The MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing at UCL

  1. 1. Iain Brown

    School of Library, Archive and Information Studies - University College London

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The postgraduate MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing,
which started in 1997, investigates aspects of multimedia and
digital communication and examines how convergent digital media
combine existing publishing practices with exciting new media
forms. Based in the School of Library, Archive and Information
Studies at UCL, the MA is a holistic degree, furnishing students
with a theoretical understanding of the issues and implications
of disseminating information through electronic publications
such as CD-ROMs, Intranets and Web pages, and teaching them
the practical skills for managing information communication.

The initiative for the creation of the MA came from the then Dean
of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities who with others perceived
the potential of combining humanities graduates' liberal arts and
creative backgrounds with cutting-edge computing skills, to enable
them to enter industry bringing a solid grounding in electronic
communication and liberal arts.

Initial funding for the creation of the lectureship in Electronic
Communication and Publishing and the equipping of a special
multimedia cluster was obtained from Xerox, The Document
Company. This enabled an initial intake of 13 students in September

Since this time, the programme has grown steadily and in less than
three years student numbers have doubled, to 28. Applications for
entry in September 2001 are already being received, and it is expected
the total number will number in excess of 100. Students on the
programme come from a variety of backgrounds and locations, all
of which contributes to the uniqueness of this MA degree.

Applications received not only from the UK, but also from across
the globe, including America, Japan, China, Taiwan, Burma, Malaysia,
Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, Ghana,
South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, Italy,
Greece, Turkey and Ireland. The students' background in humanities,
too, are equally diverse, including: Ancient and Modern History,
Business Studies, Economics, Education, Egyptology, English and
European Literature, Film and IT, Hispanic Studies, History of Art,
Journalism / Media Studies, Library studies, Linguistics, Performing
Arts, Philosophy, Political Sciences and Sociology.

Aims of the degree
The MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing is designed to
educate students to be capable of performing the role of editor,
project manager or information specialist. As a postgraduate degree,
it is aimed at students who have developed a significant body of
knowledge in a specialist area through undergraduate study and/or
who have a specialist knowledge of a specific area within the
traditional publishing industry.

In specifically taking humanities graduates and skilling them with
the ability to create, manipulate and manage electronic information,
the MA is producing people capable of overseeing the construction of
electronic systems for distributing and archiving vast quantities
of information. Graduates from the science disciplines have a role
to play in this construction process, but humanities graduates can
also bring to bear lateral and creative thinking in identifying and
addressing problems and issues facing humanities computing today.

Course structure
The MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing is organised to
provide a broad introduction upon which to build a platform for
greater specialisation. This enables students to identify preferred
speciality with a view to their eventual career intentions. The emphasis
throughout the MA is on a two-layer approach: a theoretical seam
reinforced by practical instruction.

The theoretical teaching looks at a range of approaches covering
all aspects of electronic commerce and culture, from cultural
theory to information science, linguistics to project management.
The MA is designed to introduce the students to all the relevant
areas of digital media culture, allowing them to specialise in a
particular area of research as the course progresses.

The practical instruction covers the relevant software and hardware
needed to create and manage electronic projects, including:

* SGML, HTML, XML and XHTML authoring for the Internet
* Designing for screen and the printed page
* Incorporating interactivity and dynamic content generation
* Database management
* Image acquisition, manipulation and management
* On-line digital video and audio development and integration

The MA is offered as either a twelve-month full-time degree or a
twenty-four month part-time degree. All students take the following courses:

* EF, Foundation Course (a general introduction to the nature of
information and electronic communication)
* E1, Technical Aspects (where students gain the practical and
critical skills needed for successful project design and production)
* E2, Management Aspects (which extends the E1 course to the
management of larger projects and user access to information and
* E3, Legal Aspects (comprising a series of lectures covering the
legal world and electronic communication and publishing)
* E4, Optional Course (from which students select one option, in
publishing, education, computing in the humanities, XML,
JavaScript or managing electronic records)

Furthermore, students have the facility to undertake an additional course,
the Practical Attachment. The purpose of this course is to introduce
students to the current working situation in industries related to
electronic communication and publishing.

The Practical Attachment is for a period of four weeks at a relevant
institution (publishing house, new media company, library, school,
archive, newspaper or magazine office, etc.). The MA has very good
links with industry, but students are not limited to these connections.
Students use the Practical Attachment to evaluate what areas of further
research and/or employment they may wish to pursue after graduation,
and thus undertake a placement at a company or institution which may
be a future employer.

Students on the MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing are
assessed continuously. Each course within the MA requires two pieces
of coursework to be submitted: a 4,000-word essay (chosen from a range
of set questions); and an electronic project (normally a fully
working Web project) incorporating a 2,000-word commentary. This
commentary identifies the object of the project, any underlying
concepts, the legal issues affecting the content of the site, the
audience, the construction, main features and interactivity of the
site, and finally, the possible future directions and expansion of
the site.

To complete the MA, students are required to submit a Research
Project. This substantial piece of work takes at least three months
to complete and involves the writing of a dissertation of 10,000
words (or the electronic equivalent), on a topic of the student's own
choice. Alternatively, students have the facility to create a
substantial practical project together with a shorter written
commentary, instead of writing a dissertation.

The MA is dependent upon a specially-equipped, up-to-date,
dedicated suite of multimedia computers (both PC and Macintosh).
Students have access to industry-standard software and
hardware such as scanners, digital cameras, digital audio
and video suites and Web-conferencing cameras. Everything is
provided for creating paper-based, Internet and CD-ROM projects,
with a ratio of one computer to every three students.

In addition, the cluster is backed up by two servers, one running
the cluster network, and the other acting as a Web server, enabling
the students to access an Intranet in support of student-based
learning and teaching. The Intranet developed for, and in conjunction
with, the MA in Electronic Communication and Publishing acts as a
focal point for a diverse collection of information and resources
for students to consult and use in their studies and practical work.

Although having only accepted its fourth intake, the MA in Electronic
Communication and Publishing is proving to be a very popular and
stimulating course. The number of expressions of interest and
applications is steadily increasing. Moreover, the positions in
industry which graduates take up are the best indicators of the
potential for courses of this type. Graduates have been employed
by: Asiaweek / Time (Assistant Producer), BBC Education (Researcher),
BBC Educational Publishing (Marketing Assistant), BBC Online
(Webmaster), Elsevier Science (Editorial Support Co-ordinator), (Singapore) (Marketing Communications Manager), Historical
Manuscripts Commission (Curatorial Officer), NCR Knowledge Labs
(Researcher), (USA) (Project Co-ordinator), Premier
Media Partners (Deputy Content Director, Online), RAI (Italy)
(Website editor), Virgin Net (HTML Designer) and the Visual Arts
Data Service (Data Management Officer).

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at New York University

New York, NY, United States

July 13, 2001 - July 16, 2001

94 works by 167 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ICCH (21), ALLC/EADH (28), ACH/ALLC (13)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC