students lined up across a bridge, surrounded by trees, smiling and looking at the camera

A Justice-Focused Major

Commitments to justice, access, equity, diversity, and inclusion

The University of California at Santa Cruz has long celebrated the radical possibility that public education and the pursuit of justice are intertwined. Our campus history is a history of “questioning authority”, challenging systemic injustice, and up-ending higher learning’s often exclusionary traditions. But in reality—as many students are already aware—there are tremendous gulfs that separate our institution from that founding vision. Students across the UC System face looming barriers: competing responsibilities to family and work, narrow curricular choices in some degree pathways, high costs of living leading to housing and food insecurity, and challenges to accessibility, equity, and inclusion that sometimes seem built-in to higher education.

Creative Technologies is the vision of leaders at UC Santa Cruz—both faculty and staff—who strive to broaden access, and envisage UC Santa Cruz as a truly accessible and public university. For us, that begins with conscious and activist community-building in a robust, practical, and student-driven online- and hybrid-modality degree program. Our online courses aren’t just traditional courses adapted to remote-learning needs. Our faculty are committed to imaginative and cutting-edge online teaching and learning that empowers all students with resources to fight injustice, and to strengthen their learning with often unexpected and rich forms of connection. We believe that online education can expand students’ ability to navigate the research university: better comprehending the breadth of support that UCSC provides for a wide range of individual paths and circumstances, building a network of support to help you meet real-world challenges with resilience and conviction, and achieving academic success in a path that is shaped by your highest ambitions.

Creative Technology courses differ widely, but they unite around deeply shared justice-oriented goals in the study of arts and technology. These goals might be summarized as an intersection of literacy and ethics. Literacy — your ability to read, converse, and express yourself effectively  in contemporary media — enables you to make your mark in contemporary media, and understand the complex tools, and media channels, that affect power and representation in society. CT courses cultivate your experience recognizing signifiers as part of a system in which power is wielded, withheld, distributed, or shared. Ethics means comprehending our own responsibility within our media world—and what is at stake in its expressions and meanings. If artists and audiences can shape the social spaces in which we create and communicate, we must explore our accountability to give voice and agency to those who inhabit those spaces. When we understand that literacy and ethics are inextricable, we learn to take leadership in democracy, and understand complex tools that affect power and representation in society. 

To make that learning come alive, we must match the justice-focused vision of that curriculum with a profound commitment to just and equitable teaching and learning environments. Creative Technology faculty collaborate with the UC Santa Cruz Teaching and Learning Center to ensure Course design for accessibility, Anti-racist teaching, and Equity-minded teaching: engaging research-driven tools and techniques to nurture opportunity, resilience, and success in the face of obstacles that disproportionately affect Black students, indigenous students, students of color, students with disabilities and health challenges, veterans, parenting students, non-traditionally aged students, and non-male and non-binary or transgendered students. 

Justice, Access, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are not supplemental efforts in Creative Technologies—they are at the core of what we strive to teach and learn, every day. And we want you to hold us accountable. What do you see happening in your community? What obstructs your path, or your view, to your best work, and to your pursuit of living and learning? Which teachers, staff, and students, are doing great work to cultivate our community, and how can we do more of what they do? Your constructive and open-ended conversations with teachers, administrative staff, and classmates are crucial to our process. And when something isn’t working, we want you to tell us: come to the Office Hours of our Program Manager, Emily Spitz, or our Director, Ben Leeds Carson, with your questions, concerns, and ideas. And when you aren’t sure how to make your situation known, consult these resources—there are many paths on this campus, toward the right knowledge, and collaboration, to make this institution a better place for your learning.

More about the justice vision of our curriculum

Three kinds of courses build our more detailed approach to this education. Literacy comes to the foreground in first-year courses like CT 11: Digital Media Perspectives, an introduction to media and design as sites of social power; and—in more advanced study—through CT 101: Persuasion and Resistance: Power in Contemporary Digital Media. How do algorithms—in search engines, in games, in entertainment, and consumer systems—entrench racism, patriarchy, settler-colonialism, and the opaque consolidation of wealth into the hands of the few? How do news media and social media cultivate, or obstruct, our ability to make our own communities?

First-year courses like CT 10: Understanding Digital Design—a course in design theory and practice (with a focus on digital image and sound), ask how differently abled and differently empowered readers, viewers, listeners are invited to participate in the media we create. CT 20 and 120—our Creative Coding courses teach programming not only as a vehicle for creative expression, but as a tool to create truly accessible and transparent media. In the second year, elective courses in immersive reality, computers as sensors for interaction design, build on that foundation to give you the power not only to create within the world’s existing media environments, but to recreate them—replacing opaque and unjust structures with environments that empower their users to see society, power, and representation, holistically and transparently.A third kind of course—our courses in Production and Collaboration practices—knit the concepts of literacy and ethics together. In first-year courses like CT 85: Digital Platforms: Observations and Practices – you will learn the practical but often invisible functions of the web- and digital media: what are digital archives? How are digital images populated into searches? How does the structure of information and information transfer on the web make a difference to how we view the world? And how can we as artists make an impact on those worlds? CT 125: Creative Thinking, Production, and Application allows you to roll-up your sleeves even further, offering practical tools for arts activism, for grant-writing and fund-raising—working with other artists on story, intellectual property, work-scope, and presentation design, on how to clear bureaucratic hurdles, and even how best to manage your time.

Explore our program

Explore the Creative Technologies curriculum.

Discover Creative Technologies faculty and their work.

Last modified: Jun 13, 2024