Digital Environments

Week1 - 9 October 2009

notes and links from the session

tasks are at the bottom of this page

the session covered the following areas:

• introductions
• this elective
• why theory
• blogs and reflection
• task for next week

• introductions

tutor: Jonathan Kearney - (sorry my own site is a bit out of date)
I am an practicing artist and I have had recent exhibitions in Sweden, Hong Kong, London and Shanghai. I work part time as an Associate Lecturer at Camberwell College of Art, teaching on the MA in Visual Art: digital art. I am also a research assistant at Chelsea College of Art and Design where I work with the research unit called FADE (Fine Art Digital Environment).

• this elective

this is the assessment criteria for the elective:

Subject Knowledge: Understanding and application of subject knowledge and underlying principles
Analysis: Examination and interpretation of resources
Research: Systematic identification and investigation of appropriate sources
Personal and Professional Development : Management of learning through reflection, planning, self direction, subject engagement and commitment

however, thinking about food I simplified these to:
1. GATHER - getting the ingredients together, understanding what they are
1. TASTE - trying out the different flavours, knowing which flavours go well together
2. MAKE - investigating the possibilities, experimenting with the ingredients
3. THINK - this is reflecting, looking back at what you have done to help you find the right steps to go forward

gather - the theoretical principles that underpin digital environments
taste - it will only be a small taste of the ever expanding possibilities
make - explore how this integrates into your own creative practice
think - reflect on the impact and learn from your own engagement

This elective is not a series of practical workshops. It is a look at the theory behind 'digital environments'. All of these new electives are designed to explore a subject in a way that allows you to integrate some of the ideas and principles into your own creative practice, whether that is sculpture, graphics, photography, painting, illustration, 3D, drawing or whatever you are interested in.

• why theory

‘Aesthetics is for artists what ornithology is for birds.’
Barnett Newman (debate with Susanne Langer at Woodstock Art Conference 1952)

Barnett Newman was suggesting that birds don't need to know anything about how the theory of flying, they just fly, therefore artists don't need to know anything about the theory of art, they just make it.

This is an attractive argument. However, flying is natural, art is cultural.
Art is a social construct, it is shaped and influenced by the culture around you. I would suggest that Newman is making a mistake by naturalizing something that is actually cultural.

‘To see something as art requires ... an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of history of art: an artworld’
Danto, A.C. (1964), The Artworld, Journal of Philosophy, 61, p.571-584

Danto's suggestion is that art needs theory, it needs an artworld, ie. a place where art can be talked about and thought about. Otherwise there is a very real danger of simply producing the same trite metaphors and empty concepts that have often been seen before.

So, I suggest the following reasons for investigating the theory behind any art form

1. anticipate the future, beyond the horizon
2. identify possible roles and strategies for future intervention

(these reasons are particularly important for 'digital' as the landscape is not defined, there are still so many new options opening all the time)

Consider the difference between 'anticipate' and 'predict'. This is not about predicting the future but instead, understanding your subject really well, understanding what other people are doing really well, then getting involved yourself and then you will find it easier (not easy!) but easier to anticipate where things might develop. Like a footballer, who really understands football, really understands their teammates and gets involved by practicing hard, in a game they will often be able to anticipate where the ball will be passed to, they can't predict it but they can anticipate the way a game may develop. Sometimes they will be wrong but the more they do it, the easier it becomes.

• blogs and reflection

Reflection could be argued to be the essential stage where learning is integrated within the whole learner, and added to existing frames of reference, and internalised and personalised.
Race, P. (2006) Evidencing Reflection. Putting the ‘w’ into reflection. [Online] Available (Accessed 18.12.07)

Reflection is a vital part of any learning but it is very important within creative work.

However, reflection is:

not what you have done
it is about who you are when you are doing it

you can read and watch videos about reflection by following this very useful link

The assessment of this elective requires:

1. Assessment Records (attendance)
2. Student Log (blog)
3. Presentation of practical and contextual research outcomes to peer group (final elective event)
4. Evaluative Report - 500 - 700 words (on your blog)

The student log must be completed in the form of a blog. These are free to setup and allow you to easily write, add pictures or video giving your reflection on your learning. Click here for a series of questions that you might find helpful to get you started in keeping a reflective blog.

The best option for a blog is to go to, in just few minutes you will have a blog up and running. It is free and wordpress is probably the best blog option available at present. Click here for help with setting up

If you keep a regular blog during the 13 weeks of this elective, you find it very, very easy to write the final evaluative report. You will simply be able to go over your blog and summarise your learning, you will probably find it difficult to not write too much!!

TASKS for 16 October 2009

1. start a blog (go to to start a blog in a just a few minutes, read more on week01 page)

2. prepare 2 minute presentation

You will all have to give a very simple presentation, in words, pictures, performance, anyway you like, on the subject:

‘digital is . . .’

You have a maximum of 2 minutes, so it is very short. I just want you to think and read about 'digital' and present one simple thought.