Getting a degree in media arts vs. something more technical

Yesterday, I went to the University of South Carolina for the final time as a student. After seven and a half years of schooling, I will be graduating Cum Laude from USC with a bachelors in media arts.

I often got weird looks telling security and really IT professionals in general that I was going to school for a media arts degree. I've recently discovered the value of working on a media arts degree, while working full time as an IT professional. More on that in a minute.

The Reason

Petty Officers Timothy De Block and Chris Money

Petty Officers Timothy De Block and Chris Money

Coming out of high school I did not know what I wanted to do as a career. I knew if i went to college I would waste my time and my parents money. Instead I decided to join the Army paralegal to try and figure out what I wanted to do and get the GI Bill. After being disqualified from the Army, I joined the Navy as an electronics technician to try and figure out what I wanted to do and get the GI Bill. After six years in the Navy I was honorably discharged to the beautiful state of South Carolina.

I didn't go straight into college after leaving the Navy. Instead, I ended up pulling cable and inventorying electronic equipment for various organizations via a staffing agency and then moving onto a level two support gig via a staffing agency. I don't remember exactly why I decided to start school, but I did in the Spring semester of 2008. I guess I figured I should use my hard earned GI Bill.

After reviewing a few different programs, I eventually picked media arts. I had always had an interest in media and learning how to use media editing tools like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Premier, etc. was very appealing to me. Seeing as I was working in IT, I probably should have picked a computer science degree, but there just wasn't anything of interest there. The specialization in a computer science degree seemed to be lacking when compared to a media arts degree that included specialization in areas like: new media, graphics design, photograph, movie production, etc.

If I went back for a computer science degree, half the stuff I would learn I already had exposure to in the Navy. With media arts everything would be new and exciting. I mean who doesn't love the idea of studying movies, television, and art in general, so that is what I went with.

The value of a media arts degree in information security

Simply, contributing and networking within the information security community. I am far from the smartest person within information security. I am also a very shy person when it comes to meeting new people. It is really hard for me to walk up to people introduce myself and start a conversation, even when I know I will be received warmly. I was at three BSides conferences last year with Jayson Street, last year. I've read his book, so I had something to talk to him about, but I was scared shitless to walk up to him, even though he's a very approachable guy. I am working on that part of me, but that fear is something embedded deep within me from years of torment and bullying that I am still trying to shake off.

BSides Nashville 2015

BSides Nashville 2015

Once I get to know someone or if they approach me, I am perfectly normal and I tend to even surprise people once I break out of that fear. That leads me to my media arts degree, which I have quickly discovered allows me to meet and work with people that I normally wouldn't get the opportunity to do so. The first time this came apparent to me was at BSides Nashville, when I contacted the head organizer Edgar Rojas about bringing my camera and taking pictures of the conference. I've since spun a podcast with Ed and a buddy of his Paul Jorgensen. I've also taken taken pictures of BSides of Asheville, BSides Nashville 2015, and I'm slated to shoot pictures at Circle City Con and BSides Asheville again this year. I also hope to contact organizers for BSides Augusta and Charleston about shooting pictures at their conferences as well. I didn't shoot Augusta last year because I wanted to volunteer for a BSides at least once and Charleston my old ass camera finally broke down. I have since procedure a new camera.

On the podcasting side of things I've done the Exploring Information Security (EIS) podcast for seven episodes, (which I'm toying with the idea of starting up again) and I've had several discussions with other security professionals about starting up podcasts. Podcasting is a great median for getting the message out, because it's a much more personal type of media and studies have shown that listener interaction and engagement is much higher than other forms of media.

I've currently got my Astros podcast, the PVC Security podcast, and one more IT related podcast in the very early stages. The PVC Security podcast and EIS podcast alone have introduced me to so many wonderful people in the infosec community: Jimmy Vo, Wolfgang Goerlich, Amanda Berlin, Simmon Bennetts, Bob Rudis, and many, many, more. 

BSides Augusta

BSides Augusta

When I volunteered at BSides Augusta, I remember Mark Baggett, one of the organizers, walking by and saying something to the effect, "Oh yea, I've seen your pictures on Twitter." Mind blown. I am by no means a professional photograph, nor am I striving to be one, but if it allows me to connect with people, that is awesome. The other benefit is that I am contributing to the infosec community, which I think is important for anyone in any type of community.

Wrapping up

A degree in computer science probably does help me advance my career and open up new career opportunities, but the media arts degree is allowing me to connect with people within the information security community build relationships and contribute. Honestly, in the end it probably all comes out in the wash, but the media arts degree is much more fun.

Media arts internship March 25 - 27, 2015

March 25

I edited and converted to .mp3s some the audio I had recorded at Spring Training. I took several short recordings, then took some really long ones. I combined the smaller ones which were all from batting practice. I had another longer one that I kept by itself and then I had one that combined two sessions that were about 2-3 minutes long.

March 26

We completed the third round of the March Madness tournament, so I needed to update the bracket with the results for the fourth round. I then put together a post for the audio files I had put together.

March 27

Updated the Spring Training infographic as three players had recently been sent down. I then began podcast preparation. Started the podcast post and began researching topics for the show.

Media arts internship March 23 - 24, 2015

March 23

I edited the podcast and created the post that it would be released in for this week:

I then processed the minor league pictures I had taken for the minor league crew to use in posts this season. In all I processed about 133 photos. Six of those I want to add filters to in Photoshop because the shots have too much blur for my liking.

March 24

I finished processing the minor league pictures. Here are a few of my favorites:

I haven’t decided if I’ll upload all the minor league pictures to this site, but I’ll certainly put all the ones in the gallery post I created for the site:

I put all the pictures in a rar file and sent them to the entire TCB staff for their use. I then reviewed some audio I had been sent for our segment transitions in the podcast. After that I started putting together the soundscapes I plan to release from the audio I recorded at Spring Training.

Media arts internship March 18 - 19, 2015

March 18

I updated the march madness tournament bracket with the results from round 2. I then finished my organization of the pictures I took at Spring Training.

March 19

I processed all the pictures I planned to release in gallery post on the site, then wrote the post. I process pictures by opening them in Adobe Bridge and adjust the different settings of the pictures.

I shoot all my pictures in RAW so that I can go into Bridge and adjust levels for different elements of a picture. RAW is exactly what it sounds like, a starting point for an image with tons of information. For example, one of my RAW files is 22 MB. After I converted it to a JPG, after adjusting different elements to make the image look better, it is now 3 MB. JPGs get rid of a lot of information to make the image more size efficient. I can adjust levels in the JPG format, but due to the lost information, it doesn’t work as well.

I start at the top and work my way down. Exposure is adjusted first, then recovery, fill light, blacks, and finally brightness. As I’m adjusting I’m looking between the image and the histogram. Ideally, the histogram should have a hill shape, but that’s rarely the case. I end up trying to get the histogram as close to looking like a hill as possible and watching the image to see what I like. I’ll also crop the image to get rid of polls, garbage cans and other things in the shot that tend to draw the eye away from the main focus of the image. If I like the image as is I’ll save it directly from Bridge.

Other times I’ll open the image in photoshop to remove stuff from the shot or add a filter. I typically add filters if a shot is blurry, but I like the shot anyway. Other times I’ll experiment with shots, like this:

The idea here was to get the words and the number on the back of the jersey to show along with the shadow. Again, I was experimenting. Next I uploaded the pictures to the website and created a gallery post for them, which will release Friday. I’ll be uploading all the pictures to the gallery on this site as well.

Media arts internship March 16 - 17, 2015

Monday, I upgraded the Astros Spring Training roster infographic. While we were in Kissimmee, some players were cut from major league camp and sent down to minor league camp. I updated the graphic to reflect those players as off the major league Spring Training roster. In Photoshop I dropped the opacity of the names to 30% and removed the shadow, this helped define the players cut from the players still in major league camp.

Tuesday, I edited the podcast audio together that Brooks and I had recorded over the weekend. I started by recording an intro, a break between the days and then the outro for the episode. Then I went in and cleaned up the audio from the weekend and put it all together. Created the post for the podcast and updated the RSS feed so that the episode could be distributed to podcast directories.