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Chris Salter

The Seminar-Studio Tug of War: Fusing Theory and Praxis in New Media Education

Even though the so-called field of new media is in its infancy, it has already found itself in the institutional battleground marked by knowledge segmentation and disciplinary dichotomization. As new media has (in many instances) been situated within traditional studio-based fine arts curricula in the university or conservatory context, it has also been greeted by the traditional split between studio-based practice (making things without parcel to critical theoretical/historical considerations) and seminar-lecture (history-theory that is unmoored from lived experience) based learning. Although many students have little in the way of historical/critical practice in the field, this artificially constructed split between “making” versus “thinking” pulls students head on into the theory/practice divide. How can we generate new curricular paradigms that champion intellectual and critical rigor and at the same time, incubate more radical forms of creative practice that directly embody contemporary hybrid knowledge production? How can theory and history be used as a generative strategy rather than just unmoored facts and concepts devoid of historical context and students' own personal experience? Based on teaching in new media programs in three different academic contexts (RISD, Brown and Concordia University), this presentation will examine some strategies taken by the author in dealing with the aforementioned questions. Course examples and student responses to these challenges will be discussed as well as looking at paradigms from disciplines outside of artistic practice.

Christopher Salter received his PhD in the areas of theater and computer-generated sound at Stanford University. His research and artistic practice investigates the role of real time sound, image and technologies of interaction within the context of responsive environments and performance. He was awarded the Fulbright and Alexander von Humboldt Chancellor grants for research/work in Germany between 1993 -1995. After collaborating with Peter Sellars and William Forsythe/Ballett Frankfurt, he co-founded the art and research organization Sponge. Salter’s work has been shown internationally at venues such as Ars Electronica, Transmediale, Villette Numerique, V2, DTW/New York and SIGGRAPH, among others and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, ID and Leonardo magazines. Salter has given invited talks at such venues as the Banff Center for the Arts, Ars Electronica, ZKM, Brown University, Stanford University, Goldsmiths College, Amherst College, the Rhode Island School of Design, Transmediale, HfG Karlsruhe, Concordia University, SubtleTechnologies-Toronto, SLS-Paris, NIME 03-Montreal, UdK-Berlin and e-Culture, Amsterdam, among many others. He has been visiting professor in music, grad studies and digital media at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

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