Thursday, June 14, 2007

Activity at Great Northern Way Campus

Four major schools in this area have a joint interest in a little campus a few blocks to the west of the VCC-Clark Sky Train Station. For a couple of years, not much has been happening at this location, which is jointly operated by UBC, SFU, BCIT, and Emily Carr. There was a scene shop for the UBC Theatre department there for a while, there's been a small green roofs experiment going on, there were some space rentals to movie companies, and a few temporary research-project offices. Last summer there was a festival there during the United Nations World Urban Forum. A 2005 article in The Tyee talks about plans to build a fancy glass Interactive Centre for Sustainability there, and how those plans had been postponed. The revised "early 2007" completion target also went by the by. The permit sign is still up and ground hasn't been broken.

Now, a librarian I met this week told me that an existing building that has just been painted black is to be the new home of the very first entering class of the Masters of Digital Media Program - a joint project of all the schools. According to her, after taking their core courses the students will each receive $50,000 to pursue a project, with the money coming from the school and from private industry. The private industry donors will receive the benefits of the students' research projects.

I found a press release online dated May 2, 2007, saying that the project is intended to "create a launch pad for the next generation of interactive entertainment leaders." It also said that Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq: ERTS) was making a grant of $1 million to the campus.

The Electronic Arts Inc. website shows they are an interactive gaming company doing "Fantasy, Sports, and Strategy Videogames." The front page of the website shows a nasty-looking car crash and a list of 30 countries on 5 continents where you can get a game account -- oops, make that 31 countries as USA/Canada is listed as one. The games on the USA/Canada page include "Command & Conquer," "Boom Boom Rocket," and games about NHL, football, and Harry Potter.

On the other end of the gender taste spectrum, check out the Netwoman Blog. On this blog, a woman named Tracy Kennedy, who is a sociology doctoral student in Toronto, reports she is conducting a second life online as Tracy Trailblazer, a virtual Research Assistant for the Great Northern Way Campus, thus "creating a presence" for the campus in the online game Second Life. It is unclear from her blog whether she gets paid for real.

The web site for the Great Northern Way Campus is It asserts that "The GNWC has joined the local community to help define this urban landscape as they create and deliver new professionally-oriented, educational and cultural programs."

If anyone knows how this campus interfaces with the local community, please post a response.

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