Introduction to the Virtual Studio

The OSS Virtual Studio is a WordPress site that has been designed as an open and collaborative online workspace for writing, research, learning, and artistic production-related activity. The OSS Virtual Studio is conceived as a networked “suite of studios,” created as a WordPress multi-site that provides a unique Website for each student. The OSS Virtual Studio and its incorporation of social media is intended as an environment for encouraging students to integrate Web tools into their everyday practice and to engage collaboratively with other students.

By: Randall Packer |

The WordPress Multi-Site

In a WordPress multi-site, each student has a unique site with their own WordPress installation, which can be modified and styled according to their creative needs. The multi-site facilitates the aggregation of content generated into the Class Site (see figure below), including: student avatars, social media feeds, blog posting, embedded media, online discussion, etc. This networked approach encourages a more collective experience, in which research, critical writing, media documentation, and the multifarious forms of artistic production are created and stored in a shared, aggregated working environment.

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Student as Author

The OSS Virtual Studio is a public site, encouraging students to become more deeply invested in the practice of writing online. Students become authors, writing not just for themselves, not just for the professor, but for each other, and for the Web. The key to this approach is that students are participating in the larger global discourse of the World Wide Web.

By incorporating the artistic process into a published, online environment, writing becomes a deeply essential component of artistic practice, resulting in the sharing of critical thinking and process: crucial to the OSS approach. As the author of their own site, students take ownership of their online work, which helps spark the creative process. With this form of multimedia authorship, all media types can be integrated into the writing process, essential for new media and interdisciplinary artists who work with multiple forms of images, sound, video, code, etc.

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Collective Research

Rather than viewing the studio as a solitary environment for private reflection, the studio is transparent, in which artistic research is conducted as an open process, a medium of exchange, dialogue, and feedback. The student artist learns to open up their process to understand its importance as an element of the work itself. Regularly published critical writing and updates of project work keep the artist in a fluid mode of writing, sharing, and exchanging ideas (see figure below). Each student is responsible for providing a window into their process, which tends to help activate their work and the work of other students. Ultimately, students learn from one another by testing ideas and engaging in dialogue in the collective space of the Virtual Studio.

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Documenting the Creative Process

Through the use of Web tools and social media, the OSS Virtual Studio provides a more cooperative environment for research and artistic production, in which the work can be more readily documented, shared and archived. This approach is crucial to the creative process as the search for knowledge can be a significant aspect of the work itself. Documenting the creative process online encourages transparency and openness, much like shared studio space in the physical environment.

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The following sections of the user manual demonstrate techniques used in the OSS Virtual Studio, providing an in-depth explanation of the collective, online approach to studio-based art instruction. While the following examples are the result of my own work as an artist and educator, it is hoped that students and teachers might benefit the approach, and expand and improve on its methodologies.