Digital Craftsmanship / New Criteria for New Media
Here are some notes from Digital Craftsmanship discussion that took place at Pixelache09:

- thinking with your hands
- digital media cookbooks and recipies
- how to get different people to share same focus, taking steps in the areas where they are not comfortable
- contributing back to the community of teachers
- cross-over artists and designers, enough skills to 99% of things needed
- allow non-specialists to enter, make technology itself culturally diverse
- building spaces for learning that reflect the culture that we have online

The discussion involved people from UdK Berlin, Culture Lab Newcastle, Taik Media Lab, Konstfack Stockholm, Kitchen Budapest and others. It was evident that digital craftsmanship is difficult to compare with traditional master-apprentice relationship. It seems to be more about a specific approach (or one could even say attitude) to working with digital media. All the basic building blocks (physical parts, hardware, software) are kept open for modifying and one should have enough skills and confidence to work on all different aspects of the project. A key for successful learning and developement is to be connected to a network of peers and knowledge / resources that can be shared.

MIT's Leonardo Journal recently published an article that is very relevant for this discussion. I quote here an email from Jon Ippolito, one of the authors of the paper:

MIT Publishes U-Me's "New Criteria for New Media"

Academia's goal may be the free exchange of ideas, but up to now many universities have been wary--if not downright dismissive--of their professors using the Internet and other digital media to supercharge that exchange, especially in the arts and humanities. Peer review committees are supposed to assess a researcher's standing in the field, but to date most have ignored reputations established by blogging, publishing DVDs, or contributing to email lists.

In a signal that some universities are warming to digital scholarship, however, the winter 2009 issue of MIT's Leonardo magazine--itself a traditional peer review journal, though known for experimenting with networked media--has published a feature on the changing criteria for excellence in the Internet age. To make its point as concretely as possible, the feature includes the recently approved promotion and tenure guidelines of the University of Maine's New Media Department, together with an argument for expanding recognition entitled "New Criteria for New Media."

Rather than throw time-honored benchmarks for excellence out the window, "New Criteria for New Media" tries to extend them into the 21st century. To supplement the "closed" peer review process familiar from traditional journals, U-Me's criteria recognize the value of the "open peer review" employed in recognition metrics such as ThoughtMesh and The Pool. As the name suggests, open peer review allows contributions from any community member rather than a group of experts, and all reviews are public; when combined with an appropriate recognition metric, the result is much faster evaluations than possible via the customary approach. "New Criteria for New Media" also urges academic reviews to reward collaboration in new media research; valuable roles include conceptual architect, designer, engineer, or even matchmaker (e.g., introducing two other researchers whose collaboration results in a publication).

Because the University of Maine hopes other institutions will adopt these criteria and adapt them to their own needs, it is releasing them under a Creative Commons (CC-by) license. (Due to a misprint by MIT Press, the Leonardo article highlights the authors' copyrights rather than the CC license; it's surprisingly hard to give things away in a print economy!) The new criteria have already been sought after by individual tenure candidates and cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education. You can find them in Leonardo's winter 2009 issue (vol. 42 no. 1) or online at these links:

"New Criteria for New Media" (white paper)

"Promotion and Tenure Guidelines" (sample redefined criteria)

For more information, please email me or the Still Water lab at the
University of Maine (http://newmedia.umaine.edu/stillwater/)