Indiana University      Research & Creative Activity      September 1999 Volume XXII Number 2

New Opportunities in New Media

Ten years ago no one had heard of a Web site, and many home computers lacked the capability to run multimedia applications. Today new media for electronic communication have burst into prominence, and old jobs are changing and new ones appearing to accommodate the new technologies. (Ten years ago no one had heard of a Webmaster, either.) The New Media Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis blends the technology of digital images, sounds, and data with the art of communication to prepare students for these new opportunities.

Darrell Bailey directs the New Media Program and is also associate director of informatics, associate professor of music, and director of the School of Music program at IUPUI. The success of the New Media Program is evident in the numbers: 140 undergraduate and thirty-three graduate students, with another sixteen graduate students entering in 1999. Some graduate students already hold jobs in industry, academia, or government and are returning to school to gain the skills they need on their jobs as the world turns more to electronic forms of instruction, entertainment, information, and commercial services.

Students like these can contribute to the learning community in this emerging field. "We need to recognize the role of student knowledge and expertise, especially at the graduate level," Bailey says. Shared knowledge across a variety of disciplines characterizes the new program, which brings together faculty members and classes in a range of disciplines, including art and design, computer science, computer technology, journalism, library and information science, music technology, telecommunications, and the liberal arts. Students take classes in these areas and some created specifically for the New Media Program, for example a course on how to work effectively as part of a team, and a course in computer animation and visualization.

A former student experiments with the Yamaha Miburi electronic body suit. The full suit consists of a vest hosting an array of resistive bend sensors at the shoulder, elbows, and wrist, a pair of handgrips with two velocity-sensitive buttons on each finger, and a pair of shoe inserts with piezoelectric pickups at the heel and toe. --credit

The program offers three degrees (associate's, bachelor's, and master's in media arts and science) and a certificate, designed to develop skills in Internet and Web design, programming, and managing and developing multimedia projects. The curriculum for these degrees synthesizes the knowledge and skills from existing disciplines. The students' education is based on the principles of effective communication using text, sounds, and graphics and incorporates the practice of new technologies that support communication. Founders of the program also hope to provide a theoretical base for the field and to prepare master's students to conduct research on Internet and Web environments and multimedia production techniques, according to Bailey.

As part of their course work, students complete projects that demonstrate their mastery of new media. They use a multimedia laboratory on the IUPUI campus and the ImmersaDesk, a semi-immersive virtual environment provided by University Information Technology Services that allows students to explore virtual worlds. Examples of student projects include a virtual documentary on the Mayan civilization, three-dimensional animated modeling of the human body using Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker," and a cartoon character animation.

Bailey himself has recently completed two projects that show the uses of electronic media in education. One, a CD anthology of seventy-four works of classical and popular music published by Wadsworth, accompanies a textbook by Charles Hoffer called Music Listening Today. The anthology provides "a Web-enhanced virtual music listening environment for students," Bailey says. He also worked with a team of developers, graduate students, and performers testing Yamaha's Miburi electronic body suit, designed for training music performers and dancers. Yamaha incorporated the data from the test into its design. Bailey has plans for future projects that will demonstrate new media's potential for education, entertainment, scientific visualization, and health care modalities.

The New Media Program is one of only several in the country that address the needs of a workplace clamoring for people with the knowledge and skills to use new electronic media. The exhilarating pace of developments in information technology has created a strong need for program graduates, who will find a multitude of career options open to them. Depending on which of the aspects of the program they focus on, they could find work as multimedia or graphics designers, managers of electronic communication ventures, electronic or multimedia publishers (collaborating with music producers or composers), and Web site designers.

While Bailey sees much work ahead as the New Media Program continues to grow, he is full of enthusiasm for its potential. Students and faculty in the growing learning community he describes can look forward to a busy future doing jobs that did not exist at all ten years ago. . . and maybe some that are still on the horizon but rapidly growing closer.--Mary Hrovat

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