Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Times Ahead

The summer group of 2013, comprised of students who are working on the technology of themselves, are entering new domains of awareness. This is the ongoing challenge we face as artists and educators. But the good news is that our training and sensibility actually prepares us for change. We are receptive to Time as it changes, because art itself is about transformation and change.  We are sometimes fooled by the products of arts, but art is always process. Process becomes a way of researching the world, of knowing the world as always at the point of becoming.

Looking at the work of M.C. Escher, we can see how wonderfully he expresses the notion of change and evolution through images that come in and out of the foreground and background. Evolution is about constant change, and as we have changed in response to the world and its changing environments, we invent ourselves over and over again.

Now technology becomes the environment that calls for change, and we are in the midst of an information revolution that may control our destiny in ways beyond our imagination. All of this is involved in the technology of ourselves. We work on ourselves to become more than we are now, to become different than we are now. Education itself was once viewed as the way that humanity could preserve the past, Now we see Education as an agent for personal and social change.

Two books come to mind that have to do with a sense of mastery and change: Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel that examined the meeting of East and West on a very personal level, and how a westerner came to experience Zen on a deep and profound level that changed his personal awareness of the world.  This book was very influential on artists in the West in the 1970s. Another book grew out of that sensibility and borrowed from the title of the Herrigel book: Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. The industrialized West encounters a different value system of the East in an exploration of the quality of our thoughts and experience.

All of this deals with the technology of ourselves, and this is what we are about as we go through the creation of new materials through the mastery of technologies that call for different ways of knowing and creating the world that is our home.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

We are in the midst of revolution. The world is changing so rapidly that although we think we see the world around us, the world is changing right before our eyes... right now. A serious question faces us as educators. How relevant is the past? Do we cling to the past because it created us as we are? Does this past image (and sound) of ourselves prevent us from seeing and hearing ourselves in the immediacy of the present?

Marshall McLuhan predicted this paradigmatic shift in the 1970s and the media revolution has succeeded in transforming the culture and moving us away from a culture of point to a culture of media, creating what he described as the "global village," as he proclaimed "the medium is the message."

When we examine what constitutes the materials and ideas we try to communicate to our students, we are confronted by the challenge that we must learn the past before we advance further. In fact,the past has controlled our curriculum. You must know the history of yourself or you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Yet a new paradigm has emerged that challenges us to create the future--- not from the past but from the energy of newness and discovery. A new creature has evolved. Generations are separated by an evolutionary process that separates young and old. This has always been true, but Time is so accelerated that the separations are more distant and defined.

Yet consciousness transcends these barriers and situates the moment as the fullness of awareness and experience. Education becomes a term, perhaps antiquated and captured by the past. Education is replaced by conscious awareness that spontaneously knows and understands in an unending kaleidoscope of discovery. The Past and the Future are consumed in the fullness of knowing at the point of discovery.

In some ways, the new technologies empower us to know the world in the presence of now. We can see ourselves, imagine ourselves, and transform ourselves in the media of conscious awareness. Does anything exist without our awareness of it?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Technology as an Extension of Ourselves

Technology serves to extend the range of human expression and achievement. Because of this, music has always been intimately associated with the development of technology. Instruments emerged as the technological extension of the human voice, and as instruments developed, they extended the range and demands made upon vocal music. This reciprocal exchange is described by Marshall McLuhan as the synergistic overlap that occurs when new media absorb the content of old media and then develop their own idiosyncratic features. Just as 19th Century music might be described in the context of the industrial revolution and the machine age, the 20th and 21st Century are indelibly stamped with the rise of technology and media as defining elements for our time.

For those of us in music and arts education, there are some key figures who have influenced our thinking: John Dewey for his philosophical stance which insisted in Art as Experience that students must engage the arts through direct involvement and not necessarily through appreciation or analysis, per se; Jerome Bruner for his innovative ideas toward a strategy for teaching which included cyclical curricula and constructivism; Howard Gardner whose theory of multiple intelligences caused us to re-examine the assumptions we have used with regard to teaching and learning; Elliot Eisner who has helped us understand art as knowledge and what education can learn from the arts; and Marshall McLuhan who has described the ecological environment of media that shape our thoughts, our experience, and how and what we learn.

There are many prophets for this Age of Technology as it is rapidly morphing into the Age of Media. We are also morphing (evolving) into a new creature with miniature devices connecting us with the world, changing and defining who we are in relationship to the world and its events and to those around us and those who are distant and unfamiliar, and less and less anonymous. Now in 2009 Obama is proposing that we each are to be embedded with a digital implant to track our universal healthcare as part of his stimulus package.

We are now becoming the medium, we are the world and its message and massage.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Technology and Process in the Arts

Digital technology has shifted our attention away from the the object to focus on the process. As we discover process in creating new artistic works, we find that there is considerable overlap in generating new media. Now we have tools for investigating and interrogating our personal artistic processes. The many different applications provide the means for creating new materials, copying and pasting materials (repetition), and altering the copied materials into something new through applying "filters" or direct manipulation (variation). These same processes apply to images, sound, moving images, text, etc.

The distinctions that separate the arts are dissolving as we intensify the application of process. Digital technology makes it possible for us to preserve and study process itself. In a sense this transforms process into a new kind of object that morphs through time and space.

The implications of this new technology in leading the way for educational reform are quite clear. Technology places every student at the center of the process and empowers the student to be in full control. The dynamics of artistic expression becomes the motivating energy to inspire students to create their own worlds and expressive ideas, built on the ideas of each other through collaborative exchanges.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Virtual Communities as Collaborators

The jury is still out on these virtual communities such as MySpace, FaceBook, BOOMJ, and Twitter. Recently, digital educational guru Stephen Downes was criticized for following only 30+ fellow Tweeters out of 1000+. Ed Techie Martin Wheeler seems happy that he follows as many Tweeters as follow him (130+). Laura Dewis of Open Air notes the difficulty of trying to follow too many:
I’m at a a stage of my Twitter life where I am wondering how many people I can follow. It’s not quite a mid-life crisis but at 30 something (following) it’s already a struggle to keep up with all the good leads.

In all my social networks, I’ve always employed rules and kept my networks quite focussed. The rules will be different for each site depending on what I want to get out of them - social or work connections for example. But in Twitter, everyone following me looks interesting so how can I resist clicking that follow button?
Twitter is for genuine conversation, and while the concept is extremely attractive, I am not sure how much more I can take on. I want to take on the world, be the world, and yet the physical limitations still prohibit me. My imagination exceeds my reach.

Many of us are dinosaurs, having been around since the beginnings of the Internet and WWW, and we recognize that the gigantic comet erupting over the horizon is the emergence of the end of an era. There is a new species emerging from the digital debris, a communisaurus, in which commitment to group collaboration and fulfillment is the strategic objective, and virtual communities are creating new meanings and values.

Such developments go beyond back and forth conversations. The new virtual communities will create new ideas and works through active, dynamic collaboration. Through such creation their collaborations will make new collective meanings leading to new manifestations of art and arts making.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Sometimes the distinctions between musicing and musicating become blurred. Musicing is making music and music making, while musicating is learning and teaching music. Ideally the teaching and learning cycle is achieved through making music, and technology enhances that process, making musication an act of creating and through the creating, learning takes place. In other we learn when we create, and creating is a way of making meaning in our lives.

Digital technology provides a means to establishing musicing as learning and teaching. This is a simultaneous process and the dichotomy between teaching and learning, teachers and learners dissolves into creative energy and interchange.

Watching this process emerge as musicers gain power iover the technology is fascinating. Creative music technology has a way of dissolving polarities, dissolving products and objects into process.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tech Learning Curves

Sometimes our initial encounter with a new technology makes us feel very much like the bewildered fellow in this video on introducing the technology of the book.

No matter what application we may be learning, there is always some sort of learning curve. Of course the ideal is that as we work we learn and assimilate concepts that empower us with greater understanding with every encounter.

Actually many applications have taken advantage of what we have learned from video games. Video games have very sophisticated end goals that require achieving a number of successive levels as one discovers clues and solves problems that provide access to higher realms of activity and awareness. Yet, most games assume that players know nothing and must learn as they play the game.

Thus the games are created to help reinforce intuitive choices as well as encourage random probing as an approach to discovery of the various options available. Usually there is more than one way to succeed. This is a strategy that would serve us well in educational settings.

Another key element in video games is spontaneity, which keeps our interest and renews our commitment. The more we anticipate that we are on the edge of discovery and renewal, the more we press on. Spontaneity suggests that there are immediate outcomes to our actions and responses. Feedback is instantaneous even if somewhat cryptic at times. Digital technology is geared to create immediate feedback. We write html code or create an animation and immediately open it. The technology provides a feedback loop that engages our own critical faculties. We don't like particular colors or fonts. we want different images. The image should be smaller. The timings need to be adjusted, and so forth.

Thus technology can afford an opportunity for developing critical thinking and inquiry through immediate and personal reflection on the results of our efforts.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Challenges in Collaboration

As performing arts educators, many of us are starting to explore collaboration as creative process. This is a technique that emerges from the spirit of Web 2.0, which places each person at the center of creative activity, unmediated by authority except the discipline that emerges from responsibility and an expanding base of knowledge.

Technology can play a role in this collaboration, but it does not substitute for genuine interactive exchange. Collaboration sets in motion a dialectic process that creates new materials from the colliding polarities of different ideas, a synthesis that forges exploration of new artistic terrain. We are at the beginning of this dialectic exchange. How does technology play a role in this process? Does technology confuse the issue and mislead the participants? How can we be sure of the sources we find through the technology of the Internet?

Web 2.0 is a scary proposition for teachers, writers, and critics who are used to controlling the flow of information and mediating correctness. One such doomsday prophet is Andrew Keen in his recent book The Cult of the Amateur. As long as we have mediators such as Mr. Keen, keen on saving us from ourselves, we have nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A New Living Tradition in the Arts

A small group of performing arts educators participated in an experiment in develop their creativity and conceptual prowess in the arts by developing expertise in technology to create new artistic content reevant totheir discipline while also blogging about issues confronting them as artists and educators, as well as budding arts technologists.

Their work was picked up on a performing arts newsblog, the first of its kind, moderated and selective in accessing RSS feeds focusing on technology and the arts, and arts education, including arts literacy and enhancing literacy through the arts. Over a span of a few weeks, this group created impressive websites with web content relevant to the arts, developing their expressive and technical skills in impressive fashion.

They also produced significant blogs and syndicated their work, becoming aware of a vast resource for the arts that is increasing exponentially every day. Over the days of their blogs, several matured in their writing and thinking in impressive fashion. Language became a source of inquiry and creation.

Perhaps this fledgling group of artists and educators will continue this process beyond this initial concept. Not everyone will continue. Statistics tell us that is so. Yet, everyone should continue, because it is clear that writing about your work and your profession enables you to grow in ways that are astonishingly refreshing.

Blogging enables you to conduct inquiry into yourself, your process of creation and expression, and the essence of your art and its relationship to the world and others. It transcends journaling because of its digital presence and physical structure. It is journaling for a new age, a creature of digital technology and communication.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Constructivism and Performing Arts Education

The arts are especially compelling. Artistic expression in the performing and visual arts is often life transforming, and peak experiences (as described by Maslow) in the arts may be one reason you have decided to devote your life to the arts.

It is important to understand the basis for structuring your curriculum. Once we begin to examine what, why, and how we teach, we have entered a new realm of awareness with regard to our teaching and our concept of the curriculum.

This course has been structured to follow Jerome Bruner's idea of constructivism as articulated in his body of work over the past several decades. In his monumental book of 1960, The Process of Education, Bruner made a tremendous impact on the field of education, as did his book, Toward a Theory of Instruction. His work was extremely influential for visual and performing arts education, and his approach came to be known as constructivism because the learner creates meaning through constructing materials from basic ideas. With regard to this,
1. students are brought into a context of readiness to learn,
2. the curriculum will be spiral in nature, in that concepts appear and reappear in more developed forms throughout the learning process, and
3. students should have the opportunity to extrapolate or fill in the gaps by going beyond the information and applying similar concepts.
This class has utilized this concept and process as the generating principle for the sequence of technology utilized and the assignments for applying concepts to specific projects.

In more recent work, Acts of Meaning, Bruner in accessing the shortcomings of psychology as a field, notes an emergent need to learn by creating materials that establish meaning for us:
The wider intellectual community comes increasingly to ignore our [psychology] journals, which seem to outsiders principally to contain intellectually unsituated little studies, each a response to a handful of like little studies. Inside psychology, there is a worried restlessness about the state of our discipline, and the beginning of a new search for means of reformulating it. In spite of the prevailing ethos of "neat little studies," and of what Gordon Allport once called methodolatry, the great psychological questions are being raised once again -- questions about the nature of mind and its processes, questions about how we construct our meanings and our realities, questions about the shaping of mind by history and culture.
Bruner, Acts of Meaning
By creating your website with its specific goals creatively realized, and by examining your process through your Blog, you have participated in the construction of meaning concerning the materials of the class. Understanding that learning occurs only when our activities merge with all that is meaningful in our lives is part of the process you have been undergoing in these past three weeks. What is especially powerful, in my opinion, is that as students and as a community of artists and learners, you have shared the process of making knowledge meaningful by appropriating it for your needs while inspiring each other with your achievements.

Clearly, you have come a long way from that first tentative creation of your homepage, to skills in movie making and digital audio creation. More importantly, you have captured the techniques and technology and brought them into your personal realm.