teaching, education, interaction and real politics

At FakePress we have just started teaching 3 courses on Interaction Design at the Faculty of Architecture of Rome’s University “La Sapienza”. We will use these courses as an opportunity to enact what I can only refer to as “the most contemporary form of political action I can think of”.

We are building a specific strategy on these teaching activities, at several levels and from varied perspectives.

So, here it goes:

The objectives

We have several short-term and long term objectives:

  1. to create an education path that deals with cutting edge technologies and methodologies, producing and disseminating knowledge and technical skills that can represent real opportunities both for students and for society
  2. to research on possibilistic scenarios whose aim is to identify and propose the possible evolutions and mutations of publishing practices, along the paths of emergent, emotional, disseminated, multi-author, cross-medial, recombinant, informational narratives
  3. to create a pragmatic cultural process in which a true understanding of digital cultures is the key to understand the possibilities offered by a multicultural, tolerant, communicational, empathic world
  4. to create a process in which several languages and voices take part in a dialogue: the languages of creativity, anthropology, communication science, business, art
  5. to create tools that foster multidisciplinary collaboration and the perspectives, for students, to collaborate in ways that go beyond the classroom, learning how to open dialogues with researchers, academics, entrepreneurs, artists, and the people of the streets and of social networks
  6. to create a process that is focused on an ethnographic approach to design: understand cultures, populations and single individuals to create products, services, works of art and creativity that are truly sustainable, ecologic, tolerant and socially responsible, from points of view that are philosophical, environmental, economic, aesthetic, psychologic
  7. to enact true innovation processes, creating real opportunities for students
  8. to experiment new forms for education and for the sharing of knowledge, based on ethics; on liquid conceptions of education and of the roles defined among students and teachers; on the vision that knowledge and information – and its free access, sharing and dissemination – are today’s most valuable assets; on the idea of nomadic practices as tools that are usable to create liberated spaces in which to create, imagine, design and implement;
  9. to promote the possibilities offered by digital, ubiquitous technologies in terms of adding layers of information on ordinary reality, creating a multiperspective, poliphonic, interpretative views of the world; augmented reality and disseminated urban narratives as the key to reinvent reality and the present;
  10. to promote a design approach centered on experiences, emotion, empathic domains; the imaginary is possibly the most crucial factor in social change and the most fundamental force for creativity.

The courses

The courses are about “Multimedia Design”. The first step of our action will be to reinterpret this definition (which is quite old-fashoned) to promote innovative approaches.

Three courses are involved:

  • Multimedia Architectures held by Luca Simeone will be focused on a high level approach describing theories, methodologies and formal practices connected to Interaction design; here is the syllabus of the course.
  • Multimedia Graphics, held by Federico Ruberti will be greatly restructured from its original intentions, drifting away from being a “Photoshop course” and turning into a path along the aesthetic, historical and philosophical reasoning that brought us to the current state of the art of digital cultures and creativity. As you will see in the course syllabus, the focus will be equally divided between the teaching of the history of all the XXX-media (multimedia, intermedia, transmedia…)  and the formal framing of all of the practices connected to the invention, planning, design and implementation of cross-medial products and services.
  • Experimental Multimedia Technologies and Communications, taught by me, Salvatore Iaconesi, will be the place where the two high level, historical approaches will be put together. As you can see from the syllabus, the course’s program is centered on the enactment of theories and formalisms, through practice, design and production. The focus will be on classic web intraction design, on information design and aesthetics, on physical computing, on ubiquitous technologies, wearables, spimes and location based platforms, all on the idea of multiplatform environments (computers, mobile, devices, wearables, bodies, objects and architectures) along the ways described through our FakePress project.

The three courses will mutually synchronize and interact, acting as a single complex 360° course. Even the exam will be merged.

An online social network has been created for students and professors to constantly interact on the education process, to share materials, information sources and to establish continuous, emergent collaboration paths among all individuals involved.

The system itself will be completely rebuilt by the students. During the first lesson we invited students to imagine the shape, tools, information and interactivity of their ideal education digital ecosystem. We will gather all of their suggestions to (possibly) completely redesign the website, thus creating a complete learning environment that will have all voices represented. This process will be focal to many of the activities performed during the courses.

Furthermore, students will form groups to create a Project Work, which will be a fundamental tool that will allow us for the enactment of the strategy described in the previous section. While we will provide a thematic track to create a narrative flow along all project works, students will be free to give shape to their specific ideas, and we will only act as enablers in this process, discussing with them the feasability of their visions, the opportunities and possibilities offered by the different approaches.

Strategy

All of this will be integrated into a wider process.

Together with The Hub we are creating a collaborative process in which different universities, faculties and disciplines cooperate in the creation of complete social innovation scenarios. Together with Dario Carrera of The Hub Roma we created a research path with his students of the course of Management of Nonprofit Organizations and Social Enterprises of the Faculty of Economics at the Tor Vergata University in Rome. Students will study and research on innovative projects such as iSee or on actions of social creativity and activist art such as Squatting Supermarkets to invent and formalize business models that are focused on the social innovations that are achievable using ubiquitous, mobile interactivity and disseminated, location-or-object based contents: mobile computer vision systems, natural interactions, accessible social expert systems, emergent p2p collaboration practices, critical shopping, ubiquitous communication practices for sustainable economies.

The basic models have already been produced and are currently in review: they will be used in the project works to design the economic feasability of the projects that will, thus, form a real-life scenario.

Each group of students will thus create a prototype or working version of an experience, product, service or cross media publication along the lines defined by FakePress, using ubiquitous technologies, location based information systems, mobile, wearable and standard electronic devices, or spime based ones.

Open Day and Exhibit

The results of the Project Works will be featured in an open day which will be freely accessible from any interested individual. We will have invited guests in the academic, scientific and artistic worlds of digital cultures. The exams will also be open for anyone to see.

We are coordinating with Rome’s Cultural Policies Council to provide a remarkable exhibition space for all of the projects to be exposed, and to have a final party to relax a bit and to promote student works and skills to enterprises, companies and institutions.

Selected projects will also follow a series of specific paths.

First of all, they will be featured in a selection of international conferences on design, sustainability, technology, digital cultures. We will specifically act towards the promotion of both the most innovative works produced, and of the process used in the education path, as an formal methodology for innovative education and its connection with the creation of significative opportunities for students, companies and institutions.

We will also select interested students to participate to paid stages with relevant parties among design and communication agencies, technological enterprises, cultural institutions, museums, digital arts and creativity festivals, research institutes and so on. We already have selected an international series of interested parties for this part, but we will disclose te list of partners as soon as we have formal confirmations. There will be many surprises here. :)

Students who will wish to continue along  research/academic paths will also be directed and assisted in the selection of PhDs and master courses in the best international colleges.

Project Works that will be deemed as being particularly significant will become actual FakePress cross-medial publications.

Conclusions

This is a complex scenario that we envisioned and enacted, and that will take time and effort to complete.

As a matter of fact, the three FakePress members are doing this for free.

For more than one reason.

We feel that innovation in education and cultural practices, with specific reference to the current situation found in most italian universities, is a fundamental tool for social evolution and for the creation of opportunities for the young individuals that often see their possibility for autnomy and self-determination deeply limited by a lack of perspectives that is only parti conjuntural.

Low investments on research and on the accessibility of higher level studies and appropriate technologies and methodologies; inadequate programs and formal tools; useless skills. And most of all a deep negative impact on peoples’ imaginaries brought on by a constant state of crisis that invades environment, mind, society, economy.

We feel that classic politics seldom approach and never confront these issues, claiming the themes of knowledge, innovation and education and turing them into propaganda that rarely finds pragmatic outcomes.

We feel that an alternative is possible, and it definitely passes through the offering of new practices for education, new roles for students and teachers and for the use of creativity and new imaginaries and languages to obtain resources, spaces, possibilities.

We don’t feel like complaining. And we  feel that solutions can be found by producing, acting, sharing informations and knowledge. And by creating economies that are, more than all, empathic and emotional. For a real ecosystem of the mind that allows us to embrace new collaborative, sustainable ethics.