Open Source Approach
Open source thinking is critical to the OSS networked practice of art, research, and pedagogy. For many, “open source” is a challenge to proprietary forms of thinking, an activist position: creativity and innovation for the betterment of the common good. Collaborative thinking is fundamental to the quality of a productive social environment, and in the context of arts education, it emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the media culture we participate in today. With OSS, the open source approach is a commitment to using online technologies to teach in new open ways, to advance modes of collective arts education inconceivable without the Internet, for students to participate in a global information culture, enhancing the notion that an educational community stands to benefit when the learning process is open and transparent.
Public vs Private
This is the dilemma facing educators today: how to draw the line between public and private, when to be open, what to protect, issues of intellectual property, issues of publishing unfinished work/research, issues of ownership, open source vs. proprietary, etc. In OSS, as participants in the globally networked discourse, the process of learning and creating is conducted in the public space of the Web. In OSS, an entire course, its lectures, research, work, interactions and dialogue is archived and indexed for open access. Unlike proprietary educational e-learning systems, each and every post created by both faculty and students is indexed and retrievable for years to come. A student can return to a course long after it took place, retrieving invaluable information for research, publishing, and for inspiration. By publishing our work on the Web, we are committed to an idealized vision of the “cultural record,” as envisioned by such pioneers as Vannevar Bush, in which “knowledge workers” contribute to a more informed society through free and open access to information and its heritage.
The Third Space
The idea of the third space as related to the Internet fundamentally represents the fusion of the physical (first space) and the remote (second space) into a networked third space that can be inhabited and shared. The third space is not a new concept: it has been used by social geographers such as Edward Soja as a term that disrupts, disorders and reconstitutes the conventional binary opposition between the real and the imagined, to fuse (objective) physical and (subjective) mental or representational space. This results in a third space as a shared, social space: collective space, a place of open possibilities, a place of new potential for going beyond the physical and the representational. This is why third space experience is so provocative. It is outside of time and space, not limited to conventional rules and limits. It is spatial in terms of a sense of active play that takes place in a space without borders that defy distance and geography. In the context of OSS, the third space essentially dissolves the constraints inherent in the physical seminar or studio space, opening up new opportunities for remote learning, collaboration, networked art, distributed dialogue, and cross-cultural interactions.
The Visceral Experience of the Virtual
In the study of media art and culture, the third space of the virtual classroom is an ideal way to bridge content and medium, what is referred to as the “visceral experience of the virtual.” By hosting the discussion of media-related concepts in the third space, by engaging participants in the virtual realm, provides a compelling environment for exploring the implications of the social and psychological impact of networked and new media forms. When we are remotely “jacked” into the network (to coin a term from cyberpunk writer William Gibson) for purposes of critical examination, we literally inhabit the subject of our study. As the world becomes increasingly digital, it becomes more imperative to find new ways to critically engage contemporary media culture. Staging the educational process in the virtual environment is a powerful means to examine the complexities of our data-driven, technological, global information society.
Peer-to-Peer Artistic Practice
We do not work in a vacuum: the reciprocal nature of the artistic process, of collective research and collaborative creative activity is essential to OSS. Methods of online writing have been developed to incorporate essential techniques of hyperlinking and media archiving to support forms of online documentation that can be accessed via the network. When the artistic process is approached in this way, each participant has more exposure to the work of others, a dynamic that is fundamental in the studio process. Regularly published updates of project work keep the artist in a fluid mode of writing, creating, documenting and exchanging ideas. Each participant provides a window into their process, which tends to inform and activate the work of others. Rather than the studio being a solitary environment for private reflection, the virtual studios of OSS support forms of peer-to-peer practices that create a more transparent and open space for exchange, dialogue, and critique.
Participants as Authors
By establishing a public space for documenting work, participants are more deeply invested in the practice of writing, with each piece openly published on the Web. Participants thus become authors and publishers, writing not just for themselves, not just for a professor or mentor, but for each other, and for the larger audience of the Web. In OSS, writing becomes a deeply essential aspect of the artistic practice: not just a summation of work, but often a propelling force of idea generation. With this form of multimedia authorship, media and associative hyperlinks are integrated into the writing process. OSS encourages the sketchbook to be a published document, a critical window into the artist’s thinking and aesthetic evolution, an essential element of the work itself. In OSS, the process of making is equally important to the finished work.
The Institutional Portfolio
Open Source Studio centralizes content management at the class level. This way, students document their own work within the context of their studies so that faculty can efficiently gather and organize student projects. When students are taught to apply standardized taxonomies and other efficient database techniques to their documentation, media work is more easily retrieved, presented, and evaluated. Once the goal of providing online workspace for all students has been achieved, it becomes possible to organize an institutional portfolio: a school-wide portfolio of art and design projects. In the highly competitive world of art and design, online skills are crucial for a creative practitioner’s ability to present work publicly and professionally, whether it’s for a prospective job, gallery exhibition, or grant proposal. Once these techniques are part of the student’s creative practice, they can become a more active participant in a 21st century global information society.