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NCSA to celebrate breakthrough Cyberfest 20th anniversary

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Roger Ebert’s Film Festival are hosting a 20th anniversary of Cyberfest, a technology and arts festival that celebrated the birthday of the fictional artificial intelligence character HAL 9000—written as becoming operational in Urbana on January 12, 1997—from the book and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The March 13, 2017 anniversary celebration, which will take place at NCSA and stream online, will include a public reception featuring a collection of immersive, interactive demonstrations from NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Lab and a panel discussion with film and technology luminaries such as Ebertfest leaders Chaz Ebert and Nate Kohn, entrepreneur Brand Fortner, and experts from the Urbana campus.

“This event will celebrate the 20th anniversary of a truly unique experience imagined by Illinois’ visionary faculty, staff and students and created from its extraordinary collaborative culture,” said Veronica Paredes, postdoctoral research associate in Media and Cinema Studies and the NCSA. “We organized this celebration not only to honor the campus’ past efforts, but also to use it as a beacon for our contemporary moment. How can the interdisciplinary generosity and intellectual boldness of the 1997 Cyberfest celebration guide us now?”

The original Cyberfest in 1997 showcased a rich field of intellectual and artistic exchanges possible only to the Illinois campus. Performances, film screenings, talks, and remote transmissions took place across campus, intersecting departments and throughout many media. Arthur C. Clarke, writer of the novel 2001, famously joined the festivities remotely from his home in Sri Lanka. This interdisciplinarity connected the University to the local community, as well, with a screening at the Virginia Theatre; the historic downtown Champaign theatre has hosted Ebertfest in the years since.

“Roger Ebert and I spent time discussing how the movie 2001 was transformative for many scientists of my generation,” said Brand Fortner, entrepreneur, NCSA advisor, and long-time Ebertfest supporter. “The whole Cyberfest experience was seared in my mind. I’m excited about returning to Illinois for collaborative discussion about the next 20 years.”

20th Anniversary of Cyberfest Line-up

Reception and Interactive Demonstrations, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

The interactive demonstrations will offer attendees an opportunity to learn more about the artistic innovations under development at NCSA. These will include projects from the Advanced Visualization Laboratory, the Critical Technology Studies Lab, and the NCSA Creativity Lab.

Impact of Cyberfest of Culture and Society Panel, 6:30-8:00 p.m.

What long-lasting impact did Cyberfest have? And how have campus collaborations and discussions around the role of computers in humans’ lives developed since 1997? These are among the questions that will be discussed at the panel featuring Dr. Donna Cox, a world-renowned scientific visualization artist and head of NCSA’s Culture and Society Theme, film and technology luminaries such as Ebertfest leaders Chaz Ebert and Nate Kohn, entrepreneur Brand Fortner, and experts from the Urbana campus and around the world: Julie Turnock, Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies (U of I); Robin Bargar, Executive Director of Studio for International Media & Technology, Professor in School of Arts & Media, and in School of Computing Sciences & Engineering (University of Salford, Manchester); Insook Choi, Chair of Interdisciplinary Arts & Technology, Professor in School of Arts and Media (University of Salford, Manchester). The panel will be moderated by Veronica Paredes, postdoctoral research associate in Media and Cinema Studies and NCSA.

About The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation’s science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50 for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

About the College of Media at Illinois and Ebertfest

The College of Media at Illinois is focused on the study and exploration of media—how to develop content that is informative, accurate, strategic, persuasive, entertaining, creative, targeted and sharable through any media platform. The College is student-centered in its approach to learning and scholarship. Its faculty are scholars and researchers exploring the impact of media and messaging. The College is also home to Illinois Public Media (WILL-AM-FM-TV-Online), the public broadcasting service of the University of Illinois.

Founded in 1999 by the late Roger Ebert, University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival (Ebertfest) celebrates films that haven’t received the recognition they deserved during their original runs. Ebertfest takes place in Urbana-Champaign each April. Chaz Ebert, Roger’s beloved wife, business partner and fellow film-lover, is the festival host. It is a special event of the College of Media at Illinois that hosts a number of on-campus academic panel discussions each year that feature filmmaker guests, scholars and students. The festival brings together the films’ producers, writers, actors and directors to showcase their work.

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