21 Jan 2013

All posts from 21 Jan 2013


Both Timely and Relevant: An MCDM Course Retrospective

When I was offered the chance to reprise my role as course facilitator in MCDM’s COM 546 (Narratives and Networks in Digital Media), I jumped at the chance. Last year’s experience with Cohort 11 was outstanding, and I had equally high expectations going into Fall Quarter with a significantly larger Corhort 12.

I was not disappointed.

The timing and content of this course, like the MCDM program itself, was both timely and relevant, a concept I’ll say more about later in this post. The course played witness to several digital media phenomenon, including record breaking YouTube view’s for Psy’s Gangnam Style, the rise and fall of Mitt Romney, and the ability to analyze the 2012 US Presidential Election in real-time during class.

Throughout the process, students were exposed to the core tenants of digital communication, wrestled to understand and apply difficult concepts, and engaged with their communities by creating outstanding content of their own.

Course Background

As a foundational course to the MCDM program, Narratives & Networks in Digital Media has the challenging task of orienting Cohort 12 students both to the theory and also the application of many elements they will encounter in the program. MCDM Program Director Hanson Hosein and Dr. Malcolm Parks co-teach the course, providing a constant interplay between the cutting edge and a solid academic grounding.

Students were exposed to basic principles of digital media, and become comfortable with the central tenet of the MCDM: to effect trusted and persuasive communication, professionals need to develop a compelling narrative tied to strategic network engagement.

Relevant and Timely

In any human interaction, maximum impact is achieved when the interaction is both relevant and timely. The same is true in Digital Media. You may get a great stock tip, but perhaps it’s too late to move on it or you lack the funds to take advantage of this new knowldge. Information must be both relevant and timely to matter. This is true for customers, co-workers, viewers, and readers. It’s also incredibly difficult to do consistently.

By exploring what constitutes effective communication, the constraints and enablers behind today’s digital platforms, and the fundamentals of communication theory, students each begin to craft their own unique approach to reaching their audiences and impacting their communities.

Solo + Groups

Students grappled with Clay Shirky’s “Publish, Then Filter” approach as they individually identified and engaged communities of their choosing. They worked tirelessly throughout the quarter to build bridges, make connections, and offer insight into their passions.

In addition, students were  asked to work in teams to generate a compelling piece of original content using the themes of their individual blogs and the course content as a common tie. This open-ended nature of this assignment is simultaneously both challenging and empowering, allowing students to continue to chart their own course.

It’s also a complete leap of faith for the faculty. While we could have created a structure where each required element was dictated, the freedom to collaborate with less input has resulted in some amazing final products. There will be struggles, and late nights, but there will also be triumphs and supreme successes.

Triumphs and Successes

Below, find just a few examples of the final pieces of free-standing content produced by Cohort 12 for this course. Keep in mind that this assignment was done in just a matter of a few weeks, with teams that had no advance knowledge of each other or how to fit together their content or personalities. Each piece was required to be free-standing and self-sufficient (i.e. not a PowerPoint that was then ‘talked to’), convey some common themes of their work, and be able to be shared digitally with their communities.

One group worked to combine blogs about the tattoo and body art community, becoming a better photographer, post-divorce life on “Plan B,” and living with a difficult disease into a single character – animated, and shared to explore the difficulty in using yourself as the guinea pig, as opposed to blogging about technology, sports, or something other than yourself. Not only did they explore these challenges, but found some common strategies for success, regardless of your community or audience. Take a look:

Another group blended a daily yoga practice, pledging off of plastic consumption for a month, and checking things off of your bucket list into a “Day In The Life” of someone whose blog covers the daily struggles of making positive changes, and getting out and doing things:

Finally, a third group used a parody of “The Devil Wears Prada” (and a little fancy editing) to talk about the similarities and differences between seemingly very different arts communities: graffiti, fiber arts, hand-made crafts, and color itself. Don’t worry – it all comes together!

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Both Timely and Relevant: An MCDM Course Retrospective