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ASU launches new bachelor's degree in digital culture

November 14, 2011

The ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering is launching a new Bachelor of Arts in Digital Culture, giving students access to a unique program that integrates digital technology and creative practice in the context of everyday human experience.

The new undergraduate degree, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is among the first proficiency-based digital media degrees in the country.

“Digital Culture provides students with a contemporary liberal arts education that gives them a set of skills that will be highly desirable in the workplace over the next 40 years,’’ said Thanassis Rikakis, professor and director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. “The proficiency-based approach means students connect courses across academic disciplines instead of by traditional methods such as course prerequisites.”

The program’s curriculum was designed to prepare students to develop new media systems for cultural practice and combine this knowledge with critical thinking and problem-solving skills to be able to create what has not yet even been conceived.

“The learning model moves students dynamically through a curriculum so that there’s not a lot of stopping and starting and resetting,” said Jacob Pinholster, director and associate professor of the ASU School of Theatre and Film. “Students really learn how to fuse knowledge areas together.’’

Another bonus of the profiency-based program is having students from a variety of disciplines in class together tackling solutions to problems.

The Digital Culture curriculum includes nine different areas of study: six of these reside in the Herberger Institute (art, design, filmmaking practices, music, theatre, the arts and design studies) and three areas of study are offered in partnership with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering (media processing), the College of Technology and Innovation (technological entrepreneurship), and the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences’ program in Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance in the division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (interdisciplinary arts and performance). For more information on the curriculum, visit

The degree offers a range of core and special area courses from Animating 3D Worlds to Advanced Interactive Sound, Programming for Social Media and How to Build a Digital-Physical System. Digital Culture courses span 15 academic units at ASU with faculty members from a variety of disciplines, including engineering, dance, music, theatre, design, interdisciplinary arts and performance, education, journalism and liberal arts and sciences teaching and advising students.

A Digital Culture facility opened in January on the ASU Tempe campus with a 48,000-square-foot space designed to be flexible and reconfigured quickly. It integrates three interactive media black box spaces, a high-end workstation computer lab, two digital fabrication labs and state-of-the-art computers, media software, displays, projectors and sound systems.

“Our daily interaction with new media continues to transform our experience of being human,” said Kwang-Wu Kim, dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Through our digital culture curriculum we intend to prepare our students for success in the emerging creative industries of the early 21st century and beyond.”

More than 100 students currently are enrolled in digital culture classes and admission is underway for the Fall 2012 new undergraduate class. Within three years, Rikakis expects more than 250 students majoring in Digital Culture and an estimated 150 more earning minors or certificates.

Students interested in discussing the BA in Digital Culture may contact Erica Green, education coordinator at 480-965-4495 or