The ATLAS Institute
The Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) at the University of Colorado at Boulder was established in 1997 as a campus-wide interdisciplinary initiative. ATLAS broadens the benefits of the networked information age by providing multidisciplinary curricular, research and outreach programs that integrate information and communication technology (ICT) with a wide variety of disciplines and people, both inside and outside the university. ATLAS also functions as an entrepreneurial catalyst at the intersections of all campus academic disciplines and ICT and as a campus and community resource in the area of educational technology. From humble beginnings, ATLAS has grown in reach and scope over the last decade. Today, ATLAS programs include a Technology, Media and Society Ph.D.; a Technology, Arts and Media undergraduate certificate; a Collaborative Arts, Media & Performance program; and outreach partnerships with K-12 schools. Two new graduate programs, in Information and Communication Technology for Development; and in Arts, Media and Entrepreneurship, are in development. ATLAS is also home to the headquarters of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, which works nationally to increase the representation of women in all aspects of information technology.
Innovation, service and leadership in the networked information age
The ATLAS Institute creates and facilitates innovative interdisciplinary research, educational, creative and outreach programs in which information and communication technology is an enabling force. ATLAS brings together students, educators, artists, writers, scholars and leaders from the academy, industry, non-profits and government to create an interdisciplinary environment that responds to the profound changes brought about by information and communication technology. ATLAS is distinguished by its efforts to establish collaborative multidisciplinary partnerships and programs, by its efforts to prepare, attract and recruit a highly-qualified and diverse student population, and by its efforts to help prepare these students for lives and leadership careers in the networked information age.
Undergraduate Certificate in Technology, Arts & Media (TAM)
The TAM undergraduate program is a seven-course sequence that develops both a theoretical and practical understanding of how information and communication technology, digital media and art intersect. The program provides a flexible structure for students to question and analyze the convergence of technology, arts and media across disciplines. The program, open to students from every school and department on campus, enables students to develop the practical and critical thinking skills required for effective participation in the networked information age.
The TAM program encourages humanities students to explore the potential for information and communication technology to revolutionize their fields of study. TAM allows design students to explore how such subjects as narrativity, cognitive sciences, communicative theory and computer science can shape and inform their discipline. For science and engineering students, the TAM program provides the opportunity to mix technical knowledge with creative perspectives from the arts and humanities. All students examine the ethical implications and social impacts of information technology. Through its project courses, the TAM program also emphasizes multidisciplinary collaboration, communication and teamwork. In sum, the TAM certificate encourages all students to discover new technological possibilities as well as artistic and informational media and to appreciate the social and historical implications of those media.
TAM Students can elect to follow the Multidisciplinary Applied Technologies (MAT) track within the TAM program. The MAT track includes elective courses that focus more on applied technology instead than digital media production and theory. More information about the TAM program can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/atlas/education/tam/overview.html.
Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program
The ATLAS interdisciplinary Ph.D. program was developed in response to the profound impact of the convergence of information and communication technology that has created what is called the "networked information age." This convergence is already is having a fundamental set of impacts on our nation and world:
• It is changing the nature of governmental and political control of societies by making it increasingly possible for people in all parts of the world to have access to a wide spectrum of communications and information.
• It is having profound impacts on national and global security, and on the privacy of individuals.
• It is redefining the media and entertainment industries in terms of content and delivery, and having a significant impact on literature and the arts.
• It is changing the nature and patterns of human interaction at the family level and beyond.
• It is impacting attention spans and learning modes, fundamentally affecting the design and delivery of education.
The ATLAS interdisciplinary Ph.D. program facilitates truly interdisciplinary coursework and research. The common thread of this research is that information and communication technology is the enabling force. Students admitted to the program are self-directed, highly motivated students who enter the program having demonstrated high achievement and a strong understanding of the interdisciplinary education and research that they wish to pursue. Examples of the areas in which students may seek to study and conduct research include ICT4D, crisis informatics, the use of ICT to enhance learning, business and economic models for the digital economy, globalization and the networked information age, how ICT influences journalism and newsgathering, aspects of gender in the context of women and video/computer gaming culture, and the relationship between children and video art and media.
Each Ph.D. degree plan is structured to include a unique mix of foundational courses in technology, social sciences and digital media. In addition, each student is required to take at least one qualitative and one quantitative methods course. Each student is required to take the ATLAS Ph.D. Seminar. The Fall 2007 Seminar focused on the Mobile Society and included discussions on how ICT is changing our daily lives, investment of venture capital in mobile technology and consideration of spectrum allocation and policy issues, including the use of metaphor in explaining spectrum. The Spring 2008 Ph.D. Seminar focused on Information and Communications Technology for Development. The course Wiki can be found at http://drachma.colorado.edu/atlas-seminar-wiki/index.php/Main_Page. More information about the Ph.D. program can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/atlas/education/phd/overview.html.
Center for Arts, Media & Performance
The ATLAS Center for Arts, Media & Performance synergizes artists, technology and society through the use of the center's state-of-the-art multi-dimensional tools and spaces for performance, production, recording and broadcast. Interdisciplinary students, faculty and artists explore questions requiring more than one discipline to investigate and present their work through live and digital spaces. Hands-on experience moves participants through an experimental environment and beyond the classroom to benefit from and join real-world experiences. The Center for Arts, Media & Performance is a place of perpetual motion, allowing participants to risk, proclaim, introduce, surprise, develop, mesmerize and, most importantly, create. More information about the Center for Arts, Media & Performance can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/atlas/education/camp/overview.html.
Assessment & Research Center
The ATLAS Assessment & Research Center is at the forefront nationally of researching technology pipeline issues, gender and information technology issues, and the effectiveness of technology curricula at all educational levels. The Center supports the development and implementation of education technologies and conducts research and assessment to increase the participation of women and minorities in professional information technology careers.
Examples of the Center's projects include:
• A National Science Foundation (NSF) grant partnering with the Denver Public School's Computer Magnet Program to help understand how to increase the number of women in technology professions.
• Assessing student outcomes for SENCER, an NSF-sponsored program using civic engagement to increase the interest and learning in undergraduate science at over 300 U.S. universities.
• Evaluation of using teleconferencing as well as Web-based mathematics modules between classes at CU-Boulder and Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
•Assessing the value of the Digital Library for Earth Systems Education for educators.
National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), a national non-profit organization headquartered within ATLAS, was created to ensure that women are fully represented in the influential world of information technology and computing. The center's mission encompasses K-12, higher education, the workforce and entrepreneurship and includes a broad national coalition of partners from all these sectors. The mission of the National Center for Women & Information Technology is to ensure that women are fully represented in the influential world of information technology and computing.
NCWIT's overarching goal is parity in the professional information technology (IT) workforce, and our fundamental strategy is to educate, disseminate and advocate a national, multi-year implementation plan that generates tangible progress within 20 years.
More information about NCWIT can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/atlas/centers/ncwit/.
Programs in Development
Master of Science in Information and Communication Technology for Development
The ATLAS MS in Information and Communication Technology for Development (MS-ICT4D) will prepare students for careers in the use of ICT to advance people in developing communities. Although ICT4D is emerging as a formal discipline at several of universities internationally, only a few ICT4D-related initiatives exist in the United States. These initiatives consist primarily of courses and faculty research collaborations. There is at present no other graduate degree specific to ICT4D offered in the nation.
The MS-ICT4D program seeks to train individuals who can help bridge the gap between the advantages of the networked information society, and those with the greatest potential to benefit if issues of access, social equity, sustainability and appropriate design and distribution are addressed. Graduates of the program will work at government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and at multinational corporations seeking to enter emerging markets. Some graduates may elect to pursue further graduate study, in the ATLAS PhD program or elsewhere.
As a unique and highly innovative program, the ATLAS MS-ICT4D program will attract the best and brightest people who want to work in this space. ATLAS is uniquely positioned to build a strong professional and academic community between highly-qualified MS-ICT4D students and the founding corporate sponsors. The relationships and networks thus created will provide an important professional, research and employment networking opportunity for participating companies.
Students in the ATLAS MS-ICT4D program will be required to successfully complete 10 approved graduate courses, plus a practicum. The 10 course areas required to complete the degree are as follows:
2. Core Development Policy
3. Core International Relations and Economics
4. Core ICT (Systems)
5. Core ICT (Communications)
6. Core ICT (Development Applications)
7. ICT Elective
8. Humanities or Social Science Elective
9. Open Elective (ICT, Humanities or Social Science)
10. Open Elective (ICT, Humanities or Social Science)
In addition to their academic coursework, students pursuing the MS-ICT4D must complete six approved hours of coursework representing a relevant corporate internship, practicum, research, or service project as part of their degree program. We are exploring ways in which students can integrate pursuit of the MS-ICT4D with appropriate international service, such as international development agencies and foundations, non-governmental organizations, or other organizations including Peace Corps, Geekcorps and Engineers Without Borders.
Students applying to the MS-ICT4D are likely to come from a variety of backgrounds and have significant post-undergraduate experience. We will in particular seek to attract applicants from two distinct groups - international development and high-technology. The MS-ICT4D program will also benefit from those applicants with significant experience relevant to development: returning Peace Corps volunteers, veterans and individuals with significant international aid or Foreign Service experience. The program will also be a valuable resource for current employees of corporations with interests and programs in developing nations.
Master of Science in Arts, Media and Entrepreneurship
There is a growing need for individuals who have interdisciplinary training that spans the creation, distribution and sale of artistic content. Employees of media companies tend to fall into three broad categories: artists (those who create content), administrators (those who manage the content business) and engineers (those who develop and manage the technology used to create and distribute content). The networked information age has added new dimensions of complexity to how these categories of people interact; it is rare for an individual to be able to work and communicate effectively across even two of these areas.
Understanding the creation and distribution of digital media, digital copyright policy and law, and digital rights management requires a significant breadth of knowledge and insight. The ATLAS MS in Arts, Media and Entrepreneurship will prepare students to work on the production side of the arts, whether the art is their own, or the work of others. The MS-AME program can be thought of as part MFA, part MBA and part MS in computer and telecommunications engineering. There are a small number of programs in the nation that seek to integrate business and the arts, but no program to our knowledge exhibits the breadth of the ATLAS MS-AME program.
The courses necessary to offer this degree are largely in place, but they are offered by many different academic units on campus, including Art and Art History, Business, Communication, Economics, Film Studies, Geography, Journalism and Mass Communication, Law, Music, Telecommunications (ITP), Theater and Dance, and Computer Science & Engineering. In addition to requiring the academic engagement and support of the faculty in these departments, the MS-AME program development required the creation of a financial model conducive to offering an interdisciplinary degree of this nature.
Students complete the MS-AME by taking 10 approved graduate courses, plus a practicum. In consultation with the AME graduate advisor, each student will be required to develop and seek approval of a course plan that matches their particular interests and background. The 10 course areas are as follows:
2. Core course in Arts and Media Creation
3. Core course in Arts and Media Production
4. Core course in Arts and Media Distribution
5. Core course in Arts and Media Business and Entrepreneurship
6. Arts and Media Elective (from approved list of graduate courses)
7. Business, Law and Entrepreneurship Elective (from approved list of graduate courses)
8. Technology Elective (from approved list of graduate courses)
9. Open Elective (from approved list of graduate courses)
10. Open Elective (from approved list of graduate courses)
In addition, students pursuing the MS-AME must complete six approved hours of coursework representing an internship, practicum, research, or creative project as part of their degree program.
The ATLAS Building
The programmatic efforts of the ATLAS Institute are homed in a 66,000-square foot, $31-million building that opened in 2006. The ATLAS building incorporates
• performance and production studios that support multidisciplinary teaching, creative work and performing arts, including a broadcast and recording studio featuring state-of-the-art equipment, a ''Black Box'' performance space with sprung wood floor, and
• student and faculty clusters that house multidisciplinary educational and research endeavors.
More information about the ATLAS Building can be found at
ATLAS' Organizational Structure
ATLAS is structured to provide on-going leadership to
help develop and incubate new multidisciplinary curricular,
research and outreach programs involving information
technology, in a manner that assures programmatic agility,
risk-taking and innovation.
Organizationally, ATLAS is led by a faculty director who reports to the Provost of the University.
ATLAS is supported by a combination of campus and external funds. The campus provides a permanent base budget for ATLAS. ATLAS has received major funding from a student-approved fee, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, the State of Colorado, Comcast, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Colorado Institute of Technology, Apple, Avaya, Microsoft, the Mellon Foundation, and from many generous individuals.
ATLAS has an outstanding, active external Advisory Board that includes broad representation from the community, industry and academia. A group of faculty fellows from all schools and colleges at CU-Boulder also plays an active role in advising ATLAS on development of new curricular and research programs.