Illustration by Sugandha Shukla and Melinda Szekeres

Interactive Media: A Bridge Between Worlds

Assistant Professor Craig Protzel shares his insights about Interactive Media, a branch of study soon to become a major at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Behind the Red Theater and just past the Scene Workshop in the Arts Center, is the Interactive Media Lab, a haven of creativity and invention. The walls are covered with posters, projects and notes, the shelves are filled with wires, bits and bobs of toys and recyclable materials, while the tables showcase multiple works in progress — this is where NYU Abu Dhabi’s Interactive Media community convenes and creates.
Interactive Media is a multidisciplinary minor at NYUAD that is said to be a meeting point for the Arts, Sciences and the Humanities. Professor Craig Protzel, Program Head and Assistant Professor of Interactive Media, said that Interactive Media explores the relationship between humans and technology in order to see how media affects and interacts with the human condition.
Interactive Media involves the creation of multiple projects but does not require previous experience in the media involved, such as programming or circuitry. Rather, the program is designed to teach its students, experienced or not, about the media — be it programs or circuits — and how they can use it to create their own projects.
“We encourage working with certain tools, technologies and platforms which we introduce,” said Protzel. Ideally, [we] would expect some sort of demonstration of an ability or some sort of creative input and conceptual thought behind [the projects].” The program also stresses that students create projects corresponding with their abilities so that despite varying levels of experience, more of the focus is on the effort that students put into the concepts that they develop in class.
Interactive Media is not just about creating projects from what you learn. According to Protzel, the subject engages with existing and emerging technologies in a creative and meaningful way.
“We really want people to work on things that they’re passionate and excited about,” added Protzel.
Although Interactive Media is currently only available to students as a minor, it is in the process of becoming a major. The department is going through many steps in order to make that happen and Protzel was hopeful that the program would be ready by spring 2018.
Speaking about the development of Interactive Media into a major, Protzel said, “As a program, the classes will get more of a tiered structure, which will be nice so that we can start to actually advance through some of the material in more depth, which is really exciting for us.”
Students, too, are excited and hopeful about the Interactive Media program. When asked about how she was finding the Interactive Media courses, Maria Paula Calderon, Class of 2020 said, “I’m actually really loving it… I’ve always wanted to study Graphic Design but NYU[AD] didn’t offer it. But then I discovered that they had IM [Interactive Media] and they were doing it as a major and it implements a lot of design elements that I like, with a lot of hardware, software and design... it’s been really nice to explore.”
Maria Laura Mirabelli, Class of 2019, also shared her thoughts: “I like that there’s so much at our disposal… The faculty involved in [Interactive Media] just know so much. I’ve been learning a lot from every single one of my classes. I wanted to double major in Computer Science and Visual Arts and Interactive Media was like the perfect bridge.”
For those that are interested in Interactive Media but do not feel like committing to a minor, the program offers its own workshops and activities. Just last week, the program held 24X, a 24-hour challenge involving five pairs of students — regardless of their majors — coming together and creating something new within 24 hours. Some of their other workshops have involved working with Unity and how to use that particular game engine. On Feb. 26 the program is hosting an Arduino workshop conducted by Michael Shiloh.
One of the best ways to connect with Interactive Media is to drop by and visit their lab. It is a fun and creative space that is open to anyone in the NYUAD community. Although you might need card access to get in on your own, it is also free to explore with just a knock on the door.
Interactive Media is made for people with different interests and varying levels of skills. If you ever wanted a taste of computer science, design, invention or maybe were even just looking for some new skills to add to your oeuvre — you can find them within the Interactive Media Lab.
Dominique Joaquin is Deputy Features. Email her at
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