Headshot of Oscar Keyes, a man with dirty blonde hair and facial hair. He is wearing a burgundy sweater over a white collared shirt, and looking at the camera and smiling.

Oscar Keyes, Multimedia Teaching & Learning Librarian, develops, delivers and promotes the Innovative Media department’s instruction program in support of VCU community members’ multimedia literacy and creative skills. He teaches sessions focusing on audio and video production techniques, equipment and software. In addition, he manages the department’s audio and video studios.  

Keyes has advanced technical expertise in making media arts, and significant experience teaching students of all ages how to make media and understand the importance of digital citizenship in their daily lives. 

He holds a dual-degree B.A. in Media Arts and Film & Media Studies as well as an M.A. in Media Arts, from the University of South Carolina. He is completing his Ph.D in Art Education at VCU. 

In your new position, what do you hope to accomplish? What are your priorities?

My big focus for this first year is accessibility. Both in terms of making our physical spaces more accessible for patrons with disabilities as well as of addressing some of the steep learning curves in our audio and video studios. I really want folks who have never made a media project to feel like they can come into our space to quickly and confidently start creating. 

Given your close ties to the School of the Arts, how do you envision working with faculty and students in the school and connecting their creativity to technologies? 

This semester I got the chance to partner with Hope Ginsburg in her Time Studio class for a handful of instructional demos on Adobe software. My hope is that this pedagogical research turns into a useful toolkit for other AFO instructors, looking to integrate creative technologies into their classrooms in more accessible and equitable ways. I’ve already been really blown away by some of the works I’ve seen students make! 

What particular services can you provide new students to VCU, students enrolled in introductory classes and Focused Inquiry courses? 

Come check out some gear! Or at the very least come by and see all the cool stuff we’ve got. I’m hoping in the future we can offer more support for mobile devices – although I should say we do have tripod adapters for smartphones, which students are more than welcome to come and check out, now! There’s also a great LibGuide that I inherited on resources for making multimodal projects. I’ve just started working with some of the instructors over in Focused Inquiry to figure out more equitable ways of assigning multimodal projects, as well, and totally welcome students to share their experiences with making multimedia-related work in these courses. 

When The Workshop opened in 2016, its underlying concept was to create a high-tech space that was free and open to all. What is your approach about making the resources of the Innovative Media department appealing and comfortable to all?

I think we have so much cool stuff in The Workshop! Besides our checkout equipment, there’s virtual reality and data visualization workstations, 3D printing and laser cutting machines, and the video and audio recording studios. However, I think we still have a long way to go, to make sure that a patron from any discipline, whose even the littlest bit curious, feels like they can access these resources. I’ve proposed purchasing a handful of new tools that have more beginner-friendly learning curves for our audio and video studios, not to replace our advanced equipment but rather to coincide with it. 

My hope is that if those studios are more accessible in the beginning stages, then patrons will be encouraged to explore some of the more advanced tools in the future. I’m also overhauling our staff training to be more responsive to patrons’ varying experience levels and trying to make sure that we’re meeting folks where they’re at rather than unintentionally overwhelming them with things they don’t know. 

What particular ideas do you want to share with faculty? 

Whatever discipline you’re coming from, I want to encourage you to try and integrate some kind of media-making into your curriculum. Even if you’ve never made a multimedia project, I want to make this process as accessible to you as an instructor as possible. Maybe you’re from biology and want to assign an animation project around cell division, or from art education and want to know what tools are accessible for K12 learners? Either way, I’d love to work with you and help figure out strategies for bringing these types of projects into your classrooms. Multimedia objects like audio and video are such an important part of today’s culture, that I think it’s super important to make space for this type of making in all areas.  

When you arrived at The Workshop, you immediately saw the need to improve accessibility. Could you explain the changes that the department is undertaking to break down barriers to using equipment and materials? 

I have this (very) rough three-pronged strategy for addressing accessibility in The Workshop. First is the physical space, I want to make sure that any patron can navigate and use all of our tools, studios and programs. This alone might take me the better part of the year, but it’s work I think is necessary and important. The second is making sure that we have equipment with accessible learning curves. I think it’s awesome that we have so much high-tech, professional gear, but I also want to make sure it’s balanced with hardware and software that are more user-friendly and useful for the average patron who might not have a background in media production. And the third is building educational materials to bridge those gaps in technology confidence and skills. For me, I care so much more about making sure that someone feels confident to be curious about creative technology than just being competent with it. In my experience as a media artist, sometimes my best moments came from mistakes, and I want to normalize that for folks who maybe feel like technology isn’t for them.  

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