Digital Worlds Institute

BA in Digital Arts & Sciences

Curriculum

Course descriptions and a sample four-year semester plan.

DIG3020: Foundations of Digital Culture

The 20th century built the often divergent platforms upon which digital media subsequently spread to quickly encompass nearly every domain in the contemporary world. "Foundations of Digital Culture" is an introductory course offering an interdisciplinary approach to the examination of the technological and cultural underpinnings that continue to shape current digital media at the international scale (including video games, the Internet, computer-animated movies, and virtual reality). 

In this course, students are exposed to a wide variety of contemporary and historic media theories, practices, artifacts, scientific discoveries, and cultural movements. Students’ investigations and written analyses will serve to heighten their critical and analytical skills across traditional and electronic media and encourage further examination of media artifacts in the 21st century world.

Classroom interaction includes both real-time and pre-rendered media and requires students to participate fully in the development of individual and team projects and reports. Projects will allow each student to explore individuated perspectives and interests in the emerging digital culture of the 21st century. Research results will be presented in both written and digital media formats.

At the conclusion of the course, "Foundations of Digital Culture" students will be able to:

  1. Identify and cite key 20th and early 21st century figures who made major contributions to the development of contemporary digital culture.
  2. Discuss the confluence of technology and culture as a multi-faceted gestalt.
  3. Explain how artistic and scientific creativity spawn technological and cultural advances, both historically and in the emergent digital age.
  4. Better appreciate and explain how science, engineering, and design converge to underpin myriad aspects of contemporary life.
  5. Collaboratively produce a team-based media project exemplifying a student-chosen concept discussed in the course.
DIG3305C: 3D Digital Animation Techniques

In this course, students focus on practical techniques for the design and implementation of three-dimensional digital animations. Students learn the basic principles of 3D vector transformations, virtual camera calibration, modeling, and 3D rendering. Using  both industry-standard and open-source tools, students work on key-framing  to perform a frame-by-frame study of various fragments of major motion picture animation productions. Other objectives of this course include interaction event handling and graphical interface design. Course objectives and goals are to effectively organize the structure and resources of 3D animation files and productions, navigate, design and model in three dimensions, understand basic transformations as vector algebra, calibrate virtual cameras, render animations, and design 3D graphical user interfaces.

DIG3313C: 2D Digital Animation Techniques

The main goal of this course is to instill a comprehensive understanding and fluency in the practical principles and techniques of 2D digital animation. Students learn keyframe-based animation techniques and design two-dimensional animations for web and other interactive environments. Furthermore, students are exposed to other topics including vector-valued image processing, representation and major file formats, user-driven interactive animations, and algorithm-driven digital animation for game design.

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Effectively organize and design a digital arts and sciences (DAS) animation project.
  2. Understand vector-valued modeling and processing.
  3. Animate using key-frames and/or tweens.
  4. Design web-based animations.
  5. Learn how to design simulation-based animations using accepted and emerging DAS techniques and protocols.
DIG3433: Interactive Storytelling

Interactive Storytelling develops a framework for integrating participation and storytelling as foundations of interactivity. Students will explore how story is incorporated into contemporary interactive platforms such as games and other digital media, like virtual worlds and social networks, which are becoming the most prevalent form of mobile communication, entertainment delivery, and community organization tools in the 21st century.

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the difference between linear narrative and the 3D information matrix where interactive digital environments can be developed.
  2. Develop a framework to integrate an interactive storytelling project in a variety of platforms, from games to virtual worlds and social networks, from brainstorming to production and publishing to a target audience.
  3. Understand and use a variety of standard media tools, from graphic generation and image processing to 3D creation and post-production.
  4. Utilize a production methodology that includes storyboarding, project breakdown and time/resource management, from conception and design to post-production.
  5. Document their step by step process in a blog format, critically evaluating their own project as well as others, supporting their theories with practical examples.
  6. Learn the fundamentals of special effects technologies, such as tracking, matting and animation through hands-on exercises and how they can be applied in diverse multimodal interaction styles.
  7. Pitch a project for evaluation and critique and present their final production in front of a live audience.
DIG3506: Interdisciplinary Design Methods for DAS

This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of industry- and academy-standard design methods and processes. It teaches students a “big picture” perspective on digital arts and sciences (DAS) design to complement the technical skills they are building in their other coursework. As such, this course gives students an overview of interdisciplinary design practices from process-focused fields like interaction design, human-centered design, design research, and computer-supported collaborative work. Specific topics covered include the construction and delivery of needs analyses, audience analyses, document design, and iterative design practices like rapid prototyping, user testing, real-time research, conceptual design, and agile development. Students use one of these design frameworks as they take a DAS design prototype through the design process from conceptualization to user-testing.

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Define interaction design and user-centered design.
  2. Identify and explain DAS design processes related to design and user-centered design.
  3. Collaboratively create conceptual design prototypes.
  4. Carry out needs and audience analyses for software design.
  5. Perform usability testing of software with users.
DIG3525C: DAS Design and Production Studio 1

Working within an interdisciplinary digital arts & sciences (DAS) design and production studio environment, students will create an individual project that results from their exploration of linear narrative techniques found in both traditional and emergent media forms. Written analysis of selected pre-existing linear narrative media artifacts (selected from radio, cinema, television, and/or printed texts) will provide the basis for a critical evaluation of how the elements of the chosen media were used to effectively convey the narrative dimensions. A subsequent project rooted in a collaborative team-based environment will create a major digital media artifact incorporating diverse and effective narrative devices and techniques to persuasively tell a complex story. The specific content of the group projects will be proposed by interdisciplinary teams formed in class, refined and focused through discussion and feedback from instructor, then created and presented using appropriate technologies, techniques and conceptual frameworks identified through individual, and group analysis of pre-existing media.

In this course, students will be able to identify, define and articulate diverse characteristics of narrative and their application in traditional linear media such as radio, cinema, television, and printed texts. Students will be able to apply these understandings in the design and creation of both an individual and collaborative group project that demonstrates their chosen parameters embedded into original media artifacts.

DIG3526C: DAS Design and Production Studio 2

Working within an interdisciplinary digital arts & sciences (DAS) design and production studio environment, students will focus specifically on network and internet-based technologies, delivery systems, and content generation. Students will participate in the creation of either two major collaborative group projects or one major semester-long project. The design, production, promotion, and presentation of these projects form the primary activity set of Design & Production Studio 2. The specific content of the project(s) will be proposed by the interdisciplinary groups formed in class, or if the major semester-long project is chosen, the individual student. Approved projects will be refined and focused through discussion and feedback from instructor, then created and presented using appropriate technologies, techniques, and conceptual frameworks identified through individual and group analysis of pre-existing media.

Additionally, written analysis of selected pre-existing non-linear narrative media artifacts (selected from radio, cinema, television, web, videogame, or other forms of non-linear narrative) will provide the basis for a critical evaluation of how the elements of the chosen media were used to effectively convey the narrative dimensions.

DIG3588C: Digital Portfolio

This course provides students with technical and design skills for the creation of a digital portfolio with interactive media suitable for distribution, including current delivery media and a portfolio website. It also covers techniques for using and linking social media. Students use software tools for conversion, arranging, processing, and presenting media while learning fundamentals of visual design and working with industry-standard authoring software programs. Additional projects include a time-based media slideshow with original visual and audio content as well as media materials for inclusion in professional resumes.

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Create an online portfolio website.
  2. Convert and format existing media assets for portfolio inclusion.
  3. Construct a media rich portfolio slideshow.
  4. Create a comprehensive portfolio with professional authoring software.
  5. Link a variety of online social media resources.
DIG3713C: Game Design Practices I

"Game Design Practices I" is an introduction to the very fundamentals and core practices of game design, traditionally-defined. Specifically, this course instructs students in a) theories and organizing frameworks of game design and b) the “how to” of the technical and organizational process of creating a game. Students build significant technical skills related to the conceptualization, visualization, prototyping, and user-testing of digital games. While game design is at the center of this course, the skills and knowledge acquired in this class are applicable to a broad range of design-centric activities and constructs in the digital arts and sciences (DAS).

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify the core principles of digital and non-digital game design like rules, mechanics, chance, and goals, and understand how to use them in DAS design practice.
  2. Understand and implement core principles of the game design process like iterative design, interface design, and play testing.
  3. Critically analyze and dissect the construction of digital and non-digital games from a designer’s perspective.
  4. Take a game design from the conceptualization through to the full prototype phase.
DIG3873: Theory of Digital Media Protocols

This course introduces students to the theory and architectural design principles of digital systems, the representation of data in digital form, and the coding of high-level human instructions  into simple, well-defined sets of computer instructions. Students will be exposed to the theory and principles of binary logic, pseudo-coding, data structures, and algorithms, as well as to fundamental principles of computer coding, scripting, and protocols of communication between digital systems.

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand to the theory of binary logic, the internal binary structure of digital systems, and their protocols of operation.
  2. Understand the forms of digital representation of data and the differences between various file formats.
  3. Understand the theory of pseudo-coding and be able to transcribe a high-level set of human instructions into the form of a well-defined pseudo-code for an abstract digital system.
DIG3878: Applied Digital Media Protocols

This course will introduce contemporary protocols for mobile application development. Topics covered include procedural and object-oriented programming, mobile software development practices, as well as the design and implementation of natural human-computer interaction for mobile and wearable platforms. Students will develop skills in programming their own applications with graphical user interfaces for portable digital media systems.

The main goal of this course is to build upon the theory of digital media systems (covered in the prerequisite course: Introduction of Digital Media Protocols) and introduce students to the basic principles of scripting and coding in major popular mobile digital platforms, ranging from smart-phones to tablet computers. Students will be able to develop their own applications using multi-media data, graphical user interfaces, and basic human-computer interaction. 

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Read and understand coded computer logic.
  2. Write their own programs using object oriented principles.
  3. Develop computer applications with unique graphical user interfaces.
  4. Code custom human-computer interaction using keyboard, mouse, and touch screens.
DIG4097C: Entrepreneurship in New Media

Focused on developing creative skills that are applicable to innovation and startups, this course uses an interdisciplinary approach to introduce the students to basic techniques of idea generation, innovation, Internet startups, video games, mobile applications, promotion and branding, company boot strapping, and business plan creation.

The purpose of this course is to teach students the best and most efficient practices in applied creativity and innovation. From raising money to hiring the right people, from defining one’s positioning to creating a brand, from creating buzz to buzzing the competition, from managing a board to fostering a community, this class will guide the students through an adventure that’s more art than science: the art of innovation.

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the fundamental tools used to make both individuals and organizations more creative and innovative.
  2. Interpret their respective ideas for new ventures, and formulate a plan on how to make it successful.
  3. Articulate their ideas, and communicate them effectively to others.
  4. Understand the entrepreneurial mindset and culture that has been developing in companies of all sizes in virtually every industry.
  5. Write a basic business plan.
DIG4154: Writing for Interactive Media

This course teaches the understanding and performance of the variety of writing skills involved in the creation and development of digital media. Good writing skills are essential to the pursuit of all interactive media, and well-written project documents greatly aid the potential success of a digital media project. The skills learned will be useful in pursuing a career in many new media industries, including the game industry.  Students learn approaches for generating high-quality writing and the blend between development, planning, technical and creative writing through writing the documents needed to support a digital media project's development and production.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the approaches and techniques for generating high-quality writing in the planning and production of digital media projects.
  2. Understand the blend between development, planning, technical, and creative writing methods in the production of digital media.
  3. Creatively imagine a digital media project and write the documents to support the development and production of the project including proposal, pitch, technical documentation and a design or creative document.
DIG4255C: Audio Design for Digital Production

This course provides students with an introductory technical understanding for the acoustic and psychoacoustic parameters of sound. In-class tutorials include professional techniques for the completion of audio-based projects. Students use software tools for conversion, storing, processing, and retrieving sound in a variety of digital formats, learning the fundamentals of loop-based audio design and sampling and working with an industry standard Digital Audio Workstation software program. To do so, students will configure their own laptops for the completion of a variety of assignments and in-class work. In addition, students add sound to a variety of digital media artifacts during the class, create an on-line repository and work with a global online audio database. Additional projects have students take part in recording a live music program, including monitoring, mixing, and streaming digital audio. Finally, in order to gain a historical understanding of hardware based audio tools, students will patch and record sounds from an analog synthesizer. This class also introduces students to the development of both the theory and the practice of synthesizing musical sounds using computers.

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Create, remix and convert digital audio.
  2. Mix audio for a surround sound environment and a streaming live event.
  3. Apply theoretical techniques to a digital audio design.
  4. Create an audio soundscape for a visual media artifact.
  5. Design procedural sounds for a digital game.
DIG4283: Music and Sound Design for Digital Media

The proliferation of high-quality multi-channel audio for visual media began with cinema in the mid-20th century and has progressed to its current state of fidelity and maturity, largely owing to digital means. Students will learn both the technological and esthetic developments which presaged and evolved into the current state of digital audio. The esthetic aspects of sound design will be studied in research projects and a paper, and students will also have the opportunity to create original works of sound design as a result of their research and hands-on instruction.

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the established structure of the audio post-production industry.
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in sound design for visual media.
  3. Record and edit audio in a studio environment.
  4. Record and edit location sound in the field.
  5. Spot, track, record, mix, and edit music for a soundtrack.
  6. Record and edit Foley effects, ADR, and synchronize audio to video and film.
  7. Integrate and balance sound effects with a multi-channel music soundtrack.
  8. Archive and deliver a final mix in multiple formats and versions.
DIG4306C: Advanced Digital Animation Techniques

In this course, students learn practical principles and techniques of advanced 3D digital animations. Topics will include triangular mesh design and editing; splines (NURBS), shading techniques, and lighting. Furthermore, students are exposed to different camera projection models, rendering techniques, and efficient use of GPU for photo realistic real-time 3D animation. Students acquire advanced skills in 3D modeling and animation using both industry standard and open-source professional animation tools.

The goals of the course are to fully understand how animations are created and reproduced in a digital device, add advanced effects in digital environments, edit polygonal and NURBS models, use photo-realistic features in tools such as Maya and 3DS Max; and to animate effectively human avatars and other complex dynamic organic subjects.

DIG4527C: DAS Design and Production Studio 3

Working within an interdisciplinary digital arts & sciences (DAS) design and production studio environment, students will focus specifically on the conceptual design and production of content and technologies for mobile and ubiquitous digital delivery systems. Students will participate in three collaborative team projects chosen to emphasize rapid prototyping, agile design, interdisciplinary collaboration, and project management in a relatively short development cycle. The specific content of the projects will be proposed by the collaborative teams formed in class. Approved projects will be refined and focused through discussion and feedback from instructor, then created and presented using appropriate technologies, techniques, and conceptual frameworks identified in contemporary industrial and academic landscapes.

Additionally, written analysis of selected pre-existing mobile and ubiquitous media artifacts will provide the basis for a critical evaluation of how the elements of successful projects were effectively built upon conceptual and production models to leverage and optimize their content with the technologies employed.

In this course, students will be able to identify, define, and effectively use the technologies that underlie and allow the operation of ubiquitous and mobile digital devices. Students will apply their understanding in the design, creation and effective implementation of three original team-based projects developed in a rapid-prototyping environment.

DIG4583C: DAS Design and Production Studio 4

As the capstone academic experience resulting from work within the interdisciplinary digital arts & sciences (DAS) environment, students will choose their own semester-long project. The project should solve a problem or present a new technical or cultural capability via enhanced human-computer interaction.Students may choose to work individually, but would preferably work in an interdisciplinary network of fellow students, faculty, and industry resources appropriate for their unique capstone project. Approved projects will be refined and focused through discussion and feedback from instructor, then created and presented using appropriate technologies, techniques, and conceptual frameworks identified in contemporary industrial and academic landscapes.

Students will be able to identify, define, and effectively use a number of integrated technologies to create a tangible system of human-computer interaction. Students will apply their understanding in the design, creation, and effective implementation of said system by researching, cultivating, and building upon a human network of interdisciplinary resources of their own choosing.

DIG4715C: Game Design Practices II

This course elaborates on the game design concepts, process, and technical practices introduced in DIG 3713C: "Game Design Practices I." Students will learn how to use these fundamentals of game design to craft effective digital games.  As such, this course is built around a) the detailed examination of specific techniques in game design and their use in digital arts and sciences (DAS) design practice, b) a comparative introduction of different frameworks for the game design process, and c) an introduction to the technical components of 2D and 3D game design.

At the conclusion of the course, GDP2 students will be able to:

  1. Understand and articulate the foundations of game design as they are accepted within the game industry.
  2. Identify specific game design principles like dynamics, system balance, long- and short-term goals, emergent complexity, player flow state, and the “magic circle”, and then leverage these concepts in design practice.
  3. Communicate an understanding of specific kinds of process frameworks for game design like rapid prototyping, agile development and personal software process (PSP).
  4. Create a functional prototype using a 2D game engine like Macromedia Flash or a 3D game engine like Unity 3D.
DIG4841C: Undergraduate Research Forum

This course is a coordinated seminar in which undergraduates from any academic discipline at the University of Florida have the opportunity to work with faculty from the Digital Worlds Institute and the Digital Arts & Sciences program on collaborative interdisciplinary research projects. Students alternately attend a three-hour classroom session that will focus on emerging theoretical, methodological, and practical issues in research some weeks and work with faculty research supervisors and research teams during others. In classroom sessions, students will receive practical, theoretical, and methodological introductions to research practice. During weeks in which they perform supervised research, students will work on a project for one professor in either the Digital Worlds Institute or another UF faculty on issues surrounding advanced media systems. Students will be supervised and mentored by that professor as they undertake a research project that falls within that professor’s research agenda. At the end of the semester, students publicly present the collaborative research projects on which they worked, and reflect on their experiences from that semester.

At the conclusion of this course, students will:

  1. Have acquired hands-on research experience with a Digital Arts & Sciences research faculty.
  2. Have obtained an enhanced mastery of research practices in a given field coupled with Digital Arts & Sciences techniques and perspectives.
  3. Be able to articulate and explain the coupling of at least one area of scholarship with emergent practices in the Digital Arts & Sciences.
  4. Be able to articulate and explain notable sets of research methods coupled within the Digital Arts & Sciences.

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