What Will the New HSE Faculty of Media Communications Be Like?
A new Faculty of Media Communications is being created at the HSE. Anna Kachkaeva, Dean of the Faculty, told us about its mission, courses, prospective students and graduates.
— Dr. Kachkaeva, when you presented the concept of the Faculty at the HSE Academic Council, you spoke about some international models of schools of communications, about new professions and about the fact that the traditional system of journalistic education doesn’t always keep pace with the development of the media industry in our country. Do you think the new Faculty of Media Communications will become one of the ‘bridges’ connecting theory and practice in this sphere?
— The problem is not only that it does not keep pace. The problem is that it does not reflect the breadth of reality. Journalism is like the classics – it existed, exists and will exist. It is not always necessary to destroy something in order to build something new. But the whole sphere of media production has changed greatly and will continue changing. It is increasingly becoming what is called the ‘economics of impressions’. For some people, the term ‘communications’ may seem too technical, but the reality is that today it includes the broader idea of production and distribution of various symbolic forms, from news to animation, from multimedia articles to ‘second life’ reality when the products invented for virtual life (in TV shows or video games) get a second life by entering real life, and vice versa.
Life brings software developers, communication specialists and human science researchers closer and closer. That’s why I believe it is time to bridge the gap between research, education and practice in the field of media. The Higher School of Economics has enough resources to create a successful interdisciplinary faculty of media communications. The university has a School of Business and Political Journalism, along a number of faculties and departments related either to cultural industries or to communication science, such as sociology, management, economics, political science and linguistics. At the junction of all those disciplines we are going to create our own interdisciplinary programme. And we are not the only ones who chosen this path: a similar idea is being implemented, for example, by the Saint Petersburg State University, where a Higher School of Journalism and Communications was founded in May.
— So, who will be trained at the faculty – journalists or technologists?
— Of course, we shall take into account the technological challenges during the students’ training: modern specialists should not merely understand the specifics of the work of digital media, but master some universal skills in audiovisual and Internet technology. This help us realize not only technological convergence (knowledge of languages of different media platforms), but convergence in a broader sense: when information and entertainment is understood not only as a tool for journalism and popular culture, but as a way of multimedia thinking.
This is also a requirement of employers who need not only traditional content managers, but, for example, producers of video materials for information screens or creative managers. A complex combination of professional skills, the ability to understand the needs of modern consumers and the desire for creative self-expression, when the line between consumer and media production is being blurred –those are the characteristics of the new social, economic and information environment.
Modernization in general is a socio-cultural process, related to a change in behavior and a person’s attitude to what he is doing and where it’s taking place. That’s why we think that in addition to the training of journalists, producers, film directors and script writers for media production and the art industry, we shall have to closely work with the networked society where new models of behavior, business, mutual aid, control and diplomacy are being formed. This is also the sphere of communications. Specialists who are able to interact with the civil society and non-professional information consumers, who are able to select, analyze and forecast the information, are also in high demand in this changing media environment.
— After the creation of the new faculty, how will the admission policy for the HSE’s undergraduate and master’s programmes change?
— In the forthcoming academic year the undergraduate enrolment will still be in the School of Business and Political Journalism, which was incorporated into our faculty. 40 state funded places have been assigned there. In terms of master’s courses, in addition to the programme in Media Management, a new programme in Multimedia Journalism has been introduced, which is being implemented together with the largest European media agency, RIA Novosti. Generally, it is very important that each master’s programme is connected to an industrial platform which will train and introduce a student to modern practices. Any university alone, no matter how good it is, cannot keep up with such rapid changes in information and technological processes.
— In your view, what faculty structure will be optimal in the future?
— We shall move towards the launch of new areas, related both to media production and to what is called ‘new media’. Two departments with matching titles will be created for work in these areas. The School of Business and Political Journalism will eventually also be transformed into a Department of Journalism. Within the framework of these departments, it is possible to more flexibly manage the research and creation process, to create more project laboratories with student participation.
— What are the competitive advantages of the HSE Faculty of Media Communications? Why should aspiring journalists and media technologists apply to your faculty rather than to traditional faculties of journalism?
— We give the students an opportunity to work in one of the industries which are among the most powerful in terms of creative potential and business development. I believe that every year we shall enroll students who have more and more experience of work with audiovisual content, and our task will change somewhat. We shall explain to them how information forms new network and political institutions, how physical and virtual spaces interact, how the individual responsibility of a media industry worker is growing, what is information ecology, and, finally, how dramaturgy, plotting and composition help master the language of different information environments and media platforms.
The ability to press the correct buttons does not eliminate the necessity to read, think and be responsible. Undergraduate students should have a normal human scientific basis (the humanitarian mission of communication can only increase), and a knowledge of history, sociology and linguistics are essential. And that knowledge should not be limited to remembering dates and names, it should help students understand the processes, the philosophy of history, literature and culture, and connect them with the modern.
In the master’s programme we shall be guided by the fact that modern media production is impossible without a knowledge of economics and management. We shall offer our master’s students a whole range of disciplines related to creative process management, organization of work of editorial offices and other productions, including multimedia. The educational trajectory at the Faculty will be full: undergraduate, master’s programme, in future – aspirantura, plus continuing professional education at the HSE Higher School of Journalism.
— Will there be a lot of demand for graduates who see their future not in social media or infotainment, but in ‘classic’ business and political journalism?
— Business and political journalism, as well as other topical spheres of journalism, will not vanish. The people working in such areas are part of the classic framework of quality topical journalism. Topical specialization will be supplemented by workshops by prominent and successful practicing journalists. I think that in this way it will be easier for a student to understand what he wants to choose - more focus on multimedia (technology), more on industrial journalism or more understanding of the processes of media production and production in related industries (cinema, documentary theatre, design, media art, advertising).
— Are your future graduates ‘doomed’ to work for the Internet, or are rumours of the death of Television greatly exaggerated?
— Neither radio nor television will disappear. Multimedia and internet are not a panacea, this is just a new tool and new channels of communication, which will dictate a new business model, work with a new type of consumer who is becoming more fastidious and wants to express himself. But ‘couch potatoes’ for the next 10-15 years will dominate even in the countries where mobile and information technologies are more developed than in our country. I would not put the open network community above all else: it implies no less danger, challenges and contradictions, and they are yet to be fully understood. This is a difficult process, which will change modern communication science and the future concept of the media sphere.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service