Carson Conversations Forum | Tom Barker
Tom Barker, Digital Futures Adjunct Professor at OCAD University speaks at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. His talk: "A Curriculum Roadmap." Barker’s full credentials: St IDBE (Cantab) MDes(Eng) BSc(Hons) FRCA FRSA – Royal Commission of 1851 Design Fellow; OCAD University Digital Futures Adjunct Professor & Graduate School Visiting Scholar; VP Digital, Six Trends Inc.
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[00:00:00.000](calm piano music)
[00:00:08.854]Good morning, everybody.
[00:00:12.218]This has a forward button but no backward button?
[00:00:14.549]That's quite probably a good thing.
[00:00:17.698]I'm part educator, part industry person, I guess,
[00:00:21.317]and I'm going to touch on
[00:00:23.730]what I call the X-shaped curriculum,
[00:00:25.562]and there's a lot of synergies
[00:00:27.304]with the previous speakers, I think,
[00:00:28.653]so some of what I was gonna say,
[00:00:30.492]I don't think need to be said
[00:00:31.362]because it's already been covered.
[00:00:34.102]Let's go forward.
[00:00:35.834]So, here we are.
[00:00:37.693]There's not that many Gen Ys or Gen Zs here,
[00:00:40.083]but I always put this up to my students
[00:00:42.744]because when you show that slide,
[00:00:44.034]they stop doing it, funny enough.
[00:00:49.196]Tiny bit about me because it always informs what you do.
[00:00:53.003]On the left is me as a kind of academic, I guess.
[00:00:57.144]And on the right is me in business.
[00:01:00.008]Those two have always run in parallel.
[00:01:03.259]I originally started working with universities
[00:01:07.539]because we needed them to help us
[00:01:10.078]on wicked problems that we couldn't solve in industry
[00:01:13.311]and a lot of work in the millennium
[00:01:16.119]or prior to the millennium in the UK,
[00:01:18.391]where we worked for the universities
[00:01:19.660]on particular design problems which was really fantastic.
[00:01:22.957]And gradually the universities said,
[00:01:24.531]well, can you come up with a little bit
[00:01:25.403]of workshopping, teaching?
[00:01:29.043]By about 10 years ago I was 50-50,
[00:01:31.305]and I'm now about 60% university academic,
[00:01:35.614]and 40% industry, been floating around.
[00:01:40.145]The most interesting thing for me now
[00:01:43.480]as my career progressed,
[00:01:45.471]I've got more and more in charge of what I do,
[00:01:47.110]so I tend to have all the fun stuff.
[00:01:50.692]My first job at Cray Research,
[00:01:53.551]which at the time is making the world's fastest computers,
[00:01:56.614]back in 1989.
[00:01:57.768]Just to give you an idea of,
[00:01:59.654]just kind of reflect on our previous speaker
[00:02:01.408]about how you can't tell what's going to happen,
[00:02:04.480]that was the computer that I used to code for.
[00:02:11.214]This was a computer I used to code for
[00:02:12.885]which was called the XMP.
[00:02:15.962]It cost $10 million in 1989, and it was slightly slower
[00:02:20.490]than the first generation iPad.
[00:02:24.723]Think about what we're going to have in 20 years time.
[00:02:26.398]It's quite hard to fathom.
[00:02:29.348]Originally, I wasn't involved in digital things at all,
[00:02:32.689]apart from a bit of software.
[00:02:34.540]I was mostly an engineer building large-scale stuff.
[00:02:38.068]Has anyone been on the London Eye?
[00:02:40.126]Yeah, you like it?
[00:02:41.996]So, I was the lead designer for the capsules
[00:02:45.664]and the boarding system.
[00:02:47.347]We were told it was impossible to make
[00:02:49.407]a continuously moving Ferris wheel
[00:02:51.160]because people would fall into the river.
[00:02:54.389]We demonstrated that that was possible,
[00:02:56.059]and you could get on and off quite safely with a wheelchair.
[00:02:59.219]It was a project that was never going to go ahead.
[00:03:01.667]We were told in London by Duvall
[00:03:04.639]for an arts commission, which thank God had been abolished,
[00:03:06.469]a lot of old white men, that it was an abomination
[00:03:11.466]because it could be seen from every park in London,
[00:03:14.228]and we said that was the point.
[00:03:18.277]It had a budget of $6 million.
[00:03:21.317]I'm doing the conversion in my head now,
[00:03:23.414]and it ended up costing $36 million.
[00:03:26.807]Bob Ayling, the chief executive
[00:03:29.469]of British Airways funded it, and it got built.
[00:03:32.829]He lost his job a year later.
[00:03:34.398]So a lot of miracles to make that thing work.
[00:03:36.869]It's now the world's most successful tourist attraction.
[00:03:42.948]Also in the millennium as a young technologist
[00:03:45.351]and designer, I had a consultancy
[00:03:48.107]which was becoming increasingly multi-disciplinary,
[00:03:50.668]and I was very, very lucky to work
[00:03:53.298]on content for the Millennium Dome
[00:03:55.037]which is now the O2 Arena
[00:03:57.287]with the late great architect Zaha Hadid,
[00:03:59.818]and we collaborated together for 10 glorious years.
[00:04:03.109]This was the Mind Zone with Zaha.
[00:04:07.755]At the same time as doing building type stuff,
[00:04:10.559]I was still keeping a toe in the water with products,
[00:04:14.367]and I found this the other day.
[00:04:16.258]This is, on the left, a Bluetooth headset
[00:04:19.949]I designed for Emkay as OEM, 2001,
[00:04:23.810]and here's Plantronics 2016.
[00:04:28.050]I actually like to think the Emkay one
[00:04:29.059]is a little bit prettier.
[00:04:31.814]In functional terms, Plantronics wipes the floor.
[00:04:35.303]Our battery life was about 45 minutes.
[00:04:38.523]The weight of the thing about 35 grams.
[00:04:41.623]It's almost unusable compared to what we have today.
[00:04:45.274]But it's an interesting thing that the long tail
[00:04:48.175]of technology is always there.
[00:04:49.906]We tend to think, well, it's just coming.
[00:04:52.743]We're gonna get left behind,
[00:04:54.200]but VR's been around a long time.
[00:04:56.114]Bluetooth's been around a long time.
[00:04:57.274]It's now just about working which is great,
[00:04:59.735]and I guess the same for VR.
[00:05:03.325]Projects, my favorite project's the ones
[00:05:05.702]that never actually went ahead,
[00:05:07.221]and this is a Tokyo Guggenheim,
[00:05:09.501]and we won this project with Zaha Hadid,
[00:05:12.493]and it included 600 square meters of video wall,
[00:05:17.285]internal and external to allow the Guggenheim
[00:05:20.531]to show their curated new media art.
[00:05:24.904]The rest of the building was built out
[00:05:26.792]of solar panels and ceramic tiles.
[00:05:31.793]Sadly, we won the competition just before 9/11,
[00:05:35.121]and you may know Guggenheim is pretty much funded
[00:05:37.382]by ticket sales, so this project never went ahead.
[00:05:42.494]A project that went ahead but was entirely digital
[00:05:45.397]with Langlands Bell, the house of Osama Bin Laden.
[00:05:48.686]Langlands Bell, the British artists were appointed
[00:05:50.666]as war artists to Afghanistan.
[00:05:53.965]They went out there and took 10s of thousands of photographs
[00:05:56.826]which we painstakingly recreated
[00:06:00.368]in the Quake game engine from id.
[00:06:04.348]And that was shortlisted for the Tate Turner prize
[00:06:06.203]which is one of the most exciting times,
[00:06:08.483]I think for me, as an art collaborator.
[00:06:12.640]The house was photographed about two days
[00:06:14.422]after Bin Laden left, so we even had photographs
[00:06:16.534]of his slippers by the bed.
[00:06:20.792]Something very exciting for me,
[00:06:22.552]I discovered this a couple of weeks ago.
[00:06:25.022]I bought a set.
[00:06:26.272]I've always been a crazy Lego nut.
[00:06:29.552]The London Eye is now available in Lego for about $30,
[00:06:33.370]so it's not all that accurate.
[00:06:34.952]It doesn't have as many capsules but,
[00:06:38.934]I love that kind of circular thing.
[00:06:40.091]I began playing with Lego,
[00:06:41.164]and I'm kind of now seeing some
[00:06:42.334]of my designs end up in Lego.
[00:06:44.683]Okay, so that's me.
[00:06:47.003]What has this done?
[00:06:48.102]On my academic side, I've now built a significant curriculum
[00:06:51.212]in six different institutions,
[00:06:54.323]and I would like to say that it gets easier each time,
[00:06:58.014]and that I get the curriculum more and more perfect.
[00:07:01.594]It gets harder each time because every time I do it,
[00:07:03.681]I learn the limitations of what's possible
[00:07:06.303]and what's probable and what's practical.
[00:07:09.793]But I think the results probably do get better then.
[00:07:12.930]They're certainly more collaborative than ever.
[00:07:16.236]First thing, I always say it to everybody,
[00:07:19.905]is do what took you 25 years in five.
[00:07:22.714]It took me 25 years to figure out all the things
[00:07:25.142]that I figured out.
[00:07:26.961]My students want that a lot quicker,
[00:07:29.799]and it's not gonna fit into a curriculum.
[00:07:32.161]It's going to fit into a curriculum
[00:07:34.681]plus several years either co-op, and when they've graduated.
[00:07:39.102]Generation Z kids don't wait.
[00:07:41.721]They're impatient, and a lot of the people
[00:07:46.121]who are gonna lose their jobs are the ones
[00:07:47.371]who are going into the deskilled zone
[00:07:49.342]that we've talked so much about earlier.
[00:07:52.833]We came up with the notion of the X-shaped designer,
[00:07:55.414]and it was a riff in a way on the T-shaped designer
[00:07:58.444]which you've seen the D-School were big on IDEO.
[00:08:01.804]Somebody with a core discipline
[00:08:03.332]that can reach out to others,
[00:08:04.830]and we said, no actually it's the X
[00:08:07.068]because we want people to be familiar
[00:08:09.316]and capable in four points,
[00:08:11.628]art, design, enterprise, and science.
[00:08:14.798]It doesn't mean they have to have mastered them all,
[00:08:16.929]but it's going back to more of a kind
[00:08:18.540]of Renaissance model, I guess.
[00:08:21.921]Sort of projects where this has worked
[00:08:23.188]out absolutely brilliantly
[00:08:24.460]and almost everything I'm sharing now,
[00:08:26.398]in fact everything,
[00:08:27.836]they're projects that have either been done by myself
[00:08:30.483]with tons of students contributing and faculty
[00:08:33.854]or we've actually done them within the university
[00:08:36.633]back into industry, and I think this is one
[00:08:38.065]of the things I want to emphasize this morning is the value
[00:08:41.854]that we can contribute as academics, learners
[00:08:47.401]on real projects back into industry
[00:08:48.785]is really, really significant.
[00:08:51.727]With all of these programs,
[00:08:52.810]we've made significant inroads doing that,
[00:08:55.680]and we've been well funded as well.
[00:08:57.972]My one demand, this is a project with Blast Theory
[00:08:59.897]which is a British art practice,
[00:09:02.166]and it was a live film that was streamed
[00:09:05.489]to several cinemas in Toronto for the Luminato Festival.
[00:09:10.036]Basic stuff, so you can actually watch it online,
[00:09:12.105]obviously not live.
[00:09:14.195]What's very interesting is a year later Woody Harrelson
[00:09:16.982]did a similar thing, and I stumbled upon his set,
[00:09:20.155]and that's me just before I was thrown out.
[00:09:22.573]It was next to my condo in London.
[00:09:26.045]This one if we can just tap it.
[00:09:32.045]This is a project that we launched at Facebook
[00:09:34.016]in Toronto a couple of weeks ago,
[00:09:37.587]and it's a digital media art project
[00:09:41.256]which begins with you interacting with an app
[00:09:44.005]that will tell you when you're going to expire,
[00:09:47.376]video you and create a living video portrait
[00:09:51.296]that changes everyday as you age,
[00:09:53.568]based on that's a day's piece, that's a month's piece.
[00:09:56.595]If you want to try that, I just hacked the code,
[00:09:58.571]so that it will actually work.
[00:09:59.810]It's been geo-fenced, but if you try,
[00:10:02.089]if you go to lifespantest.com
[00:10:06.440]any point during the next two days,
[00:10:08.903]then you'll be able to find out
[00:10:10.200]when your expiry date is.
[00:10:13.969]So there's the evolution.
[00:10:15.049]We claimed the X-shape 'cause of natural evolution.
[00:10:17.430]Now the interesting thing about this is specialization
[00:10:21.542]talked a little bit about this morning.
[00:10:24.691]If everyone on this planet wanted to be an X-shaped designer
[00:10:26.865]it would be utter chaos.
[00:10:28.803]I think it would be pretty tricky
[00:10:30.063]if they wanted to be T-shaped.
[00:10:31.515]Historically, the single discipline worked very well.
[00:10:34.233]We're pack animals.
[00:10:35.141]We all specialize, and it's good for the pack,
[00:10:38.951]but I'd say if you want to be in the top 10%, 5%
[00:10:44.062]of what's going on in education,
[00:10:47.510]to curriculum that really does bring leaders out,
[00:10:53.746]then you need to be producing those X-shaped creatives
[00:10:56.946]and sprinkling them liberally around the country
[00:11:00.695]and around the globe.
[00:11:02.746]It's important when you launch a new program
[00:11:06.546]to be able to say who you are going to create
[00:11:10.527]because you don't have stuff to show,
[00:11:13.538]and it's what is really going to connect
[00:11:17.077]with the people who are thinking of coming onto the program.
[00:11:19.458]What do I want to be, not what does the university want
[00:11:23.978]to do with fantastic and generous funding.
[00:11:28.478]It's what happens to them.
[00:11:29.765]Have an amazing building.
[00:11:30.621]I think you've got the building
[00:11:32.182]which you're going to make amazing.
[00:11:33.864]At OCAD University we were very lucky
[00:11:35.885]that Will Alsop produced this spectacular
[00:11:38.466]but affordable box.
[00:11:40.376]And the citizens of Toronto just about got used to it.
[00:11:43.997]They're a quite conservative lot.
[00:11:47.498]Have an evocative name,
[00:11:48.356]and I think you're well on the way there.
[00:11:51.008]We did some research into graduate programs.
[00:11:52.708]These are some of the top ones around the world.
[00:11:54.690]The names, when people try and find realistic,
[00:11:56.829]meaningful names, it's all mud anyhow.
[00:11:59.629]So you might as well be evocative.
[00:12:01.538]There's no academic label yet for
[00:12:03.200]what is being thought about here.
[00:12:05.817]Be relaxed about change, and I think this comes about,
[00:12:08.366]and really on message with you Norman.
[00:12:10.826]My dean isn't here, so I can say these things.
[00:12:14.765]Constant change, rewriting the content.
[00:12:19.053]We put a lot of effort into creating course descriptions,
[00:12:22.834]call it assurance approvals,
[00:12:24.514]which means that underneath the hood,
[00:12:28.584]we could change content.
[00:12:30.123]And that got us into the D-School
[00:12:31.426]in the Royal College of Art within three years
[00:12:34.126]because of that enormous amount of change.
[00:12:36.568]Huge amount of pressure and stress
[00:12:37.997]on staff to achieve that faculty, but we did it.
[00:12:41.738]And I think the other thing is,
[00:12:43.968]we were in a real hybridized universe,
[00:12:45.760]and this is a student project which I love,
[00:12:49.410]the idea of internet of things being made
[00:12:52.330]out of digital things that are already there
[00:12:54.181]and stuffing them into things like kids' toys.
[00:12:56.679]So that sort of lateral thinking is great.
[00:13:00.484]We put our students to work on all sorts of things.
[00:13:02.422]This is a interactive museum exhibition walkthrough
[00:13:07.004]with a gamer's reward for kids to persuade them
[00:13:10.585]to actually read the stuff 'cause most kids don't read
[00:13:12.686]when they go through museums.
[00:13:14.205]Actually, nobody reads when they go through museums anymore,
[00:13:16.217]apart of academics I think.
[00:13:19.081]And that was for the Pan Am Games in Toronto last year,
[00:13:23.383]very successful piece of work.
[00:13:26.571]More interesting because students did it.
[00:13:28.873]Probably more affordable for the client as well.
[00:13:32.688]We've put a lot of effort into developing tools as well,
[00:13:35.540]and we have something I developed a number
[00:13:38.238]of years ago called the Pack of Good Advice
[00:13:39.788]which we give out to most of our students.
[00:13:42.545]We do a lot of workshopping.
[00:13:43.473]We have something called the Marketplace Casino
[00:13:45.771]which allows them to test ideas
[00:13:47.832]before they actually have to invest any time
[00:13:49.540]and effort in them.
[00:13:51.041]These are all important for, kind of, ground awareness
[00:13:53.729]and to build a sense of culture
[00:13:55.767]and continuity as you go from one intake
[00:13:58.929]of students to the next.
[00:14:01.267]Live projects, experimental ones,
[00:14:02.947]this is a cafe project, very simple.
[00:14:06.337]We project tweets onto people's coffee.
[00:14:11.305]Cheap equipment in the ceiling,
[00:14:12.612]and if you flick your finger, then the tweet can get sent
[00:14:16.254]to someone else in the coffee shop,
[00:14:17.556]and it was the idea of a lot of people sit
[00:14:18.881]in coffee shops thinking this is great,
[00:14:20.100]this is very sociable, but they don't actually talk
[00:14:22.318]to anybody else in the coffee shop,
[00:14:23.958]so that kind of makes it happen.
[00:14:26.065]I guess this slide, again, I think Megan said
[00:14:30.878]let us know what you think emerging media arts is.
[00:14:33.129]I haven't actually said,
[00:14:35.801]just gonna show you more pictures.
[00:14:37.401]To me it's almost everything,
[00:14:38.681]and these are projects we've done all over the place.
[00:14:42.132]Top right, pop-up cinema in Christchurch
[00:14:44.820]after the earthquake in New Zealand.
[00:14:48.009]Bottom middle, we've got something called Level Up
[00:14:51.060]which is a massively successful games exhibition
[00:14:53.519]that we do for one night only every year in Toronto.
[00:14:57.182]Bottom right, one of my colleagues Kate there
[00:14:59.182]with wearables lab.
[00:15:02.602]Bottom left, project in Ghana.
[00:15:08.375]Top center, a riff on Hitchcock's movie, Rear Window
[00:15:14.288]where we built a fake rear window
[00:15:16.399]in the center of Sydney and had a couple
[00:15:20.206]in a kitchen doing crazy things,
[00:15:21.707]falling in, falling out, throwing things at each other,
[00:15:25.473]making love, you name it.
[00:15:28.071]It was all there.
[00:15:29.533]So everything in a way is emerging new media.
[00:15:35.433]How do you put that into a curriculum?
[00:15:37.473]Well, you have to do it all.
[00:15:38.852]What is vitally important for university,
[00:15:41.572]never forget skills, projects, and theory.
[00:15:44.052]You have to have them all
[00:15:45.252]because that gives you the synergy.
[00:15:47.481]It gives you the intellectual value.
[00:15:49.433]It gives the students the possibility
[00:15:51.323]of being thought leaders
[00:15:52.724]and also to develop critical thinking skills.
[00:15:55.262]This is the shopping list
[00:15:56.446]which has really been covered by everybody else.
[00:15:59.113]What would I say within there that is really important?
[00:16:02.442]Right at the bottom,
[00:16:03.540]that should probably have been the top one,
[00:16:06.668]discovery based learning.
[00:16:08.509]And in fact, this notion of being comfortable
[00:16:11.284]and confident to tear up content,
[00:16:14.110]restart it, re-write, co-design with students,
[00:16:16.820]is phenomenally powerful.
[00:16:19.797]But we've also gotta remember, it's phenomenally difficult.
[00:16:22.929]If you're new faculty,
[00:16:26.284]or on tenure track,
[00:16:29.244]to do that in your first couple of years,
[00:16:31.055]really, really hard.
[00:16:31.888]So I think the other message there,
[00:16:34.184]please, please don't forget
[00:16:35.455]that everybody's gotta be brought along on this journey.
[00:16:38.234]You can't just hire superstars.
[00:16:39.932]Everybody has to learn to do this,
[00:16:41.852]and there are many people that I've worked with
[00:16:44.151]in all the different institutions
[00:16:46.191]who have been absolutely fantastic
[00:16:48.842]once they're brought on board with a bunch
[00:16:51.052]of training, mentoring, et cetera, et cetera
[00:16:54.103]that they wouldn't normally get
[00:16:55.674]if they were just told, okay, go and do this, teach this.
[00:16:58.845]So-and-so did it last year.
[00:17:00.588]So, discovery based learning, not just for the students
[00:17:02.959]but also for the staff.
[00:17:06.908](calm piano music)
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