New Digital Media Minor Uses Images, Sounds in Liberal Arts Research and Learning


New Digital Media Minor Uses Images, Sounds in Liberal Arts Research and Learning
Brian Rigazzi, a third-year Psychology major, works on a project for his digital media technology minor.
Students like Joanna Tran are taking courses created by the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences and the division of Instructional & Information Technology as part of a minor in digital media technology.

This spring, students in professor Dorothy Wills' Visual Anthropology class will learn to how to use a video camera as a research tool to produce their own short documentary films. Some of her students will get the chance to work on a film about California's Salton Sea with professional film maker and professor Saul Landau. Wills' course is one of eight that was created by the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences (CLASS) and the division of Instructional & Information Technology (I&IT) to offer as a minor in digital media technology.

The minor allows students in the college, most of whom have non-technical liberal arts majors such as English, anthropology or psychology, to master not only technology but also the need for effective storytelling that goes along with it. Each project includes teamwork among students, collaboration with community resources and the critical thinking required to meld data, words, sounds, images or music to create a compelling, informative project.

“It's not just a technical degree, it's a degree where the technology is the tool for better understanding of content,” says Barbara Way, dean of CLASS. “By developing these skills, we are preparing students for a world they are going to have to survive in.”

The social sciences, humanities and performing arts have become more competitive in their use of technology, according to Wills, who, along with Landau, is an adviser to the minor program.

“In my professional training no one ever talked about ethnographic film,” says Wills. “There's a long tradition of it in anthropology, but the films themselves were made either by anthropologists who didn't really know how to make a film or by filmmakers who didn't really know anything about anthropology. What you end up with is a project of dubious quality or little research interest.”

The digital media technology minor bridges that gap. In the first four courses, the students learn to use technology to gather and present research, emphasizing both individual creativity and academic integrity. In the final four courses, the students will apply their skills to projects in classes related to their majors or to other elective courses.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” says James Manley, professor of philosophy, who is teaching one of the core courses. “For a number of years, we concentrated on writing across all disciplines, and this is now a movement for instituting multimedia across the disciplines.”

Wills suggests that other areas of academia, such as business schools, already teach their students the skills they need to incorporate technology into their careers, and “that's good in any discipline, whether you're going to be a teacher or work for a company, the government or going to grad school,” she says. “This will make our students more powerful as general thinkers.”

“We're now in the digital age,” says Landau, “and anyone who doesn't deal in digital technology is going to be left behind.”

For more information on the digital media minor, visit www.class.cpp.edu/Organizations/dmm/.