Wanna Make Something Together?
We’re starting a new MA program in Media Arts and Performance, for community-minded artists, media activists, and performers.

By Douglas Rushkoff. Published in Medium on 8 April 2023

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I’ve been teaching in the Media Studies department at CUNY/Queens College for the past, gosh, eight years. This coming Fall, I’ll become the new director of the graduate program, where we’ve been focused on media studies scholarship in the context of social change and social justice. It’s been fun and enriching, but increasingly people have been asking for something more hands-on, embedded in community, or expressed in the form of performing arts or media activism.

Luckily, the folks at the Drama, Theater and Dance department have been thinking along the same lines, so we’re going to be joining forces to pilot a new MA track in Media Arts and Performance beginning in Fall 23. This post is my invitation to join us.

Most basically, this is an MA program for actors, dancers, writers, directors, technicians, set and costume designers, media makers, activists, and performance studies scholars interested in performance and media as a form of social practice, activism, or community building. It is appropriate for those pursuing careers in the performing arts, arts education, media arts, arts activism, or performing arts scholarship.

I’m hoping this is where you’d come for an MA degree if—like me—you aspire to be the next Reverend Billy, YesMen, Ali Ferzat, Midianinja, Jenny Holzer, Elevator Repair Service, Museum of Morbid Anatomy, Dr. Sharmell Bell, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, or San Fransciso Mime Troupe. It’s less for performers who want to headline at Lincoln Center than those who want to discover and promote the untold stories of an under-represented community. Less for a filmmaker who wants to make the next Marvel blockbuster than one who wants to experiment with new narrative structures that don’t reinforce existing hierarchies. Less for someone who wants to use AI to create convincing special effects than someone who wants to reveal the hidden biases of AI through live improvisation or an interactive installation.

The program will specialize in integration of media arts and performance, such as interactive theater, online performance, augmented reality and dance, and performative media. The overall focus of the Media Studies department remains squarely on media studies and social justice, cultural change, racial equality and representation, climate, economic equality, and media activism. So we will be particularly interested in working with artists, performers, and media makers who care about these issues and related ones.

Because we are a boutique program (maybe twenty students) we will be offering courses with broad scope—ones like Media Archeology, Performance Practicum, or Media & Performance—so that you can bring your own work or line of inquiry to the table. A course in media archeology, for example, will let one student explore the archived history of dance in 1930’s China, while someone else studies game emulators of the 1990’s, and someone else researches preserved occult technologies of the Theosophists. The courses are more like containers for doing independent work, together.

Students will also receive credit for supervised projects such as playwriting, theater productions, dance, choreography, public theater, media activism, documentary, augmented theater, community engagement, primary school workshops, internships with media or performing arts organizations, and teaching.

Luckily, because it’s a public university the cost of an MA through CUNY can be an order of magnitude less than one of those private MA puppy mills. Closer to 10k/year than the 40k to 60k it costs elsewhere. But you can also apply as a non-matriculated student and just take individual courses, a la carte.

If you’re not looking for education or a degree but still want to play, feel free to get in touch once we’ve launched in September. We’ll be running a colloquium series for artists, scholars, and media activists to share their work with the community, and creating opportunities for people to workshop ideas with our students.

The sooner you apply (right here), the better, but applications are accepted up until the “extended deadline” of June 15. Mention in your essay that you’re interested in this new track. Of course, you can use that same link to apply for our regular MA program in Media Studies with an emphasis on social change.

I’m not just writing this as an ad or announcement (though I am hoping to attract some interesting people to this program). Rather, I just spent a week grading a stack of undergraduate papers, almost half of which were written by ChatGPT. It got me thinking long and hard about people who end up in courses of study for the wrong reasons, and even more about creating the kinds of programs where no one would think to delegate their assignments to an AI platform.

Or if they did do that, it would be for fun, subversive reasons. The same sorts of reasons that would inspire the renegades, spoilsports, and interventionists who would think to come and play with us in this new program. We’ll see. Honestly, this hasn’t happened yet, and whatever does happen will depend on who shows up. I’m hoping that includes some of you.