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Master of Arts in Fine Art and Design

Media Design: lens based

Two-year master in English, starts in September

The Media Design programme, part of the Master of Arts in Fine Art and Design, is an intensive project-based research degree that will equip you to create a distinctive voice as an artist/designer in the contemporary media landscape.

Our programme encourages students to explore the new possibilities released by the friction between media forms, critically working across the historical gaps between photography, cinema, animation, mobile media, information systems and technological networks. This course does not believe in old media and new media, nor in the pattern of media extinctions that punctuate traditional media histories: we believe in the cross fertilisation of a thriving media ecology.

Digital media can be thought of as a field in which radically different materialities of software, interface and human behaviour are being brought together for the first time. This is often experienced as tensions between computer code and the images that this code generates but does not explain; a tension between abstract symbols and concrete models, between concept and sensation. This course does not try to resolve these tensions but uses them to stimulate new ways to think about how we might live with information today.

The course is taught by staff with international reputations in their respective fields: course Leader Simon Pummell is a BAFTA winning filmmaker currently completing his fourth feature film; MIT Media Lab graduate Michael Murtaugh is a pioneer of the online video "active archives" project  which he presented at Documenta 13;  Aymeric Mansoux is a multi-awarded artist and media researcher;  Steve Rushton is a curator, writer and editor for a range of projects with artists such as Rod Dickinson and Thomson & Craighead; Annet Dekker is an independent curator/ researcher; Barend Onneweer runs the film VFX company R3MWERK, Timo Klok runs the webdesign bureau RestructWeb.

Please see a full profile of all our core tutors.

In addition to the staff tutors, we invite a wide range of international practitioners and theorists as guest lecturers and tutors. Previous guests have included Femke Snelting, the international media artists Thomson & Craighead and Cannes Palm d'Or winning producer Keith Griffiths.

View the full programme

Facts and figures

The programme at a glance

Programme structure

A view of the study programme

Lens-Based Media

The Lens-Based Media study route focuses on approaching animation, photography, and the full range of contemporary cinematic forms as a single expanded field. 

We provide a learning environment that recognises the convergence of previously distinct analogue imaging media into a single digital workflow.  We support new forms of analysis and creative practice that treat images as plastic, open to recombination, manipulation and shaping.  We will support you in exploring the ways that the images you create might use these new potentials in innovative ways to engage contemporary audiences.

You will be encouraged to develop fluency across the whole range of lens-based media, to create a strong individual visual language and an original subjective vision, and to employ your developing fluency and skills to create ambitious and distinctive new approaches to both cinema and photography.

We seek students who recognise that the future of lens-based images lies in the proliferation of new forms, working methods and delivery platforms: new forms of cinematic narrative, inter-active visual media, photographic and cinematic gallery installation, cross-media narrative, database film technologies, site-specific projection projects, and many more hybrid forms that loop together both digital and analogue techniques.

If you wish to develop a critical and creative practice within the expanding field of lens-based media, this Masters programme will be a stimulating environment for your research and studio practice.


The programme consists of three elements:

  1. Thematic Projects, running one trimester (12 weeks), typically supervised by international guest teachers (who can be artists, designers, media theorists or activists) and addressing one particular subject or issue of contemporary media. Their goal is to realise practical work, but they always include a theory syllabus and address cultural issues in relation to information society and culture. Thematic Projects have had such subjects as: What is 'hosting', online and socially? What are Open Media? What is a book, whether analog or digital? Can urban planning be compared to computer programming and can this be mapped in the streets? What is privacy in the age of "Web 2.0"? How can you realise media designs by soldering electronic hardware?
  2. Technical Course, a from-scratch introduction into media programming that teaches you to create your media and think up solutions that do not come out of the box or off the shelf. It focuses on web technologies including HTML, CSS, Python, MySQL, Javascript and PHP. The Technical Course often explains general computer science concepts, such as finite state machines and recursion, and then teaches you how to express them in a programming language (Python, but sometimes also Javascript and PHP) and create interesting hacks and works with it. You get individual guidance and tutorials based on your own work projects. The technical course is meant for students with and without previous knowledge of computer programming.
  3. Theory Session, a weekly seminar on cultural theory related to media, covering not only media theory in the narrow sense, but also aesthetics, philosophy, history of art, design, music and literature, politics. Consider it a general forum of reflection of the larger issues we deal with during media work. The subjects and readings are linked to the thematic projects. A thematic project on hosting, for example, has been accompanied by introductions into ethnography and cultural anthropology, while a thematic project on Open Media has been accompanied with both media and political theories that reflect "openness" in often critical ways.

In addition, there are:

  • group critiques, where students present and discuss their current work
  • excursions to exhibitions, conferences or media/arts spaces
  • a great number of guest presentations and tutorials every trimester
  • and last not least two days every week for individual tutorial appointments with staffers.

The three aspects of the programme and curriculum - artistic design practice, study of technology and cultural theory - are closely intertwined. To give a simple example: a media player which you can fill with music, but not download from, manifests a technological issue that is also a cultural and political issue (of media "producers" vs. "consumers", copyright and intellectual property) and has implications for artistic work.

Experimental publishing

From app stores to art book fairs and zine shops, from darknets to sneakernets, from fansubs to on-demand services, and from tweeting to whistleblowing, the act of making things public, that is to say publishing, has became pivotal in an age infused with myriad media technologies.

The tension between the publishing heritage and novel forms of producing and sharing information has shown that old dichotomies such as analogue versus digital, or local versus global, have grown increasingly irrelevant given their bond with hybrid media practices based on both old and new technologies, and their existence within mixed human and machine networks.  This is why by publishing we mean to engage with a broad set of intermingled and collaborative practices, both inherited and to be invented, so as to critically explore and actively engage with an ecosystem in which multi-layered interactions occur that are:

  • social, technical, cultural and political;
  • involving actors both human and algorithmic;
  • and mediated by networks of distribution and communication of varying scales and visibility.

For this journey, we seek students motivated to challenge the protocols of publishing (in all its (im)possible forms) using play, fiction, and ambiguity as methods and strategies of production and presentation, in order to experiment on the threshold of what is possible, desirable, allowed, or disruptive, in this ever expanding field.

Public events

In addition to our curriculum, taught by our core faculty and invited project leaders, we organise an ongoing public event series based on issues related to the curriculum, but reaching beyond the framework of the seminars. The public events are an important resource for students, tutors and guests, serving as bridge to the city and building a community around areas of interests.

Research opportunities

The Master courses in Media Design & Communication are affiliated to the international research programme Communication in a Digital Age at the Piet Zwart Institute.

This project investigates the future of communication design in relation to the most current technological and social developments of media and communication. As a master student, you can attend all its conferences, lectures and workshops, have visiting research fellows as personal tutors, and contribute your own projects to its published research.

Research in the Lens-Based programme is in association with the research programme (lectoraat) Communication in a Digital Age of the Piet Zwart Institute. Current research in the programme focusses on the development of practice-led research projects.

These research projects may take several forms:

  • commissioned projects in partnership with other media institutions
  • studio based practice-led research on agreed topics with multiple outcomes
  • critical essays and articles

After your study programme

Different possibilities

After your graduation

Congratulations! You just received your Master of Arts (MA) degree.

With your degree, you will receive a supplement, a DS-label. With this English document, you can show the value of your degree abroad when applying for other study programmes or when applying for a job.


Where you can find us
Foto van locatie Location

Piet Zwart Institute

Karel Doormanhof 45 3012 GC Rotterdam

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