Illustration by Shenuka Corea

The Upcoming Major: Interactive Media Program

NYUAD is planning to offer Interactive Media as an accredited major in the upcoming Fall Semester.

Apr 21, 2018

The Interactive Media Program, after a long wait, is finally going through the final stages of being officially accredited as a major at New York University Abu Dhabi. With the official program accreditation visit – a required process conducted by the UAE government for approval of major – taking place from April 22 to April 25, the IM Program is only a few steps away from becoming a new major along with Legal Studies in the next academic year.
IM was initially offered as a multidisciplinary minor a few years ago, but has since gained momentum and expanded significantly. Much of the growth has been a result of high student interest and demand.
Craig Protzel, Assistant Professor and Program Head of Interactive Media, reflected on the significant progress made by the program over the past few years.
“When I first got here 4 years ago, it was me and Professor Scott Fitzgerald, who was the Program Head at that time,” he said. “Only two of us — and before I got here, IM was a one-man department. That was the fall of 2014, when the campus first moved to Saadiyat. Since the transition to the new campus, we had more facilities, space, and students, so the program grew. In Spring 2015, there were only two courses offered in the program. This semester, we have nine courses. We have grown pretty impressively, especially in the last couple of years.”
IM encompasses arts, design, communication, engineering and computer science as its central competencies, but is widely applicable to other areas of studies as well. Protzel sees such flexibility as the greatest feat of the department.
“In our classes we see a large variety of students — students of different years, interests and experience levels, and I think the curriculum is widely applicable. And as much as it is becoming a major, I still think it is a wonderful minor. It really does complement a lot of the existing majors, and augments the strengths you already have.”
While the inclusivity of the IM program allows room for diverse application of its contents, the main objective of the program lies in engaging with both existing and emerging technologies for creative expression. The majority of IM classes are project-based, and all students participate in an end-of-semester showcase where they present their work.
“This is all a process of active learning. We believe in learning by doing and making sense of the world through building of new things,” emphasized Protzel. “You are not done until someone else engages with it – that’s all part of the project. You need to actually share, fostering the sense of interactivity like a dialogue.”
The current proposal of the major entails 12 courses in total, but this is still subject to further change. There are three required classes, which are: Communication and Technology, Communications Lab and Introduction to IM. Intro to IM introduces students to a more hardware-based interactivity, while Communications Lab examines a variety of media in the context of the web. Communications and Technology deals with the more theoretical components, such as gauging critical thinking and analysis of design and technology.
The elective courses are divided into three clusters: Physical Computing, which makes use of hardwares like circuits and sensors; Computational Media that consists of screen-based interactions such as virtual reality and web design; and Media and Design Thinking which involves more theoretical approach of problem-solving elements. One example of the last category is the class Making Education that was offered this spring. This course centers around figuring out creative approaches to enhancing education, and combined skills not only in technical aspects, but also in identifying problems and applying adequate solutions. Unlike the Art major which is divided in specific tracks like Art History and Art Practice track, IM currently does not plan on creating predetermined tracks, focusing instead on encouraging exploration of both technical and theoretical areas.
With Interactive Media Arts Program officially launching in Fall 2018 as a department in Tisch School of Arts, the upcoming academic year will see Interactive Media Program established as undergraduate majors in all three portal campuses of NYU. Students are expected to benefit from the unique IM program at each site; in fact, this year’s J-term course Explorable Stories taught by Protzel, took full advantage of the vibrant technological scene at Shanghai. NYU Shanghai has already been operating its IMA major, and with the addition of the program in both Abu Dhabi and New York students will have more options for their learning experience.
While the program still has some adjustments and polishing to undergo, Protzel expresses great excitement at the potential of the emerging program:
“We see a lot of value and potential in this establishment, so we are really excited to push ahead. If I were a student, I’d want to be an IM major. But since I can’t, I’m doing the second-best thing — which is to teach IM.”
Soohyun Hwangbo is a staff writer. Email her at
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