The process of learning new things usually involves a challenge of encountering new world of symbols, languages and concepts. The complex part is to begin perceiving and thinking in those new terms. The process involves hard work of re-wiring mental networks while simultaneously new skills and resources are been developed.
A good example of this process is the demanding journey that crecient amount of young artists go through every semester by entering the world of creative coding. This new field established by great artists such as: Golan Levin, Casey Reas, Ben Fry, Scott Snibbe, Zach Lieberman, John Maeda and Robert Hodgin, is becoming the learning motivation for students coming from different backgrounds. Each single one of those have to learn a new cold and abstract language very different of the skill they are used to.
A new hidden career was born. In this new media field developing platforms, projects and tools such as: Arduino, Processing, VVVV, MAX/MSP, openFrameworks, Cinder and Pure Data are becoming skills and need stops on a tacit syllabus in a new generation of artist. There is an invisible path to follow through this tools and each novice will prefer one over others.
It’s not written anywhere but these tools configure a new curricula not just for tomorrow’s professionals but for today’s new media artist. Like a new renaissance, inside this movement people are making their own expressive elements, art pieces and collective manifestos. Educational institutions are fighting to catch up, re-write everything that has been said about courses and acquiring learning materials in order to cope with this ideal revolution. Now more than ever classes are composed of people from different backgrounds, ages and levels of expertise. The educative model has been pushed to the limit and forced to be reviewed and updated constantly. Programs such as DT, NYU ITP and Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon are the pioneers of this process.
From the perspective of those now starting to learn, it’s a journey for curious and self-driven people that involves audacity and hard work. Sometimes the transition from one language or platform to another could be more harder than expected. Most people experiment with the tools until they find one platform / language that satisfies their expressive and creative needs.
I found my place in openFrameworks. Not only because of it’s technical performance and creative capabilities but also because of the open and transparent community that surrounds it. But the technical gap between my previous tool, Processing, was hard to achieve.
This is still the case for others. It is very obvious that this platform can intimidate new artists
and therefore may mislead them from trying to engage with it.
The next slides are a summary of an exploratory micro-research conducted on students based on this questionnaire that explore the process of new users of openFrameworks: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?fromEmail=true&formkey=dFBFOUR3aE1JOWVsQ1I0SmRrWWFMakE6MQ
Just a overview description of the background knowledge, motivations and difficulties they find at the beginning.
Assessing the data of the questionnaire and learning about the difficulties new users stumble upon when interacting with OF, I realized it is crucial to review new teaching methodology that resemble the drastic change of paradigms that allows the emergence of this new type of expressive language.
One of the important feedback received in this forms survey was the intrinsic motivation. Seams new members are driven by curiosity and by referent that show cool stuff. Works published on internet are literally open the spectrum of what’s possible not just with technology but with your careers and passions. It’s not just possible to make amazing work also it’s possible to make a living with it.
An important feedback received in this survey was the intrinsic motivation for learning OF. It Seems that most new members are driven by curiosity and artists precedents. Open source projects published on internet have literally widened the spectrum of what’s possible not just with technology but in terms of careers opportunities. This movement has made it possible to create amazing work with little technical background and make a living out of it.
“Q: What motivated you to learn openFrameworks?
A: Having creative ideas and finding a complete framework to develop them”
Following this creative need most people engage in self-driven learning processes through video tutorials and forums. This suggests the opposite of a traditional, archaic, passive learning and implies that the knowledge is achieved by making and having a direct experience with the materials.
Examining this initial research about better ways of teaching and encouraging a better practice, I put emphasis around questions such as what needs to be simplified and at what cost. Which metaphors reflect and explain better complex technical phenomena, which type of group dynamic is better to encourage learning and how to implement that into institutions, all these are very essential to my research. These questions are just scratching the surface of a deeper and a more profound change that is happening and I invite both students and teachers to meditate and review constantly.
I would like to state that I’m thrilled and excited about this challenge we are facing. What could be a good contribution to this movement? Which are the characteristic of those tools that follow and reinforce this paths already taken by Processing, MAX, Arduino and others? What are the next technological innovations in education that can push the limits of what can be learned and expressed. These are just some of the question we may ask as designers, artists and educators and hopefully the quest for answers will lead to a new horizons, bigger challenges and more questions.