The Digital Media Pioneer Award recognizes outstanding Canadians who have made significant contributions to the field of digital media. They are a true trailblazer within technology and culture. By embracing the unknown and standing at the forefront of innovation, their work explores previously unimagined uses for emerging technologies.
Dr. Sara Diamond is the President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University. She is a new media pioneer, curator, researcher, lecturer and artistic director who has become synonymous with Canadian art, culture and media.
She has played a significant role as a champion for interdisciplinary collaboration among artists and engineers and leading visionary programs including the Banff New Media Institute and in her role as the President of OCAD University.
Dr. Sara Diamond is the President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University. She holds a PhD in Computing, IT and Engineering, a Masters in Performative New Media Arts and an Honour Bachelors in History and Communications. She founded and led the Banff New Media Institute from 1995 – 2005, establishing summits of artists, designers, scientists and industry, practice based and research workshops, creative co-productions, laboratories and research in new media.
Since 2015 she has led OCAD University to retain its traditional strengths in art and design, while transforming the university to become a leader in STEAM+D (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, Medicine and Design), with capacities in digital media, design research and curriculum. She initiated and funding the Digital Futures Initiative and the Digital Media Research and Innovation Institute; supported OCAD U’s unique research in Inclusive Design and design for health. She collaborated with Indigenous colleagues to develop the Indigenous Visual Culture Program, with correlative prioritization of Indigenous knowledge and culture at OCAD U.
In 2018 she received the Inspiring 50 Award for women recognized for the advancement of diversity of STEM fields from the Government of Netherlands and Senate of Canada and the Canada 150 Women Leaders, Champions and Luminaries. She has been awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for Contributions to Canada; appointed to the Order of Ontario and the Royal Canadian Academy of Art; named as Digital Media Pioneer by the GRAND National Centre of Excellence; and as one of Toronto Life’s 50 most influential.
Diamond has led or co-led large-scale Canadian and international research networks in data visualization, wearable technologies, mobile technology and content and collaborative systems such as the Mobile Digital Commons Network (MDCN), Am-I-Able, Centre for Information Visualization and Design, and iCity (Visualization theme). She has retained a research and peer reviewed publication practice in history as well as in new media, and arts and design policy, publishing over fifty peer reviewed articles, book chapters and three publications (books/major reports) since 2009. She has supervised seven post-doctoral researchers and over thirty research assistants while president at OCAD University. Diamond has provided many years of service on public boards, advisory committees, task forces and juries.
Diamond’s new media art practice began in creative neural network design, visualization, “software art”, collaborative performance and wearable art through the CodeZebra project in the 1990s. Before that time (1982 – 1995) she was an internationally recognized artist in experimental media, video and interdisciplinary art, with major exhibitions such as a solo show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, a retrospective at National Gallery of Canada, Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Modern Art, NYC and broadcasts of her works. She has curated large-scale new media exhibitions around the world.
The Digifest Digital Media Pioneer Award has been given out since 2011, and past recipients include, Norman White, Artist (2018); Don Tapscott (2017), Bill Buxton (2016), Microsoft Research; Dr. Steve Mann (2015), Research and Inventor; Vera Frenkel (2014), Artist; Luc Courchesne (2012), President of the Society for Arts and Technology; and Vincent John Vincent (2011), Artist/ CEO and Co-Founder of GestureTek