VR Remix Party Update
Over the past year, E4 Youth has partnered with the Mozilla Foundation and Capital Factory to develop curriculum that helps high school teachers integrate immersive media and storytelling into their classrooms. The result of that work is what we now call VR Remix Parties.
VR Remix Parties are community events that bring together educators, coders, creative professionals and youth to tell immersive stories about neighborhoods. Led by our Creative Mentors, students earn digital badges as they research neighborhoods and develop panel reviewed digital assets i.e. oral histories, music, recordings, 360/2D images, videos and immersive content that explore Austin’s cultural roots. Based on the quality of that content, students earn rewards that include access to industry events, production gear, job shadow and internship opportunities. VR Remix Parties serve as a showcase for this content and an opportunity for community stakeholders to share and learn about practical applications for immersive tools.
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Established in 1871 by freed slaves, Clarksville is dotted with historical
markers that serve as faint reminders of its origins.
What Stories Are We Telling?
The music video above, “Run”, was written and directed by Rakeda Ervin. It features members of the E4 Youth’s Music Legacy Project who wrote and then recorded the song with the rhythm section from the Grammy Award winning band Grupo Fantasma. In the video, a young man travels from his family home in the Clarksville Historic District located in the heart of Austin, Texas just blocks away from the Hope Gallery where the singer pushes the narrative along with the refrain “Run, run, run… run away!”
Established in 1871 by freed slaves, Clarksville is dotted with historical markers that serve as faint reminders of its origins. The driver travels into East Austin where he encounters more landmarks like the legendary music venue Victory Grill and Mural at 12th and Chicon. All the while, we see the constant encroachment of gentrification on the city and continue to hear the singer’s haunting refrain “Run, run, run… run away!”. He eventually climbs onto the interstate traveling into outlying areas in Manor, Pflugerville and Round Rock, TX. These are the neighborhoods in which many of the students E4 Youth serves, live.
The locations featured in the video are indicated in blue on the maps above along with census data indicating the percentage of African-American and Latinx residents throughout Travis County. During the Spring of 2019, Creative Mentors will research these locations and work with our students to create/collect a variety of digital assets that can be featured as part of the VR Remix Party. These assets will include oral histories, music, poetry, 360/2D images, 3D objects, data visualizations and other types of content. E4 Youth’s ecosystem of partners will help train and support Creative Mentors as they complete this process with students across the city.
Locations include: Hope Gallery, Charles Urdy Plaza, Hezikiah Haskell House, Huston-Tillotson University, Mary Francis Baylor Clarksville Park, Sweet Home Baptist Missionary Church, IH 35, Mural at 12th and Chicon, George Washington Carver Museum, Clarksville, Manor, Pflugerville and Round Rock
VR Storytelling Curriculum
Over the past year, E4 Youth has partnered with the Mozilla Foundation, Capital Factory, Google Fiber and Permanent.org to develop VR Storytelling Curriculum – a curriculum framework and workflow that helps educators integrate immersive storytelling into classrooms. The actual VR Storytelling Steps are pretty easy. However, we are far more excited about our growing community of practice that includes 50+ educators, creatives, coders and entrepreneurs focused on investing cultural capital into our students. The power of this approach is to provide students with a hook for generating a broad range of thematic digital assets i.e. audio, music, poetry, photography and illustrations, etc. Students submit their content for review by our trained Creative Mentors. Creative Mentors curate this content as part of a growing archive that documents the cultural histories of neighborhoods. This archive will serve as the key content resource for VR Remix Parties.
The key to this movement is the development of E4 Youth’s pool of Creative Mentors – college age and young professionals that we hire and train to run our Get Creative Enrichment Clubs. Creative Mentors serve as digital docents that lead the implementation of our immersive storytelling projects. They work with classroom educators to build relationships with students and coach them as they develop thematic content. They utilize our rubric to score student work, award digital badges and curate work that is reviewed by our ecosystem of professional mentors. Creative Mentors are also eligible for additional stipends, access to industry events, college and career opportunities like our paid immersive internship program Shadow the Pros.
VR Remix Parties utilize the WebVR framework Aframe along with the online code editor Glitch. Combined, they allow for rapid development of immersive experiences using HTML. Our current code base is an Aframe 360 Image Gallery template. It contains three 360 environments that are accessed by the user as they “gaze” at one of three icons. The only significant change that we’ve made to the code is the addition of an audio <asset>. By simply copying and pasting URLs in a web browser, students can remix 360/2D images and audio that tell immersive stories about neighborhoods.
This allows creative students to focus on developing quality digital assets such as oral histories, music, 360 environments and 2D images while providing a pathway into the world of coding and product development.
E4 Youth is partnering with the cloud storage non-profit Permanent.org to develop a curated digital archive that community members can access as part of VR Remix Parties.
Creative and Technology Professionals
Creative Professionals coach our mentors and students on the production of digital assets, serve as guest speakers and host workplace tours.
Facilitate youth led research of neighborhood locations and identify youth that can contribute quality content.