[iDC] sharing "new media" curricula/potentials

molly wright steenson molly at girlwonder.com
Sun Jan 21 10:34:06 EST 2007

Hi all,

I was a professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Ivrea,  
Italy, a two-year standalone master's program. (It merged with the  
Domus Academy in Milan in June 2006 and effectively ceased to exist  
in a recognizable form). On this list, there is at least one Ivrea  
graduate and certainly other students and professors, so there are  
other people who can chime in about this. Ivrea was an independent  
school till its Domus merger, where students lived and worked in a  
small town in Italy. The international nature of the student body was  
one of the very most important parts of the  program: a total of 40  
students each year came from almost 20 different countries.

The school's founder, Gillian Crampton-Smith, founded the Royal  
College of Art's Computer Related Design program in the early 90s,  
which later became Interaction Design and is now Designing  
Interactions. Ivrea's focus was not new media but specifically  
interaction design. That being said, interaction design enjoyed a  
broad definition: everything from service design and social networks  
to physical computing, critical design, wearables and architectural  
installation. Video prototyping became an important skill to show how  
something might be done in the world.

Compared to other design programs, projects from Ivrea tended toward  
the critical and artistic, where other design programs in the United  
States leaned toward more practical skills; in this sense, I'm  
thinking of the design programs at IIT in Chicago-- excellent  
training but different types of projects than Ivrea's students.

A two-year program is short (a one-year is so short as to be almost  
useless, I'd argue) -- how do you teach all the skills a design  
student needs? In a mixed-discipline program, some students are  
designers, some are artists, some are engineers, some are  
programmers, and others are communication types and project managers  
seeking to shift focus. How do you teach skills, provide literacy,  
and still give students the opportunity to do an in-depth project?  
Crampton-Smith was a strong advocate of the second-year thesis; yet  
this means that the second year isn't filled with courses. At Ivrea,  
we did various intensive courses, either four weeks or eight to ten  
weeks in length. During that time, that's all the students are doing.  
For our little community, that seemed most effective. But still, we  
were constantly aware that we didn't have enough time.

Is there anything a school "should" be teaching? No, not one thing.  
In design programs, I think that's what makes things so fascinating.  
The faculties of the various design programs know each other and  
often collaborate: at Ivrea, we had visitors from IIT, ITP, the RCA,  
Carnegie-Mellon and Art Center, to name a few; we enjoyed consortium  
relationships with schools across old and new Europe. Each school has  
a different focus but students from Ivrea seem to have landed well in  
a variety of design and artistic positions.

So -- one former Ivrean's perspectives; if there are others on this  
list, perhaps they'll have others.


On Jan 20, 2007, at 10:58 PM, Tiffany Holmes wrote:

> Dear all,
> Trebor has invited me to moderate a discussion related to new media  
> and education.
> I'd like to try to pick up on some of the exciting conversation  
> that Margaret Morse and others generated about the relevance of  
> practice-based PhDs in the new media field.  The topic I hope to  
> explore is the potential of the nebulous arena of "new media" to  
> generate a truly interdisciplinary undergraduate or MFA-level  
> curriculum---one that promotes community and participation across  
> campus.
> New media is a nomadic discipline that has invaded communication  
> departments, trickled into photography departments, swirled through  
> film and video curriculums, and has now begun a slow infiltration  
> of the sculpture, fiber, painting, and design areas too, as well as  
> many other disciplines.   As Grant Kester recently pointed out, new  
> media is "the most intensively capitalized art movement in the  
> history of modernism."  That said, given the rapid expansion of new  
> media departments what standards, or criteria are there among  
> faculty to define the guiding curricula and community focus?
> For incoming MFA students, a "Department of New Media," is often  
> advertised as an interdisciplinary arena.  Yet, once those  
> prospective students arrive on campus to study in the "Department  
> of New Media", those individuals feel isolated and potentially  
> disconnected from the group of students pursuing more established  
> practices in fine arts or those pursuing professional degrees in  
> engineering and the like.  Margaret Morse actually alluded to this  
> earlier: "Contemporary grad students of new media 'working on the  
> cusp of leisure/pleasure' spend hours and hours in pursuits that  
> have few concrete outcomes suggests that there is something about  
> the subject of new media itself that may be more fragmentizing and  
> elusively virtual."
> I'm curious share ideas with IDC listers who have built or  
> participated in new media degree programs recently.  Here are just  
> a few questions to start out with:
> How do your new media programs relate to the campus at large---at  
> universities, art schools, smaller institutions?
> Are there isolationist tendencies in the new media programs?  Are  
> IDC listers enrolled or teaching in "new media-related" programs  
> that have defined goals to create community/interdisciplinary  
> collaboration---as well as teach programming and all the "software"  
> skills?
> What should students studying "new media" be learning?  Is there a  
> "literacy" in the field that could be identified?  Would it help  
> the discipline of "new media" to have defined competencies at the  
> undergraduate and graduate level?
> I look forward to sharing conversation and ideas over the next week.
> Best, 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
> Mobile: 312-493-0302
> http://www.tiffanyholmes.com
> http://ecoviz.org
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