The thesis is the centerpiece of the DMI experience. You bring your experiences, your expertise, and your passions to your study. Your thesis is your vision. The DMI program is designed to help you realize that vision. Work begins in earnest during your second semester when you develop a comprehensive thesis proposal and present it to the DMI community. The proposal details an area of study, key sources of research, and potential projects. You devote your last two semesters to in-depth research, project work, writing, and your thesis document.
The experience of looking at everything I have ever done and trying to come to a conclusion or find some sort of common thread in my work…was really the best part of the thesis development. The process isn’t about trying to find the newest, most exciting possible topic that has never been touched, but rather a simple process of reflecting upon the unique experiences that one has had in their life and funneling them into a concrete thesis (no matter how abstract the concept was initially). I remember feeling like I had too many things I cared about to wrap into a single thesis topic. Those included linguistics, psychogeography, culinary arts, maps, travel (with a special interest in wayfinding, drifting, the nomadic life), the experience of a ‘place,’ and lastly, our connections to people and places in the digital age. I especially disliked what social networking was doing to us. I began investigating how we could use the digital medium to embed content within a place to give people a better understanding of the place and to connect them to the people in it.
How did I arrive at this thesis topic? It began with a project idea and looking at historical and current developments on the topic. I took into consideration all of the things I was passionate about and then came to the realization that, throughout all of my work, I had always been working on or through these themes. This is enough of an impetus (when the thought of coming up with a thesis topic is upon you) to begin an investigation into these topics. It’s also a confusing time because there are millions of resources. I remember though that Joe Quackenbush said finding the thesis topic was about knowing what questions to ask. Fortunately at this stage, you are full of questions…and fortunately again there are plenty of people within the program to guide you—through discussions and critiques—to a more concise investigation. This is why the community of DMI is such an important aspect. The opportunity to have this sort of intellectual and conceptual stimulation is an important element in developing a thesis. And usually everyone around you sees what you have been doing and talking about before you even realize that the topic was there staring you in the face the entire time.
Andrew Ellis (MFA 2011)
I have just completed my first year of the three-year program at the DMI, the second semester of which was dedicated to my thesis development. My research has become focused on exploring the metaphor of DJ as learner. DJs become students of music by unbundling and rebundling musical content, and I am exploring whether learning works in a similar way. So far, my research has been an amazing amalgam of contemporary education theory, cognition and learning research, the study of gaming and collective experiences, and an attempt to keep up with the continuous stream of new DJ products and interfaces. My own design work is part of this research as well – I have worked on paper prototypes and interface concepts for collaborative visual research tools, and built a collaborative space-based DJ experience. Through it all thus far, I’ve learned a great deal about connection-making, mixing, creation of context, and extrapolation of knowledge, in the hopes of understanding whether this metaphor can provide insight into designing better learning experiences.
Zachary Kaiser (MFA 2013)