As a university art education professor that has written,
researched and taught many classes on art education and
technology, I must confess I have serious doubts about the
use of technology in the art classroom, in education in
general and society as a whole. It is not technology itself
so much that worries me. What worries me is what we do with
technology and how we have created machines without
recognizing their impact upon the way we think, work, live
and feel. The tail now is wagging the virtual dog.
I am quite concerned that my experience and the experience
of my students and future teachers is becoming too
abstract. I am concerned that we as a culture have lost
touch with the physical world and live primarily in a world
of abstraction without realizing the potential psychological
dangers of doing so on a long term basis. I believe we are
becoming a people whose minds have become detached from our
own bodies. For me the daily stress piles up as I spend
increasing amounts of time on the computer (like now) trying
to communicate via e-mail, the telephone, cell phones, voice
mail to voice mail. You know there are some people I only
have conversations with them via their voice mail systems.
It is like one Xerox copy talking to another Xerox copy. I
can't help but think that I am missing out on a whole lot by
not interacting directly and face to face with the people I
When was the last time that you spent much time in nature?
When was the last time you dug in the dirt, walked in
untamed country, felt a leaf or walked bare footed in a
stream of cold, crystal clear water? I can hardly remember
this myself. For the most part, I watch other people doing
things like this on TV or in the movies. I am removed,
detached and an dispassionate observer. My senses are
becoming more and more dull.
I bring this up because of the usual way that computer art
technology is usually taught. I bring this up because I
have been on a perpetual quest to try to resolve the
difficulties of technology use in my own mind and in my
classes that I teach for future art teachers. My experience
has been that most computer art classes primarily stick
within the virtual world, without thinking of ways of
bringing the natural world and the technological world
This last semester, I taught my usual class called Learning
and Digital Media. I prepared an instructional unit on the
basic issue of technology: reality and abstraction. We
studied the art work of Andy Goldsworthy. My students
created natural art work in their local environments. We
talked about the experience in our online discussion board.
They compared their work and the artistic process of working
in nature with that of working solely with the computer. We
also selected natural elements and scanned them into the
computer and manipulated them in Photoshop and created
digital "natural" quilts and "surrealistic landscapes."
There was an amazing amount of energy in the class as we
grappled with the issues surrounding making art with nature
and with technology. It was a fascinating and riveting
experience for me as a teacher. The experience perhaps
raised more questions as I continue to contemplate both the
positive, neutral and negative effects of technology.
Right now there seems to be such a steam roller effect with
technology and if one dares to question the efficacy of its
use you are somehow not with it. I have no conclusions at
this point, but as one who is usually regarded as a
technological nerd of sorts, I just wanted to share my
doubts and concerns with you and to start a friendly
discussion on how we can harness technology without losing
too much of our own souls. Any ideas?