and increasingly) commercial imperatives, choosing instead to stirringly re-emphasize its potential for democracy and unity through their own passionate and politically-mobilized pleas.

Honesty is Actually the Best Policy
The { } And is an immersive documentary project about love and honesty by filmmakers Topaz Adizes and Nathan Phillips of the online media collective The Skin Deep that invites two closely-acquainted individuals (whether they be friends, family members, romantic partners or "It's Complicated") to ask and truthfully answer intimate questions that cover any and all departments of their shared and separate personal lives.

At one point, they called upon the audience to partner up and ask each other questions such as, "What would it take for me to kill you?", and, "Who here would you have sex with?", with total and occasionally brutal honesty being the only acceptable response.

VIDEO: SEE FRANCHESCA RAMSEY AT TFI INTERACTIVE DAY


Data is Always Personal
In her talk "You and me as data points", Lam Thuy Vo (an Interactive Editor at Al Jazeera America) set out to accomplish the downright impossible: making the topic of data storage not only interesting, but also emotional, empathetic, and relatable.

Using her own recent struggle with divorce as a widely engaging and winningly self-deprecating narrative thread -- spanning how a hobby for map-making, charting, and infographics led to the creation of the blog Quantified Breakup, which documented her unique, post-breakup behavioral ticks, from shopping habits to travel patterns -- Thuy Vo's talk was a clever story and a persuasive push for the powerful leverage of data.

Sure, the increasingly pertinent and divisive concept of data collection can admittedly be hard to get into, but through Thuy Vo's words, data revealed itself to be an especially invaluable tool for both the heartbroken and the narrative-minded.

Video Games Can Be An Emotional Medium, Too
Numinous Games' Josh Larson and Ryan Green, video game developers and key subjects of the 2015 festival documentary Thank You For Playing, gave what was easily the most moving presentation of the day as they discussed their newest creation That Dragon, Cancer, an adventure game which explores in sad but honest detail the reality of raising a child with cancer, based on Green's own experiences with his son Joel, who was diagnosed with the disease at infancy.

Both the talk and the game (which was available to play throughout the day at the neighboring TFI Playground) intriguingly expanded the emotional and narrative potentials of video gaming, a medium that, as Larson describes, is all about "accepting an invitation to inhabit a world of [one's] creation," one which can be as realistic, as painful, and yet as heart-stoppingly beautiful as life itself is.

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