VGA + The Media Majlis Receive MacArthur Grant

VGA Gallery and The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Qatar Receive $50,000 MacArthur Grant to Develop Citizen Journalism Game

November 15, 2018

Chicago and Doha—VGA Gallery and The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) are proud to announce a partnership to create a new virtual reality game that explores the politics of citizen journalism in the Middle East. The partnership is made possible by a $50,000 grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The game will transport audiences via a virtual reality interface into a moment of tension or conflict, set in the Middle East, and task them to report with a cell phone camera to tell the story. The captured footage will then be outputted as a real video and photo files for editing, viewing and evaluation outside of the virtual reality environment.

With this game, VGA and The Media Majlis hope to illustrate the centrality of citizen journalism to the ongoing work of political accountability across the globe. “News and democracy in the Gulf region rely in part on the rise of camera phones, carried by the public, who share information via social media,” says Eric Espig, digital media specialist at The Media Majlis.

Chaz Evans, VGA’s director of programs and exhibitions and a lecturer at Northwestern University, adds that he hopes this game will prod audiences to consider what is at stake in the practices of citizen journalism. Evans hopes the game will provoke questions like, “Who is at risk in the documenting of political conflict? What does it mean to rely on ordinary people to “do” journalism? And, most importantly, can citizens, governments, and media institutions work together with these conditions?”
The organizations are well suited to the collaboration. The Media Majlis is the first museum in the Arab world dedicated to the content of media, journalism and communication, and VGA is Chicago’s first nonprofit devoted to the evolving medium of video game ar. Game development will be led by Espig and Evans. The game will complement the 2019-2020 programming season at The Media Majlis and will also be the subject of a standalone exhibition in fall of 2019, mounted at VGA Gallery, exhibiting a playable version of the game, art from the game, and videos and information about the project. It will be built in collaboration with the NU-Q Media Innovation Lab and external game developers. Educational programs about the project and its themes will be designed by The Media Majlis and VGA for both Chicago and Doha audiences and Northwestern University faculty, staff, students and partners.

About The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Qatar

The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Qatar is a museum dedicated to exploring journalism, communication and media. Through exhibitions, publications, events and online resources, The Media Majlis engages with themes that connect audiences to an ever-changing media landscape. The interactive exhibition space brings people together, using the latest digital technologies to challenge standard narratives and provide 360-degree views on global, regional and local stories. The Media Majlis is an active space where visitors can participate, comment and engage—creating opportunities to explore and interact with exhibition content and messages. The museum aspires to represent the diversity of voices, perspectives, events and people that contributes to the evolving media world that surrounds and affects us all. All exhibitions, publications, programs and online materials are bilingual. About the MIL at NU-QThe MIL (Media Innovation Lab) at Northwestern University in Qatar is a dedicated space for NU-Q community members—students, faculty, and staff—to discover and experiment with the new technologies that will inspire new ideas and shape the future of storytelling and communications.

About VGA Gallery

Founded in 2013, Video Game Art (VGA) Gallery was created in response to a need for a public forum for the visibility, understanding and critique of an emerging and exciting new medium: video games. Signature programs include exhibitions, artist residencies, education, publications, and other events. VGA has partnered with a range of venues to collaborate on these projects. In the past year, exhibitions and events were mounted at Rebuild Foundation, Columbia College Chicago, Mana Contemporary and The Nightingale cinema; an artist residency was carried out in partnership with University of Illinois at Chicago’s Maker Space; and VGA mounted a public panel discussion in conjunction with the Adler Planetarium and Bit Bash, among many other programs. Recent conferences VGA has participated in include the INTERPLAY Conference (co-hosted by University of Chicago and Northwestern University), College Art Association New Media Caucus, Chicago Video Game Law Summit, and an Adler Planetarium Panel Discussion: Chicago Made Games as New Media Art.