Eight new programs combine design, art, and technology

Credit: Anne-Sophie Kim/Assistant Layout Manager Credit: Anne-Sophie Kim/Assistant Layout Manager

Last year, about 100 Carnegie Mellon faculty sat down to decide what Carnegie Mellon does best. The list was narrowed down to eight discreet categories that have become the eight concentrations available in the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology Network (IDeATe) program.

In this program, students from any academic background can choose from one of eight interdisciplinary concentrations, which include: animation and special effects, entrepreneurship for creative industries, game design, intelligent environment, learning media, media design, physical computing, and sound design.

The IDeATe program is headed by Thanassis Rikakis, vice provost for design, arts, and technology, and project manager Kelly Delaney. “If you decide that one of these areas is of interest to you, you go to your advisor and you say, ‘hey, you know I think I might be interested in doing some interdisciplinary kind of work,’ ” said Rikakis. “Then during your sophomore year you have to pass a portal course, and once you pass the portal course you have to take two courses within the list of concentrations.”

The list of concentrations came from a think tank of Carnegie Mellon’s faculty,” Rikakis said. “We had a one-year process for this, so we brought together some working teams from across all the colleges — about a hundred people — and they came up with the eight areas of strength that we have at CMU, and a list of courses. We have very good representation from all the colleges; that was the consensus outcome.”

Rikakis wanted the concentrations to have a low barrier of entry, so the portal courses, which are prerequisites to the concentration courses, are open to students of any major. Portal courses include collaborative, interdisciplinary courses, such as Introduction to Computing for Creative Practitioners and Introduction to Media Synthesis and Analysis.

The portal courses are designed to help ease students from disciplinary backgrounds into interdisciplinary work. Introduction to Media and Synthesis Analysis, for example, is described on the IDeATe website as “an introduction to basic principles for the creation of digitally mediated content, aimed towards students from science and engineering disciplines who have limited exposure to content analysis and authoring.” The course will have three modules: the narrative module, the visual synthesis module, and the sound synthesis module. All students in the course will complete an additional module — the critical analysis module — and then choose two of the three remaining modules.

By the end of the course, according to the IDeATe website, students will be able to “demonstrate the ability to think critically across several theoretical paradigms” and “articulate the relationship between Art/Design practice and theory.”

Computing for Creative Practitioners, on the other hand, is housed in the department of computer science and is meant for visual and liberal arts students looking to do more interdisciplinary work. The IDeATe website describes the course as “an introduction to fundamental computing principles and programming techniques for creative cultural practices, with special consideration to applications in music, design, and the visual arts.”

“You can do these from any major,” Rikakis said. “The portal courses are set up so that you can find the best concentration from the outside, and all the courses within the concentration are set up to be collaborative courses, so the instructors are expecting people from different backgrounds to work on things together.”

If a student working toward a concentration is particularly engaged in the program, he or she can take two more courses — in addition to the four required for the concentration — to make it a minor.
Rikakis stipulated that the main difference between choosing a concentration and a minor centers around double counting restrictions.

“If you’re doing a minor you can’t do that — you’d have to do some courses that don’t count toward your major,” Rikakis said. “We’re trying to keep the bar very low, so you can start it as a concentration and if you like it, you can make it your minor.”

The IDeATe courses were developed by existing Carnegie Mellon faculty, many who will go on to teach the courses they develop. Because many faculty are busy within their disciplines, however, Carnegie Mellon will also be taking on new faculty in the fall to teach the new courses.

“All of the courses are being developed by faculty from the working groups, but because many of the [faculty] are very busy teaching disciplinary courses and stuff like that, we are also hiring some new faculty,” Rikakis said. “We’re bringing in a number of new faculty to teach in this space along with existing faculty, but they’re all being developed by expert faculty we already have here.”

The IDeATe program will also be accompanied by the repurposing of a Carnegie Mellon building on the corner of South Craig Street and Forbes Avenue. According to Rikakis, the new collaborative, interdisciplinary building will be open 24 hours a day to anyone participating in the IDeATe program. The building will have a variety of spaces for everything from physical prototyping to media editing.
IDeATe project manager Kelly Delaney urges students who are interested in participating in IDeATe to contact their advisors and talk about registering for the portal courses this coming Fall semester.