The End of the Semester

With the end of the semester finally here, we held our last class meetings over the past two days (Tuesday April 30 and Wednesday May 1).  Here are two group photos.  Here is the Tuesday class:

photo (1)

 

and here is the Wednesday class:

photo

There were a couple of students not present in the Wednesday group.  I would like to thank everyone in the class for a truly wonderful and enjoyable semester!

**** Remember to check the Final Project Blogs page (the tab is located on the left hand side of the screen) on Friday May 10 to see the final project sites. ****

Advertisements

Thinking Digitally, While Living Physically

There is an underlining question that connects all of the assigned materials from this week – as educators, learners, readers, thinkers, creators, and writers – how will we need to change our way of thinking about ideas, knowledge, and expression.  There are two presuppositions built into this question, namely that the ongoing growth of digital technology and social media is not a momentary trend, or fad, but a fact of everyday life in the 21st century, and, that anyone who is engaged in the task of learning, thinking, or creating need to be actively involved in these emerging technologies and media forms .

Image of a Wandering Teacher from Ancient Greece

Image of a Wandering Sophist from Ancient Greece 

The notion that educators and thinkers needs to be actively and continuously open to revision and reconsideration seems to run counter to the popularly held view that there are certain things in life that are fundamentally fixed and unchangeable.  Education is one of several categories that tend to be bundled together as cross cultural universals – meaning that even though there will be variations in style or approach, there are certain things that everyone shares.  This concept is one that has been vigorously debated over the last several decades, as more evidence mounts that this view is either wishful thinking or an intentional twisting of observable facts.  The fact of the matter is that previously there was no effective way to allow the ideas, expectations, and beliefs of others to achieve any type of meaningful circulation.  That is the hard reality of being restrained by print circulation.  When you need to rely on materials, equipment, and a circulation network, it is a near certainty that there will be a limited amount of ideas that make their way through that process.

A View of the Earth from Space

A View of the Earth from Space

Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes easier to see why the advent of the Web would be a cause of interest to those who see the potential that is available within a structure of open access and global circulation.  Of course, that does not negate the need for understanding what this type of conceptual, intellectual, and creative freedom requires – namely, an active vigilance against fraudulent or hostile activity within the openness of cyberspace.  In short, what is required is for each individual user to be willing to take a global perspective, rather than a singular (or local) perspective.

As with any type of newly enacted freedom, early responses tend to be mixed.  Some focus exclusively on the novelty, or triviality, that those freedoms open up, while others feel that such freedoms are inherently problematic, or threatening.  The usual response that emerges from this is a reactionary protectiveness – a need to keep the traditional in place, as this is what has worked in the past.

Considering these points, what is your own perspective on the freedom of creation and idea circulation that we are all faced with out on the Web?  What are some important things to begin to attune ourselves to in the 21st century?

 

 

When We Google, What Do We Get?

Google Search Results

Google Search Results 

As per our discussions of where Nicholas Carr’s questions “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” might leave us, it seems like there is one thing that needs to be brought up in order to effectively consider Carr’s position.  If we look at a Google search (or, the results from any search engine would suffice), we have to ask – What do we find?  The answer is something that a lot of us probably wouldn’t think of, at least not initially – the answer is that Google provides us with information.  Information that is sorted based upon a series of algorithms that are calculated in order to direct us towards the most commonly viewed information that pertains to the query we have entered.  As a professor said in one of my undergraduate classes, information is information – the question is what do we do with it?  In some cases it is easy to answer this question – I have a question about when a particular concern is going to take place, I Google it, I find the answer – this ends the inquiry.  Of course, this is not the only scenario for responding to information – for example – a doctor who searches for information that other doctors, scientists, and researchers have found pertaining to a particular illness – using the information that has already made its way into circulation, the doctor is left with the question – what now?

An Image Based Representation of Getting An Idea

An Image Based Representation of Getting An Idea

The most problematic aspect of the search engine, from Carr’s perspective, is that it seems to be highly likely that people run the risk of becoming information hoarders, and not thinkers.  Traditionally, information leads to new avenues of thought – new ways of thinking about something from a perspective that had not occurred before.  This is part of the value that Carr finds in deep reading, which he believes has become endangered as a result of a series of digital technological breakthroughs.

This leaves us with the question – what could spur us on to think new thoughts when we find ourselves in the middle of a sea of information?  A major part of that answer is to think critically and creatively.  This framework will be useful to you as you begin to think about what you could work on for your podcast projects.  As we discussed in class this week, it is important to approach technology, such as sound editing, not just as a way to further establish what people already believe, or know.  It is important to consider how a given technology can allow you to think new thoughts that may not have been present (or even possible) before the creation of a particular type of technology.

I am looking forward to hear from all of you in class this week, regarding what you would like to do your podcast projects on.

An Author Making The Move From Paper To Sound

An Author Making The Move From Paper To Sound

 

Is It Still Possible to Be a Child of the Book?

A Traditional Isle View from a Library

A Traditional Isle View from a Library

The library image from above is familiar to all of us.  It is the storehouse of information, the scholars retreat, the place where society accumulates the ideas of authors, researchers, and thinkers, the place where anyone can go to find something, as long as they know where to look.

This is also one of several public spaces that routinely are scrutinized by public officials to determine if there is enough funding to remain open, or in some cases if budget cuts or closures are necessary.  It is an increasingly depopulated place, with reduced hours of operation, and smaller staff members working to maintain the day to day operations.

Some have argued that continued reduction of social importance that public libraries have seen over the past several years is one part of a larger disinterest in actively engaging in thought, communication, and expression.  Other changes, such as the rapid disintegration of traditional newspapers and magazines, and the loss of independent booksellers to large chain companies or online corporations indicate that we are facing a new point in human history, one where reading and writing are not seen as a universal connection point between individuals and the larger society that they exist in.

Is this the End of Books?

Is this the End of Books? 

With the recent flood of apocalypse themed movies, television shows, and novels (think of Max Brooks’ “World War Z” and the popular “Left Behind” series) destructive imagery stands out – something or someone is facing some sort of annihilation.  It is out of this tidal wave of vivid imagery that we have witnessed two failed “end of the world” predictions (May 22, 2010 and December 21, 2012).  This pattern of thought has become vigorously attached to familiar modes of thinking and expression that have been a fixture of many societies since the invention of Guttenberg’s printing press.

The Printing Press of the Past

The Printing Press of the Past 

The Printing Press of the Future

The Printing Press of the Future

At this point, it may be useful to point out that the images of burning destruction that are so popular in contemporary apocalyptic scenarios is only part of an apocalyptic vision.  A genuine apocalypse contains a revelation of something new that will emerge out of something old.  Destruction is never the end of the story, but rather the beginning.  So, if we are faced with the end of traditional publishing, circulating, and accumulation of ideas, what is left but to look to what is emerging.  If we are no longer to be children of the book, as Richard Miller described himself in “This is How We Think,” then what will be children of in the digital age that is dawning?

 

 

Reproducing Art – Searching for Value in the Digital Universe

A Familiar Scene from a Museum

A Familiar Scene from a Museum

All of us can name a well known work of art, such as Henri Matisse’s “The Knife Thrower,” Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies,” Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”

The Knife Thrower

The Knife Thrower

We immediately see works such as these and we identify them as art works.  Sometimes we know the name of the artist, sometimes we don’t.  The original works are framed, housed in art museums and galleries, owned by private collectors and part of art collections maintained by well known foundations.

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

 

 

 

Art is traditionally understood as the outward expression of the artist’s inward genius, or the accomplishment of a strong creative impulse.  In some ways this is a romantic notion, that of an artist working tirelessly, in isolation, with the need to share their ideas with others.  This concept of art is closely tied to the means of creation by which an artist makes their art – a painter with a canvas, palette, and paint brushes, a writer with a typewriter and paper, a sculptor with clay and their carving tools.

DaVinci's The Last Supper

DaVinci’s The Last Supper

This has been the artist paradigm for centuries, but now we are faced with a radical shift – that of art emerging from anywhere.  The tools for creating a breathtaking photograph, a captivating film, or a throughly engaging story can be created via any number of programs that can be purchased and installed on a home computer.

The Scream

The Scream

This in itself is an incredible shift, but there is an even bigger change, which has not be fully examined, namely the manner in which we encounter art.  As art is freely moving out of the exclusive realm of the museum, people are viewing classic (even canonical) works of art on computer monitors, iPad screens, and gallery text books.  The experience of viewing artwork in a museum is something that could be likened to the religious experience of a believer inside a house of worship.  In some ways this may seem like an unusual comparison, but if you think about it there are certain similarities that connect the two.

As various modes of digital technologies become more entrenched in our daily lives, is it possible that art can be democratized?  Could this lead to a devaluation of art?  Is it possible that anyone can become an artist now?  How could this impact the future of art school programs and the study of art history?

Interestingly enough these are some of the same issues that Walter Benjamin was exploring over seventy years ago.   Could advancements in digital media be understood as being the realizations of Benjamin’s mechanical prophecies?  Are these developments even more complicated than Benjamin’s ideas?

Drawing of Walter Benjamin Standing Next to  a Printing Press

Drawing of Walter Benjamin Standing Next to a Printing Press

What are your thoughts?

Welcome to the Spring Semester

Dear Students,

Welcome to Literature and Technology – Creativity and Expression!  This blog will be a primary road for sections 1 and 2 of this course.  Some of you may be familiar with blogging, some of you may have never even looked at a blog, but by the end of the semester you will all be pros at generating posts on WordPress.

To begin we will be reading a piece by Scott McCloud and watching a video by Richard Miller.  What I would like us to be thinking about today is what we identify as creative, artistic, and scholarly work, and how those things are changing as a result of the digital landscape that we all find ourselves living in at the beginning of the 21st century.

Let the journey begin…