Given that businesses worldwide are incorporating digital technology into their services, products and marketing strategies, it comes as no surprise that there has been such an impetus in recent years to develop a world-class digital content industry here in Ireland. ‘Our aim,’ said Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton at an event for start-up companies, ‘is not only to attract the next Google or Microsoft to Ireland, but to make it possible for the next Google or Microsoft to start-up in Ireland’.
It is certainly a lofty ambition, but it is not without credibility. Initiatives such as the Digital Hub in Dublin – which aggregates a number of digital content and technology enterprises in one location so they can network, collaborate and offer support to one another – have been hugely successful and serve to illustrate the tangible sense of purpose and ambition present here.
So too, of course, do the kaleidoscope of Digital Media courses that are available at postgraduate level. These tend to be a convergence of elements – from the traditional entertainment and media sectors to IT and communications. Students on Digital Media courses are therefore trained to be conversant in a range of areas, such as mobile app development, web commerce, digital marketing, web video production, online publishing and game development.
One salient example is Huston School of Film and Digital Media’s full-time MA in Digital Media (also available as a postgraduate diploma). The course, which is of one year’s duration, includes a range of mandatory modules such as E-Learning, Internet Programming and 3D Modelling and Animation, which can be fused with electives such as A History of Avant Garde Film or Film in the Digital Age. While it may initially seem like there is a degree of disparity between such subject areas, the integration is in fact very deliberate, marking part of the programme’s ethos of ’reflective practice’ – which essentially means fostering an understanding of digital media production as something informed by narrative analysis, cinematic traditions, and creative discussion. Note that in addition to the standard entry criteria (second-class honours primary degree or professional experience in a related field), applicants must supply a sample or description of previous digital work along with two ideas (short outlines) for digital media projects.
The one-year full-time MSc in Creative Digital Media at DIT is another well-rounded course. Students on the programme may choose to specialise in a particular area from among the options on offer. These can generally be broken down into the following categories: Digital Games; Interactive Media; and Mobile, Smart Device and Dynamic Web Applications Design. However, despite this capacity for refinement, all students still receive a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of digital media technologies. And though the programme is designed to address the specific needs of the industry, it has also been planned to work as a conversion course for graduates from related disciplines wishing to make the transition to digital media. This tends to produce a dynamic, eclectic mix of students, with areas such as computing, media, and art and design all well represented. Graduates of the programme typically go on to pursue careers as web/content designers/developers; IPhone, Android and W7 WebAPP designers; 2D animators, digital media consultants; game designers, software engineers and analysts.
Trinity College Dublin’s MSc in Interactive Digital Media (one year full time) is another course that is suitable for those without IT or programming experience, as they will be given tuition in the basic principles behind app development using all digital media types. However, students on the course that do have such experience will be taught specialised programming methodologies for interactive digital platforms. Modules include Interactive Narrative, Graphic Design, Audio and Video Technologies, along with others such as Introduction to Computer Science and Client and Server Programming Technologies and Platforms. The diversity of students’ skills and experience is also embraced through a collaborative end-of-year project that centres upon a space on the college campus.
While digital products such as apps, phones, tablets and – if recent reports are to be believed – wearable computing devices represent a significant portion of the digital industry’s output, the marketing of such products is also becoming increasingly reliant on digital methods. The MSc in Marketing with Digital Media at Dublin Business School (one year full time, two years part time) is designed to prepare students for business roles that require an applied knowledge of digital marketing principles, strategic digital planning and management, and web marketing. Applicants for the programme should hold at least a second-class honours primary degree in Marketing or Business.
Despite the applicability of digital media to business models, the area is also having a profound affect on the arts and humanities, as reflected by the recent emergence of Digital Humanities programmes. One such programme is available at UCC, whose MA in Digital Humanities programme (one year full time) is geared towards introducing Arts and Humanities graduates to the use of appropriate digital tools to address the various research questions in their respective disciplines. While the course does have practical elements, it also encourages students to reflect on the ways in which digital technology impacts on daily human interaction and on society as a whole.
A similar option is available from TCD. The college’s MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture (one year full time, two years part time) confers students with a host of highly specialized IT skills. The programme takes a multidisciplinary approach, examining such aspects as the preservation and curation of digital data, the aesthetics of the digital (from individual objects to entire worlds), as well as the creation of the born-digital. An internship placement with a cultural heritage partner or digital humanities project also gives students the opportunity to put their skills to practice in a professional environment.
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