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College News

Turning Music into Digital Media

02/28/2013


In 1993, Professor Jeremy Sarachan was singing to a different tune. He was the owner of Fantastic Records in Pittsford, a family business that he took over after his father retired.

According to Sarachan, the store was known for rock and indie music, as well as jazz, punk, and heavy metal. He had about six employees, and the store had a good rhythm of sales and customers. But by 2003, the store’s traffic wasn’t quite as busy. Sarachan closed the doors for good in 2004.

“Closing was due to a combination of the end of the music store era, due to illegal downloading, and other options like iTunes appearing in 2003,” he said.

The timing was right, because he was ready for a career change and predicted the rise of digital music. In 1997, Sarachan enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology and earned his master’s degree in Information Technology by 1999.

Sarachan had his first taste of teaching while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester as a teaching assistant. He says the experience stuck with him and he pursued his master’s not only to expand his knowledge of technology but also so he’d have an opportunity to teach as an adjunct. Two months after finishing his master’s degree, he was hired as an adjunct at Monroe Community College, and started at Fisher in 2002. He was hooked.

Sarachan is responsible for creating the College’s new Digital Cultures and Technologies major, which started in fall 2012.

“I always find my career switch ironic. The music store was certainly suffering due to the rise of digital technologies, and then that became the basis for my new career,” jokes Sarachan.

The major “embraces visual design (video, photography, data visualization), writing, and programming as equally crucial skills for creative media work, simultaneously embracing social media, information technology, the web, and locative media as venues for artistic expression, communication, and persuasion.”

Sarachan says because a large percentage of courses and opportunities were already in place, developing the major made good sense.

“Professors and students were thinking critically about media texts, while also engaging in production that includes coding, app building, video, and web design, along with others engaging in mathematic or network analysis,” said Sarachan. “Programs combining these areas were starting to appear at other colleges, but not typically at small liberal arts colleges like Fisher. It was an opportunity to offer something different for students who want a small college experience.”

There are 14 students majoring in Digital Cultures and Technologies, and 19 minors. Sarachan says he hopes to have 60 students involved in the major at any given time.

The major offers six tracks, including computer science, content creation, information technology, learning technologies, social media analytics, and special topics. Core courses cover web design, digital literacies, writing for new media, and more.

Alexis Zakala, a DCT and Computer Science major, said she met with Sarachan to talk about the new major, and he helped her make a connection between Computer Science and DCT. After immersing herself in the major for almost a full year, she said it links to so many different areas of study and has made her look at her studies, and opportunities, in a completely different way.

Zakala also said she thinks the new major was a good move for Fisher.

“Digital technology is so new and emerging, and is a huge part of our lives, especially as students,” she said. “It is starting with kids early in age, it has an impact on everyone. This truly keeps us up to speed and knowledgeable about the useful tools that are available to us.”

Find out more information about the program on the DCT website.


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