DMS 372/Fall 2019

DMS 372
FALL 2019


This yearlong project-based course is the culmination of your digital media studies degree when you design something fantastic. Together. Collaboratively. Although I will mentor you and support you in your endeavors, this seminar is really about you learning through collaboration to make something whose sum is greater than any individual parts. Your success or failure will depend on how well you handle the challenges and situations I’ve designed for you in the year ahead. Throughout this process, I will be your way finder, your advocate, your toughest critic and your biggest fan. At the end of the day though, it’s largely up to you.

The challenges of conceiving, designing, building, and launching a project in only eight months is thrilling and daunting (to you and us both!). This seminar will guide you through the design process, provide you with some allies and critics, outfit you with ideas and resources, and demand that you produce the best work that you can, individually and as a team. This semester will be spent implementing interdisciplinary and innovative strategies to the process of designing your capstones.
This term we will:
• Find viable projects whose members possess the talents actualize them.
• Take stock of the skills, time, research, and resources you need to complete these capstones by April.
• Build, test, and refine prototypes
• Compete for funding for equipment
In addition and throughout the year, we will engage in creative problem-solving, work on professional development, gain experience in project planning, teamwork, and leadership, and learn to advocate for yourself and your achievements. Over break and next semester, your group will execute these plans, build, test, and refine prototypes, market and launch your capstone (to great fanfare and acclaim) just in time for graduation.

This seminar mixes talks, discussions, hands-on workshops, guest lectures and interactive presentations. We will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the year. You MUST communicate with me and your fellow students regarding any issue that might keep you from coming to class. After we form capstone groups, class time will be split between professional development and meetings with your fellow capstoners, faculty and staff mentors and, of course, yours truly. Course material will include podcasts, videos, websites and readings to support topics we cover in class. Various written assignments and exercises, independent research and self-taught material will aid in the development and production of your project. You should expect to spend 10-15 hours per week on this seminar and your capstone project work, but this workload will vary widely from week to week. Keep in mind also that your colleagues will be depending on the timely, competent completion of your work, so you owe it to your peers and teammates not to overschedule or over-commit yourselves!

ASSESSMENT – Huge, complex collaborative projects are best developed incrementally over time. This course is, by design, paced to build upon early ideas and concepts and then steadily refine and improve upon the viable capstone projects that emerge. Your grade blends your individual effort and engagement with that collectively of your capstone group (subject to peer review).

Your fall grade is weighted as follows:
Class Participation & Engagement 25%
One Minute Student BIO Profile 5%
Written Preliminary Project Proposal (Group) 10%
First Project Pitch (Group) 10%
TWO Bi-weekly Written Progress Reports (Group) – 5% each 10%
Preliminary Prototype (Group) 15%
End of Year Project Presentation (Group) 25%

*Final grades for group projects modified based on assessments by peers and faculty/staff advisors

All work must be turned in by the due date specified on the course website to the correct BOX folder. Please do not email me your work, turn it in to BOX. Please do not email me your work, turn it in to BOX (said twice.)

CLASS PARTICIPATION and ENGAGEMENT includes attendance and active, productive engagement with your fellow students and course material. In-class workshops and accompanying short written work are included in this grade. BECAUSE the design concepts and insights that guest lecturers present are not necessarily searchable and reflect a lifetime of experience, you should consider attendance mandatory. Failure to attend weekly group meetings later in the semester will compromise the success and productivity of your entire capstone project. Unexcused absences will significantly reduce your class participation grade.
Your DMS one-minute biography (5%) is an assessment/personal design diagnosis that will make us aware of the strengths and personality traits of you and your fellow students. This project is aimed at assembling capstone project groups with complementary skills. You will be given specific prompts to answer to guide you. It is due on the second day of class.

The Written Project Proposal is your initial constitution and framework stating your design goals, planning, and implementation strategies collectively determined as a team. It should give you a solid foundation to embark from, but your project will almost certainly change as you actually develop and construct it. The best written project proposals will be comprehensive, specific, and well thought out, addressing the many design elements and considerations that faculty mentors introduce you to in their lectures. The written proposal must also include each student’s role in the team, a clear specific statement indicating each individual’s contribution to the project.

Project Pitches (Oct. and Dec.) should involve all members of your group and succinctly and persuasively communicate the purpose, design, and execution plan of your capstone project using relevant digital media. They will be assessed by panels of faculty experts and industry professionals toward the end of providing useful feedback aimed at improving your team, project, product, and communication skills.

Bi-Weekly Written Progress Reports (Nov. and Dec.) communicate the weekly workflow and specific duties of individual members and assign tasks and deadlines for the week to come, in conjunction with each group’s faculty mentor. Group members will have rotating roles and responsibilities for leading and reporting on each progress meeting. They can – but do not have to – occur during scheduled class time. You need to turn in the Progress Report by Thursday at noon for your grade to the correct BOX folder for credit. Progress Report deliberations will be independently corroborated by our TA and/or faculty/staff mentor, so they should accurately reflect your group’s activities and future action plans.

Technology Failures
Learning good data management practices is part of this course. Computer failure or other forms of computer data loss will NOT be accepted as a legitimate excuse for late work. Working with computers is risky especially in shared environments with experimental software. You must act responsibly and make backup copies of your data often. The safest way to do this is to copy data to a portable device that gets stored in a secure location.

Academic Honesty Guidelines for Group Projects and Group Reports
This course includes team assignments where you participate in conceiving, designing, building, and launching a digital project. You are permitted and encouraged to share ideas and research and you will write your report as a group effort. Therefore, it is important to understand that you are responsible for the academic integrity of the entire report, including contributions of other group members. To avoid potential problems with academic honesty (and to more fully engage in the project), you should be involved in various aspects of writing the report, and you should verify that citations are correct and that all text is accurately cited and not plagiarized. At the end of the report, you are required to provide a clear statement of the contributions of each member of your group to the group activities. If you feel that problems are developing in your group project, you should come to see us early, so that we can provide general guidance to group members to set your activities on the right course. As you are responsible for the entire assignment, it is incumbent upon each of you to ensure the integrity of the project.

Useful University Resources:

Rettner Tech Lending Collection:

Types of Equipment for Loan

Housed in Rettner’s Digital Media Lab, the RTLC can help support your capstone development by providing access to equipment you might need. Items include still/video cameras, tripods, 3D scanners, experimental cameras, Oculus Rift and Gear VR, Zoom H4N audio recorders, short throw projectors, GoPro cameras, Google Glass, drones, 360 video cameras, and more! Additional acquisition suggestions are welcome and for expensive items, you are encouraged to participate in the Shark Tank competition (see below).

Writing, Speaking and Argument Program
Mastery of the skills of written argument, including critical thinking, problem solving, organization of ideas, and clarity and power of expression, is of enormous importance both in academic work here at Rochester and in the world of work beyond. Writing is how we know what it is that we know, because our ability to explain a subject clearly and precisely is an ultimate test of having learned it. Confident and effective public speaking is even more vital to your success in the DM world: you can’t get a job or launch a start-up if you can’t ace the interview or impress your backers! And they can help you put together a kick-ass Digital Portfolio that will also help you showcase your awesome work and impress Important People. The WSAP can help you with all aspects of your capstone, from making succinct persuasive oral pitches to composing snappy tag lines and product descriptions to rich, visually appealing content – if you let them help you! Visit the WSAP at Rush Rhees G-121-122 and G-138.

Digital Scholarship Lab
Located in the Humanities Center (Rush Rhees Second Floor), the DHC staff has expertise in video editing, photography, data manipulation, 3D modeling and printing, GIS, Arduino/raspberry pi microcomputers, 3D scanning, and a broad array of software. They are very friendly and willing to help you master particular skills necessary to develop your capstone work.

Ain Center for Entrepreneurship
Located in Schlegel Hall within the Simon School of Business, the Ain Center staff and Entrepreneurs in Residence can advise you on how to develop, market, and potentially monetize your capstone ideas, as well as conduct need finding research to tailor your project to its user base and stakeholders.

The Gwen M. Greene Career Center
Located on the fourth floor of Dewey Hall, this is your destination for finding internships and future jobs and networking with Digital Media professionals, including UR alums. (You can/should also do this yourselves on LinkedIn, etc.!) The staff may also be able to help you identify and work with UR alumni who have expertise in your capstone project areas.

A Note on Communication: We assume you are all adults and that the work you do in this course individually and as a group is entirely your own original composition. It is your responsibility to attend class and to submit all your work on time or early. We check email and phone messages regularly and usually are good about responding to correct and courteously worded missives (on weekdays between 9 and 5), but don’t expect instant responses and do not assume we got your email. Informal and poorly punctuated/capitalized emails annoy us. If a truly urgent or important situation arises, contact call or text Stephanie at 585-530-7045 rather than rely on an email. Also, please don’t just disappear” if you find yourself overwhelmed or struggling this year: we can only work with you if we know this is happening, and an early timely intervention is far better than damage control at year’s end, especially when a group’s success depends on everybody’s productive participation.
A Note on Technology: Seminars succeed when participants give each other their full attention and are not trying to multitask (or check Instagram, Snapchat, Tindr, etc…). Laptops and tablets are permitted to be on during class as a reference for topics under discussion or to refer to notes on them. Please minimally and responsibly use electronic devices while our class is meeting. If you need to a break during class, please quietly and briefly step outside.

Aug. 29(W) – Capstone Introduction and Goals. Define expectations. Nuts and bolts of how the class works, website and bios assigned.

September: Goals: Capstone Groups Formed.

Sept. 4 (W) – One Minute Student Bios due. A bio, is a detailed description of a person that involves more than just the basic facts. It portrays a person’s experience. You MUST use media, make a video, design a poster, give a TED talk, write a song….
In preparation for next class please read:

Pls. read:

Why Tom Kelley of IDEO is the ultimate disciple of ‘design thinking’

Sept. 9 (M) – Meet at iZOne. Ideation, the design process and a common DMS vocabulary. Guest: Julia Maddox/iZone.

Sept. 12 (W)– Sharpening your pitches: How to Make a Successful Pitch: Pitching Ideas and The Age of TED talks.

In class we will watch a few really great pitches and talk about why they are so effective:

Out of class: Listen to The Pitch Podcast. Find an episode that interests you. I’m looking for you to listen carefully to the critique of the pitches. I like:

Shark Tank vs. The Pitch (#56, Monti Kids)

What Is Michael Phelps Jamming to Right Now? (#70, EarBuds)

Monday be prepared to give us your one minute pitch! Present ONE MINUTE pitch of your capstone idea. MAX of ONE image/PPT slide. Please upload your slide by Sunday at 11:59PM.

Sept. 16 (M): In class, present ONE MINUTE pitch of your capstone idea. MAX of ONE image/PPT slide. Please upload your slide by Sunday at 11:59PM.

Sept. 18 (W) – Resumes in DMS. What works? Finish Pitches and build resumes as necessary and prepare for pitching fair.

Sept. 23 (M) & Sept. 25 (W) – Pitching: “Job Fair” of surviving, viable DMS student and External Client projects. Committed Capstoners will staff a table and persuasively pitch their projects to visitors in order to recruit the expertise they will need to develop a product. “Freelance” DMS Capstoners should come with brief resumes and negotiate their participation in projects they find attractive. At the end of class, pitchers will list their top four “matches” with brief explanations explaining why, and shoppers will list their top three projects with brief statements of what they can uniquely bring to these ventures.

October Goals: Preliminary Project Plans Completed. Projects Pitched to faculty panel.

Sept. 30 (M) – DMS Capstone Teams/Groups Announced. Guest Speaker: Margarita Rincon will focus on her design work and her experiences working with clients taking us though a project from start to completion.

Oct 2 (W) – Protoyping:

Individual Group Meetings and formal recruitment of Faculty, Staff/DHC, and/or Simon School Advisors. You should explicitly define team roles, goals, an organizational style, and begin working on designing and drafting your project proposal due after break.

Oct. 14 (M) – Fall Break

Oct. 16 (W) WRITTEN PRELIMINARY PROJECT PLANS DUE – These should include
1) a name
2) stating the gap/problem/need your envisioned product addresses
3) coverage of design basics of Why(it matters)/What (it does)/Who (will use it)/When (it will take shape)/How (it works) and So What?
4) identification of currently existing similar products (if any) that you could draw from or improve upon
5) identification of users and stakeholders and how you will work with them (i.e. researching user needs, preferences, and level of interest; client expectations and timeframe for deliverables)
6) a detailed work plan going forward, identifying 1) the specific skills and resources you will need to acquire, 2) how you plan to acquire them, 3) roles and responsibilities of individual team members, and 4) a realistic four-month schedule for research, design, production, and marketing/promotion/launch
7) A Prototype.
Guest Speaker: Adam Festner: Photography and Process: Why having good imagery is so important in the digital age

Oct. 21 (M)- Project Plans returned. Feedback. Advice going forward. WSAP Program instructor will be on hand to help convert your written proposal into a dynamic public talk.

Oct 23 (W)- Dress rehearsals for faculty pitches.

Week of Oct. 28 (M/W) PRESENTATIONS of Group Projects to a Faculty Panel. Limited to TEN minutes each and at least 6 minutes in length. They should be succinct, persuasive, dynamic versions of your written proposals. Use Digital Media effectively, but remember that bells and whistles will not hide poor design elements. Also, be realistic in your ambitions and proposed schedules. Faculty reviewers will provide advice and critical assessments of both the merits of your projects and your presentation content/skills. Message and Messenger are both vital, so the project will be assessed 40% on presentation and 60% on project content and merits.

November Goals: Revised Prototype, Shark Tank

Nov 6 (W) This represents the FIRST Bi-Weekly session with me and your faculty/staff advisor. We will meet in our regular spot to discuss your presentation performance, Prof. Toploski’s feedback, assign team meeting roles and address November expectations moving forward. We will discuss our “Shark Tank” & Prototyping.

Individual Meetings! Sign up on BOX! Come to the new DMS office in Morey 206!

Nov 11(M) Please attend an individual meeting with Stephanie today or the 18th.

Nov 13(W): Pitching for Resources: ‘Shark Tank”. Give us your elevator pitch – the length should not exceed 8 minutes! Wow us.

GUEST: Matthew Spielmann, Senior Program Manager from AIN.

Nov 18 (M) – Independent Group Work– FIRST Bi-weekly Written Progress Report Due by midnight.

Bi-Weekly Written Progress Reports communicate the weekly workflow and specific duties of individual members and assign tasks and deadlines for the week to come, in conjunction with each group’s faculty mentor. Group members will have rotating roles and responsibilities for leading and reporting on each progress meeting. They can occur during scheduled class time. You need to turn in the Progress Report by the deadline specified to the correct BOX folder for credit. Progress Report should accurately reflect your group’s activities and future action plans.

Please attend an individual meeting with Stephanie today if you did not meet with her on 11/11.

Nov 20 (W) Independent Work/Weekly Meeting (Please touch base with Stephanie during class time).

Nov. 25 (M)–Nov 27 (W) NO CLASS –  BREAK

Dec 2 (M)- SECOND Bi-weekly Written Progress Report Due by midnight.


Dec. 4 (W)- Prepare for Year End Presentation

Dec. 9 (M) & 11 (W) End of Year PRESENTATIONS – These improved versions of your October presentation should highlight refinements to original project design and the progress you’ve made. They should also offer a concrete plan for winter break and the spring semester for building and testing a prototype/proof of concept and completing your capstone. As in October, the presentations will be assessed by a panel of faculty and Digital Media professionals and groups will get critical feedback toward improving their projects.

Group Weekly Meetings and Bi-Weekly Written Reports
Advice, Instructions and Requirements

After capstone groups are formed, you are expected to meet with the DMS TA weekly to report on your progress and get feedback and guidance on your project’s ongoing development. As a group, you are also expected to formally meet AT LEAST WEEKLY on your own to assess progress, workflow responsibilities, and individual duties and tasks. Holding these sessions will help you develop your professional skills in organizing, productively attending, and documenting meetings. In short, you will be creating an archive of your design and production activities as you perform them – which can serve you well should you need to revise or redesign elements of your project later on. Past capstone groups have found that collectively, their reports are also an invaluable demonstration to potential employers of their organizational and collaborative experience.

To give your group meeting sessions structure:
1. Each meeting will be run by a student in the role of Meeting Leader and its deliberations written down by another student acting as Recording Secretary.
2. The Recording Secretary should take notes during the meeting, prepare the written Progress Report, submit it to our TA and Professor Jarvis, and become the Meeting Leader the following week. The job of Recording Secretary will then rotate to another team member.
3. Recording Secretaries becoming Meeting Leaders will circulate the previous Progress Report before the next meeting for group members to review and consider.
4. Progress Reports should closely follow the developmental steps laid out in the Capstone Proposal Plan. In meetings, group members should identify action items, target completion dates, and group members responsible for them. Each progress report should clearly denote action items that are still open and new ones as they arise. (For example, to assess user needs and expectations, a group might create a survey and administer it via a website or by convening several small student focus groups; action items/roles would include who is researching/designing the survey, creating the website/survey monkey and soliciting respondents, gathering and running meetings with the focus group students. New action items would follow, such as interpreting the content, analyzing the survey results, and then incorporating all this new information into the capstone design).
5. All team members are expected to be present and on time at all meetings, and to have reviewed the previous week’s progress report and action items. Absences SHOULD BE REPORTED in the written reports, and will reduce your class participation grade.
6. All team members are expected to contribute to each meeting, and everyone should take notes.
“First Among Equals”: Leading a Meeting. It will be helpful for you to prepare a meeting agenda and include it with your previous week’s progress report to keep things on track and productive. Your job is to think about specific goals for each meeting and try to organize the meeting to address these goals. Are there specific questions you need answered? Does the group need to reach specific decisions? Does your project need permissions or approvals from clients or outside agencies? Does your group need specific tools or resources to undertake new stages of project development? Can you demonstrate to your faculty mentor that you’ve made awesome progress this week? Consider in advance how much time you will need to spend on each agenda item – and keep an eye on the clock. Also, be prepared to recognize when discussions are bogging down and ready to productively refocus your group’s deliberations.
Meeting Leaders should NOT do all the talking. Rather, it is your job to ensure that all voices are heard. They should try to solicit ideas and contributions from all team members and prevent one person from dominating discussions. A great strategy is to end your meeting with a listing of action items for each team member, which should be specific and concrete and encompass a “deliverable” to establish that the assigned action was performed. This list of tasks and responsible members will then guide everyone’s efforts in the week to come and help you – and your faculty mentor – concretely measure progress.
Meeting Minutes: formal minutes are not required, but the recording secretary should document critical decisions, votes, suggestions, proposed and adopted action items, new ideas, and other issues as they come up. This will greatly help preparing and writing your group’s Progress Reports. Groups may want to consider having a common notebook, GitHub page, and/or cloud storage site for collating its cumulative documentation available to all members to review and look into various collaboration software platforms. As stated above, all team members should take their own notes, especially if they are assigned specific action items or when their project roles change. In formal meetings, it is customary to prepare minutes for each meeting and have them reviewed and approved at the beginning of the following meeting. Although not required, it will be helpful to team communication to circulate informal minutes (or at the very least a list of action items) to group members soon after each meeting concludes.