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balance, moderation










if the basics of living change - if we have machines and computers that keep on replacing the skills and mundane tasks of life then what will we do with ourselves? michael dertouzou predicts (what will be: how the new world of information will change our lives pg. 273) we will respond as the wealthy or retired do now, some will become even more detached from others, living only with machines and constant vegetation. some will pursue leisure activities -- golf and its equivalents. others will perhaps live in the same way that a social southern belle from the early parts of this century would who has very little expected of her, life is filled with servants who raise her children, dress her, shop for her, cook for her, drive her, men who communicate for her, shield her, make decisions for her - and she is left to motivate herself in more meaningful pursuits or not. others will perhaps see this as an opportunity to be freed from the distractions of life and now can concentrate on their own research, learning, and art-making. but so much art-making has to do with responding to our daily lives of contact with other people, relationships, nature, work, grocery shopping, pets, adventures in the mundane - reflecting and growing as an individual, reaching out to support others, responsible for the choices that we make. if you don't have experiences in life where you are doing and living, what will you make art about - if you truly live in a world of cubicles and automation, your artwork will reflect that way of life, if you can still make art work - how depressing.

when i talked to my high school students about how technology influences their art-making one student commented that the increase in information through media has provided more inspiration for ideas. some prefer clay to the keyboard, most were enthusiastic about video as long as they could learn how to do what they wanted to do - but here they are showing that they have definite ideas that they want to try to express and the media they choose is dependent on that. and again that comes down to viewing each medium as a tool - you should only use the tool that suits the task - if a book sits on the library shelf behind you with the information you want then why search on the internet for it?

even as sure as the author believes, i don't think a work-free environment is likely to happen. i don't agree with the author's conclusion about the way we as a society have dealt with leisure time, "although our productivity is up and our basic needs are met, we have chosen to work even more so that we can further improve our way of life and buy luxuries that far exceed those of the pre-industrial era." (dertouzou pg. 274) everyone i discussed this with (teachers, students, people who work with computers, family members and friends) said that they work to keep up, to keep their job, to stay informed. a question i asked was "what would you do if you didn't do your current job -- if you were free to do what you truly wanted to do. " some answered that they would travel, make art, be with family more, but the response that interested me the most was that they would do what they do now but less of it - cut back to part time - or do what they do now only change the format so that they had more time to themselves and more control over their time and decision making. for example open their own business, work from home or do the same kind of work but in community centers, and workshop situations.

when i analyze my own work - especially that of teaching - i realize that the true contentment comes from working with the students - all of the other parts of the job are what become overwhelming. administrative paperwork, shuffling of information, making equipment work, dealing with too much in too little time, knowing a little about many things but not a lot about one in particular. almost everyone i talked to has meaningful jobs - they essentially enjoy what they do and along with that, almost everyone i asked takes their job home with them in order to keep up and feel that they are making any progress. one teacher described her husband's law firm as an environment were you only are able to get into the firm by doing excessive amounts of work - and then once you were in you don't slow down.

someone else i asked who works in the computer world said they are more productive when they take their work home and can accomplish what they need to without interruption and they were also able to read up on some new technologies and methods of working, but only if they worked outside of work. another teacher said their ideal of living would be to have a studio - make their artwork and to keep from going stir crazy, give workshops and go into the schools (on their own schedule) to work with young children. we all constantly reexamine our priorities of what we do and consider important, and then change the pattern of our lives to maintain or improve the quality. at no point did the people i talked with express that they had chosen to do more work because they wanted to improve their material possessions and decrease the time they had to spend on themselves and with family.

many of the people to whom i spoke said they try to keep everything in moderation. but as raised in class, what is balance? what is moderation? not in excess, not depriving. what is excess, deprivation. we can compare ourselves with other humans from similar backgrounds, generations, cultures, interests. it is all relative. it is all individual. someone who never intends to use a computer would find owning one excessive. someone who produces tv commercials would be putting themselves at a disadvantage, professionally, if they didn't watch tv. so for students - if they want to be competitive or at least on equal footing, if one has access to the web they all should. if someone is happily employed in a job that does not and probably will not require knowledge of computers they shouldn't feel that they need to learn these skills.

starting in march i will be teaching advanced computer graphics for the first time. questions have been circling in my mind about the content for the course. the curriculum that i wrote incorporates many of the ideas from other art classes under the new heading of electronic portfolio - reexamining your artwork, creative writing and interests within the format of a web page or cd-rom. one question this brings up is "when is new really new?" (dertouzou pg. 5, pp. 2) in terms of what i present is new ever new? does it have to be? i think i'm offering new technologies because they're new to my classroom but they are old compared to industry standards. and essentially they are the same technologies and approaches that have existed for some time. i as a teacher can only be a presenter of information that i can begin to understand myself - if information is all going to truly change as quickly as it is then is it better to teach experimenting, inventing, and adapting? the balance game between new technologies and meaningful content decisions continues.

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