CIHA London 2000.
Thirtieth International Congress of the History of Art
Art History for the Millenium: Time.
Section 23
Digital Art History Time
London, 3-8 September 2000
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Ingeborg Reichle <Ingeborg.Reichle@culture.hu-berlin.de>, M. A., Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany. Fon: ++49 (0)30 2093 4301. Fax: ++49 (0)30 2093 4209

http://www.arthistory.hu-berlin.de/mitarbeiter/reichle.html

Deleting the Body, Art and Virtual Bodies in the Digital Age: The Use of New Media in Education: Opportunities and Challenges of Cooperative Teaching and Learning

 © each author has full responsibility in owning copyright on the texts and on the images they publish on this website

 

1. Introduction 

Abb. 1: Jean Marc Cote: View of a Classroom in 2000 from 1899.

Jean Marc Cote's vision of a classroom in the year 2000 is an example of the rich technical fantasy of the time in which it was created, 1899 [1]. The picture of a classroom connected to a network, complete with modern transmitters carried by the students on their heads, seems to capture our digital age a hundred years in advance. But here the students are white and male, and they are sitting in disciplined rows, all faced towards the front, behind their narrow school desks. Cote's imaginary world is still centred on books; the teacher is feeding books into a modern data base, which, however, is still driven mechanically.

Abb. 2: AR-picture

In the Natural Sciences, particularly medicine and the biological sciences, or in industry training seminars (especially the motor industry) advanced interactive 3D technology is used to make displays of subject matter more vivid. The principle of 'augmented reality' (AR) enables the visual simplification of complex processes. A special pair of data spectacles allows the real world and computer images to be overlaid on top of each other [2].

2. Media Aspects of teaching material in Art History

The everyday Work in the History of Art today lies somewhere between these two extremes. The extent of the use of computer-generated multi-media applications, such as digital pictures, numeric simulations and so forth in arthistories practices is very varied, and depends greatly on the individual's involvement with modern technology. In Germany, digitalisation and digital indexing of academic collections and those in museums have been going on for some years in various Institutions. Examples of this work can be found in the Marburger Index or the CENSUS (Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance) at the Humboldt University, now available via Internet. But these image databases, these 'digital slide shows' remain mostly on the shelf. They are not widely used either for traditional teaching in seminars and lectures, nor on those special occasions when the subject is multi-media or Art History Resources on the World Wide Web. New possibilities for visualisation and structuring offered by the computer present a challenge for the History of Art. The two slide projectors we have used since Hermann Grimm and Heinrich Wölfflin have run their course: On the one hand because of the new technologies that have become part of everyday life, and on the other because, in the process of increasing inter-disciplinary work, Art History has opened its doors to genres such as Film, Photography and Media Art, as well as political theories about Cyberspace, interactive Art, the art of virtual reality and current Transgenic Art.

Abb. 3: Transgenic Art: Eduardo Kac Genesis (1999) Ars Electronica, Linz Austria.

This change in the media used for instruction is probably more important for the History of Art than for other disciplines, because the concern of writing in the History of Art is not the object recognised as an artwork but its reproduction in various media. [3] The media used influence the art-historian's perception, analysis, and interpretation to a considerable degree. Ever since the wider acceptance of pictorial projection and photography for historical work over a hundred years ago, the motionless picture - on paper in research, on the screen in teaching - has been the visual medium to the exclusion of all others. At the same time, with hindsight, it is astonishing that the recognition of photography as an objective illustrative medium took over six decades, and was not possible Art History until the natural sciences had admitted its usefulness.

Abb. 4: L.J. Marcys Sciopticon from 1872.
Abb. 5: Laterna Magica, a 1755 encyclopedia page showing three box type camera obscuras with prism or lens arrangements at the top to direct the image down to the drawing surface.

At the Art Historians' Congress of Vienna in 1873, Bruno Mayer invited his colleagues to admire the process of pictorial projection using a light source. He presented a machine called a Skioptikon that projected images recorded on glass onto the wall. This process had been unveiled and exhibited at the first World Exhibition in 1851 in London, and had been known for some time as the Laterna Magica. But it took until about 1900, and a person of the stature of Hermann Grimm, to persuade Academia to recognise the Skioptikon. Grimm compared the Skioptikon to the natural scientist's microscope, and thought of it as a test-bed for the quality of a work of art.

When we view the challenges of today's digitalisation, two things are of major importance. The first is the tendency to visualise, that is, to make images from information, and the second is the nature of the digital revolution. It is above all a Revolution in Communication. Digitalisation's influence will be correspondingly large, not only on visualisation and exchange of information, but also on the ways in which lecturers and students interact with each other.

3. The Use of New Media in Education: Opportunities and Challenges of Co-operative Teaching and Learning

This development affects and challenges both colleges and universities. In the future they will certainly follow Wilhelm von Humboldt's dictum of scholarship as the unity of research, instruction and education, but they will also have to face the challenges which accompany the coming digitalisation of the world. The use of new media in learning and education not only alters the substantive and structural demands made upon educational institutions but also offers new possibilities for the processing of knowledge, for its presentation and for the pedagogical exchange in the lecture hall.

Abb. 6: Visualization study of the NSFNET: An Atlas of Cyberspace, mapping cycerspace using geograpic metaphors www.cybergeography.org/atlas/geographic.html
 

3.1 Disembodied communicative practices

Today networked computers offer a medium, which enables communication between spatially separated points and permits simultaneous reaction at both of them. Isolated individuals are pushed into virtual proximity, facilitating the revival of communicative practices familiar to oral cultures. A particular vision is connected to this: just as artificial intelligence tries to realise spirit independent of the body, telematic communication establishes a reciprocal communication independent of physical location. While the model for a dialogue on the level of tele-presence can be found in oral conversation, these two forms of communication differ in that actual physical presence has become unnecessary. The written word had already introduced a form of communication between interlocutors in different places. But this was only possible with the loss of direct interaction between self and other. And this is what interactivity has been able to achieve: Individuals who are not physically present can react to one another while communicating. This is considered a particular feature of online communication. The distinction between oral and telematic communication can be described as the distinction between physically bound and physically unbound forms of communication. De-personalised communication in the internet nullifies the 'performative dimension' of speech described by John L. Austin in the phrase "speech as action." [4]

4. Interactive Distance-Learning

The two projects interactive Homepage and PROMETHEUS of the Humboldt University's Art History Department, implement a broad, long-term integration of new media as a means of teaching, learning, and communication [5]. The notion of network-based 'distance learning' will be developed through re-organisation of the information provided by the Art History Seminar in the World Wide Web. The goal is to provide productive support for actual classroom learning through 'pools of knowledge,' which will be co-operatively managed and which can be tailored to the personal needs and interests of the course participants.

Two elements are of central importance, both of them concerned with teaching and research:

The development of database-supported client-server systems, which support the processing and networking of digital information, makes possible the distribution of knowledge at a reasonable price and with efficient use of available personnel. These systems, which are accessible via the Internet over great distances, provide optimal preconditions for self-directed multimedia study.

The assembling of isolated sources of knowledge and their organisation according to unified standards and interfaces based on agreed standards in internet technology provides the discipline of art history with new opportunities. These include generation of new cognitive connections as well as practical possibilities for professional use on the basis of a "best practice strategy". Such "knowledge management" requires a centrally directed general authority, which can regulate the overall organisation of information in the emerging pool of knowledge, on the technological and on the administrative level. Furthermore, it means that students and instructors have the opportunity to use this personalised and newly contextualised knowledge and the obligation to update it.

The construction of a database-supported Web site within the structure of the institute's 'homepage' is a content-management solution which provides all members of the institute with the possibility of updating their information in a simple and de-centralised manner. The system provides authorised members access to pre-structured data relating to the institute's information services. The elements include schedule changes, lists of events, current institute announcements and other categories of information. These can be updated easily and quickly, at short notice. The content is generated from an SQL-database server. They can be searched and indexed, and they are 'interactive', if we understand interactivity to be the one-sided capacity to alter data sets over the Internet. Individual projects within the institute, which are based upon similar concepts, can also be integrated using this technology. Examples are the structured archives of historical images, texts and videos, as well as work collections or literature databanks. It is of decisive importance for the implementation of a knowledge-system extending beyond individual institutions that uniform indexing standards be developed according to international, national and individual criteria. These can then be applied consistently to objects or records. The open meta-data standards advocated after the W3-consortium's pioneer work, which guarantee the greatest possible openness and flexibility in individual adaptation on the basis of SGML/XML, have priority.

5. Online Seminars and Distance Learning

The existing content-management system will include distance-learning functions. It will enable students to organise a personalised study plan which can be automatically adjusted to university course requirements. The organisation and practical realisation of courses via computer has become possible - either exclusively through the new media or as a supplement to 'traditional' courses. Instruction and learning materials, which have traditionally been presented in person or on paper, can now be distributed in electronic form to registered seminar participants as 'downloads' or in an online version. The participants receiving such materials can respond by making their own work materials or research contributions available as 'uploads' to the seminar's temporary online-community. In this way, self-organised distance learning with an increasing pool of knowledge comes about which requires no additional expenditure of finances or staff. And it can be accessed anywhere, at any time. At the end of the seminar the accumulated knowledge can, if desired, be made accessible to the art-history public; in any event, it can be stored permanently in an electronic archive. Additional interactive services such as online discussion forums will accompany the courses, as will personalised newsletters and mailing lists. The need for visual representation in courses as well as the option to use multimedia will be provided through the integration of speaking user-interface metaphors, images, sound, and streamed videos. The user or seminar participant will be offered highly intuitive access to the various materials through a virtual 'desktop', a 'personal workspace' in the web browser, a virtual 'slide projector', and library 'reference works' online.

6. The future of the History of Art (Image Science)

New techniques for the visualisation of cognitively conditioned contexts become possible. It is no longer only the natural scientist, for example, the biologist, who 'presents' DNA - invisible to the human eye - through computer simulation. Scholars of art history, too, will demonstrate connections on the basis of applied computer graphics produced from organised databank queries. For example let us take the concept that enables databank information - itself abstract, but treated in conventionally as textual information - to become visible: three-dimensional environments in VRML or 'ThinkMap' navigational surfaces are the future tools of the 'image scholar' (BildwissenschaftlerIn), who makes some of the objects in her emerging discipline into methodological instruments.

[1] See.: Luyen Chou: Informativ, interaktiv, kollaborativ und selbstbestimmt - mit digitalen Lernumgebungen verändern sich die Lernprozesse. In: Christa Maar, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ernst Pöppel (Hg.): Weltwissen - Wissenswelten, DuMont Buchverlag Köln 2000, S. 118.

[2] See.: Tom Sperlich: Die Zukunft hat schon begonnen - Visualisierungssoftware in der praktischen Anwendung. In: Christa Maar, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ernst Pöppel (Hg.): Weltwissen - Wissenswelten, DuMont Buchverlag Köln 2000, S. 348.

[3] "Das stehende Lichtbild - auf Papier in der Forschung, im Unterricht auf der Leinwand, - ist als adäquates Mittel der Veranschaulichkeit von Kunstwerken mit einer Ausschließlichkeit akzeptiert, die an andere Medien kaum denken läßt" in: Heinrich Dilly: Lichtbildprojektionen - Prothesen der Kunstbetrachtung. In: Irene Below (Hg.): Kunstwissenschaft und Kunstvermittlung, Gießen 1975, S. 154.

[4] John L. Austin: How to do things with words, Oxford 1962.

[5] I am grateful to have the opportunity to realise this project with the co-operation of my two colleagues Dorothee Wiethoff and Thomas Lackner, both graduates in Art History but now working in positions in IT.

 


Abstract

Aims:

Colleges and universities are simultaneously affected and challenged by this transformation. Universities of the future will surely continue in Wilhelm von Humboldt's tradition of scholarship as the unity of research, instruction and education, but they will also have to face the challenges which accompany the digitalization of the world in the 21st century. The use of new media in learning and education not only alters the substantive and structural demands made upon educational institutions. Such media also offer new possibilities for the processing of knowledge, for its presentation as well as for its pedagogical mediation in the lecture hall or seminar room.

Summary Description:

The project interactive Homepage of the Humboldt University's Art History Seminar which I will demonstrate, is promoting and implementing a broad, long-term integration of new media both as a means of teaching, learning and communication and the use of three databases situated at the seminar in class, like the CENSUS (Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance), IMAGO („digitale Diathek") and the Database for Art and Virtual Reality.

Central Arguments:

A notion of network-based 'distance learning' will be developed through the new organization of information provided by the Art History Seminar in the World Wide Web. The goal here is to provide productive support for actual classroom learning through 'pools of knowledge,' which will cooperatively managed and which can be tailored to the personal needs and interests of the course participants.Two elements are of central importance here, both of which are equally concerned with teaching and research:

  1. The development of database-supported client-server systems, which support the processing and networking of digital information, makes possible the distribution of knowledge at a reasonable price and with the efficient use of an institute's personnel. These systems, which are accessible via the Internet at great distances and independent of space and time, provide the optimal presuppositions for multimedia self-directed study.
  2. Bringing together isolated sources of knowledge and organizing them properly according to unified standards and interfaces based on internet technologies provides the discipline of art history with new und yet unrealized opportunities. These include the generation of new cognitive connections as well practical possibilities for professional use on the basis of a "best practice strategy". Such "knowledge management" conceptions require, on the one hand, a centrally directed general authority which can regulate, on the technological-administrative level, the overall organization of information in the emerging pool of knowledge.

Relation to the Themes of this Section

Distance-learning, knowledge-management, digital images in teaching and learning

  

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