Magazine article Art Education

Digital Visual Culture: Of Possibilities and Power-Ups

Magazine article Art Education

Digital Visual Culture: Of Possibilities and Power-Ups

Article excerpt

The gray box sat on a wooden desk, in a room reserved for the gifted program, glowing with a ghostly aura in the darkened space. I would race through my daily activities just to have the opportunity to enter this sanctuary, away from the whizzing dodge balls and skronking recorders that made up much of my daily life as a 5th grader. I, maybe more than anything, wanted to access this room, this glowing box, to disengage from my surroundings and immerse myself in the images on the screen, the pixellated ghosts that swarmed and swirled as I gobbled power-ups to turn the tables on Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. PdC-MdVI.

This was my first experience with the computer in an educational setting. This desktop computer, an Apple He, was, notably, not used for word processing or mathematics, for graphic design or researching world cultures. It most certainly was not used for real-time communication or social networking. It was used as entertainment, as a mindless distraction from the world of playground fights, vocabulary drills, and classroom crushes.

The 5th graders of today undoubtedly become familiar with computers at a much earlier age, in their many forms and with quickly multiplying functions. However, a similar allure has been maintained: to detach from one's immediate environment, and to escape into a virtual world. Contemporary networked digital experiences offer new opportunities for disconnection and engagement, allowing users to talk with a friend across the room or across the country, to view a webpage that reflects the personality of the user, and, perhaps, to play an "old school" game like Pac-Man.

These contemporary experiences relate less to specific media processes and technologies and more to what I have referred to as a digital visual culture. This issue of Art Education is dedicated to the discussion of digital visual culture. The authors writing within speak to a great number of issues related to this topic, in ways that reflect its contemporary relevance, its complexity, as well as its common-ness.

Jeremy Michael Blair describes his research in stop motion animation and autoethnography, in "Animated Autoethnographies: Using Stop Motion Animation as a Tool for Self-Inquiry and Personal Evolution." Blair suggests that the synthesis of these two methods can allow for reflection and resolve in future art educators: "Animated autoethnographies are designed to celebrate error, confess incompleteness, express regret, exhibit imperfection, and embrace not knowing so that preservice art teachers can be better prepared for the imperfect and humbling world of teaching."

In "Blogging, Zines, and Narratives: New Dialogues in Art History," Rebecca Belleville reports upon the infusion of digital technology with teaching Art History in her high school art classroom. She describes the complex intersections between a historical past and a technological present, speaking to the social and cultural conflicts that can arise, while also noting the urgency of such approaches. As she writes: "Our students have a right to access art history in a way that is meaningful and relevant to their 21st century lives, which I believe involves varied approaches to understanding artists and their artwork."

Eric Engdahl explores possibilities for Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG) in his article, "Alternate Reality Gaming: Teaching Visual Art Skills to Multiple Subject Credential Candidates." Describing the development of two ARGs, Engdahl highlights the potential for transmedia experiences in the art classroom, and how this potential will continue to unfold: "I believe that future students will help us discover the full potential of ARG, especially as the born-digital kids enter teaching programs. …

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