Mexico: VR broadens the horizon of women in digital creation

Virtual Reality (VR) is one of the most discussed new technologies in recent years. Its practical applications are broad, and a theater production in Mexico is one such example. VR is injecting fresh momentum into the theater production of this Latin American country. For long, the cost and technical barriers have kept Mexican scenographers from using this technology. A UNESCO-funded project #BeYourVoice, intends to challenge these setbacks. In addition to inserting VR technology into performing arts, the project introduces 100 women to the world of scenography, a heavily male-dominated profession.

Launched by a local NGO Artes Escénicas Teatro de Aire A.C., the project is one of four winning proposals of "You Are Next" UNESCO | Sabrina Ho Initiative, a funding opportunity for projects promoting gender equality in digital creative industries. #BeYourVoice is an interdisciplinary project that develops an e-learning tool for virtual reality software and simulation. The training module equips women with  skills in digital creation necessary to succeed in the growing field of digital scenography. The programme empowers a generation of female leaders in creative cultural industry, resulting in a more professionalized creative workforce in Mexico, the only Latin American country represented in the top twenty exporters of creative and cultural goods.

Laura Martínez, scenographer and visual artist, uses VR to develop stage scenography. “VR makes it possible to do multiple tests, reducing mistakes during an actual stage production. Compared to the handmade models, VR saves time because I can easily test different scenarios. VR is useful for my personal projects and helps me operate at an internationally competitive level in the digital scene.”

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The project, while targeting women, aims for equal opportunity between men and women. Starsky Palma, graphic designer, joined the team to give technical support. “Thanks to this project, I have learned about many unexplored possibilities in the cultural and creative industry. There are so many creative women in Mexico, be it a painter, a dancer, or performers... I am happy to help them use new technology to expand professional opportunities for their artistic creation.”

VR e-learning:  platform for future creativity 

Women have long been underrepresented in occupations that require technological tools. To rebalance this trend, the course takes into account the exposure common and fear among female participants. In particular, a pedagogical assistant and VR experts worked together to determine the most suitable method to teach VR to those who are introduced to professional software and computer programs for the first time.

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©Teatro de Aire
An e-learning platform on digital scenography was then launched with two focus areas: VR technology and performing arts. It offers tutorial videos on VR software and recorded lessons by 15 specialists, covering topics like New Technologies in the Performing Arts, Virtual Reality and Creative Digital Industry. A study plan, developed with the Institute of Visualisation and Virtual Reality at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, consisting of 9 modules was also designed to help learners make the most of what the e-learning platform offers.

Feedbacks from participants have been overwhelmingly positive. “We are encouraged every time we hear from our learners. With Virtual Reality, they can design and create scenography very fast, and experiment with more advanced stage set,” says Ghalí Martínez, director of the project.

To Martínez, #BeYourVoice is more than a project – it is a dream come true. “This kind of VR learning programme is what I dreamed of when I was young. I am so proud that now I can bring this learning opportunity to young women. VR leads our female learners to a new innovative world and expand possibilities in their career.”

Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention