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New Media Arts Education | 8 comments
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by TreborScholz on Fri Oct 31st, 2003 at 01:36:51 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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///..After travelling, and by now hopelessly behind the thread... //

The threads on new media education were inspiring: from problematizing the terms intellectual and new media to dreams of an ideal educational setting, the difference between education and professional development and the divided knowledge economy...From Keith Hardt quoting Noel Annan who aims to &"produce out of the chaos of human experience some grain of order won by the intellect" to Dan Wang's statement on the dramatic rise of tuition costs and the American university experience being reformulated as a largely predictable exercise in job and career preparation as opposed to education. Reading the posts and related mails that I received there was a division between those writing about teaching and those with the human experience of the complex relational dynamics of the classroom. The reality of an educational practice to me is something that is best addressed with quite pragmatic proposals.

Throughout many posts there was the demand for less structure or even chaos within educational settings instead of the placid order too often experienced. There is "too much structure, too much predictable social behavior," "too much institutionalization of knowledge, too much efficiency,
too much accountability." From my experience the most unpredictable and interesting learning situations are based on pragmatic yet experimental approaches of skill and knowledge exchange.
Brian Thomas Carroll dreams of education as a "networked experience, commerce-free, interdisciplinary, collaborative." I found an example for this type of technology-enabled educational networking in an essay by Sher Doruff in "Making Art of Databases" She describes the class "Collaborative Cultures" at DEAF03 of March 2003 (technologically enabled by KeyWorx of Waag Society). Doruff describes the class as "an attempt to provoke both critical and playful investigation into tools and techniques that incorporate social networks, live mediation, synchronous co-creation, real-time access to and transformation of databases and living archives." For 2 days a broadband audio/video stream was set up between a Rotterdam-based class and the A'na*tomic group based at Waag Society in Amsterdam. "a file-transfer protocol in KeyWorx enables the sharing of media between players who share a space with a common patcher interface and output." Participants communicated with each other via text, video, sound, image, movies, webcams, and a web image crawler. "Eight layers of visual imagery were synchronously modulated and processed by the players." Thinking about cooperation Doruff draws from the experience of multi-user games in which rules of cooperation such as trust determine success.
Having set up distributed learning environments similar to DEAF03 I found that they have lots of potential for "inter-authorial expression" and positive networking but I don't think that these settings should or will replace face to face learning.

In his post Francis Wang writes that what matters is "to be surrounded by others who will reinforce" his "sneaking suspicion that knowledge matters"
and that this may as well take place on a WIKI, list or weblog as it could be located in a classroom. I agree with Francis that these forums are places for meaningful communication, especially in a context in which "doing rather than thinking has become the norm and is what is most valued" as Michael H. Goldhaber points out.

Another problem in new media education, as pointed out by Brian Thomas Carroll is the tendency to forcefully create a false canon that bulldozes questions and debate, creating false fiction (ie. history of web-based art). It takes constant questioning and shifting of discourses, texts to read, works to study and I look forward to a large number of courses that put this spirit into action.

Many posts rightly claimed a disconnect between the university and the rest of culture. In the best-case scenario the university can be a media-rich platform in which links are made with groups, links to ideas, links to tools, links to information, links to questions, to doubts, and to the outside. This is quite different from the top-down deposition of facts into passive students. Students are educated to a certain literacy that, according to Douglas Kellner, will equip people to participate in the local, national and global economy, culture and polity.
The classroom becomes a network, or a meeting place for outside university networks. In smaller departments these things are easier to accomplish because structures can be more fluid. Jon Cates in his post also demands flexibility and fluidity.
(And in response to Jon: I designed my own courses and in my original text I did name some universities at which I taught in Europe and the US.)

Self-educated Francis Hwang asks: What do academics do? and Do we really need more ideas? So what do these creatures do in the university?
Brian Thomas Carroll aka Human Being refers to David Brooks saying that the "intellectuals" who are heard are those resonating with the people
and where they are, with their perception of reality shaped by reality TV" That would be a rather sad picture and luckily there are many public
intellectuals who do stand for something other than populism. In Eastern Europe before the imnplosion of the Eastern republics public intellectuals
played a crucial role in society, people looked to them for guidance. In the current economical context of the US the professor often does
not have the responsibility to educate but instead becomes a job trainer. Critical thinking, independent thinking is not seen as valid activity. Douglas Kellner calls for a critical theory of technology that avoids both technophobia and technophilia.

In the US graduate students in most programs face a more school-like framework than that in Britain or Germany. Graduate students in art related
departments there are having exhibitions all through their studies while Americans still learn. This difference frequently irritates American educators who teach as guests in European (ie. German) institutions.

I don't agree with David Patterson's statement that some people just don't belong into college but I would argue for a more
directed decision process for students who should question themselves if an university education is really what they want as opposed to an industry training, trade school.

The notion of the intellectuals (falsely solely equated with the left wing, the radical, the anti status-quo) as thinkers who want to change society using ideas came up several times. Ryan Griffis emphasized that the definition matters less than one's everyday politics. And Dan Wang claimed that the university is not the home for "intellectuals" anymore. Daniel Perlin pushed for the intellectual in the university as an amateur in the sense of one who loves their work and takes risks. Risk taking could mean acknowledging failure, self-criticism, de-specializing and having an interdisciplinary focus that inspires students and as "Null" pointed out: the teacher should be like an older student who has spent more time on a project.

--So far a few notes, which definitely can't live up to all the questions on the table...

_/ _/ _/

New Media Arts Education | 8 comments


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