Digital Media Experts Offer Innovative Courses at NU-Q

October 20, 2019

The digital revolution is the source of new knowledge generated by research and field experience, the Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) community was told at a panel discussion titled: “Doing Digital: The Knowledge Component,” which featured new faculty in digital media studies. The session is in line with the university’s strategy to enhance its academic offerings and introduce cutting-edge courses to keep pace with massive societal and technological change.

In convening the panel NU-Q Dean and CEO Everette E. Dennis said, “Digital is more than devices; it is theory and knowledge that creates a conceptual roadmap and enhances understanding. The beneficiaries are our students who transmit what they learn far and wide." 

For several years, the school has moved to strengthen its offerings by attracting world-class faculty including recent hires in digital media studies, digital design, and digital journalism. "These new colleagues represent an important development in the history of our school with deep experience in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. – all centered around digital advances. With their help our school is poised to navigate change and cope with the complexity of a dynamic information society,” Dennis added.

The session was led by internet expert, Banu Akdenizli, associate professor of communication at NU-Q, who appraised the importance of digital literacy and noted its value in understanding the current and future landscape of media and communication.

It was noted that the new faculty who joined Akdenizli augment extensive technological assets by bringing teaching capacity in areas of new development.

NU-Q’s new faculty members who participated in the discussion were Eddy Borges-Rey, S. Venus Jin, and Spencer Striker, engaged the audience with comments about the definition and importance of the digital media economy and ecosystem. Drawing on their work on data journalism, video games, and technological entrepreneurship, they discussed current and future research projects and demonstrations. The three drew on their background at a number of prestigious institutions including the USC Annenberg School for Communication, the University of Wisconsin, and other institutions where they have taught such as Scotland’s University of Stirling, Korea’s Sejong University Business School, and Spain’s University of Malaga.

While Jin offers theoretical courses on understanding the psychological effect of digital media marketing through interaction and personal branding, Borges-Ray teaches students about the transformation of journalism in the digital era, and Striker focuses on the elements of effective media product design and building interactive content, focused on user experience.

Throughout the session, the professors shared their thoughts on the implications of digitization on media creation and consumption. Borges-Rey noted that journalists and newsrooms have been significantly affected by these developments, which have “affected day-to-day operations and jobs, especially when it comes to data analytics and content creation.” He added that “editorial decisions are now dictated by metrics and data, so understanding these numbers and holding them accountable is more important than ever.”

At one point in the discussion, an audience member asked: “What is so special about digital?” to which Akdenizli, an expert on digital diplomacy, responded, “the Blockade,” noting that the siege of Qatar was set off by a hacked website. 

Striker added that people’s increased reliance on smartphones and technology for everyday tasks means that professionals should focus on “interdisciplinarity and learning multiple forms of digital literacy… especially when it comes to decisions on how things should be structured or designed to enhance a user’s navigation experience.”

Meanwhile, Jin explained how the digital space has enabled multi-way conversations between content creators and content consumers, giving “power and clout” to individuals who have effectively “marketed themselves and become online influencers through social media and content creation.” She added that this has “changed the way businesses and marketers operate.”

Students at NU-Q earn degrees in journalism and strategic communication, or media and technology. In addition to learning to use the most advanced equipment, students enhance their understanding of digital media by taking courses on digital innovation and consumer marketing, animation, interactive media, sound design, game design, mobile journalism, and internet and society politics in the digital world, among other options.

NU-Q is one of the most advanced media schools in the world, featuring digital assets that range from a state-of-the-art robotic Newsroom, to full-fledged editing suites, control rooms, and studios, as well as a museum that features extensive digital capacity and is the first in the Arab region dedicated to the exploration of content on media, journalism and communication.