Seven years ago, I built and invested in an advanced state-of-the-art multimedia studio in my home in Washington, DC, which was designed specifically for Internet and audio-visual artistic production, broadcasting, and teaching. During the past five years as a visiting artist at the California Institute of the Arts and a visiting professor in the School of Art, Design & Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, the studio became central to my courses in Internet art. Each semester, I Web-conferenced live classes in Adobe Connect, gave critiques via Skype, and demonstrated the idea of the “artist-broadcaster,” to immerse students in the possibilities of networked performance art. I brought to my students the “visceral experience of the virtual” so that they could learn by working, playing, and exploring in the medium of their study.
Through the technological capacities of the studio, I introduced to my students the methodologies, concepts, and aesthetics of networked forms at the intersection of art, design, and communications. Students logged into class with their Webcams and microphones, participating in a rich, dynamic interplay that involved presentation, discussion, research, critique, and play. For my students, already net-savvy in their use of social media, having an educational experience via the online medium expanded their understanding and thinking about artistic and critical issues in Net Art.
This online experience was supported by Open Source Studio (OSS), a learning and production multi-site Web platform built in WordPress, which I founded and created at ADM and now serves approximately 300 students as part of the University’s online TEL initiative. In my courses, OSS was used as virtual studio space, providing students with a highly collaborative, transactional medium for artistic work, research, and discussion surrounding Internet related topics. I found this approach to teaching online to be exceptionally effective in terms of giving students both a practical and theoretical experience that is unlike anything they would encounter in their on-ground educational experience. The nature of the immersive online experience gives students a databased platform for engaging in concepts of Internet art, as well as navigating the space of networked hypermedia that is often difficult to convey in a physical classroom.
Students today are looking ahead at a networked world that is very different from what their professors encountered after graduation. As a result of the specialized form of online arts education I have explored and taught, it is my belief that an immersive experience working in the medium gives students a greater understanding and feeling for their responsibility as Internet citizens. It also helps them better prepare for their professional lives as artists and designers in a 21st century global information culture. The quality of student work confirmed the effectiveness of this approach, as demonstrated in their art projects and written assignments, as well as their genuine excitement to be a part of a new and adventurous pedagogical approach to online education.
I can say with confidence and experience that it is possible to maintain the very highest standards of teaching, research, and service that is expected at any university or art school, while at the same time, embracing the online medium as a new model for teaching and scholarship in our age of telecommunications.