The lights were dim. Students milled about. Music with a hiphop
beat played in the background, and images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis
Presley, Martin Luther King, Jimi Hendrix and John F. Kennedy
danced on a computer screen in a video set to American Pie
by Don McLean. A web site featuring Mel Blanc, the voice of cartoon
characters such as Tweety Bird and Porky Pig was projected on
the wall for students to critique. And in a corner, students discussed
their recent Digital Video I projects
of Seinfeld in which they produced, shot, directed, cut and edited
the film for digital media distribution.
A unique energy not found in other computer labs on campus is
alive in Masters Hall, home of the Johnson Center for Digital
Media. According to Anthony Crisafulli, associate professor and
director of the Center, Theres a lot going on here.
Its a place where athletes, scholars, Greeks and others
come together and work as one. Students have no differences
in the lab, he says.
to the world of digital media.
Digital technologies such as CD-ROMs, PDAs, the Internet
and film special effects influence how people communicate, are
entertained, conduct business and learn. The future of our fast-paced
and technology-driven world demands individuals who are fluent
in the language and skilled with the tools of digital media. Albrights
Digital Media Department offers students the opportunity to study
web design, digital video production, streaming media, virtual
communities, digital art, CD-ROM/DVD-ROM development and more.
We make popular culture in popular culture formats such
as the web, music videos, sitcoms and digital music, Crisafulli
says. Were teaching students how to be directors,
producers, designers, videographers and creative forces. And were
teaching them how to bring digital media into other disciplines.
Popular culture was once a dirty word in academia.
However, he says, digital media turns it into a substantial field
of study, especially when it is paired with a liberal arts education.
Digital media is like any other kind of media. Without philosophy,
history, English, art, theatre, literature, politics, etc., it
doesnt matter, Crisafulli says. It only matters when
we cross disciplines. By ourselves, what could we do? Wed
have no content.
Crisafulli refers to digital media as ephemeral architecture,
a new kind of art form. But to really understand digital media,
he says, one must have an understanding of how it evolved.
In the past, new media added new dimensions to previous forms
without replacing them. For example, cinema may have copied the
methodology of the theatre, but it did not do away with it. It
simply added a new dimension. The same happened with painting
and photography, he says. The main goal of photography is to capture
an image better than a painter can paint it. In fact, he says,
Picasso once said that he had been liberated by photography
because he now had the license to be abstract in his work.
The same is true for the field of digital technology, Crisafulli
says. When the web first started out it added a new dimension
to books. Then, in 1992-93, many things changed, he
says. With the web hierarchy, which has a table of
contents, links, graphics and photos, the web took on a magazine
aspect. However, in 1998-99, plug-ins made it possible to run
video and databases. They made it possible to buy things, take
a class or view a video online. Were not talking about
a magazine at this point, he says. This is its own
the curriculum to meet the current standards in the industry...
Assistant Professor of Digital Media
The moment I can buy a book online or take a course online
theres nothing more to add to, Crisafulli says. It
takes on its own form and becomes as important as bricks and mortar.
Websites are as important to institutions as the buildings are.
As an artist himself, Crisafulli says, Digital media liberates
my aesthetic because it enables me to use multiple devices such
as sound, video, and interactivity rather than a singular format
such as painting.
Ephemeral architecture, he says, transcends
concepts of space and time. For instance, a person can sit
in a chair and watch a movie. Thats one person watching
a movie. However, if you put that movie on the web 40,000 people
can watch the same movie from their own chair.
With the expansion of the wireless web, it becomes even
more pervasive. You can watch movies in the palm of your hand,
With the help of a $277,000 Pennsylvania Link-to-Learn grant,
a program in wireless handheld technology was started in the fall
2001 semester. The program certifies students to develop applications
and design rich media for handheld mobile computing and personal
digital assistants (PDAs) such as Palm Pilots. Students are designing
real-world solutions for handheld mobile computing, Crisafulli
says. For example, they will design applications to assist police
foot patrols in handling traffic and event parking. And, Crisafulli
says, not only is Albright the only college to certify its students
as official Palm technicians, its also the only liberal
arts college with the ability to stream video onto wireless devices.
Matthew Garrison, assistant professor of digital media, says
the future for wireless technology is wide open. With work
on streaming video over Palm Pilots, you could be sitting in the
park watching CNN.
The job market, he adds, is also wide open. Theres
a huge demand. This is the first generation that is really fluent
in this kind of technology. This is an area where the knowledge
is being passed up, rather than down.
Three new classes will be added to Albrights curriculum
in spring 2002, says Garrison. Pop Studio will teach
students how to make their own music. Digital Video II
will teach students more advanced applications, and Research
Methods will explore paranormal activity using technology.
In Research Methods, Garrison explains, students
will explore UFOs, ESP, ghosts and supernatural experiences. Through
interviews and technology they will ultimately create a TV quality
documentary, he says.
Its a wacky idea but its so much fun. Really,
the subject is just a means into the medium. In the end, the students
learn about video, creating film, and so on, Garrison says.
Matthew Jay 02 agrees that the class will be both exciting
and beneficial. The entertainment industry loves to do shows
like this, he says.
Four years ago, Crisafulli says, Albrights digital media
program enrolled 22 students. Today, approximately 200 students
are enrolled in digital media with an expected 50 to 100 new freshmen
"We make popular culture in popular
Associate Professor and Director,
Johnson Center for Digital Media
Two new faculty positions were created this year. Joining Garrison
was Karen Butler, assistant professor. Both Garrison and Butler
previously worked in art-related industries in New York City.
Garrison received his M.F.A. from Hunter College, City University
of New York, while Butler received hers from the Rhode Island
School of Design.
Weve rewritten the curriculum to meet the current
standards in the industry, Garrison says. Weve
created meaningful, creative projects. And, were (the professors)
here from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. There is always a professor in the
lab. The students really appreciate that.
Jay says he sure does. Its a different atmosphere
in the digital media lab than anyplace else. You walk through
and theres always a teacher helping someone.
Its also a time consuming field, says Crisafulli. The average
time a student spends on a project per day is about five to six
hours in one sitting. Plus, with applications such as Adobe Photoshop,
Illustrator, GIF Builder, After Effects and Macromedia Director,
to name only a few, both the professors and the students must
stay abreast of the latest software.
Its a cutting-edge field. Every three months the
applications change, Crisafulli says. Learning the
programs are actually half the battle, Jay says.
The Digital Media Department also has plans to stream shows to
the web from Albrights Wachovia Theatre and Campus Center,
as well as athletic events. Crisafulli says the project is expected
to run by the end of the 2002 spring semester.
With an influx of students, new classes and cutting-edge programs,
the Digital Media Department is growing as fast as the field itself.
My goal, Crisafulli says, is to build a nationally