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Digital media studies: stimulating, wide-ranging, international

Digital media enjoyed an overall market share of 32 per cent in 2013. According to the latest forecasts from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), this is set to rise to 42 per cent by 2017. So excellent prospects exist for all those planning to or already enrolled on a course in digital media studies.

A degree course in media studies is incredibly wide-ranging. Here, two alumni – Danh-Quy Nguyen from Vietnam and Christine Wandolo from Kenya – report on their experiences at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University, where they completed a bilingual Master’s degree in International Media Studies. The degree course paid dividends for Danh-Quy Nguyen, since during the final semester of his course he received an offer to work at ELLE magazine, the biggest selling fashion magazine in the world, as editor on its sub titles ELLE MAN and ELLE DECORATION in Vietnam.

International Media Studies at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University

The Master’s degree in International Media Studies at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University is a cooperative venture between the University of Bonn and Deutsche Welle, Germany’s Bonn-based foreign broadcaster. The bilingual course, which takes place at Deutsche Welle’s broadcasting centre, combines media and development cooperation and is designed to turn out ‘international media professionals’ in four semesters. ‘Our aim is that when overseas graduates return to their home countries at the end of their studies, they get the chance to move into management positions,’ explains course director Christoph Schmidt in an interview.

Christine Wandolo from Kenya particularly appreciated the international aspect of the course: ‘I had classmates from 13 different countries around the world and therefore learned a lot. It was also very enlightening to handle all aspects of the media – print, online, broadcast, video.’ In many countries, Kenya included, digital media have made massive advances – from late 2014, for example, Kenyan television will be digitised.

Christine Wandolo comes from Kenya and also completed her Master’s degree in International Media Studies from 2009 to 2011. Following a traineeship in Munich, she worked for an international organisation in Tanzania.

Danh-Quy Nguyen took a bilingual Master’s degree in International Media Studies from 2009 to 2011 at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University and now works as an editor at the magazine ELLE in Vietnam.

Digital media: the wide-ranging courses provide training for media professionals

If you look up the term ‘media studies’, you will find a wide range of courses covering all aspects of the media. These include media IT, communication design, media design, media management and business and media education. And careers in media studies are as varied as the courses on offer: media experts are needed in advertising, for example, in public relations work and communications, radio and television, newspapers and magazines, as well as in educational institutions and agencies.

Media studies courses focus primarily on technology, design and management. Some media studies courses combine components: the University of Bremen offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degree courses in Digital Media in collaboration with the University of the Arts Bremen (HFK) – these include topic areas such as sound studies, temporary architecture and interaction design. The State University of Arts and Design (HfG) in Karlsruhe offers courses in contemporary sound and video art, 3D gaming, social media and online culture. Practical aspects of the course take place in the University’s own GameLab, digital cinema laboratory or sound and radio studio. The course also focuses on the future of digital media.

Bachelor’s degree in Digital Media at University of Bremen

In the eyes of the students

The Master’s degree course in International Media Studies at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University places particular emphasis on a mix of research, teaching and practical work, combining the fields of media and development, journalism, communication sciences and media business with a large number of practical activities. ‘The course offers interesting insights into different media systems, core issues, realities – and through our own eyes, as journalists, insiders, players in these systems’, explains Danh-Quy Nguyen. We have equipped ourselves not only with knowledge, but also, perhaps more importantly, with cultural sensibility. For cultural sensitivity pushes us to think beyond our limits, to put aside prejudices and judgments and to look at the bigger picture in a different light. Since then, I've applied the process of independent thinking, always asking simple questions in my professional and personal life such as what, why and how.’

Digital media – in constant change

‘The world of digital media is constantly changing, so what I write today will already be out of date by tomorrow’, explains Danh-Quy Nguyen, putting in a nutshell something we all experience every day – the process of ongoing change that constantly results in new forms of digital representation and communication. Who knows how much longer Twitter, Facebook and Co. will be around? In Kenya, says Christine Wandolo, young people are very savvy with digital media and very active in communicating via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp.

What will be the next big thing? Students can assume they will always have to adapt to the latest media developments. Social media are here to stay and, as Danh-Quy Nguyen puts it, ‘are changing our life, our lifestyle, and the way we are becoming more dependent on social media, but less so on face-to-face communication. Our media consumption has changed dramatically and completely – and all in just a few years!’

People will always be online

‘Mobile phones and smartphones are used everywhere,’ says Danh-Quy Nguyen. ‘Not just for communication, but also for gaming and finding information on apps and videos.’ Even the experts and researchers polled recently about our digital future at the US public opinion fact tank Pew Research agreed that networking will be omnipresent and a feature of all our lives: ‘The exchange of information via internet will be so much a part of our lives that digital data volumes will flow invisibly through our lives like electricity.’ Joe Touch, Director of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, says in the survey that it is not even a question of whether we will be online – we will be ‘constantly online’. And this will in turn have an impact on the digital media and media degree courses.

Deutsche Welle Akademie

The Deutsche Welle Akademie offers intercultural and professional media training at its locations in Bonn and Berlin. In 2009, it established its own course in International Media Studies, a combination of media development, media management, journalism and communication studies.

Interviews and discussion about media studies courses in the Community

Are you also taking a media studies course? Perhaps even specialising in digital media? What is your experience with the course? Are there interesting developments in the field of digital media in your country?

Tell us about your experiences and exchange views about media studies courses in the Community group ‘Studium und Forschung’. Here you will also find the interviews with Danh-Quy Nguyen and Christine Wandolo reported in full.


Author: Sigrid Born

June 2014

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