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Art, technology and activism intersect to combat rape

Filmmaker and publisher Ram Devineni came to campus Wednesday to showcase his new project where art, activism and technology intersect to create his innovative comic book “Priya’s Shakti.” Room 132 in the PAHB was packed with students sitting in the aisles and standing in the back of the room to hear about the innovative project.

Devineni’s comic, which is free to download across the world, was created to change the conversation surrounding rape in India. He was inspired to begin the project when he filmed the 2012 protests in Delhi following a horrific gang rape on a bus. Devineni felt that the conversation surrounding rape needed to be changed.

“No good girl walks home alone at night,” said one anonymous Indian man that Devineni filmed and animated as part of a documentary project about the Delhi rape. “The blame is 50/50.”

Devineni wanted sought to change public conversations about rape beginning with teenagers and felt a comic book was a great way to reach the demographic. Devineni showed a slideshow with images from his comic book and footage he had taken of interviews and other art projects he worked on to introduce his project.

“Priya’s Shakti” is about a rape survivor, Priya, who is shunned by her family but finds inner strength with help from Hindu gods and a tiger she meets. Devineni drew from empowered, female comic books heroes like Ms. Marvel to create Priya.

What made Devineni’s idea unique is the use of “augmented reality.” He worked with tech company Blippar to create a unique virtual experience. Each page of the comic book can be scanned with a mobile device and display new artwork and animation relating to the comic.

The marriage of art and technology resonated with the 500,000 people who have downloaded “Priya’s Shakti.” Devineni showed videos of his advertising campaign in India, where street artists painted images from the comic book in public spaces that could be scanned with a mobile device in the same way the comics can.

In spite of Devineni’s inspiring ideas and creative use of technology, his audience offered mixed reactions to his presentation. One student nodded off, and others whispered to each other while he spoke.

The presentation was low-tech, using only a slideshow and very short Quicktime video clips. Devineni devoted a large amount of time to talking about his corporate partners and the logistical process of launching the comic book.

Although some of the audience lost interest, many found the project to be inspiring. Lorena Martinez, a sophomore graphic design major, came to see Devineni because it was required for her class and was moved by the project.

“It was jaw dropping,” Martinez said, snacking on fruit offered after the event. “I think that augmented reality is going to be huge.”

Martinez felt that using a multimedia comic book was a great way to get kids involved in social issues.

“Visual effects are better than just reading about it of hearing somebody talk.”