IRDF project investigates world of new media

The very aspect of new media that makes it so engaging is also what makes the discipline challenging. While change is both exciting and invigorating, the pace at which new media practices and software evolve is almost too quick to fully explore the medium.

"I've been really fortunate in my career that I've been working at a time that has seen enormous changes in the way I work," says Leanne Elias, assistant professor in the department of New Media.

"At the same time, it just changes so rapidly that as an artist, it can be very frustrating because we never have the chance to fully exploit the tools and options that we have available to us in software before something new comes along and we then move on to that."

IRDF new media
The IRDF project team (l to r) Cheryl Meheden, Leanne Elias, Dr. John Usher, Dr. Janice Rahn and Michael Campbell are exploring the world of new media.

In an attempt to capture how artists, educators and practitioners of new media approach and adapt to continual change in the medium, Elias and four other U of L researchers will produce the E-book of New Media Research Methods and Practice as one of three funded projects through the new Interdisciplinary Research Development Fund (IRDF).

"I see this as a perfect opportunity to examine how others are working in our world," says Elias, the principal investigator.

The project also includes Dr. Janice Rahn (education), Dr. John Usher (management), Michael Campbell (art) and Cheryl Meheden (management).

Elias says the group plans to conduct upwards of 50 video interviews with new media artists from around the world who are driving innovations in software and communication design, or exploring unexpected ways of working with technology. The goal is to discover how these people are using new media tools and how they, as educators, can work together to expand research and teaching practices.

"We have already learned that we all approach new media practice differently," says Elias. "There are some big unanswered questions about how we all teach, such as why does the way we teach change between disciplines, what are the crossovers between disciplines, and are we delivering the right curriculum?"

Data collection (interviews) will begin this summer and continue through to spring 2013, at which time a host of essays will be written interpreting the interview results. Both graduate and undergraduate students will assist in the process.

"The team members will analyze the results collaboratively through different research methodologies and I think that's where it really becomes interdisciplinary.

The exciting aspect about the e-book is that it will use current technology and be produced as an interactive book meant for tablet devices. This allows its creators to produce a living entity, dynamically changing over time. Although the book is expected to be released in 2014, updates to the book could be released as new interviews are created. Users of the book will be able to view the full video interviews, see art and design projects, read the interpretive essays or even hone in on one particular interview question and see the results from each respondent.

In the end, both students and educators will benefit from the project, as long as they are willing to adapt to the ever-changing landscape it explores.

This story first appeared in the June 2012 issue of the Legend. For a look at the entire issue in flipbook format, follow this link.