How my teaching philosophy is influenced by writing on the bleeding edge – and Amy Beach, Part 2

As a teacher of new media my goals are to mentor my students to find their voices, be original and acquire the skills they need to communicate effectively. I challenge my students to go where no man (or woman) has been before rather than play it safe or repeat what has already been done or said. There is power (and a thrill) in creating new genres, in working with the very latest tools of communication and creativity, in crossing disciplines (I think it no coincidence that interactive multimedia was born at the same time the world began to wake up to the dangers of over-specialization). The tools of today are their tools, not the tools of a past generation. Those tools will help them speak with their modern day voices. Those tools will enable them to speak in such a myriad of manners, offering them the potential to say so much more. I do not believe that new media students must be young: anyone who is alive today is living in the modern world of new media and capable of incorporating it; some of the most curious and innovative students I have worked with were well beyond youth – the important thing was that they had stories to tell and courage. The man who inspired me to move into this field in its nascent days (when I was a filmmaker in my late twenties) was Harry Lieberman; at one hundred and four years of age Harry convinced me never to stop taking life risks when he told me that his life did not begin until he took up painting at the age of eighty!

At the root of all my new media creating and new media teaching are a few old-fashioned truisms: It is the story. And story is story no matter what the creation medium. Story comes from having lived and reflected. And it is about skill. Nothing of importance in literature or art or music will come without practice and skill building. The computer does not make a great writer, it does not make a great painter, it does not make a great composer or musician, it does not produce a new media piece – the Artist does the creating, and the more instruction and practice, and, yes, theoretical knowledge, a new media artist has, the greater her ability to create something of meaning and value.

Someone commented to me: “Why, to be a new media author, one would have to know something of writing, and art-making, and sound, and music, and video, and programming, and animation and more!” I said, “Yes.”

Let’s get started.