Digital Arts and New Media

2014-15 General Catalog

DARC 204
(831) 459-1919

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

New technologies have profoundly changed contemporary culture and inevitably altered the role of the arts in society. The Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program serves as a center for the development and study of digital media and the cultures that they have helped create. Faculty and students are drawn from a variety of backgrounds, such as the arts, computer engineering, humanities, the sciences, and social sciences, to pursue interdisciplinary artistic and scholarly research and production in the context of a broad examination of digital arts and cultures.

Program Learning Objectives

  • 1) Develop necessary digital art and new media knowledge to understand the state of the field. Examples: Technical, aesthetic, historical, and theoretical knowledge.
  • 2) Demonstrate ability to define, plan, and execute individual and collaborative digital art and new media research projects. Examples: Developing project concepts, prototyping, timeline development, creative problem solving.
  • 3) Understand multiple forms of digital art and new media critique, be able to respond to and give critiques productively. Examples: Forms such as studio critique, performance critique, system design critique, and writing critique. Ability to understand critique, evaluate feedback, produce iteration of work.
  • 4) Demonstrate ability to participate in planning, coordinating, and executing collaborative digital art and new media research projects. Examples: Brainstorming, collaborative idea formalization and project planning, iterative development and refinement, team coordination and communication.
  • 5) Employ professional communication practices in digital art and new media to make public contributions to the field. Examples: Research papers, artist talks and statements, exhibitions, performances.

The Digital Arts and New Media M.F.A. Program is a two-year program organized into four interdependent and equally important pursuits:

New Praxis—The term “praxis” has many meanings, which include “translating ideas into action” and “action and reflection upon the world in order to change it.” New Praxis in DANM is comprised of “critique” and “practicum” which provide students with both the practical training and critical dialogue necessary to pursue their own individual goals as artists and cultural practitioners.

Studies—DANM “studies” include required core seminars that allow students first to explore an array of recent methods and approaches in digital arts and culture, and then to pursue the construction of specific genealogies and theories with a sustained focus on a particular topic, by engaging in various dialogues at the intersection of theory and practice while developing their thesis project and paper.

Collaborative Research—Students and faculty engage in research collaborations resulting in publications and exhibitions in one of four possible focused research areas: mechatronics, participatory culture, performative technologies, and playable media described below.


Mechatronics is the functional integration of mechanical, electronic, and information technologies. In DANM this framework may be employed for the development and production of physical, systems-based artwork that incorporates elements of robotics, motion control, software engineering, and hardware design. DANM mechatronics research involves the use of a variety of media including video, performance, and sculpture for the creation of complex, kinetic, audio-visual systems for the exploration of temporality, materiality, experience, and perception.

Participatory Culture

Participatory culture studies and research efforts explore the role of information and communication technologies in the current shift from “top-down” culture to a culture of participation and social engagement. Within the social register, the human/computer interface acts as both a boundary and a bridge. Participatory culture research in DANM encompasses a range of projects in social computing and community-media activism which involve the design of new technologies to address social problems and facilitate broader participation in culture and politics.

Performative Technologies

Research in performative technologies explores new methods for combining media and technology to create the visual, aural, and connective material of performance. DANM performance research generates new public and performative spaces where digital media, communication networks, and interactive systems may be fused with lighting, movement, and stage and sound design to create real-time shared multimedia experiences for audiences and performers at both local and remote locations. Ongoing projects in this area may include work in telematics; performance-driven, real-time graphics; algorithmic composition of sound and image; computer vision and motion capture; and studies of ritual, performativity, embodiment, interactivity, and subjectivity.

Playable Media

Playable media research explores the potential of computational systems for the creation of new media forms that invite and structure play. This group works to understand and create new ways for computer games and related forms to engage audiences, make arguments, tell stories, and shape social space. Ongoing playable-media work combines game-design and artificial-intelligence research with writing, art, and media authoring.

Prospective students are asked to identify their choice of research group in their application and statement of purpose. Admissions are tied to DANM project group foci. New students are admitted into a specific project group based on the quality and relevance of the student’s prior work and expertise to the group project in their chosen area of focus. Students collaborate on faculty-initiated and -directed research projects. This work is intended to provide the student with the opportunity to learn collaborative and practical research methodologies, and to participate in a professional-level research project. The collaborative-project group experience is intended to inform, but not necessarily contribute to, the student’s thesis project.

Pedagogy—DANM trains future arts academics through practical experience. Students are awarded teaching assistantships as part of their overall support package as well as opportunities to assist faculty in workshops.


The DANM M.F.A. Program requires 72 credits of academic course work. In the first year, students generally take three courses each term—one course in each of the program areas, New Praxis, Studies, and Collaborative Research. In the second year, students primarily take elective courses, work with their thesis committees, and pursue independent and directed research leading to the completion of the thesis project and paper.

New Praxis

New Praxis in DANM is comprised of “critique” and “practicum.” Students are required to take seven new praxis courses over two years and have the option to take two new praxis electives.

New Praxis–Year One

Practicum—This area of praxis is designed to allow students to develop the conceptual, technical, and practical skills they need to successfully complete projects that realize their own individual goals as digital media artists.

DANM 210—First-year students are required to take a Project Design Studio in the first quarter. This course guides the development of students’ individual studio practice, particularly in relation to the transition to digital media.

Electronic and programming requirements—First-year students also take basic courses in electronics and programming. Students with prior experience in programming and/or electronics should discuss their background with the instructor and their adviser to determine if the course is needed or if an alternative course should be taken to fulfill this credit requirement. Students seeking an alternative means to fulfill this requirement may choose to:

  • serve as assistants in workshops for beginning students;

  • take electronics or programming electives offered in computer engineering; or

  • enroll in independent studies, as approved by their adviser.

Critique—This area of praxis is designed to allow students to present their own work and review the work of their fellow students as a means of engaging in the critical dialogue necessary to pursue their own individual goals as digital media artists. First-year students are required to present work-in-progress based on the projects developed in the project-design course in both individual studio and group critiques, and participate in group critique discussion.

During the spring quarter, first-year students identify and engage a thesis committee under the supervision of the program director.

New Praxis–Year Two

Practicum—During the fall quarter, second-year students work on the development of their thesis project proposal and abstract under the supervision of their thesis committee. Second-year students are encouraged to take practice-based electives and independent studies that facilitate the development of their thesis projects.

DANM 299—In the winter and spring quarters, second-year students enroll in a minimum of 10 credits of independent thesis research which is supervised by one or more members of their thesis committee.

DANM 215—Students work with faculty curator/coordinator on development of thesis projects specifically for the group exhibition context. Students contribute to development of exhibition design and collateral materials, while studying the unique presentation and curatorial challenges of new media.


Students are required to take three core seminars over two years and have the option to take two studies electives.

Studies–Year One

DANM 201 Recent Methods and Approaches to Digital Arts and Culture—In this seminar students examine an array of methods and approaches to research and writing in digital media art and culture and explore key theories concerning digital media and cultures.

DANM 202 Dialogues and Questions in Digital Arts and Culture—A pre-thesis course in which students engage in dialogues at the intersection of theory and practice with the goal of producing a pre-thesis proposal and preparatory essay. Readings and seminar discussions will inform the development of pre-thesis project proposals and essays.

Studies–Year Two

DANM 203 Frameworks and Arguments in Digital Arts and Culture—This course is intended to help students develop and write the M.F.A. thesis. Students conduct research on the thesis topic, design outlines, construct strong theoretical arguments, and draft the final document. The course is intended to help students structure and develop their thesis papers which are intended to theoretically contextualize their thesis projects.

Elective—Students may choose to take an elective offered by the program or choose an elective from a broad array of graduate courses offered on campus with the approval of their adviser.

Collaborative Research

Students participate in a three-quarter-long, collaborative-research project group in one of four possible DANM research focus areas, which takes place in the winter and spring quarters of the first year. In the second year, students continue with the final quarter of their project group (fall). This work is intended to provide the student with the opportunity to learn collaborative and practical research methodologies, and to participate in a professional-level research project.

Thesis Requirement

Students are required to complete a thesis project and written paper under the supervision of their thesis committee. The thesis will be an arts project with digital documentation accompanied by a written paper. Thesis projects may be individual or collaborative and are expected to grow out of the research pursued in the project groups during the three quarters prior as well as work developed in new praxis courses. Each student will be expected to complete a 20- to 30-page paper discussing the student’s preparatory research as well as the theoretical significance of the project. In the case of collaborative projects, each student will be required to submit his or her own paper. During the thesis year, students will make at least two progress presentations to their thesis committee. The chair of the three-person committee will be a full associate professor and DANM faculty member. A completed thesis project and paper must be submitted to and approved by the thesis committee before the degree can be awarded.


Prospective students in the Digital Arts and New Media program will have a foundation in the arts with some demonstrated interest in technology or a foundation in technology with demonstrated background in the arts. Many, but not all, entering students will have completed a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) program in one or more of the arts disciplines (art or art history, film, multimedia, music, theater, video, etc.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program in computer science or computer or electrical engineering. Other successful applicants will have a B.A. or B.S. in another field but will be able to show substantial achievement in the arts, in technology, or in digital arts.

In certain cases, students who demonstrate excellent potential for the program but lack proficiency in a “cross discipline” will be admitted to the program with the understanding that they will take courses during their first two quarters of study to make up that deficiency. An arts student lacking sufficient programming experience, for example, will be expected to take one or two programming courses in their first two quarters in addition to the DANM program requirements.

Students will apply online through the Division of Graduate Studies web site between October and January for the following fall quarter. In addition to submitting an online application, students will be expected to submit an online portfolio. Further information can be found at:

[return to top]

Revised: 09/01/14