CDLR adds equipment to expand role of digital media

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Author: Lauren Rewers

The Center for Digital Learning and Research (CDLR) is opening a digital production studio for student use on March 10 as part of a larger effort by the college to encourage the use of digital media in the community.

The new focus on technological creation greatly broadens the function of the CDLR, a department based out of the academic commons that aims to integrate technology into the college curriculum, which previously focused more on encouraging digital scholarship within the college. In addition to teaching several Cultural Studies Program (CSP) and Media Arts & Culture (MAC) classes, the staff hosts workshops on how students can better use resources such as Zotero, Google and JSTOR for academic research. The CDLR also implemented the Global Crossroads program in several Diplomacy and World Affairs classes.

The studio will house resources for students to create their own projects, primarily multimedia or hardware-based and host workshops on how to use them. To this end, the CDLR purchased new digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, soldering kits, tripods, Mac computers, editing software, mobile computers and technology kits.

The digital production studio is funded by a grant by the Michael J. Connell Foundation — a non-profit organization that supports medicine, education, culture and the environment in the Los Angeles area of around $70,000. The CDLR decided what to buy last semester and ordered the equipment within the last few months. The purchases were intended to be consistent with production resources used by other departments within Occidental such as MAC.

The CDLR designed the production space and equipment not only to assist students in their academic assignments — for example, making films for MAC classes but also to encourage entrepreneurial students to work on extracurricular projects. Additionally, CDLR staff hope to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration between students and faculty.

“The idea is [that] it’s a place where students can get experience actually creating physical objects from creative inception…to working out prototypes, all the way up to polished, finished product,” Mellon Post-Baccalaureate Fellow Sam Boland ’13 said.

One addition to the new collection is a 3-D printer, a machine that creates small plastic objects of virtually any shape. Images can be designed free-form via a computer program.

Although the studio does not formally open until March 10, it is already lending out equipment to students. The first in a series of programs called Maker Mondays will take place on opening day. During Maker Mondays, students will learn how to use the new supplies.

“[Students] get to work together and make something that they couldn’t make on their own, and hopefully have a lot of fun in the process,” Boland said.

The first workshop will use the new printer to address 3-D modeling.

“I think it’s a really cool resource for people who are interested in science or people who are majoring in anything else and just want to work with technology,” physics major John Niman (sophomore) said.

CDLR Director Daniel Chamberlain believes that Occidental’s recent efforts, including the renovation of Johnson Hall, creation of the production studio and future library renovation, are integral to a liberal arts education.

“I think the best version of thinking through computational culture would go beyond the traditional notion of a computer science department,” he said. “We would do better to more broadly integrate that kind of thinking into the entire curriculum.”

In the future, the CDLR hopes to involve the surrounding Eagle Rock community with the new technology, which could involve community members joining in the workshops hosted by the department.

“I would love to see the establishment of a community-based learning center where Occidental students are teaching local community groups, local youth groups, students over the summer how to make things on 3-D printers, how to design things in the first place, how to write code that makes those things happen.”


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