Monday, November 23, 2009

Reconceptualizing the arts

Hetland et al's focus on the issue of art in education is centered around the notion that there is no empirical data that proves transfer occurs. Jeff's post on this article provides a nice summary the concerns of this article, although he is unconvinced that there is a place for the arts based on their article. I would disagree to a certain extent, because the various dispositions presented in their short paper does provide a clue as to how they think skills and abilities practiced in art studios are relevant to scientific endeavors.

Unlike Hetland et al, however, I believe a simple reconceptualization of what the arts mean is in order. To merely conclude that it is simple is of course, hubris. The reconceptualization is necessary in order to answer Dewey's conundrum in his exposition of a theory of aesthetics. To Dewey, art is an act of creating and process, whereas aesthetics lends itself to indulgence and joy. Design in this sense, captures the essence of both aspects. Game designers for instance, design for a end product, or conclusion which presents "its qualities as perceived have controlled the question of production." (Dewey, 1980:48) Yves Behar, on th other hand, is a great proponent of creating products that provide experiences for users. It is no accident that his slogan is "design brings stories to life" and "life brings stories to design". Moreover, programs that combine the arts and aesthetics come together in courses offered in Parsons School of Design and Carnegie Mellon. Acknowledging that the two aspects of art and aesthetics are instrinsically related in design might signal the impact of the arts in society.

Perhaps the battle might be less about transfer or visual culture but more on the symbols and meanings of art as a cultural construct as it changes over time. Becker's (2003) presentation on the new directions of sociology of art includes the history of art from an upstream and downstream perspective. His approach touches on key aspects of why design education (or arts, if you must) is important for students. The geneology of a work of art presents to others (in the present, near and distant future) the representation of what certain members and groups in society consider as important. Virtual data arguably, has no lasting footprints due to its existence as bytes and dependency on power sources. Without the physical infrastructure and energy sources, the technologies we depend on will not exist. To put it quite dramatically, if civilization as we knew it encounters another ice age, what relics of the past will endure? Would it be mud or computers?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Computational literacy

The debate in class over computational literacy was one I really enjoyed, primarily because it represented the various views that the field has over what constitutes as necessary skills for students. One key assumption in the debate however, and the course to a certain extent, is the fact that these technologies/computers are here to stay and that we have to reckon with them.

When reading the diSessa article, I was curiously uneasy with this assumption. The article provided a broad overview and had its theoretical merits, but to a certain extent, it felt like colonization all over again. I'm not denying the benefits of technology, but the image of the torch of technology as a beacon of light that will illuminate the uncultivated, less advanced corners of the globe is unshakeable and disturbing. To this end, everyone must arm themselves with the necessary knowledge, less they be left behind. I'm left wondering why this trajectory seems to be the most viable one. Can other societies survive without a full computational revolution? Will they be relegated into peripheries and be considered "non-progressive" if they do not adopt these new technologies? Perhaps the world is getting increasingly flat as Friedman argues. However, to what extent are all societies participating? And are they participating as full members? Or are they the savages that need to be educated in order to be on the "modern progressive track"?