Department News 11-28-16

This Friday, Dec. 2, Media Arts will host guest Bill Nichols, who is described in The Encyclopedia of International Film entry as “… arguably the most significant documentary scholar in the world.” (Vol. 2, p. 997). Bill Nichols is professor emeritus of cinema at San Francisco State University and currently associated with the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He is the author of a general introduction to the cinema that stresses film’s social significance, Engaging Cinema (2010) and of the widely used Introduction to Documentary (2nd ed., 2010).  His other books include Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture (1994), Maya Deren and the American Avant-garde (2001) and the seminal anthologies Movies and Methods, Vols. 1 and 2 (1976, 1985). These works helped establish film studies as an academic discipline.  Nichols has given more than 100 lectures worldwide and published numerous essays on a wide variety of topics. He has served on film juries at festivals in many countries from Brazil to South Korea, and he is a consultant to a number of documentary filmmakers on their current projects.  Professor Nichols will be giving a presentation on Friday, Dec 2, from 1-2:15 pm in the Nelke Theatre.  All students and faculty are welcome and encouraged to attend.  We appreciate Scott Christopherson for arranging his visit.bill-nichols


Be sure to get your tickets for Travesties which closes this Saturday, December 3.  The Universe wrote an article highlighting Travesties and its exploration of historical issues through comedy. Along with interviews with some of the cast members, the article includes an interview with the play’s director, Megan Sanborn Jones. She said, “‘The play itself is delightful. It’s smart, it’s insightful. It makes you think about the importance of art and what kind of art matters, and revolution, and war. Some of the things that they’re talking about are things that I hear students talking about right now, today, about the world we’re living in. Some of the same questions that Tom Stoppard was asking when he wrote the play in 1974 are the same questions that people were asking in 1917.’” Click here to read the rest of the article.


Last month, TMA faculty members Benjamin Thevenin and Jeff Parkin, Design faculty member Brent Barson, and media arts student Chris Bowles, attended the Digital and Media Literacy Conference at the University of California at Irvine.  The four made a presentation at the conference, which was attended by many scholars in the field (including Henry Jenkins, author of best-selling Convergence Culture). Their presentation was entitled Deconstructing Disneyland: An Experiment in Theme Park-Based Media Literacy Education. Here is the abstract of their presentation, which gives a general overview of the project.

A group of undergraduate students, university faculty and creative professionals at BYU are partnering to create a mobile app-based Alternate Reality Game that allows visitors to Disneyland to critically engage with (while still enjoying) the popular theme park. Users will go on scavenger hunts (using GPS technologies), uncover obscure and sometimes alarming elements of the park’s design and history (using augment reality), and follow a fictional narrative which encourages them to take a closer, more critical, look at the park, its design, economics, ideology and history.

The app fills what we see as a gap in the field of media literacy education. For the last few decades, scholars and educators have developed theories and pedagogies to help students, and the public, to more critically engage with the media that surrounds “themed” movies and music, television and advertisements, games, social media and the internet. However, little effort has been made to see how these perspectives might be applied to place-based media experiences (like theme parks). Also, media education is often limited to particular contexts and populations classrooms and youth programs. The app gamifies the theme park experience, and in so doing invites a broader public to critically engage with Disneyland. 

You might also enjoy this short article about the Deconstructing Disneyland project, which includes a video interview (below) between the author, Howard Rheingold, one of the conference organizers, and Benjamin and Jeff:


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