Shaping Stories for the Digital Society
Our society is intertwined with the digital ─ especially in the storytelling, production techniques, and formats we use to tell stories. In the Master’s Programme Digital Narratives, media and culture creators gain the necessary theoretical and practical tools to critically engage and experiment with digital media, with a special focus on immersive technologies. A research-creation approach supports them in developing a professional career in a field characterised by ongoing transformations due to rapid technological developments.
The programme’s goal is the training of creative storytellers who master the narrative formats and production techniques of new digital media and experiment with them to develop innovative media formats. The programme combines academic and practical work and teaches students to question the affordances and limitations of digital technologies while engaging with current social issues and developing their own artistic and academic practices.
- Conceptualisation, dramaturgy, design, and production of digital narrative projects (e.g. XR, web series, AI-powered experiences, apps, locative media, interactive graphic novels, immersive installations ─ to name a few)
- Immersive technologies
- Creative development and agile production structures and methods
- Experimenting and iterating as a way of learning
- Theoretical debates and critical discourses in media studies and cultural studies
- Critical analysis around the ethical, economic, social equity, gender and diversity, and ecological ramifications of digitisation
- Social debates and responsibilities of creators
During the programme and as part of their MA thesis, students develop a master’s project with an allocated budget.
The Master’s Programme also prepares students for a practice- or art-oriented doctoral studies programme.
The MA Digital Narratives supports young creatives to develop their own artistic, practical, and theoretical skills, as well as their artistic position within digital culture in a collaborative and international environment. It is a space for learning to experiment, thinking and producing digital narratives.
The central elements of the MA Digital Narratives curriculum are:
Critical analysis and research of media ecosystems ─ as spaces where debates around gender, diversity, social justice, ecology, and colonial histories are at play ─ and the new possibilities digital technologies afford to rethink these structures. Investigation of the social responsibility in the arts and media in digital societies.
Research and development of immersive narratives based on emerging technologies and audience engagement strategies in digital media.
Study and Practice of Creative Methods
Analysis and training in creative and agile methods for ideation, development, prototyping, and production of artistic projects. Work in creative businesses and in interdisciplinary and collaborative work environments.
Project Conceptualisation and Development
Throughout the programme, students conceptualise, design, and develop a digital narrative project. During the first three semesters, they focus on concept ideation, development and prototyping of their ideas.
Combined Master’s Project and Master’s Thesis
In the 4th Semester, their project becomes part of their Master’s thesis, with the students distributing the project and written thesis in an 80%-20% ratio or vice versa. Their work is supervised and guided by professors, tutors, and the Digital Narratives and Production departments.
To complete their Master’s projects, students have access to the technical equipment of the ifs, support from the Production Department, and allocated financial support of max. €4,000 per student.
From the start of their studies, MA Digital Narratives students expand their professional networks by meeting creatives and professionals as guest lecturers, during in-house and partner institutions events, and when pitching their semester and Master’s projects.
The teaching staff (professors and lecturers) enjoys professional relationships with public institutions such as Film und Medien Stiftung NRW, the National Film Board of Canada, Medieninnovationszentrum Babelsberg; non-profits/foundations such as Interactive Media Foundation, Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Natural History Museum Berlin; private entities such as Upian, Storytellers United, Invisible Room, among others. For more details, please visit the Digital Narratives lecturers’ profile page.
Excursions and Partnerships
Excursions to internationally relevant conferences and festivals, such as Re:publica, Transmediale, or ZipScene Conference, are an integral part of the curriculum, where students can expand their professional network and come into contact with the latest discourses of the industry and academia.
Since 2021, the programme has sought strategic partners for the Production Exercises in Semesters 1 and 2 to create a client briefing that guides the student’s semester projects and builds their portfolio based on real case studies. Projects are presented to the partners and receive feedback from them.
Previous partners for the Production Exercise have been Mediasphere for Nature, the innovation lab from the Naturkunde Museum Berlin, Freies Werkstatt Theater Köln, and 1:1 CONCERTS.
It is also possible for students to visit cross-institutional events and create partnerships for research and project work to expand their networks.
The MA Digital Narratives is looking for applicants who seek to become professionals who are active both in practical and theoretical thinking around media and emerging digital technologies and narratives.
Each cycle, we bring together a group of diverse early and mid-career professionals who are interested in:
- Experimenting and iterating as a way of learning
- The critical analysis of the societal changes brought on by digital technologies.
- Diving into discussions around the ethical, economic, social equity, gender and diversity, and ecological ramifications of digitalisation
- Developing narratives for different emerging media formats
- Producing engaging digital narrative media projects
- Working with agile development and production structures and methods
- Being part of a growing network of creators and artists who are critically engaging with the narratives and technology that is defining today’s digital society
Applicants must have a BA or an equivalent higher degree, and at least one year of specialised work experience or similar professional project experience. In justified exceptional cases, applicants with exceptional artistic talent who lack one or more of these formal requirements may apply to participate in the programme as professional training participants.
We welcome applications from people with various backgrounds, including, but not limited to:
- Software/video game/web development
- Communication studies
- Theatre and performing arts
- Media and Cultural Studies
- Social Sciences and Humanities
People from other subject areas are also welcome to apply and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Graduates expand their careers in the creative industry, academia, or a combination of both.
If they choose to pursue a doctoral degree after the programme, they are well suited to do so in areas such as media and art studies, cultural studies, game studies, narratology, and digital culture, and are qualified to do so from a research-creation or artistic research approach.
Additionally, graduates pursue the development of their own digital narrative projects in a variety of narrative formats and platforms including XR, VR, AR, interactive web series, games, innovative journalism, interactive and digital documentaries, immersive and non-linear narrative formats and story worlds.
Our graduates are creators who understand the evolving language of digital media, actively shape the industry and participate in discussions around digitality. They are involved in projects with strong social and ethical ethos behind them. They may work in leading creative and artistic positions.
Possible professional fields for graduates of the MA Digital Narratives programme are:
- Creative director/creative producer
- Storyworld designer/story editor/content designer/narrative designer
- UX designer
- Media artist
- Media researcher/doctoral student
- Curator/media critic
- Documentary-maker and/or journalist with a focus on digital narrative formats
The media location North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the most innovative and economically potent metropolitan regions in Europe.
The city of Cologne not only has a 2000-year history, but has long since established itself as one of the most vibrant media hotspots in Germany. One third of Germany's television programmes are produced in Cologne. Major TV and radio stations, numerous renowned film, TV and web production companies, studios, publishing houses and creative agencies are based in the city and attract an innovative and artistic audience. In addition, a large and growing number of exciting international productions are being made in Cologne and NRW.
The ifs is located in the creative and media quarter Schanzenstraße in Cologne-Mülheim - in close proximity to TV production companies, studios, publishing houses, a radio station and the Schauspiel Köln theatre.
The 4-semester full-time Master's Programme is modularised and is composed of:
As part of developing their Master's project, students go through four project phases during the programme, each with a different focus in terms of content and methodologies, and which build on each other in terms of complexity. In these, students ideate on their core concepts for the project, develop with agile methodologies, and produce a Core Experience Prototype for their Master's project.
DIGITALITY AND CHANGE MODULES
The modules "Digitality and Change" engage students with the (media) theoretical and aesthetic foundations of digital narratives and critically engage with the social and political implications of digital society.
The modules "Narratives" deal with dramaturgy, storytelling, and worldbuilding as the narrative foundations of immersive and interactive digital narratives.
In these modules, students gain know-how on creative and technological skills and tools to be able to experiment and practice with different mediums, particularly XR technologies. They will be able to communicate and/or lead technical teams in the execution and placement of projects in the marketplace.
Semester 1 + 2
- Critical analysis of current media theory discussions
- Theories, practices and research of digital, interactive and transmedia narratives and worldbuilding
- Prototyping, creative ideation methods and agile production methods for working in interdisciplinary teams
- Research and ideation for their Master’s projects, as well as first prototypes and design documents
- Critical engagement with current socially and politically relevant themes in digital culture
- Practice and research on immersive narratives and XR development.
- Expand academic writing skills and knowledge on digital narrative theories, with a special focus on immersion, impact and the ethics in storytelling
- Finalisation of Master’s project concepts, development of further prototypes, and preparation for production
- Production of Master’s project
- Writing of Master’s thesis
- Preparation for professional life (see details below)
- Final Project Presentation
Production Exercises (Semester 1 +2 )
Throughout Semester 1-2 students participate in guided production exercises for defined and closed themes, including work for partner institutions as “clients”; during semesters 1-3 they also create smaller interactive and immersive digital narrative projects during seminars such as “Human Machine Interface” and “Creative Technologies and Tools”.
Preparation for professional life (Semester 3 + 4)
In the second year of study, the programme also offers classes to facilitate the student’s incursion into the professional world, addressing topics such as:
- Business modelling
- Project financing
- Project marketing
- Practical aspects of intellectual property law
- Coaching and mentoring for student’s projects and their professional life after their studies
The Master's Programme Digital Narratives is a four-semester full-time Master's Programme with 120 ECTS. Most classes take place on-site and students are expected to be in Cologne during the lecture periods. The language of instruction is English.
LECTURE TIMES PER SEMESTER:
1st semester: 12 weeks
2nd semester: 12 weeks
3rd semester: 12 weeks
4th semester: 4 weeks
Lecture periods are divided into attendance time and self-study time.
After successful completion of the Master's examination, students are awarded the academic degree "Master of Arts" (M. A.).
Each module is completed with one or more examinations. These may be term papers, oral examinations, presentations, documentation, or work samples.
At the end of the programme, the Master's thesis and a final work sample (Master's project) are prepared and supplemented by an oral examination (colloquium).
The work sample is an individually or collaboratively created prototype of a digital narrative. The Master's thesis flanks the Master's project and reflects on the project from a (media) theoretical perspective.
In the colloquium, aspects of the project work and the theses of the Master’s thesis are discussed in the form of a professional discussion.
The tuition fees for the MA Digital Narratives are 2.750 euros for EU students and 3.750 euros for non-EU students per semester. This includes a 250 euro contribution to the ifs support association.
The ifs is a cooperation partner of the TH Köln and all ifs students are enrolled at the TH Köln and can use the TH's service offers, such as the semester ticket for public transport, access to the TH's International Office or to the sports courses and facilities.
The module handbook provides in-depth information on the curriculum.
The examination regulations provide a structural overview of the individual modules in the Master's degree programme.