[iDC] Transfer of Knowledge in Art, Media Technology and Education

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Thu Dec 2 19:05:02 EST 2004

Excerpt from the Open Alliances Reader published in the context of DEAF04

DEAF04 -- Open Alliances: Transfer of Knowledge in Art, Media Technology and
Education. (Rotterdam, 11/04)

Increasingly, educational institutions are entering into alliances with
companies and institutes from different sectors. Open Alliances is a meeting
about cooperation and the transfer of knowledge between universities,
academies, companies and R&D institutes in art and media technology. Central
issue is the position of intermediate knowledge institutes, and how they can
contribute to an open transfer of knowledge.

Open Alliances has invited a number of prominent Dutch speakers to inspire
the debate on models of collaboration in art, media technology and
education. A broad selection of examples of new strategic alliances and
cooperative efforts will be presented throughout the day. Forms of
cooperation, different interests of partners and the influence on education
and research will be discussed, together with the audience and a panel of


The dynamicism, speed and partial unpredictability of developments in the
knowledge economy demand much flexibility on the parts of educational
institutions and companies. Project learning and research play a
prominent role in strategic alliances, specifically in a number of new
courses of study at the intersection of art, science and technology.
Flexibility and the ability to come to terms with new knowledge developments
are more important than one-time learning for the sake of a concrete
innovation. Educational institutions find themselves faced with the
challenge of bringing together various parties in project learning. Art and
media technology R&D organizations could play a role in this because of
their experience in interdisciplinary R&D.
Open Alliances will inventory the existing models for cooperation and
the role of R&D organizations in these, and discuss methods of
knowledge exchange. Speakers from educational (art and science) and
R&D institutions will present several initiatives and collaborative
models which address the needs of different parties, embedment in
existing institutional structures, and the added value of
interdisciplinary cooperation.


Excerpts from chapter on 'New Media Art Education', Geert Lovink, My First
Recession. V2_/NAI Publishers, Rotterdam, 2003.

The Battle over New-Media Arts Education: Experiences and Models

"We will be victorious if we have not forgotten how to learn."
Rosa Luxemburg 

This text investigates methodologies of teaching "new media" in the arts and
culture context. Since the 1990s numerous schools have started new-media
programs. The educators I will feature in this story are based in a variety
of institutions, from art academies and design schools to cultural studies
programs, literature faculties and media and communications departments.
Despite the boom in new-media programs, little has been written about this
field. The primary source for this chapter is a series of online interviews
with practitioners who run such programs. I sent out early versions of the
text to the interviewees so that they had an idea of what others and I had
to say, which resulted in an open and collaborative sharing of
ideas and experiences.


In the educational context it is easy to see how global technologies and
design related issues relate to specific local contexts. Whereas some places
are traditionally strong in design or visual arts, elsewhere one can see
new-media programs thriving within disciplines such as architecture,
literature or social sciences. The ever-changing, hybrid nature of the
new-media sector requires special educational conditions and tactical skills
in order to build institutional alliances. New-media arts labs have to be
open to other disciplines, while at the same time they have to fight for
their own space and define, defend and expand the field. How do performing
arts, music and cultural studies (all close to the field) respond to rise of
new media as a separate entity? Literature, for instance, is already dealing
with its own emerging subgenre of "electronic literature." Electronic music
has been around for decades and has found its niche within music
departments. So why suddenly buy into this overhyped generic "new media"
term? Are there enough claims to be made for turning new-media studies into
a separate department, just because it attracts scores of students at a
certain moment in time? And how can artists talk to engineers, if
indeed there is a wish for dialogue and a common language in the first
place? And there are not only institutional concerns; the relationship of
the new-media departments to "industry" and society at large
seems as important.


 The Freudian question, "What does a company want?" is the wrong one from
the start. Problematic, off-track courses are much better for students.
General skills last longer than the applications of the day. Schools that
desperately try to comply with industry demands are often
the least interesting ones. This also counts for schools that want to
attract international students. Many warn that this is a volatile market.
Changing currency exchange rates, rising fees for (international) students,
wars, recessions and health crises such as SARS can suddenly change student
interest in ambitiously marketed programs. The problem with the "market"
approach is not so much commercialism, but the vulgar inputoutput
model that fences off the curriculum against "alien" influences, thereby
limiting students' opportunity to explore technology outside of the given

Inspiring models 
Is the demand that students get "real outcomes" from courses a legitimate
one? Why should anyone support the subjection of students to the "creative
imperative"? The reason is simple: money. With the introduction of a fee
structure comes the expectation of a job in "the industry," if only to pay
off the accumulated debt. In a post to the Nettime list, Are Flagan argues
against the idea that new-media arts should further boost the economy of
"free": "The surplus of free labor in any field undermines the possibility
of any sustainable employment down the food chain. Especially in the
new-media art field, where new courses are popping up by the minute
(arguably years too late), students pay big bucks to enter a field that
is extremely limited, and that has virtually no economy to secure a return
on their investment and fee." Still, the "industry" focus often ignores the
creative potential of students and is interested merely in a steady
output of young, cheap pixel pushers and HTML slaves (when Web design was
the cool thing to do). John Hopkins: "In Scandinavia, often the
state-mandated education programs are driven closely by industry and
state-media outlets, with little validation of student endeavors in their
own media worlds, like the demo scene, the club scene, and the gaming
communities, where innovative practices are developed."


 What if the stakeholders are not interested in such meetings and
collaborations? Competition between disciplines and their respective
institutions is a really existing factor which educational new-media
initiatives need to be aware of. Institutional politics will most likely
lead to a segmentation of new-media programs. This almost inherent problem
is countered by the growing certainty that students will most likely work
within interdisciplinary teams. New-media work is not assembled by lonesome
laptop geniuses. Teams usually consist of designers, programmers, editors,
project managers and administrators. Then there might be a sound component,
and collaboration with architects, interior designers or specialists in
color, stage design, light or analogue animation.


Collaborative project-based education is a proven model for escaping
individual vocational training and the pressure to teach commercial
software. [...] The tension between vocational training and conceptual
learning can be overcome by making radical choices. It remains important to
emphasize that the computer is not just a tool. Ideally, new-media programs
should be modeled after laboratories, not schools. One short-term aim should
be to build bridges between the arts and the geek community, and leave the
world of "science" alone for a while. Interdisciplinary dialogues should
start nearby, with the sysadmin who runs the department server next door.
Forget the astrophysicists, biochemists and work first on, say, free
software and open source inside your own institution. If the computer is to
be an omnipresent work environment for all forms of artistic expression, it
will be of strategic importance for us all to understand contemporary
computer culture and those who program code. Computer science is not just
"engineering" but an art form providing society with key concepts and
metaphors. To understand the hacker's world and the history of
computing at large is an obligation for us all.

About the same topic (unrelated to DEAF04):

It's New Media: But is it Art Education?. Fibre Culture Journal . 3

More information about the iDC mailing list