New Media Power Play

Tatiana Pentes

It is salutary to reflect on the selection of an Australian Army interactive DVD as the cutting edge product—an emblem of excellence across the national multimedia industry—in the recent Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA) Awards.

The awards are the annual litmus test for defining how digital media is being taken up; by which industry, and by which market. This year’s event was held at the Australian Technology Park (ATP), the site of the old Eveleigh Railway Workshops in Redfern, Sydney. A cooperative venture between the New South Wales Government, stakeholder universities, TAFE NSW and a team of international information technology companies, ATP now houses organisations whose primary focus is technological research and development along with services including fibre-optic cabling, LANs , WANs and a supercomputing centre (ac3).

We can rest assured that our troops are going to the US-lead war with Iraq with state-of-the-art, digitally enhanced training. The Australian Army Training Centre (Sydney) took out the 10th Anniversary of the AIMIA 2002 Award for the prestigious Best of the Best Title and Best Education and Reference Title for their simulated combat DVD, Sergeant Offensive Operation. Much to the amusement of award presenter Adam Spencer, from ABC Radio’s Triple J, these awards were worlds away from the 1998 educational/entertainment winner, the Bananas In Pyjamas CD-ROM.

Clearly Sergeant Offensive Operation is no arcade game. In The Australian (Adrian Lynch, IT News, Feb 11), Captain Sharyn Fewster, commanding officer of the Army’s Sydney Training Technology Centre, said: “The …package forms part of the sergeant promotion course to prepare army corporals for promotion to the rank of sergeant. It also trains corporals to participate in offensive operations at the rank of sergeant…Large amounts of virtual reality have been incorporated in the training module so the student corporal can access vital information…The user has access to two critical pieces of virtual equipment: a Knowledge Visor and a Personal Communication System.”

Previous AIMIA award winners, Massive Interactive (Treasures of Ancient Greece, www.phm.gov.au/ancient_greek_ olympics/, 2000) won Highly Commended for Best of the Best with The Pattern Book (www.patternbook.nsw. gov.au) developed with the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and the NSW Government Architect. At a launch by NSW Premier Bob Carr, The Pattern Book was declared “a practical resource that will be used across the State to help raise the standard of residential flat design in the new century.”

Over the past 10 years, the AIMIA awards for interactive media were more in line with experimentation and the work of nonconformist producers. In 1998, for example, Best Educational Multimedia/Online Product was the Real Wild Child, Australian Rock CD-ROM and Best Site or Title produced by a Student, and the Apple PC for individual innovation was Megan Heyward’s I Am A Singer CD-ROM.

In the contemporary landscape, interactive media seem to have increasingly become organs of the state, a return to their origins in surveillance technology, national planning and entertainment.

AIMIA Awards, Australian Technology Park, Sydney, Feb 7

RealTime issue #54 April-May 2003 pg. 24

© Tatiana Pentes; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2003