MA/MFA in Transdisciplinary New Media at PCA: an interview with Chair Frédérique Krupa

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© MTNM Project Silent Statement, Sanet Stegmann // Max Franklin

PCA Masters in Transdisciplinary New Media (MTNM) Chair Frédérique Krupa, Interaction Designer, talks about the PCA MTNM program, the relevance of collaborative creativity, projects on which MTNM students worked on this year, and about how new media is not just a screen-based experience.

How is this program cutting edge in contrast to other MA/MFA programs?
“Cutting edge” technology for its own sake isn’t enough anymore; it’s what you do with it that counts. Technology has to focus on benefiting its stakeholders. What makes this program different is that the creative process taught here focuses on collaborative creativity and is very different from programs that exalt the individual artist/designer. Collaborative creativity is much more important now than driving one single vision forward and cajoling/paying people to execute it for you. That’s a very 20th century way of looking at artists and designers. The 21st century is about systems. Their complexity requires teams of creative people with different talents who can bring their ideas and work together. You have to be open to the possibility that others may have better ideas than you, and that’s not easy when students have been fed four years of manifesting certainty in their skill, talent and vision in traditional art and design programs.

What is the range of disciplines from which the students will be pooled?
We seek to have highly a highly diverse student group. Candidates from backgrounds including art, design, architecture, engineering, humanities, business, science and music are all encouraged to apply.

How do you know if the program is right for you?
This program is for students who want MORE than the field that they studied or work in. This program is right for you if you are looking to stretch beyond your discipline, using transdisciplinary approaches to push or blur the boundaries. For example, we are looking for:
> Fashion students who want to work on wearable technology or smart fabrics
> Historians and writers who want to make better narratives for video games
> Architects and urbanists that want to implement systems on an urban scale
> Sociologists who want to design for social change
> Programmers and engineers who want to develop their creativity and apply their skills in creative projects
> Philosophy majors who want to address issues through group action
> Business/Management students who want to work in technology

What are the prerequisites?
Applicants without a BFA are required to have at least two semesters of Art or Design History; applicants with non-technical backgrounds will be required to attend an undergraduate Digital Crash Course; and certain elective courses may be made mandatory to shore up skills that may otherwise be lacking. The PCA Digital Crash Course includes: Video, Web (HTML, CSS, PHP), and Processing.

What kind of projects have the students worked on?
Students work on projects with open-ended themes, so that they can direct them with areas of previous interests. They can take the work in an artistic direction or in a design project. MA Degree and MFA Thesis projects are self-directed though. This year students worked on a #LowTech project show at the Saatchi Gallery in London this past January, and they worked on projects of the body as terrain, the body in space and the hosted body. This semester, they are focusing on physical interfaces beyond the screen and immaterial materials like sound, light and open data. The Transdisciplinary New Media department also hosted a 24 hour workshop with the Gaité Lyrique to create a music video for the upcoming French lo-fi band RequinChagrin, and the videos will be premiered at the Gaité Lyrique for 2 weeks in late May as part of the Ateliers Partagés Festival.

Are there other graduate students at PCA?
PCA is starting 4 new Masters programs next year – in Fashion, Fashion Photography, Accessories and Interior Design – which increase the students’ transdisciplinary opportunities. Studio electives are a great opportunity to explore another discipline with other masters’ students. PCA also collaborates with Toulouse Business School in offering English language MSc degrees in marketing and communication specializing in the fashion and luxury industries. These programs draw student from around the world to the PCA campus.
What are the advantages of studying in Paris?
Paris is a great place for new media, between the game and software industries and digital art venues like Gaité Lyrique and Palais de Tokyo. While people may work remotely, face-to-face interactions help solidify links between people, so having direct access to Parisian networks is equally important for the graduates’ future practice. Paris attracts international talent, and you will need to go out to these venues regularly, participate in calls for projects and socialize. It is important to nurture your network.

What are concrete design problems or projects students can expect to complete?
We focus on social design projects that have a humanitarian/humanist edge to them. Past examples include:
> Collaboration with a faculty from the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center for the development of a digital reading tutor for autistic children
> Collaboration with an NGO for improving school attendance and completion for girls in the slums of Nairobi by designing new solutions to feminine hygiene (washable menstrual pads)
> Addressing gender stereotype through video games for young children
> Creative solutions concerning first-world e-waste sent to third world countries for “recycling”
The project could also be to implement an installation for Paris Nuit Blanche or Designers Week, or to respond to a professional commission. It may not be purely digital and can encompass physical artifacts as well.

Are the projects digital or can they encompass physical artifacts?
New media is not just a screen-based experience. The physical artifact (that may or may not contain a screen) influences the content. So while projects may be purely digital or onscreen such as iPad apps, there can be physical components to design such as sensors, installations, stage sets, exhibition stands, packaging, etc.

How do faculty facilitate the collaborative work?
They facilitate much the way a project manager would-by having a weekly meeting to make sure everyone is working towards a commonly-defined goal. Then they break down to smaller teams/individuals to define milestones and address any difficulties.

What are the faculty’s credentials?
Their expertise lies in Interactive Media, Visual Programming, Performance and Live Media, Interaction Design, Engineering, Game Design and Service Design.

What are the expected outcomes in terms of employability?
There is currently a great demand for creative individuals to work on next generation application development. You can work freelance, or as part of an established team or firm. What makes someone valuable is a mix of creativity, technical know-how, pleasant disposition and networking skills. All these skills are addressed in the curriculum.

What types of projects and companies will alumni be prepared for?
If freelancing/entrepreneurship is not your cup of tea, alumni will be able to work for design consultancies in a whole slew of fields like service design (e.g., Fjord), game design (e.g., Ubisoft, Quantic Dream, Gameloft), media groups (e.g., Hachette), web-based start-ups (e.g., the next ebay, Amazon, Facebook or Google) and research and development in larger companies (e.g., Dassault Systemes, Bell Labs, Orange). An MFA is also the entryway into academia.

What will students have in terms of a portfolio by the end of the program(s)? Is a portfolio even the right way to look at the end result?
Upon graduation, you will have a list of projects, generally visible online, likely talked about in blogs and journals, and full working documents that will have any software development company demanding to hire you. Once you have several successful projects underway, your online reputation precedes you, and you will be contacted to work on unsolicited projects.

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