The New Materials

July 8, 2013

Another post cribbed from a class assignment! If you liked  The New Problems, you’ll love: The New Materials!

From a technology class response assignment. There are a few good ideas in all the ramble. I am pleased with the separation between The Machines and The Information that courses through them.

My Thoughts on Computers- The New Materials

We are in the middle of an Informational Revolution on par with the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century. As that era brought massive change in what it meant to be a human being on this planet, and more problems alongside every miracle of technology and transportation, so too with this era change the world and humanity itself. We’re gaining, for better or worse, and informational ‘sixth sense’, and a technological super presence that is active even when we are not. Despite the fact that they run on batteries, these new habits and identities cannot be turned off. So as educators and as human beings we need to address this flood even as the rains continue. Also- going outside, having a conversation in person, and ‘doing something with your hands just became ‘lifestyle values’ instead of default behavior for the first time in human history.
I love computers. As an artist, I appreciate the flexibility technology gives me as an imaging and reproduction tool. I use Photoshop regularly with my comics and while editing other artwork. Having grown up toting a backpack full of cassette tapes, I am still amazed and thrilled at the thousands of hours of music that fit on a device about the size of one of those tapes, that comes with shuffle software that acts as a better, more subtle DJ than most of the kids I went to college with. I’m online all the time. I’ve had an Ipad for 6 months, and it grafted itself into my nervous system in the first week. Maybe the first two days. It is beautiful and insidious. It may be ruining my life.
See, I do love all this gear, and information, but I wonder about it’s value. ( I wonder this but it’s akin to wondering about the crown molding on the foredeck while the Titanic slowly sinks- a good way to pass time, but not that useful) When I wired my first apartment for an internet connection ( somewhere around 2001) I believed I was on the precipice of an informational dark continent, and I was set to explore. I thought I’d track down arcane information, make connections to new ideas, communicate with far-flung people, and ‘dig in ‘ to art and research. Now, some 12 years later, I use it like I used to use T.V. I have channels I go to -regular sites- and rarely dig any deeper. Sometimes, having access to more information than anyone in the history of the universe, I look up the number for a pizza. I ‘kill time’, and indulge nostalgia. I run peevish surveillance on friends and acquaintances with the help of social media. I compare. I get flushed with the fleeting fads and scandals like everyone else, and like everyone else, ultimately it doesn’t matter much to me. There’s so much of it!
So that’s what we’re doing with all this power. Clearly I’m not thrilled, but I intend to teach, and being savvy with information is one of the first lessons.The New Materials can be divided into The Machines and The Information. The Machines are gear, that do new things and change forms as innovations consume themselves. The Information rides the Machines, expands at a rate roughly on par with the universe and may live forever. I want my students to use The Information as a research tool- to be anywhere in the room and find an image, a reference, and a connection to their ideas. I want them to use The Machines as artists have used technology forever- in the advancement of image creation and dissemination. A pencil is a paintbrush is a printing press is a camera is a laptop. These things are tools for making something, and the why and the what should always trump the how.

I also have already been burned by the failure of technology due to physical, digital, or user-based reasons. I want to have a plan for when the power cable doesn’t reach, or the tech guy is on vacation. I want my students to understand the limitations and magic of the new materials, to use them wisely in the service of exploration, creation, connection, and play. I also want them to know what to do when the power goes out.


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