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The Media Design 2021 Cohort Virtual Thesis Defense

August 17, 2021

On August 11th, the 2021 Cohort conducted their virtual thesis defenses. They’d spent the past year attending zoom classes, virtually collaborating with community partners on their ideas, and it all culminated in civic designs that highlight what the Media Design Program is all about. Presenting their ideas in a virtual setting was nothing new to them as it was just chalked up as another “design challenge”, and they bravely stepped up to the task. Below, you can read more about their proposed design interventions which include a media toolkit, an assistive technology app, and an interactive map/website/flip-o-gram.

Project Title: STEPS: An Assistive Technology Prototype

Design Question: What forms of media and assistive technology can facilitate self-advocacy for teenagers on the autism spectrum or with non-verbal learning disabilities?

Partner: Next Step at Judge Baker Children’s Center

Designer: Mikaela Joyce

Steps is an assistive technology prototype for neurodiverse college students. Its purpose is to reinforce self-advocacy skills, support in executive functioning tasks, and create a bridge between students and on-campus resources. While primarily designed for autistic students, its features are customizable and intended to accommodate other learning differences and/or neurodivergencies. Steps was co-designed with Next Step at Judge Baker Children’s Center; a transitional program for students on the autism spectrum and/or non-verbal learning disabilities.

Project Title: Everyone, All The Time

Design Question: How might we utilize popular culture to motivate critical thinking on media platforms and inspire civic identity within urban youth

Partner: The Message

Designers: Sydney Angove & Melody (Yu-Hsuan) Hsu

“Our project attempts to offer an intervention that will allow students to participate from an informed perspective. We created a toolkit that addresses the relationship between critical media literacy and civic participation. Our prototype targets the moment a young person decides to engage in social media — contributing to discussions of civic topics. The toolkit takes advantage of this window of opportunity so that a young person’s voice is grounded in their own independent critical thinking.”

Project Title: Dunamis Deities: The New Jamaica Plain Porchfest

Design Question: How can porchfest be a civic project while still maintaining and offering the spirit of porchfest fun and artistry?

Partner: Dunamis

Designers: Drew Genova, Ramon Montes, & Graham Rutherford

“Our thesis project is a community-wide accessed project including interactive and cartographic aspects that will not only reinvent the Porchfest outreach and promotion, but will also uplift and highlight the BIPOC community that has existed in Jamaica Plain for decades. We want to achieve this by designing a revamped website that includes an interactive map where festival goers can choose their own festival experience. For those without a cellular device, we are also including a flip-o-gram pamphlet that is a physical representation of the festival information that will exist on the website.”

As the semester draws to a close with the graduation of this year’s cohort, finishing the program just as they had started it(virtually) came as no surprise to any of them. The world plunged into a pandemic and social uprisings erupted in countries across the globe, and the need for the socially relevant and equitable designs and design theories became clear and urgent. These students will take what they learned from the Media Design program and the Engagement Lab and apply it to real world issues(both virtual and physical). With the final approval on their thesis projects from the program’s graduate director Paul Mihailidis, they’re ready to make a real impact on the world.

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