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02.09 Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

Open Source Edu Tool Box

  • Introduction:

The ever-changing nature of the Web, creates a highly disparate teaching environment. After years of presenting Macromedia products in Web courses, it has become clear that these products are insufficient and are contrary to the most exciting innovations of the Web, those of the Open Source movement.  A shift of focus from corporate products to utilizing Source Forge projects and other open source technologies will be discussed, such as: jEdit, Movable Type, PHP...

Ricardo_zunigaAbout Ricardo Miranda Zuniga:

Since receiving his MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999, Ricardo has been teaching digital arts at the College level, currently at The College of New Jersey. As an artist, the principle behind Ricardo's work is communication as a creative process.  Documentation of his work is available at: http://www.ambriente.com/

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Open Source Edu Tool Box

Interview with Ricardo Miranda Zuniga
As part of WebCamTalk1.0

Trebor Scholz: How do you bring art, theory and technology together in the classroom?

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga: I believe that at the undergraduate level, it is necessary to separate the theory, though not entirely, from the art and technology. As I am coming from a traditional fine arts studio model, I apply the same format in digital art classes - that is a series of demonstrations or workshops while presenting artistic precedents and then allowing for studio time that is used for one-on-one consultation
and direction. So for example, in an introductory web class, I've used an HTML and a Flash book accompanied by Rachel Greene's Internet Art book. I may get them started in presenting the concepts of how the network functions and it's history and development and a series of technical demonstrations, but more importantly I show them online resources that they may use to gather answers, such as the W3 Schools, a resource that presents a wealth of information (http://www.w3schools.com/). I believe that if I can successfully get them to understand the concepts behind the network and WWW, and then show them how to answer their own questions, they gain a good deal of confidence. In reference to your previous conversation with Warren Sack, I would like to re-assert the teaching of fundamentals! Of course, with each year, it seems as if such basic instruction becomes less and less necessary. It is with the more net savvy students that I tend to focus on the concepts and theory. I do abide to a fairly conservative perspective that only after attaining some mastery of the tools or technology theory should be introduced. However as they read examples of past works in a book such as Internet Art, inevitably conceptual and theoretical perspectives are presented.

At the senior level I present a theory class (usually in the fall) that presents a good deal of historical writing and projects and requires the student to deconstruct the reading to inform discussion and hopefully inform one's creative work. By the end of the semester students must present both an analytical essay concerning a selected theme and the execution of one project that may lead into a capstone project or may be extended into the following semester. In this class students are led through a creative methodology that involves research leading into production.

I do always find resistance to theoretical reading, so I tend to bind the reading with screenings that help articulate the concepts, such as Lang's Metropolis, Vertov's Man With the Movie Camera, Chaplin's Modern Times, the work of John Hearfield... the Vasulkas, Jeremijenko, etc... People may recognize these particular works and artists as having an underlying Marxist or Socialist ideology and agenda and it is such perspectives that help set the stage for an open source approach to creative work. At the end of Metropolis, the only way that children of the enslaved working class are saved is in collaboration with the wealthy, Vertov attempts to present all levels of Russian society to identify a unifying character, the Vasulkas represent a practice dependent upon collaboration to reach innovation. I do like to stress to students that as they acquire applicable tools that will hopefully lead to gainful employment, they should always sustain independent creative production. As Benjamin declared it is only with the opportunity to enjoy free time that the imagination may be cultivated and one feels most human.

Back to the more studio and technical classes, I'm moving away from introducing click-and-go ready-made applications such as Macromedia products (Flash, Director etc) and try to work more on a root level. I find that although Dreamweaver may quicken the production process, it is a poor learning tool for a student who is just getting started, a tool such as J-Edit is much more useful. Also as an introduction to the computer environment, opening Terminal and introducing command-line movement through directories and even the transfer of files is eye-opening. In interactive courses, I may still use Director, because presenting fundamentals of programming with Lingo makes programming approachable to art and design students. However I am eager to begin using Processing for such a purpose, a programming tool that I believe many new media/digital arts teachers have begun to adopt. Finally in relation to teaching this stuff, I do believe that we have the duty to consistently update our skills, to re-invent ourselves -- I'm at least Ricardo 2.2 by now.

TS: How do you entice students to read theory?

RMZ: As mentioned above I will combine theoretical readings with the screening and presentations of creative works. A new approach that I've adopted and this is coming from a literature background, I have started to combine theoretical readings with works of fiction. I use texts that work on the same topics on different levels. Last semester, I used a series of science fictions short stories that helped identify theoretical concerns. These stories included E.M. Forester's Machine Stops, Asimov's Robot Dreams, Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God with a selection of essays that one may find in the New Media Reader by Noah Waldrup Fruin or Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality... such as Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Bush's As We May Think, Enzensberger's Constituents of a Theory of the Media.

TS: How do you address the dangers of inscribing a canon- an official authoritative set of texts that may cancel out other, less visible practices?

RMZ: I believe that art history and art in general face the same problem. I do announce in my classes from the start, that I can only present what I know and the perspective that I have adopted in my creative production and that it is one of many perspectives. As I acquaint myself with the students I do my best to point them individually toward channels that may be closer aligned with their particular interests.

TS: Is there an example from your own educational practice that inspires you today in your own teaching?

RMZ: In Berkley I took a class with Ernie Gehr which was inspirational. We watched about one hundred short experimental films and where asked to either write an essay or produce one short film ourselves in the end. Gehr did not provide us with any production skills -- and I liked this a lot. Instead we discussed the cultural relevance and possible motivation of the work. This really got me a personal perspective on these issues... I tend to learn best when left to my on devices... Of course this was a historical/theoretical seminar in experimental film and not a production course.

Currently, I'm presenting a class in dynamic web design using PHP and MySQL, technologies that I'm relatively new to, however I saw a necessity for the class in our department, so the best approach that I perceived is to establish a culture of exchange and collaboration in the course, where various levels of knowledge would be shared. The course syllabi itself is wiki that anyone may edit and add to:

Other open source tools that I find beneficial are:

jEdit - Programmer's Text Editor

FreeMind- mind mapping application that exports to other formats nicely

And perhaps my favorite tool for collaboration both in class and in
personal projects is the Wiki, I use MediaWiki:

For dynamic sites, PHP and and its development site that offers a
library of functions at the top right:

The most popular open source database and easy to use with a limited set
of commands is MySQL:
and its incredibly useful manual:

For MySQL database management, particularly with hosts that do not
provide shell access, phpMyAdmin is an excellent tool, facilitating
creation of tables and database management.

Ben Fry and Casey Reas - Processing

Posted by: ts | 2005-02-21 5:30:29 PM

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