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Home | Tag Archives: Liberal Arts

Tag Archives: Liberal Arts

Op-Ed: The Democracy of Creation

Just a few years back, if one wanted to be a published author, you had to write your novel, hire an agent and have that person shop your book around all of the publishers until you found one that agreed to print your book and distribute it to bookstores across the country. Then you would wait and hope someone bought it. It was a crapshoot.

A few years back, if you wanted to make a movie to be distributed, you would have to purchase or rent hundreds of thousands of dollars video and editing equipment. You would then, much like the author of a book, have to find an agent to shop your masterpiece around to studios., show it at film festivals, and hope someone found it interesting enough to distribute. It was a crapshoot.

A few years back, of you wanted to record a hit record, you would have rented time at a recording studio, which included all of the production staff, and recorded your masterpiece. You would then, much like the creator of a movie, have to find an agent to shop your masterpiece around to studios, go out to radio stations with your tapes, and hope someone found it interesting enough to play on their station. It was a crapshoot.

Just a few years back…

Today, if you wanted to create a full length movie, record an album, or write a novel and distribute them to a worldwide audience, you could do it from your laptop. Heck, you could theoretically do everyone of those things from your smartphone or tablet computer.

Those things that were once were in the provenance of the elite and well connected are now in the domain of the everyday. That which was once was only written in the language of the chosen few are now in the vernacular.

Consider the full length movie “Tangerine,” shot in 2015 almost entirely on an iPhone 5s using an $8 app called Filmic Pro. Of course there were some post production and add ons such as a steadicam, but the point was that a small budget movie could now use a tool that people carry around in their pockets to create art. Indeed, Variety recently ran an article about 12 movies that were shot if not entirely, almost entirely using smartphones.

Dragonborne is a 90 second example of what one can do on a smartphone:

If movie making is not your thing, you have the ability to write and publish your own “Great American Novel” for free using programs such as Apple’s iBooks Author. You can write and publish, for free, any type of book you wish. (If you want to charge for your book there are a few extra, not expensive steps you need to take).

Indeed, the iBookstore is full of books published for free by little known authors. Free no longer means poor quality. The most famous book that started out as a “publish it yourself” is probably “Fifty Shades of Grey,” that started life as a freely published fan fiction for the Twilight series of books.

Anyone, anywhere can write a book and publish it for the world to read. The web is full of self published books in a cornucopia of topics.

In 1968 the Beatles had at their disposal, an eight track track recording studio at Abbey Road. That technology, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars was cutting edge for the day.

Today, anyone with a modicum of interest or talent can access a free tool called “Garageband” on an iPhone or Macintosh and actually have far greater recording power, for free, than the Beatles.

Imagine that: You may, right this second, have more recording power in your pocket than John, Paul, George, and Ringo had in all of Abbey Road Studios. You certainly have more than Elvis had at Sun Records.

Recording acts as diverse as the Gorrillaz ,Grimes, and El Paso’s own Khalid all have used the recording power of the free Garageband app to make music. The web is full of stories of how artists can now afford the once unaffordable.

Movies, music and books are not the only creations that have been democratized with technology. Anyone can record, produce and distribute their own radio show as a podcast. Over the years, the popularity of podcasts has exploded, running the gamut in both quality and length. All have some interest to someone. Want to become the next Casey Kasim and countdown your own American Top 40 each week? Want to create a weekly “Grumpy Old Man Yelling at the Passing Clouds” show? There is very little that prevents you from doing that other than your own inhibition.

Technology has moved that which was previously almost impossible to the common man. Probably no other company in the world has done more to democratize the creation of content than Apple, which has been credited with being the first with creating devices and software that allowed anyone to create; Apple has, over the years developed and released:

  • The first mass produced laser printer that allowed anyone to print newspaper-like materials.
  • iMovie that made movie producing easy and fun.
  • Garageband which did the same for music and podcasts.
  • iBooks Author that allows anyone to create and publish, for free.

The list goes on and on. Apple likes to say that they make products that are at the corner of Liberal Arts and Technology. I like that approach. Computers should not be just about writing code, editing spreadsheets, and making Powerpoint presentations.

Recently Apple has promised to release an entire curriculum called “Everyone Can Create” which promises to help teachers show students how to become creators of content, not just consumers. Too often, teachers use computers to do the exact same thing that a pen or paper assignment could have done.

Having students create digital content not only is more interesting, it is also more engaging and research show that it can increase academic performance.

Occasionally, educators and the public will question the expenditure of funds on laptops or tablets for students, and if students are doing rote skills on digital devices, they are indeed a waste of money. However if students are allowed to create, to collaborate, to make content that just a few years ago would have been impossible to do without hundreds of thousands of dollars, then magic happens. When Technology and Humanities meet.

That is where the corner of Technology and Liberal Arts is located. And while it is still a crapshoot on whether or not anyone will like your product, that location, that special corner is where the magic of democratization of technology happens.

It is up to us to show our students the map to that corner.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

UTEP Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon Retires

When Javier Aguilar-Garcia met Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., nearly four years ago, he was wandering the halls of the Liberal Arts Building searching for a University 1301 class.

As a freshman at The University of Texas at El Paso, Aguilar-Garcia was still finding his way around campus. At the time, the first-generation college student had no clue that Witherspoon, the passerby he stopped to ask for help, was the dean of the UTEP College of Liberal Arts (COLA). She smiled warmly and directed him down the hall.

Their paths would cross again a couple of years later when Aguilar-Garcia served as a COLA ambassador under Witherspoon. For two years, Aguilar assisted the dean at events, such as the college’s Pre-Commencement Awards and Hooding Ceremony.

While the Juárez native no longer needed directions to class, he began looking to Witherspoon for guidance about his future.

“What I learned from Dr. Witherspoon would take hours for me to say,” said Aguilar-Garcia, a multimedia journalism major who expects to graduate in December 2017. “I learned the value of hard work, to always be true to myself, and to not be afraid to think outside the box. She knows there is something special in each of us.”

Aguilar-Garcia was among the many students Witherspoon mentored over the past 17 years at UTEP. She retired from the University in August 2017 after a 36-year career in higher education.

“I came to UTEP for the students,” said Witherspoon, who led COLA since 2011. “I was impressed by these students who will do so much to get an education, and who understand so well that an education transforms not only an individual but a family.”

Witherspoon joined UTEP in the fall of 2000 as chair of the Department of Communication.

During the Dean’s Legacy Lecture this spring, Witherspoon recalled that shortly before she started her new job, her oldest son, Terry, told her that the people at UTEP really wanted her to come to the University, and she better not let them down.

Looking back, she said, “I hope I didn’t.”

At UTEP, Witherspoon hit the ground running. In 2002, she established the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies, which provides academic enrichment for communication majors, communication programs to high school students, and continuing education and training for media and communication professionals.

The center’s inaugural event, “An Evening with Sam Donaldson,” in 2003 attracted top journalists, including Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, George Will and Ted Koppel, White House press secretaries and major news stations. The event raised more than $100,000 for the center’s endowment.

“That was a wonderful evening to remember and to honor Sam Donaldson, but it was also wonderful to see (these journalists) come out and hear about UTEP,” Witherspoon recalled.

In August 2008, Witherspoon was named dean of the University’s Graduate School. She held that position until 2010, when she became acting dean of COLA, UTEP’s largest and most varied college with nearly 7,000 students. A year later, she was appointed the college’s dean.

“There are lots of programs, lots of departments, lots of students, not enough faculty, and not enough staff,” Witherspoon said. “That is the beauty of the College of Liberal Arts; there is so much diversity here with the arts, the humanities and the social sciences.”

UTEP Senior Executive Vice President Howard Daudistel, Ph.D., was the college’s dean before Witherspoon. He said that under Witherspoon’s “extraordinary leadership,” the college strengthened its many student success initiatives and strived to continuously improve all of its academic programs.

“Dr. Witherspoon was a vigorous advocate for the many diverse departments and programs in the college and worked hard to recruit the highest quality faculty to support these programs,” Daudistel said. “Always attentive to student needs, Dr. Witherspoon was deeply committed to UTEP’s access and excellence mission while also supporting a diverse faculty of outstanding teachers, extraordinary scholars, researchers and artists.”

During her tenure, Witherspoon worked with faculty to develop forward-thinking programs that would foster student achievement. Among them was the Student Success Initiative in 2014, which provides tutoring and programs that support student academic development, and the Liberal Arts Honors Program (LAHP) in 2012, which offers academic enrichment opportunities to top undergraduate liberal arts students.

Witherspoon said the LAHP has exceeded her expectations.

“Many of our LAHP students go on to graduate school or law school and have wonderful internships in other parts of the country,” she said. “They’re just outstanding.”

Witherspoon credits much of her success to the college’s outstanding faculty and dedicated staff who she said made her look good, even on those days when she did not deserve it.

“It almost never felt like work,” she said with a laugh. Despite her many accomplishments, Witherspoon is most proud of watching students succeed. Her favorite time of year was celebrating the achievements of liberal arts students at UTEP’s spring and winter Commencement ceremonies. From the stage in the Don Haskins Center, Witherspoon would watch as wave after wave of liberal arts graduates walked into the arena, ready to make their mark on the world.

In retirement, Witherspoon plans to spend time with family and stay involved with the University. She may help raise funds for COLA’s 50th Anniversary fund or teach an online undergraduate course in communication and organizational leadership.

Other projects include writing a book on the effect of culture on leadership, focusing on Mexican-American and Latino influences.

“I feel very proud and very gratified of having been a part of this campus during the last 17 years,” Witherspoon said. “The last 17 years has been a time of tremendous change and great growth, not only in numbers but in stature.”

Author:  Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

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