Monday, December 17, 2007

Virtual Worlds Project

by Michael Wright, Associate Professor, Digital Media Department

During the Fall 2007 Semester, I
took three Classes of Otis digital sophomore students into the virtual world of “Second Life” where they developed and created content based on a class-developed theme.

The project, which was created on the Otis Island, required team building, out of the box creative thinking, introducing students to working with 3d & 2d virtual tools, working with a budget (3000 lindens per class), and working with a limited amount of building blocks (3100 primitives per class). Each team/class developed a production pipeline and a theme for there area. Three hours of in-class time and 10 hours of outside of class time were devoted to this project. None of the 55 students had second life experience.

They were required to learn perpriatory software to engage in the process. The process required students to create and design their own personal avatar. After creating the avatar each had to manage to get to Otis Island at an assigned time. At the island they were given brief introduction to movement, flying and building. The production pipeline began with brainstorming sessions. Once the themes were established the teams went to work creating content for their individual areas. The themes developed were “Heaven and Hell”, “Pirates and Atlantis” and “Lost World and Mythology”. The results of this project can be viewed in world, Second Life, at the Otis Island
(128,128,0) through the month of January 2008.
A formal assessment of the project will be published soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Art History Wiki

by Parme Giuntini, Director, Art History

Last January I received an Instructional Technology Grant so I could help the Honors Students develop a Modern Art wiki which would include a timeline for modern art. They would do this work in conjunction with their Modern Art course that semester. The wiki would become part of an ongoing assignment in the Honors course with the ultimate goal of opening it to the public.

I had never worked with wikis before and needed to learn how to structure them and post material. I did this in the early spring, practicing in both Wikipedia and eventually developing the format for the Modern Art wiki that my students would use. The TLC has developed more workshops and instructional material in the past year that I wish had been available when I was initially learning about wikis. Since I was learning and teaching at the same time, I don’t think that I ended up with as strong background in wiki formatting as I would have liked and I will have to devote more time to that in Spring 2008 when my next Honors class begins work on the wiki. Along with the students, I learned what kinds of modifications I would want to make and that would be the focus of my work on the wiki in 2008. I think that this is probably rather typical of anyone using a new 2.0 technology. Initially, I was content to follow the model; now I want to adjust that model to more specific parameters.

By mid-semester 2007 I had a working wiki format and students were posting material. They developed the timeline working collaboratively on 20 year segments during the first half of the semester and focusing on a particular issue/artist/work during the second half. They presented their final work in the wiki within the class in week 14.

Since the Modern Art classes had shifted from a textbook to readers, the wiki would provide both chronological information and an opportunity for students to participate in identifying, organizing, and developing material, especially the inclusion of historical and popular culture information which is an important feature of their course.

At the close of the course, the students evaluated their work on the wiki. They agreed that creating the timeline was the most valuable part of the assignment although they didn’t find the actual work especially interesting since it involved a lot of cutting and pasting from other sources. Although incomplete, it was an important starting point and, since many of the other Foundation students asked for some kind of available chronology, it filled an existing need. Finding information for the timeline meant that they had to research a variety of sources beyond traditional art history resources. Many of them investigated museum and educational sites to see how other online timelines were constructed and, as a result of that, made suggestions that the following year’s Honors class could consider. The students found the individual wiki writing assignments to be more interesting since there was more of an opportunity for individual expression.

As a result of their work and suggestions, the wiki assignment will stay in the Honors course although it will not be the only writing assignment. Optimally, the wiki should be opened to the Otis student population but this would entail some regular supervision since students could use this as a source. One option would be to make this a recurring responsibility of the Honors class for the year which would be a interesting opportunity for them to get experience in research and editing. Students from the mainstream Modern Art courses would be encouraged to participate and there is the possibility that such participation could be a course assignment. At this time, however, the syllabus is already finalized so it would not be considered until 2009. It is also possible that the other two Honors instructors would like to include the wiki as part of their class assignments in which case, the students would be including information on literature as well as popular culture.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Artists Need Websites!

by Annetta Kapon
Assistant Chair, Graduate Studies in Fine Arts

I am taking a Web Design for Artists class at Side Street Projects in Pasadena. We still have two weeks to go. Ten Saturdays, three hours each. There are about 15 of us in the class, taught by Jean Hester with Linda England as the TA. The Otis TLC (bless their hearts) generously agreed to support me in learning this. We covered everything from planning, demographics of our audience, web architecture, style sheets and tables, inserting pictures, and other technical aspects. I have learned a lot, but unfortunately I am not in a position to build a website from scratch. It's all my fault, alas! The class required about 8 hours of homework per week, which I have not been able to do...

But that doesn't mean it was a waste of time! I learned and have been able to update my resume in my already existing website (, I've corrected some mistakes, and have added a scrolling text next to my artwork, all on my own. It is also my hope that since I have the theory and the textbook, I will be able to do some of the exercises later, when I have more time. And maybe I will arrange for a couple of private lessons with the teacher or the TA, to go over some specific things I want for my site.

I don't need to tell you how useful it is for an artist to have a (good) website and to be able to make simple additions. I've gotten at least two shows from the site, and, after all, it is the ONLY place where I have a retrospective of all my work! If you plan to have one, make sure the domain name is your name, so that people googling you can find you.

If you feel making a website is daunting or expensive, use the Otis e-portfolio spots: they are fantastically easy to use and change. I have an ongoing one called Grad Fine Arts Life where I post pictures of grad activities plus newsletters and links to students' work.

Note from Sue Maberry

The Online Learning Library is available for use by the Otis Community and it has great Dreamweaver lessons in QuickTime video. Just send an email to Shelley in the Library and she'll provide you with login info. We allow 3 weeks of usage--just like a book-- and it can be renewed if no one is in line for it.