Applied Prototyping and Critical Practise.
Prof. Karel Dudesek
MA Interactive DigitalMedia and MA Network Environements
Ravenssbourne College of Design and Communication- Kent United Kigdom
Student projects of the postgraduate courses in Ravensbourne, contextualized in applied prototyping and critical practise,
or how to avoid reinventing the wheel again and again in art and design.
This paper discusses the experiences made when starting to work with new students from Europe, Asia, South America and Arabic courtiers on a postgraduate course (1Year), in context of new media. It discusses the different approaches, successes and shortcomings in teaching this subject by presenting some projects of last years courses. My motivation to choose this subject came from, last years discussions at the Generative Art Conference addressing design and identity in context of a city or society, which I had the feeling led to nowhere. On one hand the terms have been used like art, but ignore the historical process of art related to identity. We have a western history from Dadaists, Situationists, Viennese Actionists, Fluxus and Happening art to Performance art or the process in media art from video –computer, TV-Radio, net art to software art. Most presentations showed the involvement of intensive software skills but lacked the understanding of contextual issues in art and design. The reason for this may have something to do with the time and energy investment left for the project or the self positioning as specialist in a chosen subject not looking beyond the borders of software driven – visual related outcome.
1. Why to teach critical Practise
Students coming from non Western education systems have little idea about media history, media theory or even a critical approach towards using media at all. My impression is that students coming from Western education systems have each year fewer and fewer understanding of the above mentioned areas. It seems that in western colleges the theory side of teaching disappears more and more. So the status is that non western educated students do not know for example Mc Luhan and western students may know the name Mc Luhan but have very limited understanding. My argument is without critical approach to society, to design, to architecture there will be no process just stagnation if theory teaching is not included in the curriculum. It is not enough to change the form and propose different aesthetics but it is necessary to propose a very personalized unique and individual idea grasping the beat of time which can lead then to new patterns and expressions.
We all know how crucial it is to keep a balance between practise and theory teaching on a postgraduate course, the research and the works of students can very easily slip to either become a some how good dissertation but a not so interesting practical project, or a some how interesting project but a weak theory based dissertation. This is a lot depending on the interest of the teaching team, or the strategy of the department. Do they want to have academically well formatted papers not to put much emphasis on visual or contend related output, or is the emphasis on practical projects which are not likely to be seen academically proper in our educational system?
Why we teach critical practise is to generate awareness about the important relation of critique and innovation. Students have to know the key achievements in the media art or design related fields. The tendency if they are not aware of processes and thoughts from the past is that they are reinventing the wheel again and again. Through media theory teaching and critical practice we try to avoid this. Students have to evaluate there idea/project/argument against the current status of society and against existing thoughts in the same subject, thus evaluating and understanding what the difference they are proposing is.
Other usual reactions are that I can’t change anything, designers/artist are primarily not here to change something but to show an example, a scenario, to make a proposition how things could be. Most of the time projects from students are far too big just to be implemented into real life; they would need a floor filled with programmers, marketing people, bankers and lawyers. So the emphasis here goes also for minor proposals or slight changes which can make the big difference.
2. How we teach applied prototyping
The process from idea, concept to object is very difficult and can often fail, because of the fear and obstacles of the physical space.
It is sometimes far easier to keep things in written form rather than building a “house”. The mistake in general is to keep projects very long in the theory level and leave just too little time for experiencing the theoretical idea in practise. We emphasize and support students to move fast back and forward from theory to practise and back and forward again.
We call this applied prototyping
The process leads from
1. Text based proposal, research finding facts and figures,
2. First sketches, to collages and pictures.
3. Video prototypes
4. Spatial prototypes – experiential design
5. Final project proposals
The duration of this process is limited to 2 days; students have to come up with a project presentation at the end of these sessions. I am sure this is nothing new to you, but my findings are that this exercise succeeds and fails with good and experienced staff. If you assign the wrong staff to this form of teaching the entire outcome can fail. The ability of abstract combination and response techniques is very important, leading the students to other styles and genres of expression. Mostly students’ tendency is to present “political correct” ideas, if you ask them to make the opposite they come up with references from bloody computer games. The understanding of non conformist thinking, the importance of creating discrepancy, subversive and non mainstream motivated ideas is widely unknown and ignored. Interestingly it is wide spread in the art and design area that the opposite to main stream and political correctness is the aesthetic of war, so mainstream is “nice peace” and non mainstream is “ugly war”, I do not want to go deeper here because that would mean a second paper, but this is an interesting subject.
Generative art approached from a different angle.
GORI.Node Garden is physical & ambient data visualization as a network garden in which each plant grows up fed by communication data. It has plants with blossoms and roots which retrieve data to feed the garden during 'watering time' when each plant vibrates, similar to how plants move when the breeze blows on them.
GORI.Node Garden approaches a different aspect of Information Aesthetics. It visualizes a node within social network using visual metaphors in order to explain the concept of 'Information Ecosystem'. The project also aims to be presented in a living environment, getting out of screens and sharing space in which we are living that people feel more familiar with the idea of 'Environment follows data'.
*GORI means 'an open hook' in Korean and it is often used to represent human relationships. Here it is used to express the image of 'fastening or loosening the relationship at your will'. Here, GORI is presented as individual mobile number which identify person.
Corrugation Street-- is an experiment in collaborative and generative storytelling and networked narratives. It’s a soap opera that you can help write. Get involved in making the story. Be a co-author, co-illustrator or a researcher. Change the subject of the story, the mood, or the look and feel. Create your own unique version of the story, told in your own personal way. Your selections decide how each scene in the story will look. The subjects and search terms you choose decide which pictures and RSS feeds are pulled in live from the Internet. It’s impossible to predict what results you’ll get, but your choices will have a big effect on the story. Add your own RSS feeds if you have particular subjects you’d like to add to the stories, and you know the RSS link. If you’d like to add your own image, whether on the internet or on your own computer, add the URL or file path to include it in the story. When you click the ‘Make my story!’ button, the generator script gets busy. Text and pictures are generated from the Internet, processed and mixed in with my story.
Shanyin.Hun Farmer Brows Journal
Farmer Brown's Journal
Farmer Brown's Journal is an online community aimed at the flattening of food supply chains. In Kent, the "garden of England", local farmers' markets are an example of decentralised food supply chains and the preservers of local tradition.
By providing an online space with direct communication between producers and consumers, Farmer Brown's Journal tries to build links between local consumers, producers and the public. The goals are to help local producers/ farmers sell their produce outside the grip of supermarkets, give consumers real choice and understanding in what they buy, and help them find quality local produce. The data extracted from users will be visualised on a map of Kent as an indicator of the growth of community. The figures present the social relationship between the user and local markets; and also reveal the possibility of business.
browse.delicious is visual browser that let users explore and browse through a sample data-set of del.icio.us (social bookmarking system), to see and understand the connections and relations of its entities. The sample data-set consists of 150 persons, their tags, and bookmarks. Through browsing, the relations of each selected entry and its related entries are shown. This shows where the chosen tag, bookmark, or person is situated, and a person's interests and connections can be seen.
4. Applied prototyping Examples
Without knowing the history and without a critical approach there’s no innovation, and without applied practise there’s no experience in real life.
The question is how to find identity, firstly to look at yourself and then view the outside, observing traces on the skin of the city, then listening to the sound of a city. Students have to find their own method to transcript or map this process into form and function. This is the identity of the people which are inhabiting it, your facts and finding will lead to new art and design. But if you as an architect will find someone who pays for it is another question.