In mid-June, the Transformations 2021 conference took place with more than 600 participants from across the globe. Dot Connector Studio’s Jessica Clark gave an opening keynote speech addressing the issue of “Building Equitable Media for Regenerative Futures.”

The conference focused on the latest developments in research and practice of “transformations towards sustainability, support and celebration of transdisciplinary learning networks for new collective international initiatives.” This topic seemed particularly important given the overlapping worldwide crises throughout 2020, which forced communities to rethink pre-pandemic systems on an unprecedented scale. 

This challenging moment reveals the urgency need to develop new and sustainable practices across all fronts, from media to governance. The conference aimed to tackle these issues throughout. Dot Connector Studio’s work falls in line with the development of these new practices, an end goal of projects leading to a society that’s more fair, humane, and hopeful.

Clark illuminated how our recent projects support more inclusive and impactful media.  She began by comparing ot Connector Studio’s approach to that of attendees at the  conference by citing the Energy Research & Social Science article titled “Transforming knowledge systems for life on Earth: Visions of future systems and how to get there”. Co-authored by many of the conference participants, it asserts that “narratives to support transformations require transformations in the way narratives are conceptualized, produced and applied.” 

One mode that is without a doubt broken is dystopian forecasting. When the public is already numb, anxious, and depressed, doom and gloom narratives no longer work. In our collaborative work with the Guild of Future Architects in the 20 Decades of 2020 project, we contemplated all of today’s challenges and jointly crafted more positive fictional narratives to explore future solutions. The Portals to Beautiful Futures: Trends to Watch in 2021 and Beyond report, a collaboration with the Omidyar Network, also helps us imagine life beyond the pandemic and the immediate gloom that the last two years have brought us.

The Reconstructing American News report conducted by Dot Connector Studio on behalf of the Ford Foundation inspired one of our newest projects, the New/s initiative. With its goal to incubate collaborations among diverse journalists who are inventing new ways to report on and with communities, the hope is to mitigate the many inequalities in the journalism field. Incubating new projects is just one of several paths to change. For the Transformations audience,  the main takeaway is the imperative to keep experimenting to find solutions. 

Making A New Reality toolkit

Dot Connector’s Making a New Reality toolkit provides a host of carefully curated resources for making emerging media  such as VR, AR, and AI more equitable. By providing these resources, the toolkit is encouraging media makers and leaders to evolve.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to have a mechanism to bring communities into the design process for solutions. The communities themselves could hold the answers. With our work on the iSeeChange project over several years, we’ve seen how people can observe and report weather changes in their own communities to reflect upon how climate change is affecting them. For example, in New Orleans, residents used iSeeChange to track flooding. This resulted in a neighborhood receiving $4.8 million that it wouldn’t have otherwise seen. This groundsourced process proved big data flooding models to be inaccurate. This underscores that the solution for any problem should be informed by the people who live there or are affected by it. 

Clark closed the presentation with The Impact Pack. This strategy deck is a great example of how all of our projects are intertwined with one another. The deck was created as an active way for media makers, and funders to brainstorm projects and assess impact. The cards can be seen as a mode for prototyping and evaluation or to elicit feedback from potential users. She offered the conference free access to an electronic version of the deck, so that they could design their own transformative and collaborative productions. 

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