Digital Futures (MA, MDes, MFA)

The graduate program in Digital Futures responds to the increasingly important and sophisticated role of digital technology as a catalyst for change.

Digital Futures has an international student cohort and faculty. The program features collaborative overseas eGlobal courses with world-wide educational and industry partners. A global perspective is key to securing our graduates’ futures in the eclectic international creative digital industries, encompassing design, arts, creative services, entertainment, media and cultural industries. The Digital Futures program is offered in partnership with the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) Media Lab.

The Digital Futures student-centred learning approach applies to both research and practice. The curriculum ensures that you gain core digital knowledge and skills as you explore your specific areas of interest through electives, industry internships, residencies and independent study.

The program focuses on practice-based learning and prototyping, with an enterprise component and supporting thesis research. Industry partnerships help students to build a career runway in advance of graduating. You are encouraged to work with industry partners in internships which lead to mentorship for your thesis research.

Who should apply?

You should have a background in design, technology, culture and/or enterprise as demonstrated by an undergraduate degree and relevant work experience. Our students are designers and artists, filmmakers, architects, journalists and media specialists, scientists, engineers and business people. This diversity drives peer learning and collaboration across disciplines in the program.

The master’s degree in Digital Futures

The master's in Digital Futures is a two-year full-time program. In the program, you will develop practice-based and scholarly research in technologically advanced design, art and media through the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Research and practice
  • Business and innovation studies
  • Computing and emerging digital methodologies

This is a full-time, 8-credit program comprising:

  • Foundational courses in computation, business creation, innovation and leadership
  • Core courses in digital methods, research, theory and practice
  • Intensive digital project and prototyping courses
  • Individual research and creation overseen by a principal advisor and supervisory committee
  • Summer internship and/or study abroad
  • Elective choices
  • Creative digital thesis project and supporting paper (MFA/MDes) or a written thesis and supporting creative project (MA)

Students declare their intention to pursue the Master of Design (MDes), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or Master of Arts (MA) at the time of application. The outcomes of the chosen degree are distinctive. The MDes and MFA focus on practice-based research creation with a supporting thesis. The MA flips that focus, with an emphasis on a scholarly research thesis and a supporting creative project.

Check out the program’s yearbook to learn more about recent student work and what you’ll be doing in the program.

Elective choices

New elective courses are continuously created in response to trends and emerging technologies. These cutting-edge courses cover theory and practice in design, art, media, technology and enterprise. Some examples include:

Some recent outstanding Digital Futures graduate’s thesis projects

 

Very Frustrating Mexican Removal

Fusun Uzun's thesis project examines the Canadian immigration detention system through an immersive, interactive artwork, which questions how the state’s discourse about immigration contradicts ongoing practice. This contradiction is studied through the operative logic of preemption, Brian Massumi’s concept of “ontopower”. Employing the method of the Forensic Architecture collective in the context of Bruno Latour’s concept of dingpolitik, another goal is to explore the blurred lines between forensis, method and theoretical framework. The artwork employs the practice of Verbatim Theatre and the techniques and technologies of 360° Cinema to present the events surrounding the death in 2013 of migrant Lucia Vega Jimenez while in detention with the Canada Border Services Agency.

 

Habitual Instinct 

Jordan Shaw's thesis project challenges the predefined expectations participants hold with their relationship to technology and data by exposing anthropomorphic projections onto autonomous systems. The role Habitual Instinct has with its participants is to instigate continual reflection after participants leave the installation and interact with technology in their day-to-day activities. By creating a speculative scenario that is counter-intuitive to everyday experiences with interactive technology, the installation helps participants identify themes and behaviours that have become habitual by acknowledging the effect surrounding their experience and potential feelings. Recurring themes that materialize during interaction with the artwork include: challenging the status quo on how technology acknowledges and responds to interactions; autonomous systems and “alien agency”; digital data collection; connection between the self and digital representation through data visualizations; and data transparency and user privacy. These themes promote an open discussion surrounding their relationship with the power structure between society and corporate or governmental interest.

 

It’s the little things that matter

Ling Ding's thesis project examines how democratization is broadly applied in material design and technology innovation, but little is known about democratic design in the digital context. Inspired by the practice of enchanted objects, this paper applies user-centered design as the primary research methodology to investigate what kind of democratic digital solutions might help Millennial-aged consumers streamline their home routines. SMARTKIT is a hacking toolkit created to allow individuals with little hacking ability to enchant the ordinary functionality of home furnishings and endow them with new capabilities which provide personal and social services that monitor and manage home consumables. By adding easy and affordable DIY enchantment, the democratically-designed SMARTKIT will help empower users to design the future of their homes in an accessible and affordable way that fulfills the unique requirements of each user. SMARTKIT makes the little things matter.

 

Learning Holacracy Fundamentals Through Play

Egill Rúnar Viðarsson's thesis project involves the design of “Little Bookcase Publications” -a four-player co-operative board game attempting to offer an experiential hands-on understanding of Holacracy fundamentals via contextualized simulation. Players act as partners at a small-scale publishing company and learn by role-playing Holacracy-inspired game-mechanics. In the literature review and primary qualitative data gathered via rapid ethnographic fieldwork it became apparent that organizations wanting to implement Holacracy can expect a steep, initial learning curve due to the rule- based – sometimes counter-intuitive – decision-making methods instilled in the method. Insights were gained from the field of organizational development, studies of role performance and play theory along with a design process which started as design-oriented research and then transitioned to research-oriented design. The final aim was to explore what fundamental processes and elements of Holacracy might be extracted to fit an introductory game to ease the learning of Holacracy.

 

Emilia

For many elder adults, the aging process can be very challenging. A great number of elders experience social isolation, causing them to suffer from depression and loneliness. The Emilia project uses a research through design methodology to investigate and reflect on the application of the concepts of Ambiguity, Tangible User Interfaces and Calm Technology in mitigating loneliness. I designed a prototype called The Happy Box which consists of a pair of internet-connected boxes that aim to support connectedness and Affective Awareness through non-verbal intimate and tangible interaction between elder adults and their family and friends. In this thesis document, I describe and reflect on the process of making and testing The Happy Box.

 

Where might your graduate degree in the Digital Futures program lead you?

As a Digital Futures graduate, you’ll be qualified to work in positions such as:

  • App, web, and games designers and developers
  • Digital project leaders
  • Cultural industry producers
  • Managers and coordinators between art and design departments and IT
  • Creators and developers of your own start-ups
  • Film, television and digital transmedia producers
  • Digital strategists and educators

Graduates of the Digital Futures program will be poised to play leadership roles in research and development in the media, arts, technology, entertainment and education sectors.

 

2017/2018 Program Overview




MA, MFA and MDes Overview