Article

Digital Tools for Creative Collaboration

How to teach art and design digitally in post-covid era?

par Maria Moreira

Version française

At a time when Europe is ending lockdowns, when the vaccination campaign makes us feel optimistic about the future of our lives and professional activity, the Esadse, together with the Estonian Academy of Art, EKA, and the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch-Gmünd, its international partners, analyzes the experience of the past year and a half and reflects on how to reinvent art and design education in post-covid times. In response to these questions is borne the Digital Tools for Creative Collaboration project co-funded by the Erasmus Programme of the European Commission.

When a crisis provokes new ideas

Higher education institutions have been extremely responsive to the conditions imposed by the pandemic crisis. We have managed to organize both teaching and administrative procedures at a distance.  At Esadse, the courses, the reports, the competition have migrated to the digital space. The 2019–2020 activity report stated that “the commitment has been exemplary”. Thus, we have succeeded in continuing, in remaining “open”, but... at what price?  The transition was done in a flash, in the urgency of the situation we used the available digital tools, training ourselves as we went along, often outside of working hours, without carrying out an in-depth reflection on the origin of these softwares, webapps, applications... 

In September 2021, with the return to the “normal”, we started to question ourselves on this experience, without knowing that it was still far from being finished. 

First observation: we could not yet measure the extent of the impact of what had happened. But we shared the feeling that teaching had changed, that we could not go back to the way it was before the crisis — so many challenges lived, so many questions raised. Second observation: the tools that we used, certainly, allowed us to continue the semester, to stay in touch, but were not adapted to the artistic education and the type of interaction it demands. 

Erasmus Programme, Higher Education

It was at this time that we received the exceptional Erasmus + program call for projects addressing the challenges posed by the health crisis and lock down periods . It was organized in two thematic strands:
– “Preparing for digital education”, to strengthen education and training systems to face the challenges presented by the sudden transition to online and distance learning related to the Covid-19 crisis.
– “Partnerships for Creativity” to support the cultural and creative sectors, which have been particularly affected by the health crisis. 

To reply for this call the Random(lab), together with the international relations team, decided to build a European project to work for two years on the issue of digital tools for collaboration in art and design.

The project

The Digital Tools for Creative Collaboration project is led by the Random(lab) of the Esadse in cooperation with the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia – Estonian Academy of Art, University of Design- Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch-Gmünd and the Bureau of European Design Associations (BEDA) as associated partner. 
The Project will involve students, teachers, technicians, members of theadministrative staff of these three HEI and will aim to:
– equip students, teachers and staff of the HEI in art and design with necessary skills and tools, creating future-proof conditions for digitalcreative cooperation
– through the critical approach, raise awareness on the data treatment challenges, including data security and ecological threats.
 
In order to achieve these goals, the consortium will:
– Conduct exploratory research on digital practices in art and design higher schools
– Develop and test a series of web-based Collaborative Software Prototypes for the creative sector
– Produce the “New pedagogical online-offline realities in art and design” publication
– Create a Toolkit - Online platform and exhibition


Three intensive international workshops, milestones of the project, will be organised in order to engage and involve all the interested participants in the cooperation on the project.
 
Several events will highlight the project results and allow reaching out to the larger audience. 
– a conference and an exhibition during the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Étienne 
IxDA Seminar in Tallinn 
International Seminar Week (ISW) in Schwäbisch-Gmünd 

Partnership

One doesn’t implement a European project alone. A minimum of three partners from three programme countries is one of the conditions for participation in the programme. It is also a great opportunity to work with international partners who share our questions about art and design education. For this project, the Esadse Random(lab) decided to turn to the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia - Estonian Academy of Art, University of Design- Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch-Gmünd  and the Bureau of European Design Associations as associated partner. 


Random(lab) © Cité du design - Esadse

Random(lab)

The Digital Tools for Creative Collaboration project was built by the Random(lab) of the Esad Saint-Étienne, a place of practical and theoretical research dedicated to experimentation in art, design and digital.

Open to 4th and 5th year art and design students, post-graduation students, as well as invited researchers, the Random(lab) is located in the digital practices area of Esad Saint-Étienne. It includes a resource center and a workspace for prototyping interfaces and interactive installations using electronic components and Arduino-type platforms. The lecturers and students associated with Random(lab) also benefit from all the resources of the digital pole, both in terms of software and hardware. The Random(lab) is based on the practice of project as a foundation for research. The working hypothesis at the origin of each research project is thus examined through one or several projects that question it and put it to the test in multiple creative forms.Various subjects are studied at Random(lab) according to the following method: a preliminary documentation work followed by an analysis of existing productions; a time devoted to the understanding of the stakes of the approached domain and to the problematization, a period of experimentation and confrontation with a technical model and, finally, the realization of a functional prototype or a completed “object”. This methodological progression aims, at least and at various scales according to the time granted to the subject, at obtaining a concrete formal and/or analytical result.The goal of this work is not to understand or reproduce known processes or to stop at those but to go beyond, towards experimental zones allowing to propose, to open, even to redefine new grounds of reflection and experimentation in art and design.


IxD.Ma Programme

The breakneck advances in technology have led to the next industrial revolution. For the first time in recent history no-one knows how the future is going to look like. Interaction Designers are in the center of this transformation: it is in our hands to create the future that is based on human values, needs and behaviours.

IxD.Ma

Eesti Kunstiakadeemia, Estonian Academy of Art

Founded in 1914, the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) is the only public university in Estonia providing higher education in the fields of fine arts, design, architecture, media, visual studies, art history and conservation. EKA is among the leading international centers of innovation in the field of visual culture. Currently, more than 1,200 students are enrolled at the Academy. The lecturers and teachers are professionals in their field - internationally renowned artists, architects, designers, historians and scientists. 
EKA has close ties and cooperation agreements with over 100 international universities.  More than 65% of EKA alumni have studied or interned abroad, participating in short or long-term mobility programs. The academy is a member of Cumulus (International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media), EAAE (European Association for Architectural Education) and, through Nordplus, many professional networks. 
For this project, we will work with IxD.ma, one of the Academy’s international master’s program. This program focuses on human interaction with services, products and experiences.


Hochschule für Gestaltung University of Design Schwäbisch-Gmünd, HfG

With about 700 students, the University of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung, HfG) in Schwäbisch Gmünd is one of the smallest universities of applied sciences in Germany. Despite its size, the HfG has an international profile, thanks to many years of internationalization activities and its very successful participation in the Erasmus+ program. The HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd focuses solely on design programs. 
The HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd sees design as an innovative discipline with scientific, social and technical references. This discipline contributes to influencing cultural, technical and economic developments in a responsible and sustainable way. The university deliberately dispenses with artistic or craft prerequisites to teach the basics of design. The five study programs, on the other hand, are based on scientific knowledge and the rational justification of design decisions.
In addition, the school has been involved in the global Cumulus network of design, art and media colleges and has shaped the development of Cumulus through its long-standing membership of the board of directors. The HfG also promotes new forms of international cooperation. Either through joint teaching projects or through learning and research, for example within the framework of the Erasmus “strategic partnership” project. 


The Bureau of European Design Associations, BEDA (associated partner)

BEDA is a non-profit organization. It was founded in 1969, at a time when the impact that designers could have on business was little known and poorly understood. BEDA brought together professional design associations from all over Europe, generally providing information about the design industry, which was very young at the time. It also helped to promote design in business.Today BEDA continues to be deeply involved in European policy making.  It wants to promote design as a tool for industrial and societal innovation, which is essential today and in the future.Within the framework of the project, BEDA participates in the Digital tools for creative collaboration project in several ways:- making the project's productions available to its members at its events or offering them to these members- disseminating information about the project, its actions, calls, events to its members, 
BEDA thus contributes to the implementation of the project, but also to its dissemination and sustainability.


par Maria Moreira


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