Rise in Visual Literacy Across Campus

By Billie Kanfer '16, Features EditorScreen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.57.19 PM

Skidmore College has seen an increase in the study of media at Skidmore in media studies within the last year. From the media and film studies minor, to Project VIS, and the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS), Skidmore has broadened its scope of what they include in academic and extracurricular studies. Recently, Library room 113 has become devoted to  Visual Literacy, housing both the Visual Literacy Forum and the MDOCS studies program. Led by Professor Jordana Dym, Interim Director, the newly inaugurated program is in full swing as many classes have been and will continue to be offered. After two years of faculty and staff meeting to discuss adding documentary programming as a Skidmore resource, it was made possible by donor Jim Towne, who is related to Skidmore's second President, Henry T. Moore (1925-1957) and John B. Moore, after whom the MDOCS program is named. Towne hoped that students would use practical skills and local history to become proficient documentarians.

Professor Dym says that MDOCS originated from a culmination of ideas drawn fromvarious humanities and social sciences departments. Faculty and staff were separately talking about the concept of documenting history and finally, through the accessibility of this donation, were able to make documentary studies come to life.

When speaking to Professor Dym, I asked her why this program will not be offered as a major or minor. She answered that, “its purpose is to serve everyone’s students. Everyone can tell their own story, no matter what department they claim to be their major/minor.” This reflects the mission of MDOCS: “presenting the stories of the human experience in documentary media and technologies” where anyone can participate and the studies are not limited to a particular subject matter.

Students are encouraged to take these doc studies classes and even research alongside faculty to pursue these methods of documenting. There are currently several projects in the making, including documenting the 60th Anniversary of the Saratoga Springs Senior center, an exhibit created by Skidmore history students that is going to be displayed at the Saratoga Springs History Museum. Also in the making is an oral history of retired Skidmore faculty and staff. These projects are all-inclusive and strive to engage the student body. On the MDOCS website, one can find other students who have immersed themselves in this new program and are pursuing their own documentary studies.

MDOCS is part of an overarching theme at Skidmore—a theme of Visual Literacy. Professor Dym says that these initiatives make us “better at living in a visual world.” Between these new programs being offered, it is apparent that Skidmore is striving to cater towards a much more contemporary world, while continuing the storytelling aspect of our history though MDOCS. “We want to encourage evidence-based storytelling creatively, compellingly, and clearly” concludes Professor Dym as she asks that students partake in these new initiatives and take advantage of the various new courses.

Click here to find out more about MDOCS: http://www.skidmore.edu/mdocs and Project VIS http://www.skidmore.edu/project-vis/

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