Emerson introduces new minor in digital media and culture

by Agatha Kereere / Beacon Staff • November 20, 2014

Starting this spring, students will be able to minor in Digital Media & Culture to gain a greater understanding of the digital world and its influence on society, according to Paul Mihailidis, an associate marketing communications professor.

Students enrolled in the minor, which will be part of the Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies, must take Introduction to Digital Media & Culture, then can choose three other courses, like Aesthetics and History of New Media and The Evolution of Expression.

Four professors were hired in tandem to work within the minor, including Sarah Zaidan, an associate visual and media arts professor; Vincent Raynauld, an assistant professor; and Catherine D’Ignazio, an assistant professor.

Discussions about the minor started in 2011, according to Mihailidis, who will be teaching Introduction to Digital Media & Culture in the spring. He said Amy Ansell, the dean of liberal arts, asked him to consider the new teaching position given his background in media studies and media literacy.

“[Ansell] was spearheading the discussions,” Mihailidis said. “By that time, a group had been formed to discuss creating a minor that would explore the connection with media, the community and engagement.

The minor is a part of the civic media initiative mentioned in President M. Lee Pelton’s strategic plan, introduced in Fall 2012.

Zaidan, who will be teaching a new course through the Engagement Lab called Topics in Digital Media and Culture, said the lab will give students a more hands-on experience with the digital world. 

“The lab provides opportunities for students to be research assistants and work on their own projects with our expertise and the expertise and perspectives of those around them,” said Zaidan.  

Marissa Ziets, a senior visual and media arts major, sees the minor as beneficial to all students, but particularly those outside of the visual and media arts department.

“Digital media defines culture: we live our lives online and to fully grasp culture, we need to keep learning and studying digital media,” Ziets said. “All of the different elements of digital media make up today’s society, and this minor can provide a wealth of information to students who weren’t familiar with digital media, and for students who are interested in the subject but aren’t in the visual and media arts department.”

Ultimately, said Zaidan, the knowledge acquired from the minor’s courses will enable to students to create with an idea of how the digital world functions and apply it to their work.

“The goal is to instill critical thinking because our students are makers of media; and to make something and have such an understanding of it gives way to rich content and innovation,” she said. “They’ll have a critical understanding and knowledge of implementation.”