The Department of Media Study’s PhD is one of a small set of innovative doctoral programs in experimental media theory and practice-led research in the United States. This program responds to the rapid development and transformation of media due to advances in digital technologies and to the growing number of artist-scholar-researchers working in technology-based art forms.
A new community of artist-scholar-researchers has emerged in the spaces between media art practice, the humanities and the sciences. This work is not easily categorized and often spans disciplines that traditionally have little overlap. Students of this program become experts in the hybrid set of conceptual and technical abilities that this field requires while they engage with the aesthetic, political and social challenges of media making. The department offers courses in film and video production, interactive media, digital media, physical computing, media networks and web-based media.
This doctoral program is designed to create a framework for practice-led and scholarly research into media arts. Commensurate with the traditional PhD framework, most of the credits are earned in research and independent study. Consequently, students are free to organize their course of study around specific research trajectories. Coursework gives students opportunity to showcase and critique their work with peers. Students work closely with members of the faculty who share their research area. The dissertation combines both written and production components in a proportion and manner appropriate to the student’s area of research. The program only requires that the conversation between these two components be substantial and original. This PhD is most obviously appropriate for artists who plan to conduct their research in an academic context. However, the PhD is equally appropriate for media artists who want to explore the theoretical implications of their work or for ‘scholarly’ researchers who want to move from the purely discursive to explore practice-based research. This program is designed to be completed in five to six years.
Seventy-two credit hours are required, and students are expected to create a substantial and original media project to accompany their doctoral dissertation.
The PhD Course Requirements worksheet is useful for tracking progress through the degree.
The PhD Schedule offers a more thorough set of guidelines for the degree.
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Description of required coursework follows:
Media Theory and History (12 credits): The required course DMS 570, Media Theory, provides a graduate-level introduction to media theory and research methodologies. Additional media theory and history courses prepare students to take their qualifying exams and eventually to contribute original research to the field. The preliminary media theory course should be taken in the first semester, the other two media theory courses should be taken in the semester prior to the qualifying exam.
Directed Electives (32 - 38 credits): Students may choose any UB graduate courses that support their doctoral research, chosen in consultation with their faculty advisor. Students must keep records (course work and syllabi) of all course activities performed outside of DMS. This information will become important when applying for candidacy. Some directed electives (at least 8 credits) must be taken in additional media theory classes.
Methods of Making (8 credits): The department offers three Methods of Making classes: I) Film and Video Production, II) Computational Media-Physical Computing and III) Computational Media- Networks and Web-based Media. Because the department wants all PhD graduates to study a well-rounded curriculum, students are encouraged to take the two classes focusing on the topics with which they are least familiar. Therefore, classes are taught at a level which is accessible to beginners in the target media.
PhD Seminars and Research Ethics (8-10 credits): Students are encouraged to take these courses (I and II) in semester 1 and semester 4. PhD Seminar I focuses on research methods and practices; PhD Seminar II focuses on research strategies and preparation of manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Students will identify appropriate professional journals, publication venues and conferences for the presentation of their doctoral research. Students must also pass a research ethics course, either by taking a 2 credit seminar (PHI 640 or RPN 541) or by completing the online Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) with a passing score of 80% or higher. Students taking the CITI course must submit documentation of their successful completion of the course with their Application to Candidacy.
Dissertation and Project Guidance (6-10 credits): Thesis and project work is usually credited by registering for DMS 598 project supervision during one of the last three semesters, and DMS 702 Dissertation guidance in the final two semesters, in any combination of credits suited to the work.
Required Coursework outside DMS: Students must take at least 3 classes outside of DMS as part of their requirements for the major. Usually these courses will be used for electives and will be chosen in concert with the student’s faculty advisor. Use of these courses for PhD requirements, other than as electives, must be approved by the DGS. Students are required to keep documentation (syllabi, semester papers, etc.) for these courses. All credits must be in graduate level courses (500 level and above).
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