Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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Course development fellowship provides summer support

A new program generated $29,000 in student fellowship and summer salary, enhancing the department's course offerings and helping students bridge the summer funding gap.
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 - 12:00pm

In the 21-22 school year DANM Director Karlton Hester inaugurated the DANM Summer Course Development Fellowship, a new program designed to create summer teaching opportunities for continuing and graduating DANM MFA students. After an initial request for qualifications in Fall 2021, five DANM MFA applicants were selected to develop new undergraduate courses to be offered in Summer Session 2022. Each received a fellowship and faculty support in the development and submission of the new course proposal and syllabus.

One of the main aims of the program is to have DANM students put their graduate studies to the test, using teaching as a form of "experiential learning," said Director Hester. "Teaching what [they have] learned to a diverse audience can be one of the most important ways to confirm students' understanding of their own developing artistic process, and skill sets, and to test the effectiveness of their ideas and creative work." This was true for Carl Erez (DANM '23) who developed and taught DANM 146: Game Design in Participatory Performance. In his first year of the MFA program he studied "how audience participation works in live performance spaces, and various lenses that can be useful in analyzing it and for designing meaningful participation... I have really had to explore the roots of the various concepts and deepen my understanding of my thought process in order to make it clear to students who might never have interacted with performance theory or game design theory before."

In total the department awarded $7500 in fellowships directly to six DANM MFA students which generated $21,493 in summer salary for three instructors and one teaching assistant; $825 in shared revenue for the department from summer enrollments; five new DANM courses in the catalog; and one new qualified instructor in the departmental lecturer teaching pool. "This approach to a course development process not only provides a way to gain summer teaching knowledge and experience (even before graduation), but it also paves a way for summer teachers to gain the confidence needed to then potentially apply to the DANM lecture pool in the future," said Director Hester. Additionally these new course topics provide direction for the "DANM curriculum update that will help to usher in DANM’s current and future restructuring." 

All new courses were required to be lower-division courses at an introductory level with no prerequisites, and fulfill a UCSC General Education (GE) requirement for undergraduates. Preference was given to courses that would attract enrollments from high school students and historically underrepresented students to help create a pipeline of interest for future DANM MFAs, and online courses that expanded access to studying at UCSC. Preference was also given to course proposals on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion, i.e. critiques of racism, racial and gender injustice, environmental concerns, and cultural marginalization in digital arts and new media within global society.

Approved new courses:

DANM 144 Surveillance and Digital Design - Mohamadreza Babaee, faculty advisor micha cárdenas

How can we understand surveillance through a digital arts lens? What are the connections between surveillance and race, gender, sexuality, and class? How can we challenge oppressive surveillance policies in creative ways? In this interdisciplinary course students critically engage with the topic of surveillance by interacting with important scholarship and artworks in digital arts and surveillance studies. Knowledge on the subject deepened through class discussions, submission of written reflections, and group creative responses to the course content.

DANM 146 Game Design in Participatory Performance - Carl Erez, faculy advisor Marianne Weems

Students get a grounding in the fundamentals of game design and character driven performance. Meetings focus on a combination of understanding current practice across various styles of interactivity, and practice of participatory performance culminating in a short group performance with participatory elements.

DANM 147 Introduction to Queer Game Studies - dani wright, faculty advisor Elizabeth Swensen

Examines writing about Queer games—both academic and non-academic—as well as contemporary Queer games. Students write an essay that synthesizes Queer theory and game studies and also answer a few short questions about each reading. A midterm draft of the game and a final prototype are required, as well as a post-mortem as a final paper. Throughout the course, students gain experience in looking critically at pieces of digital media art, creating short video games, and reading Queer theory as well as game studies writing.

DANM 148 Introduction to Game Prototyping - Rose Klein, faculty advisor Kristen Gillette

Introductory course on the process of game prototyping. By playing seminal works made by oppressed creators in the industry, and performing close readings of their mechanics, students build games literacy and learn how to use free and low-cost tools to make personal, fluid work. Engages in the creation of games on a weekly basis, while thinking about the political, artistic, and cultural values the work embodies. Throughout this process, students discuss different models of prototyping, iterate on game design procedure, and reflect deeply on their finished work.

DANM 149 Intro to Games Culture - Rose Klein, faculty advisor Kristen Gillette

Survey course on game communities. Games are a globally entrenched medium, with communities of players gathering together both online and offline. Students map how different communities navigate status and mastery, study online fan groups, and document their interactions to gain a better understanding of the dynamics at play. Investigates how marginalized communities can be left behind in the search for mastery, and as a class students create tools for intervening in our own communities when exclusionary trends are seen.