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Monday, September 27, 2021

Column: You’re Majoring in What?

401953_3535238053709_817574071_nEditor’s note: You’re Majoring in What? is a new Aggie column that features students of UC Davis’ lesser-known majors.

Tristan Leder is a third-year technocultural studies major.

What is technocultural studies (TCS)?
Technocultural studies sits at an interesting crossroads between media, art, humanities and, of course, technology. The major focuses on both the critical theory behind all of it, as well as the production side of things. Students are given the opportunity to make music, sound pieces, electronic art installations, documentaries, short films, 3D animations and many other forms of physical and digital art.

Why did you choose TCS as your major?
I came into Davis with extreme interests in Web 2.0 and social media. Specifically, what it was, how it did what it did, and how I could better understand it. Over the past three years, my interests have changed, focusing more on community-based media and independently-developed video games.

What jobs can you get with TCS? What do you plan to do?
To be quite honest, I could not tell you. Most TCS majors have aspirations of going into either the film, television or music industries, from what I have gathered. The program definitely prepares you for the creation of these various media, but it’s really hard to find a job in those fields. I’ve considered going on to grad school and potential professorships, but who knows. I’d like to make video games too. That’d be chill.

What has been your favorite TCS class that you have taken this far? Any you’d recommend?
So there are three kinds of kids in TCS: the kids who like to make things, the kids who like to write about the kids who make things, and the kids who like to do a little of both.

I’m a kid who likes to write about things, so you’ll have to take my response with a grain of salt. TCS courses are really split down the middle between production and critical studies.

TCS 155: Documentary Studies provides a very interesting view at the history of documentary and all of its styles. TCS 151: Topics in Virtuality, is a course that fluctuates topics depending on professor. When I took it, it was called Ghost in the Machine, and focused on the trippy things that happen when humans interface with machines and media. If I see the world through the camera lens of someone’s phone, what does that mean both philosophically and practically?

If anyone is interested in taking TCS I would highly recommend checking out TCS 1 or TCS 5. Intro to Technocultural Studies provides a good background on the off-beat topics you may encounter in your classes. Media Archaeology begins to get into the quirky historical and mechanical aspects of media that the upper division courses explore.

Who is your favorite professor in TCS?
I’m not exaggerating when I say they are literally all so cool. What other department can brag that one of their professors was a prominent journalist reporting on Central American political revolutions, while also being a major player in the experimental music scene? How about making a documentary about the politics of country music? The TCS department has such an interesting group of people teaching its courses that it’s really hard to say.

As I mentioned before, I’m more of a studies guy, and I like to study indie games. The courses that I have taken from Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli have really allowed me to pursue my interest from a theoretical perspective. She’s a super smart woman who knows a lot about a lot.

What have you learned as a TCS student?
I think TCS forces its students to become self-starters. Look at most humanities majors. Sure, you have this cool degree that you enjoyed getting, but what are you going to do with it? Compare that to a neurology, physiology and behavior, engineering, viticulture or animal science major. Sure, you may not want to go into that field, but at least you have a degree with some practicality. I’m not gonna get a job by telling someone about how they should apply the concept of diegesis to video games.

However, the coursework in TCS really teaches students how to self-start and teach themselves the skills that they feel relevant. The teachers give students instructions on how to do certain things, but past a certain point, the students are forced to take the reins and direct their own studies.

LILIANA NAVA OCHOA can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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