[iDC] sharing "new media" curricula/potentials

Tiffany Holmes tholme at artic.edu
Sat Jan 27 18:02:08 EST 2007

Dear all,

Thanks to all for your energetic discussion of the various questions raised on
this IDC thread.  I am going to attempt to sum up some of the key points made
and so forth below.  But, before I do that, I'd really like to move towards a
discussion of a much broader question for the next day or two:

Given the rampant proliferation of new media departments and the corresponding
bonds being perpetually reforged between universities and industry to gain
funding for "interdisciplinary" media projects, what process or set of
processes might work best to refine our varied curricula (BFA, BA, MFA, or PhD)
to build programs that would:

-reflect a global sensitivity
-promote diversity and community on campus and beyond
-require thoughtful and considered interdisciplinary student projects
-teach core skills (programming, criticality, history, and the like) -ensure a
high level of student self-confidence with tools and medium

Also, your thoughts on what processes to employ to facilitate large-scale
curricular revision would be welcomed.  

Now I want to respond to some of the intriguing posts made over the last two

(1) Should educators prepare or ready students for the "real world" in a
specific or general way or not at all?

In terms of the "real world" preparation, I thank Catherine for her contribution
of the RISD syllabus (sounds like a great class); and I do very much agree with
Ryan that the notion of "making a living" must be considered to be much broader
than merely earning money.  As product of Quaker-education myself, I have a
deep-seated believe in the value of community service being linked to
educational curricula. 

Anecdotally speaking, I should say that my interest in interactive media began
in 1990 during a stint of teaching fourth grade in rural North Carolina (I got
sent gratis to all the WWW workshops because I was good at unplugging and
plugging back in misbehaving computers).  I was involved in a new program
called "Teach for America" (http://teachforamerica.org/) that aimed to place
recent college graduates into the nation's poorest school systems to provide a
much-needed burst of energy toward creative curricular reform.

I learned more from this life experience than any other; but let me say that in
terms of the "real world" question, we must always deal directly with the
students' needs at hand--I say this because I had grand idealistic ideas of
what I was going to accomplish with those 9-year-olds--and yes, we went far. 
But, if the student cannot read and write, then the higher-level theoretical
debate must be tabled until the necessary skills are in hand.  That is not to
say that we cannot be creative in the way we teach the basics. 

Sarah raised this issue in her comment: "I think the question of our
responsibility to students is necessarily bound up with the question of
responsibility to, for and often even against the institutions where we're
teaching or moving.  That seems to be the only way to wrestle open the
reductive equation of criticality with privilege and "real world" training with

(2) Can we start to identify the key issues in new media curricular creation and
Adrianne Wortzel's concept of curricular process development?  Adrianne, maybe
you could say a little more about your process?

I absolutely agree with Kevin and Paul who posted earlier about this, that it
would be extremely interesting to re-visit the record of EAT, IIT, the Bauhaus,
and the Black Mountain School to get a sense of what attitudes toward education
and politics were promoted.  If any IDC-listers have knowledge in these areas
please share your impressions of how these pedagogic models and processes might
impact our perspective on new media pedagogy.

Saul's plan for their redesign plan entails involved doing away with
media-related disciplines to form two thematic programs--I'd be curious to hear
more about how this might flow....sounds very promising, I know that Bryan
Rogers did something similar when he took over the dean position at the School
of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.

Patrick honed in on an issue very particular to the art and tech/new media
arena: "What I see is a bifurcation of academic praxis - one of integration and
one of experimentation/specification to genre.  In many academies, I see
the Fine Art programs integrating digital media, both to reflect pragmatic
realities that more fine artists are using digital media, and to coopt the
sexiness of technology to ensure there 'relevance' to parents and
administrators."  Yes, and do the faculty of "media" have any responsibility to
educate their administrators to somehow demystify this techno-seduction for the
students before they enter our classes?

This issue of what to teach generally and how to deliver the content and
structure the conversation?  I hope to hear more about this in the next few
days, but Sarah argues that teaching students about global economic systems
might be a more necessary "real life" skill than teaching them programming
(Paul Prueitt mentioned this too in his post about educating students about the
recording studios model).  Well, yes of course I agree, but I think what is
really needed is BOTH.  Students of new media should participate more in study
abroad programs particularly to places that offer a unique perspective on the
tech economy (China, etc.); this is not so common in the field but I hope it
becomes more of a reality in the next several years.

Again, thanks for the lively input, I'm learning so much!

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

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