Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

(De)Fencing the Cultural Commons through a (De)Constructive Media Art Curriculum

Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

(De)Fencing the Cultural Commons through a (De)Constructive Media Art Curriculum

Article excerpt


Two primary developments in art education over the past two decades have been the proliferation of a visual culture approach to art instruction and the integration of digital media technologies into the culture and the classroom. As the field of art education struggled to define the purpose and worth of these emerging digital media technologies, it was visual cultural art educators who continually suggested and examined ways that these technologies could inform critical exploration of visual cultural forms in the art classroom. However, the specific ways in which the productive capabilities of digital media technologies could be explicitly used to help achieve this criticality have been underexplored as the discourse has focused primarily on critical analysis of popular media texts.

For example, Keifer-Boyd and Maitland-Gholson (2007) encourage art educators to have students examine films in the classroom so that they can uncover how they transmit dominant ideological messages. Briggs (2009) describes how she had students critically analyze the Star Wars films to learn how their visual effects contribute to the aesthetic characteristics that produce meaning. Taylor and Ballengee-Morris (2003) suggest that analysis of music videos and episodes of sitcoms would assist students in developing critical interpretive media skills. Taylor (2007) advocates that art teachers screen music videos in the classroom so that students can critically interpret them for meaning.

These research studies have been instrumental in expanding the breadth of art education to include popular and emerging media as legitimate art forms worthy of exploration in the field. These studies have also demonstrated that the art classroom can be a site for critical explorations of contemporary media. The current ubiquity of digital media making technology now allows art educators the ability to build upon the groundwork established by these innovative art educators. The accessibility of the personal computer (PC), iPad, and digital video editing software now allows art educators the opportunity to focus on the critical production of media texts in addition to the critical analysis of media texts.

Media educators Buckingham (2003) and Gauntlett (1997, 2005, 2007) believe that young people can understand the media by producing media texts in the media forms they are learning to critique. This approach of teaching through the media aims to "develop young people's understanding of and participation in the media culture that surrounds them" (Buckingham, 2003, p. 13) and utilizes a "more reflective style of teaching and learning, in which students can reflect on their own activity both as readers and writers of media texts, and understand the broader economic and social factors that are in play" (p. 14).

Some art educators have presented approaches for teaching through media production. Chung (2007a), Black and Smith (2008), Nadaner (2008), and Trafí-Prats (2012) encourage the use of video in art education. Their approaches to video instruction are rooted in the practice of video art and therefore focus on the time-based medium as a poetic form of reflective, personal narrative and expression. These approaches to student media production are valuable as they provide for students a personal and reflective encounter with the media that is rooted in contemporary media art-making practice. With the exception of Chung (2007b), these approaches are not intended to assist students in developing the media skills they need to deconstruct the massified and consolidated forms of popular commercial media. As such, their focus is not to demystify for students how the seductive quality of commercial media texts, such as movies and music videos, is produced through the deliberate arrangement and sequencing of formal elements. One way to do that is through a comprehensive and deconstructive media curriculum that encourages students to use the PC to tear apart and dissect popular media texts to interrogate them for meaning. …

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