Inaugurating the AIMS Digital Innovation Center
This has been a long time coming, indeed. In many ways, AIMS has been moving towards the creation of this Center for nearly a decade. I remember, about ten years ago, sitting with our Advisory Board and noting that half of them were from the Bay Area. We decided, that year, it would be easier to have our board meeting in San Francisco than Oxford. That was a great board meeting! But it was more than that meeting that pointed us westward – it has been the constant drumbeat from the Bay Area that has called to our courses, our research, our partners, and our spirit of innovation and creativity. The actual “aha” moment was in a bar in downtown San Francisco with Rich Moran, where he said it, meaning it more than the casual tone in which he said it: “You know…you all should just come out here. It makes so much more sense.” We has spent so many years bringing speakers from the Bay Area to class, bringing client projects from Bay Area companies, seeking counsel from Bay Area innovators, etc. We really needed to bring AIMS to the Bay Area. Two years after that conversation we are proud to see that vision realized.
The AIMS program is the leading undergraduate interactive and emerging media program in the country. The program in the only one to span the entire university, bringing expertise, faculty, facilities, and students from business, the arts, engineering, education, arts & science, and the libraries. We have built our program and reputation on transdisciplinary, experientially-grounded curriculum that weaves theory and practice to help develop the new liberal arts for the 21st century. Whether it is our immersive VR CAVE, our Usability Center’s eye-tracking lab, our rapid prototyping lab, our visualization wall, our games & learning lab, or our digital development classroom, AIMS students have always had a learning environment that represented the bleeding edge of emerging media. But, as we all know, context matters. We wanted to create an opportunity for our students understand what drives digital innovation; that it is more than emerging technology – it is emerging behaviors, emerging communities, and emerging opportunities. This means thinking outside the classroom. Yes, we have always thought outside the classroom. From our digital agency-style capstone class that has done client projects since 1996 to our games courses and their work with gamification for clients. But we needed to think further outside the classroom. Further. Innovation requires a petri dish. And while the Bay Area isn’t the only innovation petri dish, it is worth noting how many cities have penned themselves “the silicon valley of XYZ,” but failed at meeting the aspiration. There is something about the Bay Area.
This Spring Semester, our students will spend most of the week in internships, part of the week processing and talking about their internship experience, and part of the week meeting with and hearing from the leading experts and rising stars of digital innovation. We are looking forward to many years in San Francisco – building a presence and a bridge from Oxford.