Next to receiving a thorough grounding in the practices of art and design, students of art schools throughout the world also learn to think in professional abstractions within holistic art and design production chains. In today’s technological and mediated world, this means that art and design education has to embrace the growing complexity of intersections between technological, environmental, social, cultural, political, industrial and economic aspects.
These increasingly form and inform the conditions for art and design production and its use and demand a practical-reflexive practice, in which students develop the capacity to communicate their own observations and considerations during the process of making. Rather than focusing exclusively on finalized formal solutions, the essential aspect of high-level creative work moves towards prototyping a variety of scenarios, and evaluating these. Design pragmatism shifts towards design intelligence.
Future generations of artists and designers, the so-called “digital natives” of tomorrow, will have learned to code and look behind the smooth interface of software and systems. That generation will become the “makers generation”, people who are able to hack systems, 3D print, and re-assemble existing components for new functionalities. In a digital design culture and economy, bottom-up processes, small-scale production, desktop or atelier prototyping, and horizontal distribution of open knowledge are increasingly becoming the standard. Here, innovation happens in small start-up business, including art collectives and hybrid design teams. These crossbreed practices of research-based making investigate existing technologies and materials, critically evaluate production and distribution methods, and create new ones.
Regardless of the “discipline”, or whether the ‘product’ is about expanded forms of animation, transmedia image practices, digital fabrication or social media based art practices, artists and designers remain very valuable in guiding technologies and media, existing and new, towards new functions and new meaning.
The media lab initiative aims to become a place, a movement, a source of inspiration for transdisciplinary and transmedial investigation. The principle of prototyping through media lab initiated projects can be a fruitful way to respond to the contemporary and future needs of our expanding professional contexts. A key aspect of media lab thinking is to empower its members (students and staff) for making their own tools and inventing their own methods.