William Hart

Constructing Experience: Art and Digital Literacy


Discussing digital literacy within the context of the creative arts is made complex and confusing by both the plethora of labels used, and the sometimes ambiguous or contradictory ways in which they can be applied. For instance Software Art may refer to an artist engaging in a cultural critique of software, or one who uses the formal structures of a programming language as a variant of concrete poetry. Computer Art is at best seen as a marginally rehabilitated historical movement that nobody seems to want to claim as an antecedent, while mainstream Digital Art has come to mean what we used to call Video.

This taxonomic confusion masks a range of strategies that artist adopt, ranging from art made with technology or art made about technology. Commonly software tools are used to shape and manipulate digital media as an outcome, but alternative practises can result in a software executable, as an art object.

This paper sketches out a taxonomy of creative approaches to digital technology in relation to definitions and labels currently used to describe these practices. It then focuses on why the software executable as an art object deserves attention, and finally it articulates the challenge for creative arts education to incorporate these insights towards an engagement with technology that addresses a full gamut of digital literacy.

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William Hart:

Bill Hart is a Lecturer in Electronic Media at the Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania. He has been writing software since the late 1970’s, and in the 1980’s worked for CSIRO as a scientist and numerical modeller before becoming an artist and educator in the early 1990’s. He was coordinator of the Digital Art Research Facility at the TSA from 1995 until its close in 2002, which explored the expressive potentials of the digital print and held a Large ARC grant from 1998 to 2001. In 2008 he completed a PhD developing strategies for expressive programming. In his current practice he develops nonlinear generative animations for screen and projection, documentation of his work can be found on www.billhart.id.au