Ryerson ComCult PhD Student Presents his Research in Portugal and China

A Q & A with Ryerson PhD Candidate and FCAD Contract Lecturer, Gabriele Aroni.

Having attended the University of Florence in his home country of Italy and United Kingdom’s Oxford Brookes University to pursue masters degrees in Architecture and Digital Media production respectively, it’s safe to say Ryerson ComCult student and PhD candidate, Gabriele Aroni has plenty of international experience.

In May, Gabriele presented his paper, “The Limits of Copyright Law in digital Game Photography” at a conference at the University of Coimbria in Portugal. About a month later he traveled to the Communication University of China in Beijing to present research he’s done on the role of architecture in digital games. We asked him all about these amazing opportunities below.

This past summer, you attended and presented at two international conferences – one in Portugal and another in China. Considering the international audiences you would be presenting to, how did you prepare for them?

I always try to add some information related to the country in which I present, whenever possible. For instance in China, I mentioned various video game laws and brought examples from the Chinese government. Also, just a word of introduction in the local language is always welcome (even in my butchered Mandarin).

The paper you presented in Beijing, “Media Literacy Education for the Promotion of Cultural Heritage and National Image through Digital Games” seems to coincide with several themes often promoted by Ryerson International; can you give a brief synopsis in layman’s terms?

Digital games are now the most diffuse media on the planet, and it thus is the moment that cultural institutions and governments must start considering it as a major vehicle for the diffusion of cultural heritage and national image. How can countries promote themselves, and avoid wrong or inappropriate portrayals of their culture through digital games? There should be collaborations between game developers and institutions in order to create games that can be both commercially successful and educational in their content. To achieve this, though, it is necessary that both game developers and institutions be “literate” in the media they are producing and supervising, so they must have a knowledge of how users interact with games, how they are created, how they function and their possibilities.

Was this your first global learning experience?

No, I previously studied abroad in the UK for my master in Digital Media, and presented at conferences in my native country Italy, as well as Romania. In Portugal, it was a three-day conference hosted by the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in Europe and a lovely town north of Lisbon. The conference welcomed scholars mainly from Europe, but many were from Brazil as well as North America. Talks were held in English and French as the International Roundtable of the Semiotics of Law that organized the conference operates in both languages.

University of Coimbra, Portugal

The 5th International Conference on Media Literacy Education was hosted by the Communication University of China in Beijing. As with the conference in Portugal, many of the attendees came from China itself and neighbouring countries, such as Korea and Pakistan, and conferences were held in both English and Mandarin. There were also several scholars from African countries, such as Zambia and Kenya, many who had studied in China, and they gave fascinating outlooks on the cultural exchanges between these countries.

Did you take advantage of any funding opportunities?

Yes, several in fact. My SSHRC CGS grant already incorporates some funding for travel, and I was also funded by ComCult, the Yates School of Graduate Studies, the Ryerson Students Union and the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University.

Cultural barriers are often unavoidable when travelling. Do you have any advice for others looking to participate in global experiences and/or international conferences?

At least as far as concerns the countries where I have been, I would say that language is the only noticeable cultural barrier. Maybe if you have a cappuccino in Italy after 12:00 p.m. you are going to get “foreigner” painted on yourself, but I have never seen anything out of the ordinary or problematic anywhere. Probably the most important things to be prepared for are also the most mundane such as payment methods or phone compatibility. In China for instance, they are already beyond our cash and credit card-based system, and while they are both still widely accepted, it is good to be aware that some places do not even have a physical cashier anymore.

What was the biggest takeaway from your trip?

Meeting scholars from other countries is always the most rewarding part of international conferences, especially in an academic world strongly dominated by the English language. You get to know ideas and theories that would be hard to come across otherwise, or hear completely new points of view that come from different backgrounds and academic training.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did while abroad?

I ate pig brains in Shanghai. We actually eat them in Florence as well – only fried, though. Not boiled. So I believe that counts.

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