Cultivating Innovation

documentary video, 93:00 minutes
directed by Don Ritter
email contact for screening or lecture

Preview of Cultivating Innovation • scroll down for complete documentary and individual sections
Academic research on digital media technology has existed in various computer science and engineering departments for over 50 years, while related research on digital media content became widespread more recently in the arts and humanities. Many academic institutions carrying out these research activities are now devoting considerable human, technical, and financial resources in pursuit of innovation with digital media, ranging from the creation of new forms of digital media content to hardware and software development.

Cultivating Innovation is a documentary about the environmental factors that influence innovation with digital media in academia. Seven full-time international academics and a management consultant working with innovation in digital media respond to questions about the influences of environmental conditions on attaining innovation. The interviewees discuss the differences between innovation and creativity, and how time, physical environment, interpersonal environment, and organizational structure influence their abilities to be innovative with digital media. The interviewees' expertise includes architecture, computer science, engineering, game design, music, digital media art, and management.

Although Cultivating Innovation is primarily idiographic, the perspective conveyed is that academic pursuits in digital media are more likely to succeed when the temporal, physical, interpersonal, and organizational conditions surrounding academic researchers are appropriate for enhancing innovation. Adequate funding, relevant technological resources, and the hiring of talented academics will not necessarily lead to innovation within a research group. An impediment to innovation discussed by most of the interviewees is an organizational environment that seemingly advocates innovation but repeatedly requires researchers to undertake time-consuming and inflexible bureaucratic procedures. Other detrimental factors within the organizational environment included academic administrators who lacked sufficient human skills or appropriate knowledge for motivating and evaluating innovative research in digital media content. These and other environmental factors discussed by the interviewees concur with comprehensive studies by various psychologists who have examined creativity, innovation and motivation in the professional workplace. (see references below)

Cultivating Innovation is intended primarily for academics and academic administrators involved with digital media research, but the findings may be relevant to innovation in any discipline.

"People will not feel motivated if they are not appreciated and organizations that think they can just hire people and stick them in a box are not fundamentally valuing these people as people. It is a fundamental aspect of the human spirit to be entrepreneurial, in other words to innovate. I think it is also a fundamental aspect of human nature to want to love and be loved. People want to feel valued in relationships, they want to feel appreciated."
Dr Dave Richards, Strategic Innovation Leadership Facilitator, London, UK

"There is a little difference between creativity and innovation…there are people who creatively figure out how to creatively separate other people from their money, and we call it innovation."
Dr Kellogg S. Booth, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, Canada
complete documentary of Cultivating Innovation • complete documentary (93:00)


Dr Maurice Benayoun, Professor
School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

Dr Kellogg S. Booth, Professor Emeritus
Department of Computer Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Dr Christopher J. Keyes, Professor
Department of Music, Hong Kong Baptist University

Tobias Klein, Assistant Professor
School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

Dr Miu Ling Lam, Assistant Professor
School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

Chi Wo Leung, Associate Professor
School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

Dr Dave Richards, Strategic Innovation Leadership Facilitator
Dr Dave Innovation Ltd, London, UK

Dr Hanna Wirman, Research Assistant Professor
School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Individual sections from the complete video below
Part 1 • Innovation and Creativity (14:00)

Part 2 •  The Interviewees • (4:00)

Part 3 • Time (15:00)

Part 4 • The Physical Environment • (15:00)

Part 5 • The Interpersonal Environment (12:40)

Part 6 • The Organizational Environment (32:00)


Don Ritter • director and editor
Yuen Ting Li • assistant editor and production assistant

Mitch Martinez • fire imagery footage

Production of Cultivating Innovation, previously called Growing Innovation, was funded by City University of Hong Kong with support from the School of Creative Media.

About the director

Don Ritter is a Canadian artist and writer who has been active internationally in the field of digital media art since 1988. His digital media artworks have been exhibited in festivals, museum and galleries throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Institutions supporting Ritter’s work on innovation with digital media include the Canada Council, The Banff Centre (Canada), Pratt Institute (USA), ZKM (Germany), Ars Electronica (Austria), DGArtes (Portugal), the Goethe Institute (Czech), the European Union Culture Programme (EU), and City University of Hong Kong. Ritter completed his graduate degree in visual studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/MIT, and he has undergraduate degrees in fine arts and psychology from the University of Waterloo and a diploma in electronics engineering from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Prior to his academic positions, Ritter was a telecommunication designer and researcher for Northern Telecom/Nortel and Bell-Nothern Research/BNR. Ritter held full-time or tenured professorships in art and design between 1989 and 2017 at Concordia University in Montreal, Pratt Institute in New York City, Hanyang University in Seoul, and City University of Hong Kong. He currently lives in Montreal.


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