[iDC] sharing "new media" curricula/potentials

Kevin Hamilton kham at uiuc.edu
Wed Jan 24 10:55:29 EST 2007

In designing New Media curricula, has anyone else struggled with how to 
prepare students  in terms of post-educational or professional practice? 
I'm thinking mostly in terms of undergraduate education, but this would 
apply to graduate education as well.

To be specific, it seems that with New Media, schools face a challenge 
in the question of which economic and institutional models to prepare 
students for.

Introductory-level courses in these forms are, I imagine, not so 
different across our departments. Even compared to 3 or 4 years ago, we 
have an easier case to make in the push to design courses around form, 
context, or method rather than software. (Students may expect otherwise, 
but that's no different from many other areas of study.)

In the upper-level classes, Junior and Senior studios for example, or 
for graduate students, a syllabus that prepares students to work in 
Interaction Design or even gaming might look very different from a 
syllabus that prepares students to work in a gallery art model, or in 
activist strategies, or in academic research.

We've been pondering here at Illinois allowing New Media majors to 
choose between concentrations in Design or Studio Art tracks. The only 
difference we can really make there is between client-based models vs 
self-directed research. There aren't always significant differences in 
the daily practice of these two approaches, but ultimately we do need to 
prepare students for how to interface with the world's economies. It 
takes time to gain expertise in this area of practice, just as it takes 
time to gain material expertise in programming, etc.

My sense is that there are plenty of "New Media practitioners" who move 
between multiple economic models of practice, just as there are "Old 
Media  practitioners" (kidding there) who do so. But these folks are 
often figuring that part out after college, and can't point to much 
about their education that prepared them for economic mobility. And not 
everyone has the luxury of a few wandering years after college to figure 
that part out.

Should a New Media program choose one model or another, between the 
models of client-based practice, self-directed art research, academic 
careers, activist strategies? Can students be prepared in all of these?

At the very least, this aspect of the multiplicities present in the 
field suggest that New Media faculty have to be  versed not only in 
changing technologies but in diverse practical or professional processes.

Kevin Hamilton
Assistant Professor, Studio Art
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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