Theory and Practice in New Media
Topic/Overview of course
This is a capstone course for students in the New Media Studies program, and a preparation course for students who will be engaging in their senior project, an equivalent to a graduating thesis. The objective of the course is to investigate in depth a theoretical framework in new media and to evaluate methodologies employed in related areas of new media practices.
This past term, the course focused primarily on the concept of "interactivity" and the various characteristics associated with the concept in terms of the technological structure of the media use, communication settings, and individuals' perceptions. Students are expected to apply the knowledge they gained from this in depth exploration towards their own senior project.
Number of students, and background of students
There were 15 students in the class. They have diverse academic background in terms of their second major, from Studio Arts, to English, Philosophy, linguistic and Psychology, to International Studies.
Traditional challenges and opportunities in teaching your topic
As an emerging field, there is no consensus as to what constitutes "new" media and what constitutes theory and practice of new media. At the same time, the fluidity and blurring of boundaries provide a great opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue and for a mix of technical and theoretical discourse.
The key challenge is that given the diverse student background, many do not have the disciplinary and conceptual tools that would allow them to delve deeply into the literature and analysis emerging practices.
A mix of blog, wiki, discussion forum, ACollab, tools that are available through ATutor.
Innovative design approach
Students were divided into three groups, each exploring an aspects of "interactivity", using Spiro Kiousis' (2002) article "Interactivity: a concept explication" as the starting point for discussion. Using a wiki as the hub, each group provided expanded views of concepts and operations related to the notion of "interactivity". The wiki as a whole then became an expanded "text" on the concept.
Each group was asked to identify an application and see how their understandings of interactivity were being implemented in the chosen application. This is intended to see whether students are able to apply their knowledge for critical evaluation. The applications chosen were Macromedia Breeze, Second Life, and Nintendo Wii.
Students were evaluated on their team work on the wiki, an individual reflection paper, and a group presentation on the application they have chosen.
Evaluation (informal) and next steps.
None of the student has used a wiki before and they found it hard to get started. But once the process of writing and editing begun, the pace picked up. However, few if any students venture to edit other's pages, and they were even more reluctant to edit pages outside of their own group. In the end, the project was not as collective and dynamic as I would hope.
The blog and discussion forum were also seldom used, as most of the students prefer to use MSM and text messaging. They also seldom read the announcements and messages I posted, as they find the log-in and checking part cumbersome.