It would be hard to imagine our lives today without the aid of computers and technology. The rapid incorporation of and dependence on digital technologies is referred to as the second mechanical revolution after the industrial revolution. When I think about my daily routine it is hard to distinguish what is purely machine and what now incorporates a small computer chip to aid in the machine’s functionality:
woke to alarm clock (ok, that’s a machine), I washed up (hmm…does my hot water heater have a microchip?),
made coffee (there is a light on my coffee maker- unsure if this is just machine or computer chip),
made breakfast (does the refrigerator rely on a chip?
Certainly the packaging for my cereal was printed with the aid of computer graphics and layout)
The aid of computers in our lives is now so prominent that it is indistinguishable from when we once relied solely on machines and before that on human labor.
Artists have embraced the mechanization of their processes and standardization of materials for many centuries with arguably one of the most important early innovations of the modern world being the printing press.
In 1450 CE Johann Gutenberg and his team finalized the machine that would become the printing press allowing information such as images and text to be pressed onto paper. Information could be disseminated at a much faster rate than copying texts by hand which was practiced for thousands of years.
In ancient Mesopotamia and Syria cylinder seals were created for individuals to stamp pictographs that would serve as their signature on wet clay tablets. These tablet inventories would document the goods for a trade and would be signed by an individual’s seal which looked like a bead.
In another example of the early use of tools and machines for more effective production it is believed that the cultures that erected the monoliths at Stonehenge placed the rock slabs on rollers made out of large trees and used simple machines of pulleys to carry the material across vast distances.
In the 17th century it is now widely believed that Dutch painters such as Vermeer used optical devices such as the camera obscura to capture their subjects. The camera obscura worked like a periscope where a series of mirrors reflected the image of the subject matter down onto the paper the artist would be working on.
These are but a few early examples of the integration of technological developments throughout history that artists have embraced for their work.
As we continue to become increasingly dependent on digital technologies we need to make sure that the ways our students interact with technology in their every day lives does not get left behind at the art classroom door. As art teachers we can utilize and embrace these resources to enhance our students experiences with art making and staying connected to what is a prominent part of their every day lives. The integration of digital technologies does not need to replace more traditional mediums and methods of art making, but I believe it can be used as a tool to expand opportunities and create connections. As a student in this class I understand that you wear many hats and need to see the world through a variety of lenses. Most of you are involved in teaching the skills of art, writing lesson plans, making sure your curriculum aligns with standards, probably having to continually advocate for the necessity of art in a curriculum, a member of your school’s educational team, and not to mention a practicing artist in your own right. Since this class is a 1.5 credit course, it will be approached as a workshop. We will try to address ways digital technologies intersect with all the hats you wear as an artist and a teacher. We will brainstorm units and lesson plans, go through hands on tutorials on how to use software, research what online resources are available in the field of arts education, discuss funding sources for acquiring technology in your classroom, and look at modern and contemporary artists using digital media. In some cases you will need to adopt the lens of a teacher, an administrator, or an artist. This course is designed to provide instruction and inspiration for all of these areas.
Fig 1. AT&T Bell Laboratories (1986) Microprocessor (CRISP) Diagram
and Corresponding Silicon [paper, silicon]. Retrieved from
Fig 1: Hines, Lewis Wilkes, Candy factory workers
[gelatin silver prints]. Retrived from NY Public Library
Fig 1: unknown, Hamilton Fish, men with chairs they
are caning. Retrieved from NY Public Library Digital
Fig 1:Gutenberg taking the first proof. [Newspaper
reprint of etching] Retrieved from NY Public Library
Fig 1: Assyrian (18th-19th century BCE) Two worshippers,
followed by a god on his iconographic animal and
before a goddess on a throne [ cylinder seal]. Retrieved