Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to meet with Steve Lambert, a faculty member at SMFA. I knew that it was imperative that I meet with him before leaving for Texas as almost everyone mentioned his name during my previous discussions, and thankfully he agreed to meet with me.
Steve teaches a hacking class and a class titled, “ Free as in Freedom not as in Free Beer,” and has also collaborated with the Yes Men. As soon as I heard about his hacking class I knew I needed to track this guy down.
Steve self-identifies as a nontraditional teacher with nontraditional expectations for his students. He created the hacking class in reaction to the number of software training classes that were offered at SMFA. He explained that he felt commercial software training resulted in students being reliant upon software and training is something that should not be part of the art school experience. An art degree should be more like a philosophy degree. In addition to this commercial software puts institutions into almost a hundred thousand dollars of debt after purchases are made and software updates. For these reasons his classes only use open source software, which is very often better than their commercial counterparts as people have the ability to augment it as needed. Students must create their own website (which enables them to archive and share their work), and use their own server (instead of relying on the school’s). He also requests that none of his students copyright anything they create in either of his classes.
The most challenging part about teaching this class seemed to be de-programing traditional students and pushing them to solve problems on their own. Obviously this mentality is not necessarily limited to the arts or technology; however teaching students to be independent of the teacher helps students continue their work even after the class has ended. Steve starts his class by giving his students some ideas about how to go about solving problems… the last one being asking him for advice.
All of this has really just clarified my thoughts about technology, education and the arts. The Internet and the technologies surrounding its access and use have really changed the way that we receive information. In some way these technologies have actually made us more self-sufficient as we no longer have to work as hard to find information. While technology has really taken off it seems like legislation always lags behind, which always affects the way that we make use of it, and as I said in my first post, creating art by means of technology is only natural as we surround ourselves with it day in and day out.
Whew. Let’s get started.