Coping with Shifts in Interactive Media Technology

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Program Director Phillip Simon discusses adapting to change.

Interactive Media Masters Program Director Phillip Simon analyzes how adaptable, inquisitive students can survive and stay engaged in the constantly shifting technology landscape, even a decade from now. This article is adapted from a conversation with an ICM prospective student who asked where technology will be in ten years and how will the program adapt.

In 10 years, I’d say all technology is going to be different. Let’s face it, it just is.

In the interactive media graduate program at Quinnipiac University we try to teach fundamental concepts, which you can carry through after graduation.  From a visual design point of view, for instance: how we read and look at letters, text and type isn’t going to change in 10 years.  We are not going to develop a new alphabet.  We’re not going to evolve a new way of seeing that allows us to read a very wide scan line or look at tiny, tiny, tiny text. So things about typography, the fundamentals, aren’t going to change.

But how we view them will change because, obviously, 10 years ago, we weren’t thinking so much about how a web page appears on a smart phone like we are today. Now, anyone who makes a web page has to seriously think about the question of how people are going to look at this on a smart phone and how do we design for that.  Still, the rules of topography don’t change: they are just applied to a different platform.

How we acquire video is going to change.  In 10 years or less, 4K as a resolution will be standard and inexpensive.  We’re starting to see it already.  Go-Pro is proto-typing a 4K camera. But how you tell a story with images in terms of sequence; how you light; how you do audio: those fundamental things aren’t going to change.  Good microphone placement isn’t going to change in 10 years unless we come up with a fundamentally new way of physically capturing sound.  Lighting, the tools of lighting will change; LEDs as lighting sources are creating changes for the film and video industry.  But how you light and how you set it up and the relationships of shadow aren’t going to change in 10 years.

Sequence and editing tools will change. Ten years ago, non-linear video editing was being used, but it wasn’t widely available for a desktop or laptop computer. Now, it is common.  How you edit or how you sequence images or tell stories – that doesn’t change.  So, we try to encourage students not to get hung up on the particular technology we choose.

One example is that we have taught Flash as a way to learn how to do animation.  And people more recently, have said, “Whoa, why do Flash? It’s dying.”  As a delivery platform, yes, it is sort of dead.  Apple IOS and Android took care of that. But as a tool to understand how to make things move on the screen and animate, it is still useful.  In fact, we are redesigning our animation course. It is going to be renamed Interactive Animation and Mobile Design.  It turns out Flash is a really good tool to develop apps because you can compile them for Android and IOS. As a development tool, it is still valuable and practical.

So we are making that change in evolution – on the heels of others. When I got here in 2009, some classes were using Dreamweaver.  I haven’t  opened Dreamweaver in years.  It used to be one of the go-to tools for web design; it’s just not used much any more with the advent of server-side, cloud based content management systems and other tools.

So, part of our job [as teachers] is to always try to stay current and keep relevant but not forget the certain underlying principles of how to do things. Yes, everything will change in 10 years, and yet some things will not. Ultimately, we try to have our students adapt to change while in the program so they can adapt when they leave.

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