Composing Digital Media

Professor Jamie Skye Bianco

Spring 2011, University of Pittsburgh

Mondays, 6-8:30PM, G26 CL


Office Hours, posted and by appointment

Office Location: 501m CL

@ProfJSBianco (twitter)

Course Home
Course Schedule

Course Expectations
Course Media Makers DIY Blog
Student Websites

TAs Sarah & Tiffany
DIY Ethos
Students Home
Spikenlilli Home

All assignments, due dates & schedule subject to change at Prof. Bianco's discretion

Course Description:

This studio and workshop course will offer students the opportunity to explore and create composed and composited storytelling in digital media. While our projects may run the gamut of writing styles and genres, our primary work will focus on non-fiction narrative expressed through social media, podcast, video, animation, composite multi-media and transmedia, and networked website creation. To this end students will work on the development of texts with attention paid to the rhetorical modes and communicative platforms that specific media encourage. Students will also learn how to use audio and video editing software as well as basic HTML, website editing, and animation software.

While previous experience in these practices is not necessary, solid access to reliable and sufficiently powered computing is required as will be access to quality software packages. Pitt labs offer all of these services. Students should anticipate a very heavy workload as the course will not only serve the work of the “writing” (including scripts, images, videos, linking, and editing) of narrative but also serve the work of learning new software and textual mark-up language. Students are encouraged to contact Prof. Jamie Skye Bianco in advance of the course regarding software requirements and to consult her website.

the lived medium and creating a world

this semester we will be focusing on a specific project. That project will be determined by you early in the term. every assignment, every technique, and every form of media object that you practice and make will be part of the process of making this larger project. your choice of a project is subject to Prof. jsb's approval.

Need I say, choose your subject well. it must be local because you will be visiting it on a weekly basis. you will be researching it thoroughly. you will be capturing it through a variety of media. you will be writing about it. you may not use previously acquired footage.

process project

as collaborators, the entire class will produce a documentary of our class process and projects. last semester this work was shown in exhibition at the international conference on DIY media making. this semester, this work will be shown at the conference on college communication and composition. we will discuss this in class and decide what we want to do to share our working methods with the world. you can see last semester's project here.

process: DIY Ethos

[From above]: This studio and workshop course will offer students the opportunity to explore and create composed and composited storytelling in digital media.

but how? we will practice a DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos with "minimalist pedagogy"... huh? this means that prof. bianco's number one goal is to make you capable of making, doing and teaching yourself. why? media formats and software change constantly and unless we all plan on sitting around laboring (and at a rather low level of skill) on Facebook or other advertising and marketing machine, we need to know how to Make our own media (which is, afterall, how facebook started...a student project).

minimalist pedagogy? what does this mean? this means prof. bianco will do everything in her power to give you just what you need to get started and find your way and then leave you to flourish. to this end, your search for the answers to you questions begin on google and relevant websites provided on the syllabus, then twitter, then your working group, then our TA's, tiffany & SArah, & prof. bianco. does this mean that prof. bianco is not available to you? NO!!! you may come visit prof. bianco any time you like in our out of office hours or on twitter. what it does mean is that the first question that prof. bianco and ta's tiffany & Sarah will ask you is "what did you find on google and twitter? what did your working group say"

Professor Bianco practices "minimal marking" -- a style of evaluation that respects the student's work. She will not write or comment all over your work. She will discuss your work with you as often as you make yourself available in her office hours or by appointment. Furthermore, you will receive constant in-class "collaborative feedback" from Prof. Bianco and from your student peers. In the end, your university career, your work, your education, your progress in this class...are yours--your responsibility, your achievement, your brilliance. Learning to evaluate the quality of your own thinking and composing is part of the DIY ethos--the number one goal for this course.


check the course twitter feed daily. this is the means through which prof. bianco will communicate updates, changes, information, and send messages to you directly.

Attend ALL classes and arrive on time.

Complete all assignments as assigned and on time. Assignments described in the schedule.

Meet Prof. Bianco as requested and as scheduled for your mid-term evaluation.

participate orally in the weekly project critiques

meet with your working groups and participate fully

contribute to our collaborative process project

orally present your individual projects to the class & participate in peer review

orally Present your final Project Portfolio as scheduled. You may NOT miss the Final Presentation, so do not schedule a departure from campus prior to our Final class.

attend the weekly tutorials if Prof. bianco requires you to

complete weekly blog posts on time

More on expectations, grading, and the quality of your coursework...


weekly entries on the class DIY How-To Make Media Blog -- due by Sunday at 5p (day before class)

collaboration process project

(micro-)blogging, NARRATIVES, Website design & informational writing

Photo Essay, alphabet project, SCRAP & FOUND WRITING


Narrative Video/Multimodal Composition


Integrated Final "PLACE" Project & Final Portfolio

[we will discuss each of these in detail, and keep in mind that we are building a large media project in steps. This means that you should give serious consideration to the earlier assignments].

Required Materials:

Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection--DO NOT PURCHASE UNTIL DISCUSSED IN CLASS!
*Available to students from CSSD (105 Bellefield Hall) at a seriously discounted price.
*This collection provides the entire Adobe CS5 Suite.
*There are limited work-around alternatives, including use of the Pitt Campus Computing Labs.
*I guarantee you we will use the following Adobe applications (though others may be used depending on our progress): Photoshop, Flash, DreamWeaver, Bridge, Premiere, Soundbooth, Media Encoder, & Media Player.
***Please Note: if you use any other software for this course, you are on your own for tech & tutorial support. This software is the required text for this course.***

domain and website host
*while Pitt offers students free domains and hosting service, this service is extremely limited.
*I recommend you invest in your own domain and private hosting service. we will discuss this in class.

Memory Stick/Portable External Drive
*You will need a minimum of 16G of memory.
*This memory key will be used exclusively for this class.

Regular Access to Digital Camera
*Camera needs to have the capacity to shoot short video clips.
*Cell phones are fine, but may provide lower quality imaging.
*Make sure that whatever camera you use (especially if you borrow a videocamera) that you have the software to access the image files *and download them to your computer or memory key.
*access to digital still and video cameras is also available through student media services

access to a microphone or sound recording instrument
*While most computers have a built-in microphone , experience has proven that this is not sufficient for different types of recording situations.
*cell phones can be used but will produce a bad, tinny quality.
*radio shack sells a very cheap clip-on mic that works well (if you purchase any mic, make sure it is compatible with your computer.

*ask me about the ear bud trick.

Important to Know:

Pitt Policy on Academic Integrity ... keep in mind what was discussed regarding intellectual property in our discussion in the first two weeks of class. Read the digital millenium copyRIGHT act assigned the first week of class.

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services, 140 William Pitt Union, (412) 648-7890 or (412) 383-7355(TTY), as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course .


Academic Resource Center

(G-1 Gardner Steel Conference Center) 412.648.7920

Disability Resources & Services

(216 William Pitt Union) 412.648.7890


Counseling Center

(334 William Pitt Union) 412.648.7930

Sexual Assault Services

(334 WPU) 412.648.7856

JANUARY 6, 2011