•December 2010 – amy’s reflection

Because digital media technology is changing at such exponential rates, and thereby changing the lives, experiences and perceptions of its (privileged) citizens so rapidly, it only makes sense to me to change or substantially tweak this course each time that I offer it. Often, I do this based on the particular group of people that I have in a class, how we are collaborating together, and the individual and group feedback that I receive in the beginning of the course.

However, I realize that as this course has evolved, at least three underlying goals have remained constant for students of the course:

  1. Learn to continually look critically at media communications/imagery, and use that same knowledge to inform their artistic creations,
  2. Learn to use original and mediated images for their own communicative agendas while being fully cognizant of the current laws governing such media remixing and sharing,
  3. Become increasingly empowered by my demystifying instruction and their subsequent independent investigation into learning to find technical answers within digital technology. These technologies include include “EASYWARE,” free online software and tutorials, and within the software used in the course and available to them as privileged members of this community. This frees the student up to develop their ideas rather than get stuck in tech-fear.

Having taught this class now about a half dozen or so times since 2007, I have been excited and amazed to see students grow exponentially in the following ways:

a. how much digital media skills they have entering the course,
b. the speed at which they learn digital media processes,
c. their intellectual flexibility in understanding theoretical concerns relating to digital life and culture and then synthesizing this information to include other scholarly information from other coursework,d. their increasing comfort and ease in working independently to find technical solutions (even solutions that may not exist IE new and innovative workarounds resulting in exciting uses of software),
e. their enthusiastic fluidity in embracing digital media tools,
f. the recent and exciting phenomenon (within 2010) of students being comfortable moving away from the notion of “the original” work of art and truly embracing forms such as the remix and mashup.

    Embracing these methods, students have learned that often there is very little that is “original,” and in the process have learned to accept the unique challenge of using pre-existing data/footage/audio tracks, etc., as source material to create something that can still be a vehicle for their voice, their intention while retaining a relationship to the original source material (not obliterating the source material beyond recognition for a mashup, for instance).

    In many cases I have seen students flourish with what seems to be a kind of new-found creative freedom when during the second half of the term, they begin remixing and creating mashups and have acquired adequate theoretical understanding of media culture and theory

    g. the recent and exciting phenomenon (within 2010) of students’ particularly positive reaction to using cross-integration digital creative methods. This means using numerous programs for the purpose of one project IE creating a true “multi-media” and methods project that may include multiple image manipulations in PS, audio editing in GB, video editing, etc., and combining all for successful and complex forms of visual/audio works.


    • the beginning – amy’s reflection

    The Spring of 2007 brought the Newell Center for Arts Technology. Digital communications and technology have affected our culture in every way.  In my opinion, every art department, liberal arts or otherwise, should not be without substantial digital course offerings, even for the most basic purpose of introducing to students the way that these technologies have affected “traditional” art practices and human perception.

    In the Spring 2007 semester, I proposed a combination studio/seminar course that addressed these issues. Since the Fall 2007 semester, I have taught the course, now titled Digital Media and Culture, every term with a cap of 15 students, though I normally accept more. The interest in this course is high enough that I estimate that I could fill two sections of this course both fall and spring terms. Digital Media and Culture has recently been approved by Academic Affairs as a regularly offered course in the Department of Fine Arts.

    Since Fall 2007, when I first taught the course, it has substantially evolved, as all new courses do. The main source of evolution has been the deployment of WordPress, an open source content management software (aka blogging software), on campus in the Fall of 2008.  This term, Fall 2009, will be the first term that will likely be glitch-free in terms of WordPress and other software issues, particularly now that the NCAT has just hired a new assistant director.

    WEB 2.0
    Current students in Digital Medial and Culture maintain blogs on the blogs.stlawu.edu server for the entire term as a document of their learning and as a portfolio of their visual work. They also work with a variety of social media software: delicio.us, youtube.com, and flickr.com.  In essence, in the Fall of 2008 the course took a very big jump towards “Web 2.0.” That is, it became very much about digital and net culture that allows for continual interactivity and editability. So now, not only are students creating unique digital works through various software programs, but they are also exploring the worlds and theories surrounding what it means to be involved in this new culture. A video that I show students on the first day of class explains the notion of Web 2.0 well.

    The Machine Is Us/ing Us
    Dr. Michael Wesch, Professor of Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University


    And often I show them another piece of his:

    A Vision of Students Today

    During the term students learn a variety of software programs including the following, though it depends on the term and the particular group of students: ARTRAGE, iPhoto, Photoshop, iMovie, GarageBand and Flash.

    Because the course is part seminar, a good deal of time is spent discussing digital culture, normally with every unit or project. Readings, videos and looking at works online are included. Teaching in the NCAT is a luxury for this because it makes bringing media to course content so easy. For instance, last term, we watched a number of documentaries straight from the Internet such as Good Copy/Bad Copy, a documentary about copyright laws, as well as This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and TIMECODE, by Mike Figgis, and a number of short TED.COM lectures, including one by Lawrence Lessig, the creator/founder of Creative Commons called How Creativity is Being Strangled By the Law and gaming engineer David Perry’s talk Will Video Games Become Better Than Life?

    I am posting a selection of assignments from the course, broken into two categories: IMAGING (still) and TIMEBASED. Within those PAGES you will find summaries of the assignments and can browse through the numerous examples that I have provided. You can browse through some the student course blogs as well. They also are found on the right-hand navigation bar.

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