Open culture, immersive arts and language bots

Staging the imperfection of digital technologies: In his performance “{reclaim the twelfth camel} < code of practice,” the artist Alexander Tuchaček overstates and dramatizes human-machine interaction. Photograph: © Christian Ritter

Susanne Schumacher on digitalization at ZHdK

Digital technologies shape our everyday life. Digital transformation and the associated change processes influence how we work, learn and live. Educational institutions face the challenge of integrating new information technologies into their organization as well as into teaching and research. Susanne Schumacher, Chair of the Digital Council, talks to LUKAS ZITZER about the strategies with which ZHdK is reacting to and shaping these processes.

___

Lukas Zitzer: Ms. Schumacher, what is ZHdK’s Digital Council?
Susanne Schumacher: The Digital Council is a group of experts whose tasks include advising the University Board on digitalization, as well as initiating and supporting projects aimed at implementing digital transformation. The Council consists of ZHdK members whose professional or artistic activities focus on digitalization and who come from all areas of the University. The Digital Council also includes students and representatives of our mid-tier faculty.

Which measures is ZHdK taking as an arts university to integrate digital media into teaching?
Generally, the competencies of most disciplines taught at ZHdK include a reflected use of media and advanced communication and teaching skills. In addition, the University’s e-learning officers have been promoting the methodical and didactic use of digital media in teaching for years. In the future, all staff and students will receive increased training in the competencies needed in the digital age. These competencies will promote teamwork, digital participation in society and digital creation. We are also exploring how rooms need to be designed to enable new, optimally performing and digitally supported forms of work.

In the future, all staff and students will receive increased training in the competencies needed in the digital age. These competencies will promote teamwork, digital participation in society and digital creation.

Although the e-mail deluge is widely deplored, this remains the central means of communication at ZHdK. Will we also be breaking new ground in the future with regard to communication and work processes, and if so, which?
ZHdK already offers good online communication and collaboration opportunities. These include platforms for project organization, exchanging documents or organizing learning units. Our problem is rather that these tools have no binding character. Thus every work situation requires us to decide afresh how to communicate and collaborate. In this situation, e-mail is often said to be the simplest tool. We are currently optimizing the University intranet and developing proposals for future work processes.

In terms of knowledge culture, ZHdK is already actively responding to the challenges of digitalization. We are working on making the results of teaching and research as accessible, integrated and sustainable as possible — for instance, through an online publication repository. In this way, we are promoting a culture of free access to knowledge and correspond to the values of Open Science, according to which research results should be available to everyone. It is important that, besides text-based publications, multimedia forms of presenting artistic research are also adequately represented.

Many first-year students are digital natives. Do older staff have more trouble learning new technologies?
I regret this widespread generalization, as it unnecessarily polarizes the generations. Acquiring new things is driven by curiosity, a quality that fortunately is not reserved for young people. It is undisputed that different communities use digital technologies in different ways — be it social media, professional software or programming languages.

Does the Digital Council take into account the concerns of staff and students who feel increasingly remote-controlled by technology?
Yes, of course. The Digital Council views the effects of digitalization critically and considers its limitations, especially where these involve the arts. We place people centre stage and endeavour to promote digitalization only where this makes sense.

Acquiring new things is driven by curiosity, a quality that fortunately is not reserved for young people.

Could you give us an example of how digital technologies are influencing artistic working methods?
One example is the ZHdK focus on “Immersive Arts”: In recent years, media technologies such as motion capture, video projection mapping and 3D audio have brought forth novel applications in the fields of augmented and virtual reality. Stage arts such as music, dance and performance, but also film and game design, use these technologies to extend their forms of storytelling and the interactions between artists and machines. Most of all, however, such technologies enable creating interesting experiences for the audience. Under the direction of Christian Iseli, ZHdK is currently pursuing various pilot projects with a view to establishing an interdisciplinary “Immersive Arts Space.”

Which digital art works and projects by ZHdK faculty and students excite you?
I recently had some aha moments in relation to language bots and machine learning — as brought to the stage by artists. One example is Alexander Tuchaček’s art performance “{reclaim the twelfth camel} < code of practice” at the Collegium Helveticum, another the Improvisation Theatre’s “Chatbots on Stage” at Kunsthalle Zürich, which was organized by ZHdK researcher Gunter Lösel. Both performances overstated and dramatized human-machine interaction, creating witty, artificial “dialogues.” My expectations as a spectator were deliberately strained. I found these staged imperfections of digital technologies, and how they unsettled the performance situation, very exciting.

Dr. Susanne Schumacher (susanne.schumacher@zhdk.ch) is chair of ZHdK’s Digital Council. She also heads the Digital Knowledge programme, which makes teaching and research accessible online.
Lukas Zitzer (lukas.zitzer@zhdk.ch) is responsible for communications at the Department of Art & Media and for establishing the communication channels of ZHdK’s Digital Council.
Teile diesen Beitrag: