Q&A with Professor Richard Jochum, Creative Technologies Symposium Organizer | Arts and Humanities

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Q&A with Professor Richard Jochum, Creative Technologies Symposium Organizer

In preparation for Art and Art Education’s third Creative Technology Symposium on Friday, May 6, we sat down with Organizer Richard Jochum, Associate Professor of Art & Education and Creative Technology Certificate (CTC) Coordinator to talk about its evolution. Here, Professor Jochum discusses the Creative Tech Symposium’s evolution, students as makers, and the art of Pecha Kucha.

DONNELSON: The purpose of the Creative Technology Symposium is defined in your literature as follows: “Emerging technologies continue to change the making, teaching, and learning of art. The creative technologies symposium addresses these changes and engages artists, educators, and technologists in an ongoing conversation." How have you seen the ‘conversation’ evolve since the first Creative Technology Symposium was organized?

JOCHUM: Our first symposium in 2014 had a very different set of questions: What makes our use of technology creative? How do digital tools and new materials contribute to art making? How do they interact with teaching and learning? These were important questions to address when we were first starting to design our new curriculum. Now with the certificate in place, we have moved on from the initial questions and are more concerned with the challenges of implementation: How do we best bring creative technologies into today’s art classrooms, after-school programs, community centers, and artist studios?

What brought you to this topic?

I noticed a lot of excitement from teachers, students, and administrators in the arts about working with technology. But I also noticed a remarkable level of hesitation and ambivalence. This may have to do with technology being intimidating and always new, and the fact that it is so hard to keep up, especially with the busy schedule that challenges today’s schools. I believe we need to address the resistance toward technology as well as the affordances that the new tools bring. We need to do this to better calibrate our teaching, and to be better able to develop pedagogies that help bring making into diverse learning ecologies. This is the theme of the symposium. And I was glad to see that a lot of the presenters were able to relate superbly well to this challenge.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Creative Technologies Certificate and the field in general is the relative new-ness of the field. Can you talk about how forums like the Creative Technology Symposium are important to shaping the field, especially within the educational context?

A lot of the technologies we are dealing with actually have been around for a while; they just used to be less accessible, more expensive, less ubiquitous. Their affordability and ubiquity have made art and design grow closer together. This becomes prominent in the current conversation about STEAM learning, which has given the arts a renewed and integral role within the curriculum. The symposium is a way for us to bring artists, designers, technologists, and educators together and to address how the availability of technology has reshaped the landscape of education. As art educators we see new technologies as creative technologies and new media as expanded materials for making.

I think the big change we all see happening is that we are coming to terms with the fact that there is no way back. Schools and educators are learning to accept that as well. One of the challenges we face in our world, which is so inundated with technology, is: how do we get students (and ourselves, for that matter) to become creators rather than consumers of technology? That’s at the heart of the certificate and at the center of the work we do. Making is key. And this is nothing new to us in art education; making has a longstanding tradition in art education. Creating or making is what art education always has been about.

The upcoming symposium is part of a series of public conversations that we have been hosting. By providing a platform for these conversations, we are not only taking on leadership in the field but also in the community. This year we are partnering up with the Creative Tech Week, a week of exhibitions, conferences, and events all over New York.

As part of the Creative Tech Week, the symposium is free and open to the public. What made you decide to open it up to all interested parties?

The curriculum is still very new and so are the ideas, which are part of a DIY-culture and maker-movement. By opening it up to the community, we embrace the participatory nature of “making”.  We want to promote the work we and the speakers do. The interested public is free to attend, and the presenters themselves are unpaid.  So it’s a gift from people to people. It’s a friendly signal to people that they are welcome to participate, stay in touch with us, and join a community.

As artists we are not just makers of things, we are also makers of culture; we operate in a public space and want the public to become part of our space. I believe in access. And the symposium is ultimately an invitation to the public to engage with us and understand the critical role we are taking in this debate.

I learned a new term when I was looking through your materials online: “Pecha Kucha.” I love the idea!!! What made you decide to include this format in the symposium?

The Creative Technologies Symposium 2015 was accompanied by an exhibition. Since it was funded by a Provost Investment Grant we were able to host a very interactive, ambitious exhibition showcasing 22 artists and designers who work across the spectrum of emerging technologies, including bio-art. It was a highlight for our curriculum development because it allowed us to showcase the type of work we would like for our students to develop. This year we decided to do a Pecha Kucha instead, a fast-paced slide-show - 20 slides for 20 seconds each - as a platform to allow artist-designers, makers and educators to share their projects. We got an interesting mix of people, and it will be a good alternative to the exhibition. Pecha Kuchas are great opportunities for the participants to see a lot of stuff in a rather short amount of time and to connect with each other. All this is in the spirit of the symposium.

The Creative Technology Symposium is presented as part of Creative Tech Week in New York City, happening from April 28-May 6. The symposium is co-organized by Art and Art Education doctoral student Laura Scherling, and guided by Program Director Judith Burton.

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