Abstract- Karen Farley

(full paper) http://hdl.handle.net/10002/438

Generative Systems: The Art and Technology of Classroom Collaboration

My paper charts the history of the Generative Systems, a groundbreaking instructional program founded in 1970 by Professor Sonia Landy Sheridan at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and traces its seminal impact on the development of technological arts education. The work investigates the program’s founding ideology, core curriculum, organizational structure and operational dynamics in order to chart the ways in which Sheridan’s methods of instruction gave rise to a new pedagogical framework from which to explore the implications of emerging communications technologies on art production. Drawing on primary and secondary source materials, the paper offers a comprehensive account of the lifespan of Generative Systems and links its development to the emergence of art and technology studies at the post-secondary level.
From its inception as a radical teaching strategy to its implementation as a formal program of study, Generative Systems has served as a model of art/science/technology instruction. Sheridan’s unique curriculum, promoting hands-on experimentation with high-speed communication tools (Color-in-Color copy machines, digital painting software and Haloid photography, among others), aligned engineers, scientists, industry representatives and arts practitioners with a unique body of undergraduate and graduate students for the purpose of exploring the creative potential of diverse imaging technologies. Primarily, Generative Systems sought to provide participants with collaborative art making opportunities by granting them access to a vast array of industrial equipment, personnel and techniques that had traditionally remained off limits to academic study.
The paper considers Generative Systems to have been an innovative research center in which new ideas about communication instruments and their application to art production could be tested in a real-world setting. Functioning as an experimental learning lab, Sheridan’s classroom balanced the needs and interests of students with the skills and experiences offered by visiting scientists, industry executives and engineers. Also, the work identifies the adaptive and participatory features of the wide range of electronic and digital media that students interfaced with in the learning environment and evaluates the skills honed by hands-on experimentation with mechanical techniques and processes.