Five Megs of Fun! Teaching Sustainable Small-file Media Production to BFA Students and Undergrad and Graduate Cinema and Media Scholars


Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipientLaura Marks, School for the Contemporary Arts

Project teamRadosław M. Przedpełski, Sophia Biedka, Somayeh Khakshoor and Joseph Malbon, School for the Contemporary Arts

Timeframe: January 2021 to February 2022

Funding: $4,557

Course addressed: Online Mini Course: Five Megs of Fun! Experiments in Small File Media Aesthetics and Politics

Final report: View Laura Mark’s Final Report (PDF) >> 

Description: For this project, we would like to equip students with both technical and aesthetic solutions that will allow them to produce environmentally sustainable digital small-file media works and interrogate them critically. Small-file media are artistic interventions that take the format such as .mp4 or .gif and are defined by a small file size (under 5 megabytes). We would like to find out how the proposed course input has the capacity to empower the students by activating imagination and raising awareness about environmental issues, in particular the environmental impact of digital media. Pedagogic activities include researching the carbon footprint of streaming media; researching creation practices that produce small-file media; producing several versions of a small-file work, in order to experiment with different technical and aesthetic solutions; giving feedback to each other; and preparing artist’s statements reflecting on the work.

Questions addressed:

  • How do students experience the small-file media? What attracted them: the creative challenge, the environmental challenge, the experimental possibilities, or other?
  • How does the small-file “lens” support students in critical making practices?
  • How do they respond to small-file techniques like stills plus sound, obsolete technologies, compression, and datamoshing?
  • How does the small-file format assist or hinder students to become aware of and respond to the environmental impact of digital media and does it affect their thinking about environmentalism in other aspects of media production and consumption?

Knowledge sharing: We will share the findings through different media studies forums, as well as non-profit media arts organizations that reached out to us during The Small File Media Festival, e.g. VIVO Media Art Centre (Vancouver), the Film and Video Poetry Society (Los Angeles). We will share our course with colleagues in SIAT and other departments that include video production as possible assignments. We will share the course outline and recoded tutorials (compressed to small files) with local media arts centre VIVO, who will it turn share it with media arts centres across Canada. We will also share them via the Small File Media Festival site,, so that makers everywhere will have access to it.

Keywords: carbon footprint of streaming media, media ecology, ecomedia, small-file media, appropriate technology, media production, media infrastructure