Ireland joins digital media game

31 Oct 2002

In his new movie Simone, Al Pacino plays a Hollywood director who decides to create a computer-generated star of his own when he gets frustrated by the unrealistic demands of real actors. Successful is this digital venture, Simone, his virtual star, swiftly outstrips real-life movie legends in popularity. While this scenario sounds like an excellent movie plot, it is not too far removed from the realms of reality.

A growing digital media industry is enabling computer generated images to form a permanent aspect of our cinematic experience; an aspect that Irish academia, entrepreneurs and the Government hope to build on top of our original success in the fields of electronics and software.

Forfás is understood to be working on a strategy document that will spearhead both the IDA and Enterprise Ireland’s investment and developmental policy in this area. Yet, the problem still is how to define and quantify what exactly constitutes digital media – is it music, film, the internet, computer games or software? In fact, it’s all of these and the quest to uncover what this industry will mean for Ireland came into focus at the 6th annual Sedona conference in Clontarf Castle last week. The conference is internationally renowned as one of the key touchstones for media, educators, technology planners and policy leaders.

The conference was opened by the leading authority in the field of creative thinking, Edward de Bono, and featured local luminaries such as Iona’s Chris Horn and Jerome Morrissey, director of the National Centre for Technology in Education. Among the international line-up was Dr Bernard Luskin, regarded as one of the leading figures in US academic and corporate life. While CEO of the new business division of Polygram Records, Luskin struck the first deal between Philips and Paramount Studios to digitise motion pictures on CD in Mpeg format, leading to the creation of DVD (digital versatile disk). He also researched, planned and launched the first US compressed cable network.

Luskin’s first passion in digital media lies in its educational possibilities. “Attention is a commodity right now. All around the world, media organisations, advertisers and computer companies are paying for people’s attention in the form of TV shows, newspapers, magazines and media rich-game experiences,” Luskin said. “In many ways, this can lead to information addiction. The danger is this can eventually be seen as a negative experience and not a positive one. My belief is to turn this into a positive thing through education. By creating experiences through sound and vision, rich media can have an emotional impact and can be fine tuned to do positive things.”

Damian Ryan, chairperson of Digital Media Intelligence, the event organiser, stressed that Ireland’s opportunity to lead in digital media is a fleeting one. “This is happening right now and Ireland has to develop the right set of credentials to offer. We have a €62bn software industry and initiatives like the Digital Hub and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) MediaLab are encouraging. Ireland is a good place to foster development and we have most of our credentials, but we have to stop thinking locally and feeling hampered by geography.”