Interdisciplinary Teaching and New Media Arts

Beyond the Conflict of the Faculties: a New Institutionalist case study of the founding of a radical transdisciplinary art/science/technology program by Charles Walker/ About interdisciplinary team-teaching and new media arts by Ricardo Dal Farra/ CTRL - O Confronting Barriers to Communication in Interdisciplinary Projects by Linda Duvall/ Studio Pedagogy For Situated Learning In The Culturescape by Vince Dziekan/ The Development and Education of New Media Art in Taiwan by Yung-Hsien Chen
Thursday, 15 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:40
Chair Person: 
Dave Colangelo
Charles Walker
Ricardo Dal Farra
Linda Duvall
Vince Dziekan
Yung-Hsien Chen

Beyond the Conflict of the Faculties: a New Institutionalist case study of the founding of a radical transdisciplinary art/science/technology program

by Charles Walker

In 2005, Auckland University of Technology drew together four existing Schools (Art & Design, Communications & Media Studies, Computing & Mathematical Sciences, and Engineering) into one new Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies. In 2007, the Faculty formed the Interdisciplinary Unit, a “virtual 5th school” to develop forward-thinking experimental alliances, research collaborations and learning experiences across these overlapping disciplines.

In physical, virtual and networked studio environments, the Unit draws together radical elements of art, computer science, engineering, mathematics, design, digital humanities and philosophy of technology, as well as projects based on entrepreneurial practices and industry partnerships. Yet, while the Unit has been seen as ambitious and timely in challenging normative disciplinary boundaries and practices, it has also attracted initial scepticism and hostility.

This paper introduces a critical study of the ideas, agencies and structures involved in establishing this controversial fifth element, and the possibilities for new creative practices across disciplines in increasingly highly-institutionalised electronic arts/science/technology environments.

What are at stake here are the (frequently rhetorical) processes whereby certain modes of knowledge practices may be credibly authorised, legitimised, privileged, contested or marginalized.  More importantly, however, this paper argues that although there has been a revival of research into various forms of inter- or trans-disciplinarity over the last decade or so, there have been very few sustained attempts to develop accounts of how it really affects the day-to-day lives, experiences and practices of academics, students, practitioners, administrators and other stakeholders who are actually engaged in operating across the well-policed territorial borders of institutionalised education and practice.  This is even more surprising if we also consider the very different motivations for inter-disciplinarity, ranging from the top-down imperatives from senior administrators looking for institutional efficiency, to bottom-up, experimental or opportunistic approaches by academics responding to ontological and epistemological shifts or career possibilities.

In discussing the contested evolution of this interdisciplinary agenda, this paper will briefly revisit Kant’s 18th century Conflict of the Faculties – a treatise on disciplinary status and self-interest that remains prescient in our own new-Darwinian academic landscape.

The provocative findings of the current research are based on data obtained in interviews with situated individuals; highlighting frequently overlooked investments in the micro-politics of disciplinarity, and how these influence the wider socio-professional and disciplinary ecologies of practice within which they operate.

The presentation will also show examples of innovative art/science/technology projects that have been developed by the Unit.

About interdisciplinary team-teaching and new media arts

by Ricardo Dal Farra

In 1992, a technical high school in Buenos Aires decided to create a special program joining music with sciences and new technology studies. This was fitting in such a natural way for the students that they were going from their "sound-oriented" biology classes (focusing on the human hearing system and our phonatory capabilities) to their mathematics classes (where logarithms were used to explain musical scales) to their history classes (including both a broad human history approach as well as specific links with music in different periods) to the music and multimedia lab (with specially designed workstations where students were learning, discussing, analyzing  and creating).

In 1996, the Multimedia Communication national program started to be developed at the National Ministry of Education of Argentina, an it was applied in schools around the country, as part of a new educational system. The Multimedia Communication program, with over 1500 hours of specific study through three years, is a competencies-based modular structure, using several intertwined streams with multiple deliveries. It created the teaching/learning basic standards to approach image synthesis, video, new media, and sound art/music production and creation with a new level of freedom in terms of creativity, use of resources and knowledge, unthinkable only a short time ago.

In 2000, the National University of Tres de Febrero (UNTreF) started offering a five-year long Electronic Arts program, including two streams, one focusing on electronic image, the other focusing on sound production/music creation using new technologies. The same University also created the Electronic Arts Experimenting and Research Centre (CEIArtE) whose focus is on new media arts research, and creation and dissemination projects. This Centre is a pioneer in media arts research in the region.

Interdisciplinary team-teaching has been in the core of these projects where artists, engineers and scientists worked together to get a rich variety of results. New media arts learning have been a goal in itself, but also a way to help in educating young generations about new teaching approaches, research paradigms and job models able to open a different, creative, appealing and productive world.

CTRL - O Confronting Barriers to Communication in Interdisciplinary Projects

by Linda Duvall

Visual artist and Academic Fellow at University of Saskatchewan Linda Duvall was invited by the Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity at U of S to curate an exhibition that highlighted the range of research being undertaken by undergraduate and graduate students across the Arts and Sciences programs. The intent was to show some of the research and art projects that have looked critically at the role of digital media in culture, as well as to initiate a dialogue among these students and the faculty that support them.

The exhibition was titled CTRL – O, the keyboard shortcut for "open file." This show presented students who were paying attention to the possibilities of new global networks, and innovative intersections of the fine arts, humanities, sciences and computer sciences. These projects included analyses of social networking sites, use of new media in community building or teaching, computer modeling and simulations, and technically complicated digital manipulations such as 3-D and digital collages.

While the aim was laudable and the exhibition presented challenging projects, the curatorial process revealed much about the gaps between disciplines. From the beginning, Duvall noticed that each area had its own specialized and idiosyncratic language. Even more instructive were the conventions utilized by the various areas for communicating information. In areas such as Sociology and English the students included as much textual information as possible under titles such as goals, objectives, and checklists. The visual elements were clearly secondary, and proposed learning was through reading the compiled information. The Computer Science and Science students presented projects that included participatory elements such as buttons or models. Here the learning emerged through interacting with the material presented. The visual art students presented material that contained no clear conclusions, but embedded elusive personal questions. Their viewers were left to draw their own conclusions.

Duvall will present a range of visuals from this exhibition with a focus on both the challenges and potential within this wide discrepancy in the conventions of communication.

Studio Pedagogy For Situated Learning In The Culturescape

by Vince Dziekan

The paper will present educational insights gained from developing studio pedagogy for situated learning in relation to emerging creative technologies. The Culturescape study abroad program – which has been conducted annually since 2009 – has been designed with a focus on exposing tertiary-level art & design students to the potentials for communication experiences that come into existence through combining site-specific, location-based practices with digital image-making and creative technology. Undertaken as an intensive and immersive studio over a five-week residency period at the Monash University Centre in Prato, Italy, participants are given the unique opportunity to develop individual and collaborative projects that respond creatively to their experiences of place, space and community. According to Lave and Wenger (1991), situated learning acknowledges how the process of knowledge co-constructed or creation occurs in context and is embedded within a particular social or physical environment. Through the integration of fieldwork in and around Tuscany, complemented by seminar critiques and studios, students were encouraged to explore their studio practices through designing creative content for emerging location-based practices, including a particular focus on "geo-cinema" – which according to artist Pete Gomes (2004) is "the new cinema of commuting, variable and embbeded in motion, locations, and fluidity". The text and its accompanying presentation will thoroughly document course structure, creative outcomes of both directed and selected self-initiated coursework and reflectively evaluate the course's pedagogical aspects and student experience.

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
Pete Gomes (2004), Being On Location: The beginnings of 'Geo-Cinema' and 'Place Code'. []

The Development and Education of New Media Art in Taiwan

by Yung-Hsien Chen

During the 1970's, Taiwan was the main production center for animation, with the export volume in the world. In recent years, artists from the new generation continue to shine in the international exhibitions of new media art. They use the export of Taiwanese technology as its starting point, and selects subject matters which are relevant to Taiwanese local cultural. Its meaning in depth is the technical meta-image and through the mechanical and computer coding procedure, it gradually forms into a new perceptual experience. This proactive prediction coincides with the tendency of contemporary art, and the development of Taiwanese New Media Art would be one of the crucial examples. 

In order to discuss the issues, there are some examples to point out production of a “Mirage” from works, which has the reliability of visual truth but is realised through the transportation of simulation. In immersive perceptual state, it instantly turns into another layer of refraction. This relative relationship between image viewing and psychological desire could refer to a piece of speech from the ancient book, “ICE-Making in Summer”. Thus, the sense of mirage in Taiwanese New Media Art is through the media of mirror image, viewing angle and the reaction of refraction. The visual codes therefore become folded (Le Pli) and then extend to be the dialogue between observation and immersion from the artworks.

How do the New Media codes become folded? If we employ the principles of the interface of refraction, how does the viewer become involved in this process of immersion? Gilles Louis Réné Deleuze uses the Fold theory to draw the "literary form of image", which penetrates the surface film between the viewer and the image describer and stimulates a misty, separating and disturbing act. Referring to this point of view, which appears in the extruding and squirming place within the digital image. Furthermore, this miniaturized reality and illusion are a visual representation which has been integrated through electronization, analogicalization, digitalization and dynamicalization. As a result, the refraction which implies, is not only a physical phenomenon but also indicates the visual text and the education and cultural transcoding, the two have a very close relationship.