Digital Naivety and the displaced studio

Daniel McKewen (QUT)
2020 Conference

This paper considers the complexities of online studio art teaching in the COVID-present, specifically in relation to the ‘digital naivety’ of ‘Digital Native’ students. The rapid shift to online-learning at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis was accompanied by suggestions that so-called ‘digital natives’ would be well-positioned to readily adapt. Instead, teaching studio art online laid bare the shortcomings of this out-moded moniker, and the ever-urgent need for newly responsive ways of considering studio teaching practice.

Stemming from a present-first-hand experience of online and face-to-face visual art studio teaching, this paper describes observations made of learning experiences during the COVID crisis. Despite their digital native status, mid-degree visual art students being taught online struggled to identify and creatively act upon from their autodidactically-privileged position. Instead, they remained adrift in an online-ocean of unexplored experiential, creative, and critical possibilities – digital naifs struggling to turn their digitally-centric lives to the pursuit of artmaking at all. This paper considers these observations in relation to self-determination theory and argues for the need to rethink how students are supported in their growth toward self-determined, critical digital nomadism. While ‘the studio’ can be a potent pedagogical place, its displaced status in the COVID-present demands a radical revision both online and ‘off’.

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About the author

Dr Daniel McKewen is an artist and academic whose making and teaching practices investigate the intersections of contemporary art and digital screen culture. His video installation works have been exhibited nationally and internationally and he is currently a Lecturer in Media Arts / Visual Arts at Queensland University of Technology. His work can be found at