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January 28, 2007

[iDC] sharing "new media" curricula/potentials


Kevin Hamilton

[from the sharing "new media" curricula/potentials introduced by Tiffany Holmes]:

saul ostrow wrote: "Seemingly, what is required of us is a view that takes into account general as well as specific conditions - that is what is the common economy and ecology of cultural production, inclusive of education as a process in which differing aspects of those network systems that circumscribe and arise from these practices are reproduced, replicated and revised (reformed.)"

I think I see what you mean, Saul - In some ways the premise of this thread has been based on a model of curriculum delivery, rather than of curriculum as a means of production within broader economies. I liked Adrianne Wortzel's mention of "curriculum as process" (which must be a hard sell to the registrar.) It would be useful to hear more about that.

Perhaps a merge of the last thread on Praxis and Research with the current one would be good - in that conversation we seemed to be talking more about the larger scope of how what we do as educators and educational institutions is complicit with broader economies.

The best I can offer to your point right now is that making curricular goals clear to students might be seen not only as a symbolic empowerment but as a way of placing the educational process under inquiry within a greater social context. It would be worth re-visiting the record of IIT, the Bauhaus, Black Mtn. School etc to see where that happened or where it didn't. My sense is that Gropius, and later Moholy-Nagy, were very happy and hopeful about producing students to serve industry, in a progressive, if non-reflexive, way. But how did that happen in the classroom? We know the assignments, the syllabi, the influence, but what attitude toward education was promoted by those old teachers? What were the politics of their classrooms?

I was surprised once to see a picture from the Black Mountain school of Josef Albers on the floor with students, cutting out shapes of color. How did the emerging work of Cage or Cunningham benefit from, or suffer from, the specific discursive models at work in Black Mountain School "classroom"?

Bailey quotes Bridgman in his essay for Frances Stark's _Primer_ reader:

"So my naive idea of the 1960s—that designers were part of the solution to the world’s chaotic uncontrollability—was precisely the wrong way round. Today’s designers have emerged from the back room of purist, centralist control to the brightly lit stage of public totem-shaping. Seen from the self-same Marxist viewpoint that I espoused in those ancient days, they are now visible as part of the problem, not the solution. They have overtly accepted their role as part of capitalism. Designers are now exposed, not as saviours of the planet but as an essential part of the global machinery of production and consumption."

I need to go the next step, I guess, and look at the role of educators in a similar way. Not just to reveal complicity, and try to erase it like a stain, but to acknowledge even the inescapable ways in which my actions as an educator benefit from some relations, produce new ones, reinforce old ones.

The danger seems to be that reflexivity or self-critique on the part of educators, even in the classroom, can so easily serve to isolate, rather than to locate. If I get Socratic on a group of undergraduate students and start asking about why we're in the room, how we got there, where we're each going, I might end up preparing them for useful future critique and re-engineering of their own institutional roles. But I just as easily might alienate students and leave them with no where to go but a tech manual or a CAA conference when they need to feed themselves or others. This is why I liked the Spivak quote from the Verwoert essay I snipped.

Singerman's essay for the USC reader also gets to some of this - his history of UCLA's MFA program serves as a way of asking what economies the department served within different visions of the University as a whole.

The Either/Or approaches to this (admittedly still ill-defined) problem are a challenge to escape.

-Kevin Hamilton

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Posted by jo at January 28, 2007 03:57 PM