College Launches New “Media Arts and Design” Major

The new major will focus on the study and creation of experimental media, such as video games, electronic music, and podcast development.


A gargoyle statue on Cobb Gate dons a mask.

By Giacomo Cetorelli, Deputy News Editor

A new major, “Media Arts and Design” (MAAD), proposed by members of the Media, Arts, Data, and Design Center, will launch this fall.

The major will focus on “historical study, theoretical critique and hands-on experimentation,” of experimental media according to Patrick Jagoda, current director of the MAAD Minor.

Jagoda said that the proposal comes from a recognition that “computers, networks and screens have had an enormous impact on the way we live, work, think, and play in the 21st century, so the Media Arts and Design major is going to train students to understand that rapid development.”

Previously, MAAD was only available as a 600 credit minor in the College. According to the Student Affairs Administrator for MAAD, Riss Ballard, the development of the major is a result of the high popularity of the existing minor.

“We quickly found that we were getting a lot of students, and we found that the demand for the classes was really high, so we started thinking about turning it into a major,”  Ballard said.

“We want to build on strengths in media theory that the University of Chicago has had for a long time and supplement those with an emphasis on practice and making,” says Jagoda.

Unlike other fields related to media theory, such as Cinema and Media Studies, English, or Art History, the new major will include the creation of experimental media in addition to its study.

MAAD will provide students with an opportunity to study new mediums of communication, such as virtual reality and video games. The major aims to prepare students for careers in the design and entertainment industries.

Through the new major, students will have the opportunity to explore Clusters, such as Game Design, Creative Computing, Network Art, Electronic Music, and Digital Moving Image. Its course requirements will include two Media Theory courses, two Media History courses, two Media Practice courses, five electives, and one Capstone, which will be a theory-based or practice-based project chosen by the student.

Some courses will include “Video Games in the 90s,” and Jagoda’s own “Critical Video Games Studies” in which “students learn how to apply race, gender, and sexuality analysis to studying video games.” Other courses include “Podcast Development,” “Video Game Design,” and “Electronic Music Development.”

Ballard emphasized that the major was designed to be interdisciplinary and flexible. Special care was taken to make it easy for students to double major by allowing up to three courses to count towards a second major.

“Students at UChicago are really creative and really hard working. I think the MAAD program gives them a way to combine interests that seem unrelated together. If someone is in computer science but they really want to explore more creative elements, then MAAD would be a great place to go,” says Ballard.

Unlike more traditional majors, the new major is launching without a standard intro course, and Ballard says that “students can explore how to make the major how they want it to be. It's kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure type of major.”

Jagoda believes that “most students will end up doing practice based projects for their Capstone, but we want those media projects to be informed by historical and theoretical thinking.” Ultimately, Jagoda thinks that “one of the strengths of being at the University of Chicago is that people will be able to do in depth reading and thought, and that will produce a more experimental and diverse range of media projects.”