It's New Media: But is it Art Education?Trebor Scholz Institute for Distributed Creativity
There is a crisis in new media arts education. Yet there has been surprisinglylittle debate about it until recently, despite the widespread emergence of newmedia arts programs and massive student interest all throughout the NorthAmerican university landscape. The current crisis is only now starting to getwidespread acknowledgment from new media educators in the United States,Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and beyond. Fields of conflict rangefrom undergraduate students exclusively demanding vocational training, to thelack of advanced debate about new media artwork, and the media-specificorientation of departments. Once beyond the certainty of technical instructionnew media arts educators on many campuses experience a crisis due to theunbearable lightness of their topical orientation. In addition, it is an almostimpossible challenge for a single human being to keep up with all technologicaladvances. And last but not least, there is the quest for the education of artists,whether or not their preferred media are digital.Other pertinent issues are the introduction of open source software in theclassroom, the professional future of graduates of new media arts programs, thecontestation of the definition of art in a new media context, and the breaking outof the isolation of the university lab to connect students with the real life world.State budget cuts in Europe and the United States have led to the emergence ofmany "anti-universities," and teach-yourself-institutions.A conference at the Department of Media Study, The State University of NewYork at Buffalo, reflected on educational models in new media arts education(nmae) and the negotiation of the ground rules for collaboration. In April 2004,150 artists and academics arrived in Buffalo to discuss anti-universities, thenotion of free cooperation, radio experiments, collaborative performance projects,distributed authorship, self-organised educational initiatives, collaborationsbetween artists and scientists, peer-to-peer porn, networked virtual reality,collaboration in the open source movement, and participatory networked art.Many of these topics were discussed on a preparatory mailing list and selectedpostings were included in a free conference publication.Amsterdam-based media critic Geert Lovink and I organised this internationalconference. In the context of a report about the "Free Cooperation” conference,this essay examines critical issues in new media arts education and makesproposals to overcome its current crisis. I will present creative models of onlinecollaboration and briefly address the organising of this conference questioningtraditional academic formats such as "panelism."
The topic of (online) collaboration may appear marginally academic to some. Butfrom cell phones to email, multiplayer online games, mailing lists, weblogs, andwikis our everyday lives are increasingly enmeshed with technology.[2, 3]Muchof the politics of the everyday is connected to issues that are on some levelinvolved with technology. This is true at least for societies benefiting from theglobalisation of the information order, which is limited and partial by all means.