[iDC] wrapping up: "new media" education curricula/potentials

Tiffany Holmes tholme at artic.edu
Mon Jan 29 23:01:23 EST 2007

Dear all,

Thanks for the animated discussion.  As moderator, I’m learning a lot from this
conversation—I never considered myself a raging idealist but I do think there
are positive things afoot in the new media education community.

But first, let me try to snip a bit and highlight some of the issues that have
been raised.  These are incredibly important, and I appreciate the bluntness of
the posts.  

Alex (1/26):  New media, new market
there is no line between art and commerce.
“I don't see the art world functioning any differently than the commercial
As such, there are many boisterous claims and slick presentations to vet,
and there is a very large swath of b.s. to wade through. The talk and promises
of new media practitioners are just as fraught with obfuscations as any line of
proprietary code meant to keep the aura of magic about the practice. This seems
to be, in many cases, the mediums selling point, over any tangible results.”

Saul (1/27):  Reject interdisciplinarity and focus on survival

“I think that this whole discussion has to start with us moving away from the
present notion of hybridity that orders most programs conception of 
interdisciplinary - I do not think we need to teach our students to be
interdisciplinary as much as we need to teach them to be able to navigate the
present interdisciplinary environment.”

Richard (1/27): Networking of various labs is key to education.
“No one place and group of people can do all that has been
ascribed.   The increasing internetworking of various creative labs, will
be a major element in the platforms of learning and teaching.”

Luis: “Schooling was always a tool to tame citizens.” (1/29):

“It might be much more realistic to accept that the U.S. universities are
corporate tools that in fact are competing with corporate training at a
 Let us stop the hypocrisy and have corporations openly take
over education for "real life," making sure that students survive in the
market. It will provide a much better and up to date education. With this we
would have a true education for serving.” (1/28):

Brian (1/29):
“it's a paradox. if everybody with any ethics or desire jumps ship, the whole
thing is bound to remain in the hands of the most unprincipled. if nobody jumps
ship, everyone is caught inside and zombified to the point where they can't
produce any culture or human spirit. so you think you know what side you should
stand on?”

Danny (1/29)
“When I do planning exercises in organisations where people reflect on
significant people and moments in their past, I am always surprised at how many
mention a teacher or educational experience that created a transformation, that
somehow formed who they were.”

These are all snippets of longer, very powerful posts, again, thank you for
thinking and contributing.  A few questions for the writers and for the IDC
listers now.

Richard, how would the networking of labs work?  Would it be a long or a short
term series of collaborations?  Are there any IDC listers who have done
lab-to-lab or school to school collaborations?

Saul, what is “survival” to you?  I wonder if Brian would say it’s that scary
zombification process.  But I agree, if you subscribe to the
“interdisciplinary” fan club, there are clear pitfalls.  I suspect that the IDC
list harbors both pro-interdisciplinary curricula and anti-interdisciplinary
mindsets.  Anyone wish to comment?

Luis, sure, schooling tames—but what is education without discipline? 
Discipline, unfortunately, is something that often must be taught.  One must
have discipline and focus before one revolts or reinvents the system.  (BTW, I
loved your story about the underground curricular mafia).  I’m going to digress
from the “new media” thread here but I think it’s related.  

I hated writing kids’ names on the board and putting check marks beside them
when I taught 4th grade in NC.  But, I had a job to protect my students and no
one learns anything when the class bully is punching the same poor kid.  Here
we are revisiting a familiar question of control, is discipline useful, or
ultimately flawed as a means of keeping the mass quiet?  From my tiny classroom
wedged between tobacco fields, the process and practice of hands-on learning was
the most exciting thing there was to do (as opposed to “teaching to the test”
dittos). So, because corporeal punishment was still legal back in 1990, I
decided to wage psychic war with the bullies instead of paddle them senseless. 
Is that taming?  Perhaps.  But today for every kid whose mind is numb from the
ceaseless parade of “No Child Left Behind” multiplication worksheets, there is
a teacher that is trying something new.  And these people do not have fancy
titles or even decent salaries.  Because I know how hard these folks work, I
feel compelled to remind the academics on the list that we have jobs with
incredible privileges—there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t consider
jumping ship and going back to that classroom, but that thought is often
followed by the fear that I don’t have the energy for it anymore because of the
cushy environs of privilege I presently inhabit.  But I have volunteered as a
tutor and I do workshops on water quality for students
this helps me stay
connected. And it convinces me that we need to build programs (in all media)
that encourage social outreach and exploration of local communities.

Danny’s most recent email (which I received while composing this) echoes my
thoughts today.  There are people out there who are outstanding educators. 
These sorts of people work tirelessly on behalf of their students (and
sometimes, but not always, their institutions).   Outstanding educators are
memorable for all sorts of reasons; I suspect many of us have encountered one
or two of them
it strikes me that Catherine is well on her way to being one
(her Real World syllabus is incredible).  Also, Paul’s syllabus and practice as
an artist have undoubtedly influenced tons of students—I wonder how many are
still contemplating Andrea’s far-thinking “how would you design a browser”

Perhaps then, a fitting place to begin to wrap up this thread of conversation,
is first, to acknowledge the many problems and infinite paradoxes that IDCers
have discussed within the realm of curriculum process, overhaul, and
re-formulation.  Would anyone wish to volunteer a story about an influential
teacher or mentor who impacted their development as an artist or scholar?

Cheers, Tiff

Tiffany Holmes, Associate Professor
Chair, Department of Art and Technology Studies
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60603
Phone: 312-345-3760,  Fax: 312-345-3565

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