W r i t i n g

Dreaming in Hi-Res: Graduate Students at UC Santa Cruz use Technology to Explore and Express their Imaginations
By Catie Gutierrez

Published in the Spring 2008 issue of Eyecandy Magazine, a student-run Film and Digital Media magazine at UC Santa Cruz.

Creativity can be defined as a phenomenal power that the human mind wields to manipulate our surroundings and form something new. As far back as the Stone Age, creativity has manifested itself, for example, in hieroglyphics and makeshift sculptures, to become a phenomenon we call art. Art can be defined as the practice of taking pre-existing materials and modifying, breaking apart, or re-arranging them to form something new.    

Traditionally, art involves using a creative process to subjectively express and explore emotion. Technology, on the other hand, has often been discussed as an objective application of knowledge. Unlike art, technology was created with a sense of science and business in mind, for example in developing improvements for physical health, exploring our environment, and facilitating faster communication. However, technological advances have also revolutionized the field of art and have allowed whole new levels for the human mind to create art with. Visual representations can now be created on the two-dimensional computer screen with a three-dimensional sense of a perspective and depth. Still images come to life with video technology, and the movement and angle at which they are perceived are manipulated to impose a sense of emotion on the viewer. And compositions of sound can be heard in a vast array of new qualities of computer-generated sound.

In creating new forms of media (i.e. forms of communication), new connections can be made between people. In this sense, the Digital Art and New Media Program at UC Santa Cruz does not just involve art and technology but sociology and the humanities as well. Professor Sharon Daniel explains the program's interdisciplinary goals:

"The DANM program is structured to support research and scholarship that expand the role of art and technology in relation to culture and society . . . In their thesis projects and scholarship, students are encouraged to engage multiple discourses and practices at the intersection of art and technology, art and science, and art and society."

The internet has spawned many subcultures, including online networking culture where users post images online for all to see and comment on. Some of the DANM students employ online networking into their art, not only as commentators, but also as part of the creative process. Digital Art and New Media, then, incorporates -- activates -- its viewers and provides a space where the audience is no longer a passive viewer but more of a "user." As new technologies replace the roles of the old, Digital Art also changes the modes and means of human interaction with art. In interacting with the art, they also interact with other users forming new communities of users.

Graduate students who are a part of the Digital Arts and New Media Program (DANM) at UC Santa Cruz are exploring the possibilities that exist in the overlap between technology and art. Founded in 2004, the program aims to redefine art and technology by coupling them into an interdisciplinary program. Students in the DANM Program design their own original mediums of digital art by combining technological programs and equipment with artistic practices and performances. These new mediums are designed to take on the projects of exploring whatever theories, concepts and phenomena the individual artist can dream up.