Mixing the Creative & Digital into an Independent Concentration – News

Mix a passion for technology and design with a self-motivated student focused on crypto, NFTs, blockchain, and the metaverse, and you have the ingredients for a personalized concentration that combines art and computer science.

Courtney Connerly ’22 immersed herself in coding clubs, local hackathons, IT, and technology tutoring from the moment she stepped on campus. She always had a passion for technology and had started coding in 2016. She pursued a concentration in computer science until her junior year. And then she took her first art course, Introduction to Animation with Professor of Art Ella Gant.

“I suddenly didn’t feel that computer science was fully satisfying my passions anymore,” Connerly said. “After verbalizing my existential crisis to advisors, I was encouraged to create my own concentration using the interdisciplinary track at Hamilton. It sounded too good to be true. I was able to transition to a more personalized concentration.”

Connerly got creative by working as the layout editor and website designer for the school fashion magazine, creating apparel for clubs and societies, contributing as a teacher’s assistant for digital arts, and working with faculty to create independent studies doing website development and marketing.

“Courtney was one of our Digital Media Tutors…. It was her exposure to this on-campus job that also gave her the insight and opportunity to learn. Her thesis was a culmination of her academic work and the opportunities Library & Information Technology Services has to offer for students interested in Digital Hamilton,” said Associate Director for Digital Innovation, Learning & Research Nhora Serrano.

“I was able to design my own senior thesis project exploring virtual reality while Hamilton supported me by providing the necessary equipment,” she said. “I maintained internships throughout my junior and senior years, working professionally in UX/UI design and marketing.”

Image from Courtney Connerly's Virtual Reality Tour

Connerly’s thesis, titled “I am Rich: A Virtual Reality Exploration of Metavalue Through the Lens of Non-Fungible Tokens,” is a play off the I Am Rich app, released in 2008, that in exchange for $1,000, offered a “work of art with no hidden function at all.” When run, the app displayed a glowing red gem and an icon that, when pressed, displayed text: “I am rich, I deserve it, I am good, healthy & successful.” Connerly explained that the app “acted as a status symbol and highly resembles the structure of the digital economy today.” Through her thesis she sought to answer how value in the digital age differs from traditional value systems and how others can use this knowledge to understand the business models of the future.

Having explored virtual reality and metavalue within the digital ecosystem during the year, Connerly presented a virtual reality art gallery that acted as a satirical takedown of NFTs and perceived wealth in the digital world.

A collage of some of Connerly's NFTs, a series of digital self-portraits, based on one of the most famous series of NFTs called CryptoPunksHer gallery is filled with NFTs she has created and sold as well as some pieces that she believes represent the digital value system. These pieces are intended to illustrate her knowledge of digital tools including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Unity, Blender, and Unreal Engine, while also poking fun at some of her own art – for example, a series of bad still lifes.

“People are avoiding these ideas because they are black boxes – complicated concepts in which the underlying mechanisms are not understood. But that shouldn’t mean we neglect them. If the general public had to understand the intricacies of everything, then we wouldn’t have iPhones, planes, or electricity,” Connerly said. “These topics require some acceptance of ignorance but I’m here to break these concepts down into digestible pieces to get us a little more comfortable.

Digital Hamilton encompasses learning opportunities using advanced technologies to explore and create research projects across the College’s disciplines.

“Our plunge into the metaverse is inevitable. Instead of feeling impending doom, I believe we should feel great hope. I urge people to stay ahead of the curve. The future is bright!”

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