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Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media  Why computer graphics?  The field of computer graph­  ics or ‘digital media’ repre­ 

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Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media  Why computer graphics?  The field of computer graph­  ics or ‘digital media’ repre­ 
Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media ≈ page#1 NICOGRAPH ’08 CONFERENCE, THAILAND Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media Martin Locker Asian University This paper was originally presented at the Nicograph’08 conference, 30 May 2008. [ASSOCIATE DEAN IN LIBERAL ARTS & PROGRAMME LEADER IN MULTIMEDIA AT ASIAN UNIVERSITY] Why computer graphics? media consumer is the media The field of computer graph­ ics or ‘digital media’ repre­ sents a fundamental change in the way we think, com­ municate, and interact, in the world around us. creator. Managing this transition pre­ sents new challenges to the educator and practitioner both in terms of our social & ethical responsibilities as well as our professional responsi­ bilities in the workplace. pretty well established as the However, the story does not stop there because, with Wikipe­ dia, came a whole different way of thinking about information. Encyclopaedias in the past were revered ultimate leather bound 32 volume reference that no good household should be with­ out. Wikipedia immediately chal­ lenged this conventional approach to publishing informa­ tion with its free online equiva­ Thinking about information The term ‘computer graphics’ is, Since we have been able to digi­ on the one hand, superfluous in tize media, we have begun to that in this day and age; the change the way we think about idea of producing anything in the information. This shift in thinking graphics­related field without became accelerated with the using a computer is almost un­ introduction of the World Wide heard of. However the term Web (NCSA Mosaic Web Brower ‘computer graphics’ still holds was released in 1993). A good important value because this illustration of how we have transitioning technology has not changed our thinking is the only provided a natural evolution amazing success of Wikipedia. of process but reinvented and Launched on 15 January 2001 redefined the whole communica­ and based on the expert­written tion design industry. As practi­ web­based Nupedia released the tioners and educators of this year before, Wikipedia quickly new discipline, not only have we became an overnight success embraced this exciting new me­ receiving over 10,000 contribu­ dia, but we have also developed tions in the first 8 months and new strategies for managing the now provides several million processes that come with it. freely accessible articles written Using the multimedia pro­ in over one hundred languages – gramme at Asian University as a it is a truly global resource. case study, this paper reviews What makes this website so some of the opportunities unique is its ‘wiki’ collaborative brought about by the digitization aspect – essentially anyone of media design & production. It across the world is welcome to also looks at how this has pre­ create a new article or contribute sented us with new challenges to to an existing entry. In other develop strategies to foster criti­ words, it closes the loop be­ cal and creative thinking. tween reader and author – the lent. But Wikipedia is hardly ‘equivalent’; where we once had 100% ‘reliable facts’, we now have questionable half­ believable opinions; where be­ fore we had expert writers and editors, we now have amateur ‘users’; where we once had slightly dated published editions, we now have up­to­date post­ ings that are never finished; where before we had tangible long­term permanent artefacts (books), we now have temporary and, most importantly, temporal technology that never really ex­ ists except as a moment in time. We have gone from absolute authority to a gestalt where in­ formation is stripped of value, and integrity; we have one of the most amazing information resources the world has ever known, but it is a resource which challenges our concepts about memory and reveals the fragility of the information technology age (experts can still read the cuneiform documents of 3000 year­old Mesopotamia) – One of the biggest new challenges de­ signers and engineers face is
Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media ≈ page#2 how to record the memories and tion and yet people have never ware presenting a very positive perspectives of our fast develop­ been so open to publicity. Being challenge to traditional ideas of ing but quickly fading cultures. a conscientious designer in this ownership. However, on the commercial and almost hostile level of entertainment, the in­ industry is not an easy choice. dustry is being redefined. From Digital communicates pornography and stranger­chat In this new age of digital infor­ interactions to online gambling mation, technology has enabled Inter­personal inter­action a shift in the way we think about The digital revolution is changing communication. The idea of the way we interact with one mass media – an elite few com­ another. On the one hand, tech­ municating to the many – is be­ nology has become a convenient ing challenged with a new ‘medium’ or shield. We hide be­ paradigm in which anyone and hind our emails and chat pseudo everyone have become publish­ identities to avoid face to face ers or ‘content producers’. Inter­ confrontation. The asynchronous net related technologies such as backup systems of voice mail wikis, blogging and podcasting and SMS have become preferred have literally revolutionized con­ modes of communication – di­ tent production evidenced with rect conversation especially in such sites as My Space and You the same physical space is al­ Tube. This mass communication most a last resort. However, of personalised content has cre­ technology has enabled us to ated a demand for shiny exciting use more synchronous modes of ‘assets’ that can be used to em­ exchange which, although still bellish what might otherwise be essentially one step away from a rather boring ramble of prose ‘a friendly chat’, do place de­ and snapshots. This demand is mands upon us both in terms of “I think there is a real need for so strong that it has created new expected protocol (you must design to address the public as genres in content production; reply to an email within 24 well as industry, and to explore blinging, mash­ups, as well as hours) and expected connectivity new ways of getting discussions the ‘creative commons’ licence, (if you switch off your mobile going about what people really provide genuine challenges to phone, you are breaking social want and how industry can help the corporate copyright industry. etiquette). us achieve it, rather than the Perhaps more important than On the other hand, technology is on­line communication is how bringing us closer together. Mar­ the mobile telecommunications shall McLuhan (1962) could not Design Pedagogy industry is changing the way we have chosen a more appropriate “Design pedagogy or design think. Here we see ‘media con­ term than the ‘global village’. We education may be defined as the vergence’ at its very best – by are able to interact and collabo­ set of practices and systems for disconnecting the phone, going rate on a truly international the training in the field of de­ mobile, a whole host of possibili­ scale and at an ever increasing sign; the ways and methods of ties are beginning to emerge. pace. In the social arena, we teaching for the acquisition of The telephone has become a blab on anonymous bulletin necessary knowledge and skills media­rich channel encoder and boards and call it free speech, in order to practice the design decoder – a ‘pod’ to jack­in to and we become totally con­ profession.” (Artemis Yagou the ubiquitous. But with all this sumed by the freedoms that 2007) ‘freedom’ comes a price. GPS virtual community and anonym­ works both ways and in the ity afford us. We become anyone wake of the post­9/11 ‘war on we choose to be, and then we terror’. People are rapidly be­ role play out our fantasy to the coming the data objects of the point of it becoming a new real­ system, be it demographic profil­ ity or hyper­reality. ing for narrowcast marketing or Technology has provided unex­ biometric tracking in the name but we are faced with the very pected new ways of socially in­ of national fear. Personal privacy physical and practical concerns teracting. On the collaborative has never been so open to ques­ of learning in what has become a
level, we see Open Source soft­ and massive multi­player games, these highly addictive modes of interaction are only encouraging our needs to avoid the social confrontations of our everyday realities. As designers, we need to move away from the idea that interac­ tion design is only about tech­ nology. To rephrase Kaptelinin & Nardi (2006) “Interaction Design comprises all efforts to under­ stand human engagement with digital technology and all efforts to use that knowledge to design more useful and pleasing [hu­ man exchanges]” In an interview with Regine Debatty (March 2007) Tony Dunne sums up” other way around.” With the emergence of computer technology, this task has be­ come increasingly complex and challenging. Not only do we have to enable students to think about the issues mention above, Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media ≈ page#3 Elements of the form technology­centred discipline tantly, the way they think. of an interaction where convergence is forcing us The computer stops being the to revaluate our roles in this dominant focus of the workspace Gillian Crampton Smith exciting and thought provoking and the workspace becomes suggests that there are industry. mobilised in much the same way In the introduction to Designing Interactions, four dimensions to an as the low­tech high fidelity pen­ interaction design lan­ guage. Transcendences 1­D—words—which are interactions “The challenge for educators 2­D—visual represen­ today is to help designers be­ tations—which include typography, diagrams, come the masters, not the cil & paper affords. As soon as students start thinking literally ‘outside the box’ they soon see the shortcoming of the computer – the students’ ambitions super­ added on to compensate for the explosive potential learning op­ portunities technology affords. We still have the same job to do and the same amount of time to do it in. Our job is to nurture and support new generations of icons, and other graph­ slaves, of technology.” (Ellen ics with which users Lupton 2006) Today’s technol­ interact ogy is seductive. It is as much a creative and critical thinking or space—with which or toy, as a serious business ma­ begins. within which users chine. This seductive character­ at hand. interact istic means we are naturally One approach we take at Asian inquisitive to learn, but we are University is to insist that many for example, content easily sucked in – the technology of the classroom assignments that changes over time ‘takes control’. are collaborative. This is 3­D—physical objects 4­D—time—within which users interact— sede the technical limitations of the technology, and that is when such as sound, video, or animation. Studios not labs nurture creative minds designers to become creative and critical thinkers irrespective of what current technologies are achieved by either students working together in small Kevin Silver (2007) suggests a fifth: 5­D—behavior— Converging diversity or including action, or diverging conversity? operation, and presen­ groups, or treating the whole class as a team with the same objectives. This methodology not tation, or reaction Another challenge today’s edu­ only usefully imitates the profes­ This model not only cators face is deciding on what sional design practice, but also A typical university computer lab students need to learn. The vis­ allows students to find their own It is not so much the fact that ual communication discipline has we have technology – it is the suddenly got a lot broader and a way it is presented that I have lot deeper. With convergence, issue with. Is there any differ­ you cannot avoid the multi­ ence between this image of a dimensional nature of media – Studio practice ‘computer laboratory’ and the how can a student of graphic The traditions of using studio sweat shop factories of industri­ design (traditionally a 1x2­D practice as a fundamental sys­ alised mass production? Con­ channel) avoid learning about tem for learning can be traced fronting students with 3­, 4­ and even 5­dimensional back to the Bauhaus (1919­ technology in this way forces a media if they really want to 1933) where, routed in the prin­ mode of thinking and a mode of practice at the edge of their dis­ ciples of the Arts and Crafts action – sit down, switch on, and cipline? [See margin note.] movement, fundamental princi­ tune in. Interacting with the Likewise, Lupton’s idea of ‘de­ ples such as ‘learn by doing’ and technology is essentially the only signer as producer’ is very entic­ ‘theory is practice’ emerged. It objective. But if we don’t teach ing but can we really expect was not until later that educa­ students how to use technology, students to master the multi­ tors introduced interdisciplinary what chance do they have of tasking roles and expertise con­ learning strategies with subjects mastering it? Is it not inevitable ventionally shared by huge such as “ergonomics, semiotics that to become a master you teams of creators and artisans. and communication theory” (Ar­ must first be a slave? Just because technology allows temis Yagou 2007), with a view At Asian University, all multime­ us to be super­heroes doesn’t to establishing design as a more dia students have their own lap­ mean it is a good idea – we are legitimate academic discipline. top computers. The objectives in danger of educating genera­ (as well as enriching the verbal are not technology­centred. In­ tions of Jacks and Jills rather and visual language of design). stead, students are encouraged than creative geniuses. Studio practice, however impor­ to see computer technology as At the end of the day, we have tant it is regarded, can be criti­ one possible means to an end. to ask what is important. Under­ cized for its intangible nature. To This completely changes the way graduate programmes haven’t counter this, at Asian University, they interact and more impor­ suddenly had a few extra years we have identified three design applies to interaction design but to all aspects of multimedia design
strengths and hone their exper­ tise within a wider range of pos­ sibilities. Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media ≈ page#4 models; production, iteration and scaled drawings, students be impossible to foresee with a and process. These models are put forward very convincing and ‘production’ methodology. This introduced to students as refer­ realistic proposals for a new type approach also supports Ann Bur­ ence; often rejected or discussed of mobile device. dick’s proposal that “…designers in hindsight, rather than being must consider themselves au­ counter­intuitive formulae in­ thors not facilitators. This shift in tended to force methodologies perspective implies responsibil­ and outcomes upon creative ity, voice, action… With voice student minds. comes a more personal connec­ tion and opportunity to explore individual options”. The production model An example of using an iterative approach can be seen in our course on Processing. “Process­ ing is an open source program­ ming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interac­ The mass production line developed by tions.” Developed by Ben Fry Henry Ford. and Casey Rees (2007) at MIT, it This approach supports the tra­ is aimed at enabling design stu­ ditional view that the division of dents to achieve remarkably labour creates high efficiency – sophisticated and seductive re­ It views the designer as one sults with very little formal train­ small role in the greater system ing or knowledge of software of production for industry. This system is made up of various experts and artisans each con­ Kidlink: Mobile technology for 3­8 yr chil­ dren to keep in touch with parents & family. couraged to experiment in the medium creating Hendrik Werk­ tributing their skills to achieve the highest standards and effi­ programming. Students are en­ The iterative model ciency. This approach generates man­style interactive ‘druksels and tiksels’ that are pure explo­ rations derived through direct differing views on ‘what is a de­ manipulation – the work exists signer’. For some, design is with no other purpose in mind. more the humble craft of mas­ tering the necessary technology to transform ideas into commu­ nications ­ designers don’t think they just produce what is re­ quired. For others, the designer is the intellectual genius – the consultant who sits above menial tasks involved in production (traditionally the job of semi­ skilled workers in the trade). In the classroom, a ‘production’ approach to design provides the pedagogically useful separation of creative thinking from the application of technology – it liberates thought. A good exam­ ple of this is in a studio practice Working directly in the medium enables the designer to achieve a limitless rhizome of iterations / possibilities. This is far from a new idea. It is clearly evidenced in the pre­industrial / arts & crafts philosophy seen at the turn of the 20 th century – the carpenter must work directly with the idiosyncrasies of the wood in order to make good furniture. The potter produces numerous variations on a theme in order to achieve perfection. assignment called ‘Kidlink’ in Computer technology is as much which students are asked to de­ a medium as any other technol­ sign a mobile product aimed at ogy and should be treated as helping parents and young chil­ such. This hands­on approach dren keep in touch. Though encourages intuitive and acci­ storyboarding, paper prototyping dental breakthroughs that would Examples of student interactive work using Processing by Ben Fry and Casey Rees
Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media ≈ page#5 S8 The process model S1 The design process from a great height Electives S2 Humanities S3 Concentration S4 Theory S5 Workshops S6 Studio Practice S7 Parallel teaching (as opposed to the pre­ – Central Office of Design "start each pro­ requisite layering metaphor) makes learn­ ject assuming nothing, especially about ing an iterative and connected experience. what the solution to the problem might be, and embark on the process with empathy psychology, sociology, cultural for the final consumer of the solution. studies, communication theory, Whether it be an employee, child, or mother of three." This approach supports the soft skills etc as well as diverse Students work within the following process: 1. Define objectives 2. Undergo research subjects such as Art theory, In­ teraction design, Game theory, viewpoint that projects should 3. Brainstorm ideas Collaborative environments, Film be ‘managed’ from start to fin­ 4. Explore concepts and Animation, Narrative theory 5. Experiment with media and Physical computing. ish. At its most creative, process 6. Produce varied wide ranging iterations almost becomes choreography. 7. Test and hone successful outcomes Design is not so much about 8. Focus production on deliverables outcome but about the intellec­ 9. Deliver/publish artefact tual or intuitive journeys taken. At its most practical, the process model provides students with a Multimedia at Asian University relatively fail­safe approach to Creating a new curriculum in design. It combines the best of Multimedia was a great opportu­ the production and iterative nity to revaluate the classic models and provides a method­ ‘Graphic Design’ degree and put ology very much suited to pro­ together four years of learning fessional practice. From an that would really place gradu­ History, Theory and Practice. History: How educators point of view, it en­ ates on the 21 st century map. It have artists represented the female body ables students to clearly illus­ prepares them not only to enter trate their thinking strategy by the ‘Information Business’ with a Practice: What do students think about the recording every aspect of the head start but positions them contemporary woman? process – it allows us to objec­ ready to select how they will tify or measure ‘good design’ continue their education at the The boundaries between art, more easily and so relies less on post­graduate level. design and engineering are de­ subjective opinions which often As well as the key socio­ liberately blurred. Three concen­ play an awkward role when pro­ intellectual issues of this indus­ trations provide students with viding necessary assessment. try, and dealing with the inher­ the chance to focus their study: ent mixed values brought on by Multimedia Communication, Mul­ computer technology, we have timedia Design and Multimedia also included pedagogical strate­ Technology. Applicants are en­ gies in the curriculum that pro­ couraged to apply from different vide students with a very unique educational backgrounds & cul­ but challenging and long lasting tures, thus students can contrib­ experience. ute their own values to the mix. Venus assignment: A good example of how students experience the integration of over time? Theory: What values did people think were important during that time? On the scheduling level, the cur­ riculum is organised to support parallel teaching – related sub­ jects are taught simultaneously to optimise connections between Theory, History and Practice. On the level of content almost Event poster: These students listened to 50% of courses are theory­ music and illustrated what they could hear. based including: philosophy, Identity & Freedom: A high Technology subject with a low­tech solution.
Pedagogical strategies for teaching digital media ≈ page#6 References Martin Locker is a lecturer at Asian Uni­ Benjamin, Walter (1935) The Work of Art in versity, where as well as being the Associ­ the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Illu­ ate Dean for the Faculty of Liberal Arts, he minations design.wishiewashie.com founded the Department of Multimedia Burdick, Anne The State of Design History which is now beginning its third year. Mar­ Émigré No17. www.emigre.com tin graduated from the Royal College of Art Debatty, Regine (2007) Interview with Tony with an MA in Computer Related Design. He Dunne. We make money not Art: www.we­make­money­not­art.com went on to work as programme leader at the RCA before moving to Thailand where Dunne, Anthony (2006) Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experi­ he worked for 5 years in the field of EFL as ence and Critical Design MIT Press a branch director for AUA Language Centre. www.dunneandraby.co.uk In the UK, Martin had also taught for sev­ Kaptelinin & Nardi (2006) Acting with eral years as programme leader in Commu­ Technology: Activity Theory and Inter­ nication Design at Central Saint Martin’s action Design MIT Press mitpress.mit.edu Lupton, Ellen (2006) The Designer as Pro­ School of Art & Design, as well as a lecturer at the University of Reading where he ducer, Design Writing Research www.elupton.com received his first class BA in Typography and Graphic Communication. In addition to McLuhan, Marshall (1962) Gutenberg Identity & Freedom: Art and design boundaries are deliberately blurred. With an Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man University of Toronto Press open brief, students chose to express their having over 20 years of experience in edu­ cation, Martin has worked for many years in the field of user interface design for inter­ ideas using sculptures and installations Moggridge, Bill (2006) Designing Interac­ rather than digital high­tech solutions. tions MIT Press national companies including Silicon Graph­ www.designinginteractions.com/ ics Inc where he designed ‘Exposure’, the To conclude, as an attempt to Rees, Casey & Fry Ben (2007) Processing: 3D digital composition tool used by Dream­ deal with many of the issues A programmers Handbook for Visual Works in animation productions such as outlined in this paper, we have Designers and Artists. MIT Press http://www.processing.org/ developed the following peda­ gogical objectives at BAM, Asian Rock, Michael (1996) The designer as Au­ thor, Eye No20 University: Silver, Kevin (2007) What Puts the Design Embrace technology with enthu­ in Interaction Design, UXmatters siasm; uxmatters.com Focus energy on what is impor­ Yagou, Artemis (2007) Design Pedagogy, tant: ‘communication’; Develop timeless skills that tran­ Designophy www.designophy.com Special Thanks to Netty, Fame, Sake, Pop, Stamp, A, Fai, Katha, Nat, and Jessica for scend technology; allowing me to show their work. Aim high – educating masters © Copyright Martin Locker May 2008 not slaves, directors not robots; Develop multidisciplinary skills: including soft skills; Provide an academic foundation: history & theory; Experiment with process­driven practice to develop creativity and support real world needs; Encourage critical thinking and critical design; Build critical awareness of indus­ try trends and developments; Provide hands­on iteration and experimentation; Regard the design discipline as a subject to be learnt, not a skill you need to be born with. Prince of Egypt. [email protected] www.asianust.ac.th/multimedia
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