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WVU's new Media Innovation Center offers unique opportunities for students

Media Innovation Center Open HouseWhat would you do if you weren’t afraid? Students at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media are not only contemplating that question but also using the College’s new Media Innovation Center to test and develop their ideas.

The center, which is an expansion of the WVU Reed College of Media, officially opened to the public on January 29 with an open house celebration.

Students and faculty showcased projects involving virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR), sensor journalism, community branding, 3D modeling, digital storytelling and even computer brain interface. President E. Gordon Gee was on hand to experiment with the center’s technology and take 360° selfies with students. WVU Reed College of Media Dean Maryanne Reed and MIC Creative Director Dana Coester welcomed the packed house and thanked those who supported the project, which was nearly three years in the making.

Media Center Open House

“President Gee and Provost McConnell inspired us to dream BIG and to put our ideas on paper and into action,” said Reed. “This amazing new space is a symbol of the College of Media’s focus on the future as we prepare students to be ‘makers’ and ‘leaders’ in the incredibly dynamic world of media.”

The Space
The “WVU Media Innovation Center housed on the fourth floor of the Evansdale Crossing building, provides the space, technology, curriculum and, perhaps most importantly, the culture for building a community of inventors, makers and problem solvers invested in the future of media. Inspired by Google and other companies in the business of innovation, the space features a flowing, open layout designed to foster creativity across disciplines and ideas.

The Partners
Solid partnerships were formed to create this space including Strada, a cross-disciplinary design firm; BrightTree Studios, an audiovisual design consulting firm; and WVU cross-departmental collaborations with the College of Creative Arts, the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, LaunchLab and Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center. By assembling creative thinkers from diverse backgrounds, we intend to spark novel solutions to industry challenges.
Media Innovation Center Open House

The Focus
Looking 10 years into the future for media and technology, the MIC is centered on this driving question: What are the story forms, distribution mechanisms, economic models, user behaviors and policy implications for media in this future ecosystem? Faculty and students, in partnership with communities and industry innovators, are investing time and talent into diverse projects that have the potential to create social change and to benefit communities and the world. Dana Coester, associate professor and creative director for the MIC also wants the world to think differently about where innovation happens. “Too often, people think Silicon Valley or urban centers are where it’s at. But we know that small, creative communities are ideal beds for innovation,” said Coester.

She points out that communities in a state like West Virginia are poised to incubate solutions to global problems. “Our community partners are not committed to the status quo. They’re not comfortable or complacent. And they’re ready to innovate on day one.”

Reed adds, “Our state owns some of the world’s most pressing technology challenges—we should own the solutions too.”

A few of the current activities at the center include:

Media Innovation Center Open House

Knight-funded Innovators-in-Residence
This program brings in media professionals who are leading experimentation and change in their organizations to co-teach experimental courses, exposing students to emerging technology and creating new practices for the industry. Current projects include sensor journalism with John Keefe of WNYC and David Mistich of WVPBS and experiments in 360° reporting with Phoebe Connelly of The Washington Post and Danese Kenon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Community Branding Initiative
This effort pairs faculty and students directly with West Virginia communities to work together to develop a place-based brand identity. Each immersive project results in a creative strategy, an integrated marketing communications campaign and a community branding toolkit. The project is in collaboration with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the WV Community Development Hub.

Hack the Gender Gap
This ongoing effort is part of the Media Innovation Center’s mission to close the gender gap in media technology leadership. The College of Media is partnering with PBS MediaShift to host and sponsor a series of hackathons designed to empower women to overcome barriers in the technology.

The Social Justice Project
This partnership with Morgan State University bridges different sides of the nation’s racial and geographic divides. Through immersive reporting projects, students from both journalism programs collaboratively experiment with emerging technology to bring new tools and knowledge-based reporting to the challenges of covering issues of race, class and injustice.

This is a program and for-credit course in partnership with WVU’s LaunchLab that teaches students and community members coding fundamentals as well as how to develop mobile applications for Android and Apple devices. As part of our community-based collaborations, this effort can help make technology training available to distressed Appalachian communities in economic transition.

Neuroscience and Media
This is an experimental new class introducing journalism, computer science, biotech and physics students to new research in computer-brain interface. Students are working with faculty to conduct experiments and problem solve around hardware, software, user interface and storytelling models, as well as to confront the privacy and ethics issues in this growing field.

These are just a few of the programs offered at the MIC, which features a growing number of collaborating partners across a range of open experiments, sponsored programs and industry research paths in new technologies. To learn more about the MIC visit online .