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22 August 2023
UWC is changing the narrative through Transmedia Storytelling
Phase one of the pilot phase of the Transmedia for the Creative Economy programme came to an end in George, in the Western Cape, last week. Over the past six months, the University of the Western Cape (UWC), with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and the SanVision Foundation, has piloted the programme in three sites in South Africa. 

The sites included Calitzdorp in the Western Cape, and Douglas and Platfontein in the Northern Cape. 

The University turned its focus to young people because we know the world is rapidly changing and is still marred by complex problems. Therefore, we need innovative and forward-thinking solutions to solve these problems. 

One of these vehicles is the New Media and Transmedia Clinic at UWC. The New Media and Transmedia Clinic is one of three clinics of ZoneLearning@UWC. ZoneLearning@UWC is an initiative of Prof Vivienne Lawack, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, at UWC. 
Dr Lorato Mokwena Facilitating a session in Douglas

When Prof Lawack started at UWC in 2015, she advocated moving away from the idea of a soup kitchen. She was more interested in teaching people how to fish than giving them fish. 

“I started advocating often, moving away from the soup kitchen approach to community engagement. I wanted us to integrate community engagement in our learning and teaching, research and scholarly endeavours,” says Prof Lawack. 

Since 2020, ZoneLearning@UWC, the Department of Linguistics and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities have developed the Transmedia for the Creative Economy continuous education course that integrates community engagement in learning and teaching, research and scholarly endeavours. 

The University, with the support of the Department of Higher Education and Training, was able to offer the pilot course free of charge to young people from these three communities. The University also intentionally chose to work with youth in rural and peri-urban areas. Youth in these areas are some of the most neglected and struggle with various challenges, of which two are, crucially, access to education and employment. 

Dr Lorato Mokwena, whose research focuses on sparsely-populated areas, was one of the facilitators of the pilot phase. She explained that the digital divide in these areas is one of the biggest challenges young people must overcome. They do not have unlimited Wi-Fi, a computer, a cellphone or a cellular network, yet they are expected to be part of the fourth industrial revolution. Those fortunate enough in these areas to have the means do not know how to use them to their advantage, which is what the course is trying to achieve.
Members of the SanVision Foundation

Transmedia for the Creative Economy fills these two gaps. The course responds to the changing world of work. It focuses on “new media” and transmedia storytelling. New media include podcasting, vlogging, websites, blogging, social media, gaming, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and music and television streaming services. New media uses digital technologies to connect people, services and products.

The course stretched over 12 weeks. It started with a five-day face-to-face workshop. During the five days, students were introduced to transmedia storytelling, new media, ethics and legal issues, digital marketing, content production, and distribution and monetisation. The workshop was hands-on, and students were taught how to write stories. They were shown how to use their phones and camera equipment to develop content for various social media sites.

After the five-day workshop, 11 weeks of self-study commenced. Students had to upload their assignments weekly. To enable them to do so, the University provided students with data and laptops to complete their coursework. 

Daniélle Hoffmeester, from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, who participated in the course, said they realised after working for years in various communities that young people cannot talk their way out of poverty. 

“There has to be a tangible output that people can take home and gain socio-economic opportunities,” says Hoffmeester. 

For Daniélle, the course provides that tangible output since it is an accredited NQF Level 5 course. Those who completed the course successfully were issued a certificate of competence. For Nosindiso Mtimkulu, this is a big win because young people in communities such as Calitzdorp, Douglas and Platfontein are not afforded the opportunity to go to university. 

“Now they will have a qualification from a university, and they will be employable,” says Ntimkulu.

UWC prides itself on being a university that stands with the marginalised and is serious about justice and reconciliation. We want to thank our partners, the Department of Higher Education, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and the SanVision Foundation, who enabled us to complete the first part of the pilot phase of this important project. 

The University would also like to thank the university staff and community liaisons that tirelessly worked behind the scenes to make the phase one pilot phase of the course a success.

Jacob Cloete is a filmmaker, researcher, entrepreneur and is managing the ZoneLearning@UWC project.