Digital Media & Culture

 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.

Current students in Digital Medial and Culture maintain blogs at http://blogs.stlawu.edu 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: delicious, 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.

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?

Amy Hauber, MFA
Department of Art & Art History, St. Lawrence University

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