Practical and Public Aspects of the MA in Comparative Media Arts

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipientLaura Marks, School of Contemporary Arts

Project teamMaria Cecilia Saba Bonilla, Lee Gilad, and Jorma Kujala, research assistants

Timeframe: August 2015 to May 2016

Funding: $5,000

Program addressed: MA Program in Comparative Media Arts

Final report: View Laura Marks' final project report (PDF)

Description: The MA program in Comparative Media Arts is now entering its third year, so this is a good time to investigate some aspects of the design of the program. The program attracts students who are interested in working in the arts as programmers and organizers. It also attracts artists who want to bolster their practice with academic study. The program includes several courses that support these goals, but they are not all being pursued as well as they could be. In addition, we need the MA in Comparative Media Arts to be clearly distinguished from the MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies; this means that these practical courses need to be well integrated into students’ programs of scholarly research. The intention of this project is to investigate students’ experiences in three aspects of the Comparative Media Arts program:

  • Public programming through directed study in FPA 889, such as an exhibition, screening, mini-festival, performance, or panel discussion, is a great way for students to present and make accessible their scholarly research to audiences.
  • The practicum in FPA 827 gives the students valuable experience working in arts organizations, integrating practical knowledge into students’ scholarly studies.
  • Students prepare extensively in FPA 822 for the public presentation of their research at the MA culminating symposium. These preparations include: practicing public speaking, converting an academic text into a talk for a general audience, editing and publishing a program, as well as event planning and publicity.

Questions addressed:

  • What can we learn from students’ experiences in planning public events, with regard to reaching diverse audiences, demonstrating that academic research in the arts can be relevant and exciting, and engaging audiences in fruitful discussion?
  • What aspects of the practicum are most fulfilling? What are the challenges of working at an off-campus organization and how can they be avoided? Do students get adequate support and supervision from the department in identifying and carrying out the practicum?
  • Does presenting research in short talks at the public colloquium feel like a suitable culmination of students’ studies? Does it meet the goals of public presentation for which students prepared in the research colloquium?

Knowledge sharing: The analyses we produce will generate guidelines for future public-programming directed studies and practica in the MA program. We will also present our findings to current students and faculty in the program.