Digital Transformations and Conversions in Art- Web 2.0 and Beyond
by Nettrice R. Gaskins

Almost anything—text, sound, photos, motion media—can be digitized, and whatever can be digitized can be presented on a computer, transmitted over an online network, and even displayed in virtual 3D space. This session highlights the work of educators who are synthesizing current and emerging web technologies into immersive, 3D spaces for art making and learning.

This interactive map (see above) provides a framework for the presentation and discussion of digital art technologies and web-based platforms where virtual (and real) art projects are created, stored, or displayed. The map also includes a collection of web-based resources to demonstrate Web 1.0+ platforms that are merely concepts that describe core services, or applications. Each platform comes with a set of principles and practices that tie together a broad collection of sites and virtual applications that demonstrate some or all of those principles.

Key steps or stages to consider:

Research

Become a media philosopher and public intellectual, analyzing the impact of new media (and art) on your values, your body, the social fabric of which you are a part. This means paying attention to, analyzing, and criticizing the forces that shape contemporary life and using your intellect to help yourself and other interpret the world. Find avenues for making your views public. Choose appropriate technologies to suit your ideas, rather than allowing technology to drive your creative process. Consider carefully the nature and impact of the digital media you embrace. Use these media consciously and critically. ~ Excerpt from Art Lessons by D. Haynes

As students learn to identify and use digital art or web technologies, whether it's Adobe software, or Second Life they need to consider how it relates (or not) to the criteria of the assignment. For example they could explore the connection between artist Matthew Ritchie and line or shape, so using Adobe Illustrator plus Live Trace might be an appropriate tool to use to explore those formal elements. If space is that visual element students might compare and contrast artwork in real life by James Turrell or Tim Hawkinson with immersive 3D art installations in Second Life such as Dynafleur. Students are also required to document the entire process, from research to exhibition via a personal/art blog.

The role of the educator in this scenario is that of facilitator:

The facilitator's job is to support everyone to do their best thinking. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements. - Sam Kaner

Educators determine the pedagogical and technological parameters of the virtual art project and introduce the technologies needed to complete student assignments, with the outcome being online exhibition or showcase of the work (in-progress and completed). Educators may need to create websites, course blogs, wikispaces, podcasts (audio, video, or enhanced), or an immersive, virtual 3D lab space. Education content and digital media can be cross-purposed. In this case, cross-purposing means using media projects for more than what they were intended for, usually across web platforms.

Students explore digital media tools and other ways to extend their learning. For example, HUDs or Heads-Up Displays in Second Life are a special form of attachment point (to an avatar) and are commonly used to provide info, communicate, and share ideas. They will have their own HUDs as a personal screen overlay, or as part of instruction that they can wear or remove when necessary. They will be able to access HUDS in Second Life to do research, communicate, and document their progress using tools such as blogHUD, a tool that lets students blog from Second Life and crosspost their text posts or image postcards to their blogs or photo-sharing accounts.

Planning

Students explore theme(s) connected to their research, or they are given a theme to research and use as a basis for a conceptual plan such as a bubble chart, visual thesaurus, or 3D spidergram. They are asked to consider their total art/media environment, the technologies they should use, and brainstorm an area/topic that stimulates their personal intellectual curiosity and/or relates to their work/other studies. Students are assessed based on clarity of concept and technical execution. They post their plans on blogs for documentation, reflection, and feedback.

Production

Through instructor-facilitated play students practice how to navigate various technologies. For example in a virtual 3D world like Second Life students learn how self movement structures their knowledge of the technological world. For example the play-driven movement of flying or leaping upward in Second Life is a lesson about simulation and gravity as well as one’s avatar awareness. Play, as a first step in learning, lights up the brain and fosters learning. Innovation, flexibility, adaptability, resilience, have their roots in movement. Play driven experiences associated with exploratory body/avatar movements, building objects in virtual space, communication, and collaboration help students develop skills necessary for higher education and the 21st century workplace.

Living and Learning with New Media, recently reported on a three-year study called the Digital Youth Project at the University of California at Berkeley. The researchers explored subjects’ interactions with personal technology, like video cameras and cellphones, and with new media spaces like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and the virtual world.

Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.

During this phase students implement their plans, either individually or as part of a collaboration.

Collaboration -- or joint production by two or more artists -- is a common style among musicians and performance artists. It has not been so popular, on the other hand, in the world of art, and especially in modern art. But the strong sense of individualism long possessed by artists of fine art began to wane around the 1960s, and some artists working in units have emerged and become widely known along with the development of new media based on the advances in information technology. They have changed the concept of art into something that can be engaged in by more than individual artists alone.

In virtual 3D worlds like Second Life a great deal of time and energy is put into recreating physical spaces and their real-world limitations rather than experimenting with ways that virtual worlds create opportunity to do things that are impossible in real life. These opportunities can be social--engaging with art content with other visitors at their computers all over the world--as well as experiential--allowing visitors to jump into, interact with, and manipulate content in ways that artists using traditional media may have never imagined.

Exhibition

Second Life or SL is a 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using voice and text chat. SL is a meeting place for communities of creative people. SL has a flourishing economy and millions of users doing everything from teaching and taking classes to visiting museums to running galleries. We will use Second Life as our classroom and laboratory. After facilitated, virtual symposia, participants will examine models for virtual art exhibition, education and activism. Work will be largely project-based.

PBS Art:21 Site BlogHud Site 3D Spidergram in Second Life ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus The Sketchbook Project Vol. 3 flickr: Art and Education in Second Life Drawing Day 2009 Site