Academic Plan

Every New School student begins the program with a certain trepidation about the openness of the curriculum and the vagueness of the study's professional application. Many of the students with whom I've discussed their reasons for coming to this school have explained that they were frustrated with their careers, often citing the shallowness of the film and advertising industry, and that they had few concrete plans after graduation so long as their work inspires greater passion in them. This is not the case with me, as I have found a work for which I am already quite passionate, giving me definite reasons for coming here. Indeed, I was bemoaning graduate school until I came across The New School and noticed how well the course descriptions synched with my cultural activities. When I arrived this year I felt some apprehension, worried that the education I was about to receive would not correlate with my quite specific intentions, but at the moment The New School is a near perfect match and the community could not be more helpful. The faculty is supportive and bold in their interests in my past work and my current activities, and the students have been approachable. I could ask for are more opportunities to build connections, perhaps more courses designed around real world collaborative projects, but I suspect my participation in future projects and events will establish the relationships I will need for my current work and future career.

The professional capability to coordinate creative talents on media projects, specifically projects with social, political, and philanthropic goals, will be the priority acquisition during my time at The New School. This capability requires obtaining leadership skills, a wide awareness of creative processes across media, and the ability to plan and research viable projects that are achievable and impacting. My past work has been in this direction, concentrating on a local scale, incorporating organizations, creativeness, and audiences from a shared area, as I believed a local focus was needed to authenticate human relationships and social good. Recently I have expanded my ideas to embrace internet communities, drawing from the inspiring work of other cultural activists who have used social media as a venue to build trust and personal relationships as the base for wider mobilization. Some of this work has included efforts made by Greenpeace and Amnesty International activists who have used youtube as a platform for videos criticizing environmentally negligent corporations and the dubious torture policies of the Bush administration. These activists explain that the success of their projects relies on an intimately human use of mass media to build emotional connections with their audiences. Such insights and the astounding successes of these projects have encouraged me to widen my scope and become interested in the potentials of social media.

The world’s complexity is increasingly apparent in the explosive growth of interconnections between disparate parties, making the outcomes of any one party's activities harder to predict. In truth the outcome of human activities have always been beyond human reckoning, and today this is simply becoming more evident and pressing. Increased complexity and interconnectivity means collaboration will be vital as my generation addresses the world’s most pressing needs, making the ability to work with others, as a nurturing leader familiar with the practical concerns of my partners, a premium for my professional future. I will also need to research the ways in which professional cultural activists earn an income through their work. While I do not expect to attain copious wealth with a career in cultural activism, I cannot neglect the importance of financial security, without which my greater aspirations will become all the more difficult. Upon graduation I will consider the organizations where I will make the most of my talents and ambitions, and will engage with them for employment and participation in work akin to that which I am currently engaged only on a larger scale, increasing my professional domain and impact. Some organizations currently drawing my attention are Media Storm, a documentary studio and multimedia production company, and Project Ahisma, a non-profit establishing music schools in developing areas and producing media products to support their efforts. It would be a great pleasure to become involved with such organizations.

My prior work and recent reconsiderations have lead to a new collaborative activist project involving a cultural non-profit, a music promotion company, and student filmmakers. Art for Change, a non-profit based in East Harlem, is currently organizing several poets to have their work on social justice issues recorded over the next two months. These spoken poems will be supported by music from artists represented by Fanatic Promotions, a celebrated independent music promoter in the Village. Finally, New School student filmmakers will put visuals to the music and vocals to create a series of artful videos on social change. These videos will be used in a campaign next year to support Art for Change. The project will serve my education as a valuable experience and the subject for my thesis paper, and will serve my professional goals as a representation of my organizational abilities and activist creativity focused on effective applications of cultural expressions in today’s environment. The current use of media towards activist goals is dominated by journalistic forms, such as community journalism and documentary, which serve to empower and inform users. My interest focuses on work that could be considered more fictive or less referential, allowing for ambiguity of message and diverse interpretation, inviting the specific cultural practices of communities to be associated with their social improvement and introduced to the larger world through new media where inter-community empathy can be nurtured. I believe these qualities and capabilities are specific to cultural activism, complementing journalistic activism.

I will take the thesis option for which my current project will be the subject. My thesis will describe the process of this project, it's development from concept through the planning stages with the participating organizations, through the creative contributions from the participating artists, and finally its implications for future cultural activist work, particularly the value of cultural expression as empowered by social media for activist efficacy. To gauge my projects success I will track several of Art for Change's metrics during the length of the video campaign, including site visits, newsletter sign-ups, and viewer comments. While art has long been recognized for it's emancipatory potential, it has been historically difficult to use activist art for large, measurable outcomes. The rise of new communication technology and the ability to gauge it's use means the effect of particular expressions can now have their efficacy perceived more concretely. It is for this reason that advertisers are moving to the internet where they can measure the success of each investment by tracking website activity, and today’s cultural activists can improve their own work in the same way.

I aim to make the most of my time at this school by taking full advantage of the programs offerings in practical skill building, both in terms of technological familiarity and organization. The courses I choose over the following semesters will focus on activist concerns through such courses as Research Methods for Media Activism, Project in Advocacy Media, and Art and Social Practice, providing me with a broad awareness of the tools and methods available in the field. I will also obtain a Media Management certificate with classes including Media Economics and Media Management and Leadership. This might be the most practical aspect of my education as it will prepare me for managerial positions across the media business landscape. My production track will include the Time-Based class with Mario Paoli, with whom I hope to focus on sound engineering, a personal interest which will greatly improve my own creative prowess, and The Producer's Craft, furthering my focus on coordinating with creativeness in environments where I am not the creative myself. Combined with the thesis track, my time in this graduate program will be intense and enriching.

The workload involved with a thesis, a cultural project, and the Media Management certificate is substantial, and I would certainly prefer to spend all my time focusing on these goals, but I simply do not feel comfortable with living in New York without income. I will be working part-time while taking a full load every semester, which has and will severely limit my availability for the countless opportunities available in this city. Between work, school, and my thesis project, I will have precious little time to participate in student activities, though I was able to volunteer for the Labor Conference earlier this semester. Perhaps I will find like time in future semesters. Also, as I make connections with faculty at the school and with activists and creatives in the city, I hope to merge my income source with work in the field of my studies. I will volunteer some time with Fanatic Promotion, Art for Change, and Not an Alternative during the upcoming semester, all of whom are involved in my thesis project and are possible connections for employment better in-line with my activist ambitions.

While the workload required to complete my academic goals will be intense I am thankfully not severely limited on time, and I make it a personal habit to avoid haste in all my pursuits. The thesis option will likely add a semester to my time here, which is perfectly fine considering the value of my project to my future career. As for the issues dictating graduate work for which I am less thankful, I am financed by student loans which weigh heavy on my mind. I hope to diminish my debt after graduation with work in the non-profit sector as outlined by the College Cost Reduction & Access Act. Between the thesis, the Media Management courses, and the other curriculum requirements, my course selection is almost entirely fixed, but because this program is well in tuned with my goal, all my courses will serve my desire to be an effective and creative coordinator with social impact.

After I identified the courses I will need to take to satisfy all my goals, there was one course left undetermined that I expected to fill with a selection from within the program. I did not expect the course offerings in other programs to make substantial additions to the Media Studies curriculum, but upon examination there are a number of classes in the Parsons and Milano catalogs that synch very well with my interests. The Product Design course at Parsons would expand my understanding of how audiences approach the art products that are the center of my projects, expanding my imagination on how to use art for social good by understanding what a viable product can be, and the Collaboration Studio would develop my ability to work with other creativeness on social projects through hands on engagement, something I have noticed lacking from the Media Studies catalog. Milano is the program outside of Media Studies where my interests are most applicable. The Online Engagement course and the Media Advocacy and Social Marketing course would improve the leadership and organizational skills which rely so heavily on social engagement. My past work has impressed upon me the importance of earning trust from those you wish to work with before approaching them for professional collaboration, so for a professed introvert like myself, any instruction in human engagement is priceless.

Valuable connections with members of the school community and with organizations in-line with my ambitions are forming around my thesis project which will incorporate the talents of my fellow students as filmmakers and call upon faculty for creative and practical guidance. Some of the faculty currently interested in my work are Lydia Foerester, Mario Paoli, and Mellisa Grey and I am also interested in Chris Mann whose Art and Social Practice class I am taking next semester. These teachers have a wealth of experience in image, sound, and activism, all of which will require attention as my work moves forward. During my next semester I will establish more personal relationships with these teachers, finding how best to work with them and make the most of their intellectual resources, talents, and experience. I am excited about the interest from Mellisa Grey, Chris Mann, and Mario Paoli for their direct relevance to my thesis project and also for their musicianship. I am always looking for people with whom I can cultivate my favorite creative craft.

My decision to attend The New School may well be the best thing I have ever done for myself. The values expressed by this institution's curriculum and history speaks to my own convictions and experience, assuring me that my perception of the issues most urgent to today's world is shared by a lineage of inspired thinkers and practitioners. The future I have chosen to create for myself, formed around the work of making social change through cultural expression, is one marked less by certainty than by frustration and where any support is welcomed. I am thankful to have the support of The New School as I move forward.


Post a Comment