Perspectives on Teaching
with Digital Images
To really understand the
framework of implementing a new technological tool, one must gain at least
a rudimentary knowledge of what it will take to get users to employ it.
In analyzing the findings of the MESL Project, 1
one of the key tasks stressed by Principal Investigator Howard Besser
was to determine the most serious impediments, both actual and perceived,
to greater use of digital images among faculty: "Much of the cost is getting
faculty to use them and overcoming certain barriers that may be in place
that inhibit more widespread faculty use." It may not prove to be as simple
as the contemporary adage "If you build it, they will come." We need to
understand the various obstacles to teaching with digital images before
such image use is widely adopted within the instructional process.
To begin to identify these
issues, we designed a study of faculty who teach classes in the visual
arts using digital images. We wanted early adopters of this technology
to tell us what problems they had faced and to speculate about which impediments
needed to be overcome in order for their colleagues to begin using digital
images. We conducted two focus group sessions with faculty from many different
universities, and supplemented this data with observations from Beth Sandore's
MESL-supported pre-and-post classroom survey of faculty and students using
MESL images (Sandore, 1997). We examined the results of a recent survey
(Corbetta-Noyes, 1998) of faculty and slide curators on using digital
images in the classroom. We compared our findings to transcripts from
a discussion on MESL impact among MESL project coordinators at the final
participants' meeting held on May 20, 1997 in Charlottesville. We also
compared our findings to Eileen Fry's study of art history slide librarians
and faculty (Fry, 1998).
We discovered that, from
the perspective of the faculty interviewed, current university infrastructures
were woefully inadequate for using digital images in the classroom. The
issues that dominated both focus group sessions were technical support
and training; acquisition and development of digital tools (software and
hardware); time commitment to learn and develop the new technology; and
some form of academic (if unrecompensed) recognition for their efforts
from the universities. One participant characterized the dilemma of starting
to use digital images as a "vortex of need". The complexity of the aggregate
components (equipment, training, support, and more) was the overwhelming
barrier for most faculty. Participants perceived digital image technology
as a significant means of reaching a broader audience and there was a
general consensus that new technologies stimulate and encourage new ways
of thinking. Yet a number of issues were exposed in the course of the
focus groups that suggested there were major barriers to widespread acceptance.
Here is a brief summary of the major issues that surfaced:
Image Quality: Participants
universally asserted that image quality was critically important, and
that the digital images they were currently using were inadequate. However,
when asked to elaborate (What kinds of image quality do you need for
what types of purposes? Is there a baseline of image quality that would
get significant buy-in from your colleagues?), most participants agreed
that for many purposes, the quality of digital images was no worse than
and Training: The relationship between technical support staff and
faculty was an issue in both focus groups. Another obstacle to implementation
was the lack of adequate resources for technical support and training,
which were often project-driven (and therefore temporary) rather than
actively integrated within a given program.
Tools (software and
hardware): Participants voiced a need for a variety of tools with
which to manage, manipulate, and display images and descriptive data.
They offered examples of both commercially developed "generic" tools
such as Photoshop and locally developed "custom" tools. The communications
gulf between those who created the tools (programmers and technical
staff) and those who used them (faculty, students, and visual resources
staff) was listed as an impediment. Participants discussed the need
for computer technicians with subject expertise.
Time and Recognition:
Both groups were concerned with the value placed on their work by their
universities and with the enormous time commitment required to develop
digital projects. Institutions rarely offered faculty release time or
credit toward tenure for work with digital image technology. This was
perceived as a formidable barrier to non-tenured teachers.
Metadata: In discussing
the need for metadata to accompany images, participants stated the importance
of being able to customize for their students both the interpretive
data (commentary) and descriptive data (attribution, dates, provenance)
that accompanies an image. Because art historians were eager to contribute
their scholarship to an image database as long as they received credit
for their comments, this issue was closely tied to that of recognition
by the university. Participants speculated that the descriptive data
about images should flow in both directions between the providers of
the data (museum curators) and the universities (art historians).
Resources and Collaboration:
Several participants had good experiences in forging alliances with
colleagues from other departments to share resources. This was an interesting
finding because it proved contrary to faculty's tendencies to favor
autonomy and solo endeavors over collaborative projects.
This chapter is divided
into six sections beginning with the Introduction, which summarizes the
major findings of the focus group interviews. Methods
outlines the study methodology and briefly summarizes the participants'
background. The Vision: New Ways of Thinking examines
the impact of digital image technology from the perspective of faculty.
This section describes the many ways faculty are currently using digital
images to teach and how it has affected their perception of their field.
Implementation: It's More than Infrastructure
examines the challenges encountered by faculty and provides a detailed
summary of the findings and observations from the focus group interviews
along with quotes from the focus group participants. Teaching:
Pioneers in the Classroom describes some of the issues surfacing as
a result of the advent of new technologies in the teaching process. This
section includes suggestions from faculty for encouraging the widespread
use of digital images to teach. Into the Future
looks at the future implications of using digital technologies.
We conducted focus group
interviews at the College Art Association (CAA) conference in Toronto
on February 27, 1998. The CAA Conference is the largest gathering of art
and art history faculty in North America. This gave us the opportunity
to conveniently gather together participants from diverse locations. Naturally,
faculty were immersed in thinking about teaching and their own roles as
art historians while attending this conference. This reflective state
of mind was conducive to the goals of the focus groups. We organized two
focus group sessions, both scheduled at low-conflict times. Prior to the
conference we recruited participants through electronic mailing lists
likely to be of interest to instructors involved with digital images;
we also contacted specific faculty known to be teaching with digital images.
During the conference we made announcements and handed out leaflets at
sessions oriented towards digital information, and personally approached
people who indicated they taught with digital images. Only 16% of our
resulting participants (two out of 12) were from MESL campuses.
The focus groups were intended
to raise underlying issues and concerns that might otherwise be missed
using other research methods. The focus groups' goal was to probe further
into issues raised in the MESL project and to gain a fuller understanding
of some of the barriers and facilitators to using digital images in the
classroom. We chose to use focus groups because they were a way to encourage
self-disclosure and observe the thought processes of participants. These
discussion groups offer participants the opportunity to raise buried or
neglected issues for discussion and encourage alternative explanations.
It has been noted elsewhere that focus groups are not intended to reach
a consensus, develop a plan, or to substantiate preconceived notions;
rather, they are meant to uncover the participants' beliefs on a given
subject in order to derive understanding. Participants' opinions may shift
during the course of a discussion (Krueger, 1988). We believed the focus
group interviews would enable us to get directly at issues that might
not be revealed in a topical survey or even a one-on-one interview.
The primary concern of
this study was the usage (whether actual or potential) of digital images
in universities. The interview questions were framed around the topics
of university infrastructure and accessibility of digital images to faculty
and students (see Appendix 6A for
the focus group questions). The university infrastructure is an integrated
system of essential elements that support the foundation and framework
of the end-user system. These elements include equipment in classrooms
and labs for access by students and faculty (projection units, computers,
network wiring); tools for storing and viewing images; and other technical
aspects such as the image delivery method and the delivery speed.
To ensure a discussion
with adequate depth, we planned to conduct two separate focus groups:
one group of participants with several years' experience using digital
images to teach, and another group which included both users and non-users
of digital images in order to cull a wide range of responses and concerns.
We invited faculty members to share their ideas and opinions on teaching
with digital image technology. We were interested in the experiences,
whether good or bad, of those who had used digital images to teach. For
those who had not yet used digital technology for teaching, we sought
to determine the barriers to, or concerns about, teaching with digital
images. The issues we wished to discuss are listed in Table 1 below.
the advantages/disadvantages to using digital images?
or didn't you teach with them?
need to happen for you to teach with them?
the inherent problems (actual and perceived) of using the digital images?
you use them again? Why or why not?
the inhibitors to using digital images (particularly for nonusers)?
Issues For Discussion
This initial set of issues
was refined and developed into the focus group questions (see Table 2).
These primary questions were expanded with probes and some scenarios to
produce the full set of questions (listed in Appendix
6A). The same questions were used for both sessions although the exact
wording varied slightly from session to session.
Who has used digital images in the classroom?
would like to use digital images?
you briefly describe your experiences with using digital images to teach.
were the advantages and disadvantages of using digital images in the
differences do you perceive between using digital images and other visual
resources such as slides, videos, books, and prints?
are the critical factors in deciding to use digital images to teach?
(Are there barriers or impediments to using digital images?)
can other faculty members be encouraged to use digital images?
you use digital images again to teach?
Focus Group Questions
Two focus groups were held
with a total of 12 participants. (See Appendix
6C for a list of participants.) Each 90-minute session was tape-recorded
and later transcribed. The groups corresponded to our expectations regarding
the user experience of the participants; however, we did not anticipate
that nearly half the participants would be studio art teachers. While
we specifically targeted art history teachers when recruiting for the
focus groups, we discovered that many of the teachers using digital images
who were most interested in participating were studio art teachers. The
first group (the mixed group) was divided evenly between art history and
studio art instructors with many different levels of experience with digital
images, including a couple of participants who had not used digital images
to teach. One participant was a librarian who had previously taught art
history. The second group (the experienced group) consisted of early adopters
of digital image technology and demonstrated considerable experience teaching
with digital images. Both studio art and art history instructors were
represented in the second group which, with three participants, was considerably
smaller than the first group. As a result, the discussion in the second
group was more in-depth. Participants had more time to speak and many
issues were raised before questions could be asked. The contrast between
the first, larger, group and the second, smaller, group revealed many
common concerns despite the relative disparity of experience between them.
The focus group participants
in both sessions agreed on the key issues. For example, although copyright
and fair use were deemed outside the scope of these focus groups, they
were raised throughout the discussions as issues to be concerned about.
Studio art teachers specifically mentioned appropriation, and the issue
was raised more than once. Appropriation is literally "to make one's own".
In art, appropriation is taking an existing image and using it to create
a new one or as an inspiration for a new work of art. If "fair use" becomes
more restricted in the digital realm, there is fear that artistic freedom
may also become restricted.
This report explores some
of the themes that arose in the focus groups. Due to the unstructured
nature of such discussion groups, participant responses cannot be quantified.
However, the overall themes and conclusions are presented in depth.
A questionnaire (see Appendix
6B) was administered at the beginning of the focus group interviews
for the purpose of collecting demographic data, determining the participants'
level of expertise, and determining preconceived views on barriers and
facilitators to using digital images (see Table 3). We collected sufficient
data to ascertain a general range of responses. This data was summarized
in order to put the responses in a context (see Appendix
6C). Although critics might consider focus group data anecdotal, this
study does reflect the impact of digital image technology on the teaching
of art. Many issues discussed in these focus groups were raised in earlier
tape-recorded discussions conducted with a different set of university
faculty and staff during the MESL project follow-up (Charlottesville 5/20/97).
The seven women and five
men who participated in the focus groups varied in their level of experience
with teaching with digital images. The number of terms they taught with
digital images ranged from none to 32. Participants taught art or art
history for up to 40 years. The number of digital images used in a course
ranged from none to 1400. (See Appendix
6C for further background data.)
A Note on Confidentiality
To ensure privacy, participants
are identified by a letter code. The focus group sessions are identified
as "fgi1" for the first session or "fgi2" for the second session. The
page number listed refers to the transcripts.
Vision: New Ways of Thinking
Our focus group participants
described their involvement in a broad spectrum of projects. Some projects
were elaborate and involved many people in a collaborative effort, each
an expert in a different field. Teachers who created digital image projects
were often solely responsible for development and maintenance. The burden
of such an undertaking raised a host of issues in the focus groups. Participants
used digital images principally for classroom display and assignments.
Art history teachers used digital images to create study guides for students,
to make comparisons in class, to allow students to examine the images
independently, for group discussion, and to manipulate images to draw
attention to one aspect of them. Such manipulation could include outlining
objects in images, creating overlays, adding or removing color, or showing
part of an image in many levels of detail. Studio art instructors have
used digital images for demonstration, lecture, critique, and as source
material to create new art. Several participants have worked on large-scale
projects such as reconstructions, and image databases which required substantial
amounts of time and expertise to develop. For background on development
of an image database, see "Introduction to Imaging: Issues in Constructing
an Image Database" (Besser & Trant, 1995).
Participants saw digital
image technology as a means of reaching beyond conventional academia.
"I have a broader audience
in mind...I think it's a great way to reach a lot of people beyond what
we see with the trickle-down theory of academic journals where most
people don't have access to it. so I'm actually thinking about a reverse
model, where you get ideas out to a broader range of people rather than
so much academic research." (Participant L, p. 5, fgi2)
Advantages of Digital
Participants cited some
of the advantages of using digital images rather than slides. The most
significant advantage was that they can be used for applications that
could not be performed (at least not easily) with slides. Digital images
can be used for animation, reconstructions, and other innovative ways
to visualize static materials. These types of interactive applications
encourage the viewer to take part in the learning process. Another advantage
of digital images is that they can be used asynchronously to study at
one's own pace from a remote location. While an online digital image is
available to multiple viewers from different locations at the same time
(assuming there are no copyright restrictions), a slide is restricted
by its physical limitations; only one person can use it at a time. Easy
manipulation was cited as another benefit. New images can be created easily,
and existing images can be customized (by adding titles, outlining structural
elements, or resizing) and juxtaposed with other images. Finally, motion,
interactivity, and a mixture of media were cited by participants in both
sessions as devices that were very effective in keeping the classroom
focused and attentive. In fact, one participant stated that students are
beginning to expect digital presentations. "The fact that something happened
through time, that you had to do something. My students said it kept their
attention". (Participant L, p. 30, fgi2)
"One of the prime advantages
is motion, whether it's video or software. One of the reasons that I
got into this is so that I could do something with computer software
that I could not do in class. Through either animations or overlays,
I could be much clearer and I could make points effectively through
a digital medium that I can't do through something that is static."
Advantages of Slides
According to focus group
participants, a key advantage of slides over digital images is that a
slide can be viewed simply by holding it to a light, while a digital image
must be accessed electronically and viewed with the proper (albeit relatively
commonplace) software. Another advantage of slides is that you own them
outright, in contrast to digital images which are emerging as a licensed
product. Several participants expressed hesitation about the licensing
arrangement, where one only has the right to use an image for the duration
stated in the agreement. Participants conceded that slides were still
useful and nearly all participants continued to use them.
"I still use slides for
all my classes except one. The slide is still good technology. I still
have big images and it's still less fuss for me." (Participant L, p.
On a practical note, faculty
agreed that a basic advantage of slides over digital images was that slides
are presently the prevalent technology in art history departments, and
have built their course curricula in conjunction with their slide collections.
Several participants stated they have large collections of slides made
from their own photographs of art. (It is not within the scope of this
paper to examine copyright issues.) Although participants did not discuss
slide libraries in great detail, it is important to note that slide collections
are built at the local (departmental) level and cater to the needs of
individual faculty members. Slide libraries contain all the relevant images
which teachers require for their curricula and can respond quickly to
curricular changes. Distribution models that limit their selection of
digital images to those images available from participating museums cannot
by themselves supply the images faculty members require. A significant
percentage of images used in teaching art history is not from museums.
A critical precondition to faculty use of a digital distribution scheme
will be mechanisms to easily integrate images from other sources in ways
that make them look and function like a unified collection.
Many of the same advantages
and disadvantages our focus group participants discussed were revealed
in a recent survey of the arts community (Corbetta-Noyes, 1998). However,
the survey respondents seem to have had a greater awareness of the technical
aspects of searching a collection (e.g., the use of "multiple access points"),
probably because the survey included slide curators.
"The positive uses of
digital images are the ability to manipulate and compare images, improved
availability to greater number of users, the ease of searching through
multiple access points, text can accompany the images, students benefit
greatly from the ease of reviewing, using for projects, and searching.
The negative aspects of using digital images are the diminished resolution
(compared with slides), the need for high-end equipment, and a high
learning curve for faculty."
Innovative Uses of
Many participants described
a hybrid method of alternating slides and digital images in the classroom.
"Double projection has
become standard. I'm suggesting a hybrid way to my colleagues. We put
all 1,400 Italian Renaissance images on one CD. The teacher will have
one system, then the things we don't have, they can put as slides in
the other projector." (Participant J, p. 32, fgi2)
Overall, there was a consensus
that new technologies bring about new ways of thinking about teaching.
This idea was a little nebulous, but it was a strong impetus for several
participants to push ahead with new technologies.
"When you have new methods
of visualizing, new methods of creating, or substantiating visual ideas,
you get new ideas." (Participant L, p. 5, fgi2)
"With the digital image,
I'm working with something very dynamic, very flexible...In the slide
collection you have one overall image; in my digital collection, I can
have it 30 times if I need it. I can insert it wherever I want. And
if I want to pass that image through a processor and emphasize the linear
quality in a painting, I can do it. It's a dynamic thing we are just
beginning to explore...the fact is, we are dealing with a fundamentally
different kind of image and I think we all belong to a generation of
explorers trying to figure out what that dynamism can mean in terms
of communication, in terms of teaching." (Participant A, p. 13, fgi1).
"My push is to redo the
History of Art doing things that we've always wanted to do or things
that we haven't thought of doing that we can now do." (Participant E,
p. 5, fgi1)
"I was looking for some
way to show context and that's when I got started." (Participant E,
p. 5, fgi1)
While many uses of digital
images merely emulate the function of slides as reproductive devices,
participants had begun to explore more highly evolved uses for digital
images in teaching. Several participants had employed multimedia reconstructions.
One project involved digitizing the frescoes of the Italian Renaissance
artist, Piero della Francesco, and viewing them in a three-dimensional
environment to show context. Another participant referred to an animated
reconstruction of the Roman Coliseum as an example of helping students
visualize art that no longer exists.
"I think we are changing
the expectations for how to visualize...I've always been able to visualize
it [the Coliseum], but I don't think most of my students could. And
so I never really knew the difference between what I knew versus what
they were getting out of this." (Participant L, p. 30, fgi2)
Another participant explained
that one can achieve a perspective on a work of art that might not have
been possible for even the artist let alone viewers through history. For
example, a three-dimensional rendering allows one to spin, zoom in or
out, and fly over an object. The possibilities of this dynamic brand of
art history instruction seem to be just emerging. For educators and curators
alike, this added perspective to the critical viewing of art and cultural
heritage objects seems to be a significant addition to the process of
evaluating and appreciating art.
"We can now see things
that never could be seen but from an angle...we can see how things come
together. We can see in a way that the poor artist was never able to
see it." (Participant E, p. 6, fgi1)
It's More Than Infrastructure
The most interesting topics
raised in the focus groups were social and institutional, concerning the
use of metadata, recognition by universities, and the role of collaboration.
These issues involved faculty, often across many departments; administrators;
and even outside organizations, such as publishers and museums.
"There may be another
issue here that's a lot harder to address and that's changing the ideas
and attitudes of people who are in charge of programs...when you've
got people who are in power who say this is a bad thing to do and indicate
that they won't reward anybody that will engage in it, it really obviously
turns off." (Participant K, p. 25, fgi2)
"When computers come
into an organization, the problem is not computerization, it's systemization.
Systemization is the structural changes in the organization that happen
because of the enabling properties of the new technology as it interacts
with the current state of affairs." (Participant I, p. 33, fgi1)
The complex array of issues
at the core of using digital images to teach can be a deterrent to faculty
and administrators. Faculty members do not have enough time to lend assistance
to one another and it has been noted persistently that there is often
a serious lack of resources. The focus group of early adopters agreed
the complexity of the aggregate components (equipment, training, support,
and more) was the overwhelming barrier for most institutions and created
a "vortex of need" for faculty trying to get started.
Participants were asked
in the pre-focus group questionnaire to divide and allocate a total of
20 points among a set of barriers to using digital images. Participants
were asked to assign more points to barriers they felt posed greater problems,
and were encouraged to suggest other obstacles to the use of digital images.
Table 3 shows the barriers, their total points allocated by all participants,
and the final ranking of each. Two participants did not allocate points
to any barriers. Some participants used checkmarks rather than a number.
In these cases, the 20 points were distributed evenly among the barriers
checked. One participant checked three barriers so we allocated six points
to each barrier checked rather than assigning a fraction. The average
number of barriers chosen by the participants of both groups was 5.4.
For the first focus group, the average number of barriers chosen was 4.7,
while the exact number chosen by each participant in the second group
The early adopters in the
second focus group session listed more barriers on their pre-focus group
questionnaire than the first group of mixed users. Each participant allocated
points to exactly 7 barriers although the barriers were not the same.
An additional barrier was written in by one of the participants.
"Part of the impediment
itself is the complexity of all the things that have to be in place
almost simultaneously." (Participant L, p. 27, fgi2)
"You have to have all
these things in place before it can work: incentives for promotion,
the critical mass of images, the projection equipment, the technical
support, the time to develop, all of those things. And if you take any
one away it won't work." (Participant J, p. 26, fgi2)
Findings and Observations
Following are summaries
of the most important topics discussed in the focus groups along with
quotes by participants. For those who plan on converting to digital images,
or who use them currently, these are the critical issues that need to
be dealt with. The topics discussed included both physical infrastructure
issues (e.g., delivery speed, tools, and equipment) and social and institutional
issues (time, resources, and recognition).
Most reservations were
shared by both studio art and art history teachers, although some of the
issues discussed (such as appropriation and delivery speed), were of greater
concern to the former. Studio art teachers' comments in the focus groups
accentuated the various limitations of the technology, but they were highly
cognizant of what digital technology could do for them in their profession.
Although studio art and art history teachers have different uses for art
images (creative vs. pedagogical), there is an opportunity to form a closer
alliance to share resources (such as computer labs and digital images)
that might strengthen both departments. (Note: studio art and art history
are frequently part of the same department, and they may compete against
each other for departmental resources.)
Image Quality and
Image quality is often
the first issue raised in any discussion about converting to digital images.
Participants universally asserted that image quality was critically important,
and that the digital images they were currently using were inadequate.
However, when asked to elaborate (What kinds of image quality do you need
for what types of purposes? Is there a baseline of image quality that
would get significant buy-in from your colleagues?), most participants
agreed that for many uses the quality of digital images was no worse than
that of slides. The focus group discussions allowed us to explore this
issue with faculty in greater depth. We discovered that their concerns
about image quality were basically the same whether the image was digital
"The problem of resolution
is so great that no one's going to bother to solve it. They're just
going to bypass it." (Participant I, p. 12, fgi1)
"Many Art Historians
at this point are interested in ideas and various political and social
issues, and they use art as documents. In those cases, the quality of
the image isn't terribly important. For people dealing with connoisseurship
issues, then it's absolutely critical." (Participant K, p. 20, fgi2)
A more important factor
was having a critical mass of useful images immediately at hand. Teachers
of contemporary art and studio art were particularly concerned since images
are often unavailable. One participant characterized contemporary art
as "a moving front" and stated the difficulty in obtaining images (Participant
D, p. 8, fgi1). Participants agreed it can take more than a year to gather
the appropriate images and devise a course curriculum. They wanted images
to conform to their curriculum rather than vice versa, and said that the
database of images needed to be flexible, easy to use, and comprehensive.
This was a prominent issue in the MESL project. The digital image selection
made available to universities was limited to those images selected from
the collections of the seven participating museums. In most cases, MESL
universities supplemented the project-supplied images with locally scanned
"You need the critical
mass of the right images. The ones from the American museums by themselves
are not going to be enough for the basic survey course." (Participant
J, p. 13, fgi2)
"I want different images
than my colleague who teaches the same course. So what we want are as
many as possible in the great database in the sky." (Participant H,
p. 26, fgi1)
"I wanted to add a breaking
mechanism on the free flow of images. I know it's wonderful to have
lots of images but getting a bunch of images from a museum is totally
arbitrary, and has nothing to do with the intellectual fundamental material
basis for giving a class." (Participant E, p. 26, fgi1)
"Once you're in cyberspace,
everything is software." (Participant I, p. 23, fgi1)
About half the participants
in the first focus group brought up the necessity of user-friendly software
tools. They insisted on the need for software tools to help them organize
and edit digital images, and to customize the interface and filters of
the image databases. It was generally agreed that we will likely continue
to see a "hybrid world of slides and digital images" (Participant I, p.
12, fgi1). Participants voiced the need for tools that track both the
physical location of slides and the virtual location of digital images.
"In order to use it [the
image database] effectively we've got to have the local tools that will
let us mold it the way we and our students can use it." (Participant
D, p. 26, fgi1)
It was evident that the
participants envisioned several levels of tools. On the first level were
"functional tools" that emulate analog devices such as slide carousels
and light tables. For example, participants wanted to have the abilities
to "make your own collection, push images around, and make comparisons"
(Participant D, p. 7 & 8, fgi1). The next level were "interactive tools"
to interact with the image and affect changes. For example, tools to "allow
students to manipulate the composition of a digital image" (Participant
A, p. 13, fgi1). The third level of tools were "development tools" for
a networked environment. For example, participants discussed tools for
faculty to add annotated comments about works of art along with a mechanism
to track these comments by each faculty member.
In a recent survey of the
arts community on using digital images (Corbetta-Noyes, 1998), respondents
sought tools and features similar to those described by the focus group
participants. Likewise, respondents were also concerned with the text
that accompanies images:
"The features most desired
in a resource tool for curating/teaching were ease of use, flexibility,
ability to compare, zoom, manipulate images, and especially links to
supplemental text. A virtual workspace, on-line exams, study guides
and course assignments would also be incorporated into an image resource."
Participants were highly
concerned about the complexity of software, release time to learn new
software, training, and technical support. The gap between those who create
the tools and those who use them was discussed at some length. Although
participants did not necessarily see tool development as only a local
issue, they discussed the need for technicians with subject expertise.
Both focus groups raised the issue of technicians with subject expertise.
Several participants agreed that software programs created without an
understanding of the field can cause problems.
"A problem is using programs
created by people with an engineering approach; they don't do what people
in the humanities want." (Participant D, p. 16, fgi1)
One participant suggested
that students of art history with strong technical skills who are not
able or willing to pursue advanced degrees in art history should be encouraged
to work within the department with faculty members to develop technology-based
curriculum support products.
"There are a lot of people
who pass through undergraduate and graduate departments who are really
interested in the subject matter but who are really not up to getting
a Ph.D....Those are the people who should be harvested and put to work
instead of hiring somebody who doesn't want to do the work, or somebody
who doesn't have any sympathy for the subject matter." (Participant
E, p. 17, fgi1)
Time was one of the prominent
issues raised in both focus groups. Participants were mainly concerned
about the amount of time involved in technical preparation and course
development, and the lack of release time to learn and develop projects.
One studio art teacher noted that faculty in the Computer Science department
receive automatic release time every year to learn, while she received
none even though she taught an art production class requiring the use
of new software (Participant H, p. 18, fgi1). She regarded this disparity
as a lack of respect for the work involved. The amount of time many participants
spent developing digital projects was substantial. One participant worked
on a successful project for many hours a day for two years, along with
a cadre of experts. Some early adopters collaborated with colleagues after
realizing the magnitude of building complex projects.
On the issue of time constraints
in the field, participants had much to say:
"extremely time consuming"
(Participant B, p. 17, fgi1)
"give up a year to do
it" (Participant E, p. 14, fgi1)
"The amount of time that
goes into it...incredibly time-consuming" (Participant J, p. 13, fgi2)
"There has to be some
kind of compensation...if I put in the time, there's no compensation"
(Participant L, p. 23, fgi2)
"There either has to
be a monetary incentive or a time-release incentive." (Participant L,
p. 24, fgi2)
The issue of time and compensation
led to an illuminating discussion concerning faculty receiving recognition
for their work with new technologies. An art history teacher wrote on
her questionnaire that the greatest barrier to her use of digital images
was lack of "recognition for expertise and pioneering work from university,
and working with many different people to accomplish teaching goals".
"This takes a lot of
work. I have to be up to date in two fields, in art history and technology.
Both are time-consuming things and I also have to deal with a lot of
people." (Participant L, p. 8, fgi2)
Classrooms and Labs, and Accessibility for Students
agreed that facilities were inadequately equipped for the networked distribution
or projection of digital images. Many of the same issues applied to both
classrooms and labs and a few were unique to each setting.
Some classrooms were in
the process of being refurbished, but were not yet upgraded. Some participants
discussed the difficulty of obtaining advanced equipment to mix media
seamlessly in the classroom.
"It would be nice to
be able to have a slide on and compare with digital projection a whole
bunch of stuff on the other side...the same projector can switch from
computer to the video seamlessly so you can do that easily enough...they
[students] are able to attend better if you shift. It would be nice
to have it all digitally." (Participant D, p. 28, fgi1)
"Projection and light
intensity are uneven so you can't project slides and digital images
at the same time." (Participant D, p. 28, fgi1)
"Being able to control
the lights is critical." (Participant H, p. 29, fgi1)
"Students don't have
individual workstations in the classroom." (Participant D, p. 8, fgi1)
"A small percentage of
places are equipped or have equipment in their budgets" (Participant
E, p. 11, fgi1)
"Most classrooms that
you may teach in don't have appropriate networks that carry big images."
(Participant J, p. 2, fgi2)
Participants seemed doubtful
about the prospects for a full-scale conversion to digital image libraries,
and did not foresee an increase in funds to their departments to allow
for such an undertaking. Student access was also discussed, and it was
generally agreed there were not enough workstations or labs at most institutions
to accommodate students. One participant commented that administration
is pushing new technologies, but not confronting the problem of how to
make equipment available, or offering sufficient training and technical
support. This is historically a prevalent and unresolved problem for institutions
wishing to demonstrate their state-of-the-art resources in order to maintain
the highest possible profile in a fiercely competitive academic world.
Accordingly, subjects which require computerized resources, such as physics
and business administration, or which establish the school's principal
identity, are provided with the necessary funding to put their departments
on the "cutting edge" of available technology. Another participant commented
about the increased burden on the library's resources, often a casualty
of campus fund reallocations.
"Our campus has just
started offering courses which require the use of a computer. The campus
cannot make 12,000 computers workstations available so students come
to the library. If faculty suddenly offer all their classes on the Web,
it will blow us out of the water. Someone has got decide whether students
should bring their own equipment or whether we offer to sell it to them.
Nobody is discussing who provides the equipment to give students access
to your class." (Participant F, p. 30, fgi1)
Other participants complained
about the lack of computers in labs and the dilemma of having to kick
students off them. One participant described a situation where he had
only ten site licenses for a product, but there were sixteen students
in the class.
"I like to leave space
available because one computer is always going to go down" (Participant
I, p. 31, fgi1)
"If there aren't enough
computers, I find I have to get to class 20 minutes early and start kicking
the kids out." (Participant G, p. 30, fgi1)
"We have different rules
for different labs. Students are allowed to use the SGI's even when a
class is being held in that lab because they are so expensive we want
to get as much utilization out of them as we can." (Participant H, p.
Delivery Speed to
Although this issue was
ranked as the third greatest barrier to using digital images on the pre-focus
group questionnaire, it was not raised by the participants during the
focus group discussions. Several participants agreed the amount of time
they were willing to wait to view an image depends on the purpose of the
"If you're going to do
the study of individual works like blowups and such, where someone is
going to spend some time with an individual work then it's worth the
time and effort to have a high quality larger image that takes time
to download." (Participant L, p. 19, fgi2)
In the first focus group
session the moderator directly asked, "Is bandwidth or delivery time for
an image a problem?" A studio art teacher who taught computer animation
responded: "because it's motion media, it's a huge problem" (Participant
H, p. 27, fgi1). This issue was a major concern for studio art teachers
involved with video or three-dimensional production.
One participant in the
second focus group session mentioned a problem with synchronizing her
lecture and showing images when she taught a class using a two-way video.
She described this scenario in her introductory remarks.
"There was a time lag
between my lecture and trying to get the digital image to come up on
the other end. I had to talk slow to coordinate the timing. This was
a surprise. I didn't think that would happen." (Participant J, p. 3,
Art history has never been
a generously funded discipline, and the issue of scarce resources is not
a new one. Participants expressed their concern about funds earmarked
for special projects. When the funds dry up, the project is left unfinished
or unsupported. Participants were skeptical about investing their time
in a project that might not continue.
"Two faculty members
are working on projects that are extremely time-consuming. Technical
support comes in the form of programs that are specially funded. When
those run out, there are projects that are unfinished. " (Participant
B, p. 17, fgi1)
One example of resource
allocation that was met with mixed emotions in the second focus group
session was site licensing.
"That just hits right
at major issues of cost and time. I don't want to fuss with licensing.
The number of site licenses is an issue and then the constant upgrades.
I actually really like having the slide because if it's my own slide
then I turn it into a digital image and I still have the slide." (Participant
L, p. 32, fgi2)
"My only concern with
these various licensing things is that they be in such a way that we
will be able to talk our administration into paying for it." (Participant
J, p. 33, fgi2)
"If they use the subscription
model to a magazine, you buy that, you still have the magazines each
time they come to you...when you do get the budget crunch and you can't
continue the vendor's not going to come and pickup all our magazines
and take them away" (Participant J, p. 34, fgi2)
"People don't understand
licensing. The word does not mean anything to them. But subscription
does, that's understood." (Participant L, p. 34, fgi2)
An interesting discussion
about collaboration grew out of consideration of resource questions. Three
types of collaboration were suggested. The first type of collaboration
was between outside vendors and schools, and the second type was between
departments at the same institution. The third type of collaboration was
between faculty members within the same department. One participant's
final comments were that institutions should demand partnership with computer
"What percentage of their
income comes from universities? We could do a lot for them and they
should do more for us." (Participant E, p. 33, fgi1)
Collaboration with businesses
for the purpose of receiving equipment is tougher to push through in the
Humanities than the Sciences. However, interdepartmental collaboration
might be one solution. Simply put by one participant, "how can administrators
get the most bang for their buck across the entire institution?" (Participant
J, p. 28, fgi2). Participants cited many examples of cooperation between
faculty in many different departments to develop projects and share resources.
Art history faculty may not realize how many other departments, like Chemistry,
Geography, Engineering, Architecture, Studio Art, and Computer Science,
might use digital images for various purposes.
One participant had positive
experiences with recruiting colleagues from other departments to share
resources. Although the early adopters found creative ways to deal with
limited resources to accomplish their projects, they commented that budgets
haven't adjusted to compensate for the increased cost of new technologies.
This has often led to resentment by other colleagues or departments who
perceive this as competition for the same, scarce resources.
As in all institutions
dependent upon the power and versatility of computers, schools must contend
with how constant advances in technology render current hardware and software
obsolete. One participant added this issue as a barrier to using digital
images on the pre-focus group questionnaire, "some concern with continuing
availability of my digital collection in years to come (tech changes)"
(Participant A, fgi1, questionnaire). Seasoned users were troubled by
how quickly digital projects can become obsolete. A participant who had
created a product that was now obsolete expressed her concern for "publishing"
in a digital environment. "You can do something, technology changes and
it's gone, unlike a print publication." (Participant L, p. 4, fgi2) For
more information on the problem of obsolescence, see the article by Peter
Lyman and Howard Besser "Defining the Problem of our Vanishing Memory:
Background, Current Status, Models for Resolution" (Lyman and Besser,
In discussing the need
for metadata, participants noted the importance of being able to customize
the data at the user end. In the course of the focus groups, it became
evident that there was some confusion among participants as to what constitutes
metadata. Metadata is defined as "data about data". It is the information
used to index and identify a document or image. Some examples that constitute
metadata for a work of art are attribution, provenance, dimensions, medium,
and documentary evidence. (Some participants misunderstood metadata to
mean interpretation and commentary about a work of art).
Participants were insistent
that they must have the ability to add their scholarly comments to the
descriptive data provided with images.
"The academic process
is the generation of metadata. That's what the academic exercise is.
That's what publishing is-it's metadata. So the added value of the faculty
member is the knowledge of the metadata." (Participant I, p. 23, fgi1)
"If it were possible
in an accreted database to have a way of coding who had added what,
then you could have citations you could point to, and that would be
useful." (Participant D, p. 27, fgi1)
One participant described
her frustration with technical staff members who did not understand the
difference between the medium and the subject of the image, or how to
properly describe the image. In the visual arts, this inability to use
metadata properly is a particularly acute problem.
"They didn't understand
the difference between the medium which was a lithograph on a piece
of paper. They were just looking at what the picture was, which was
of a cow" (Participant C, p. 18, fgi1).
The librarian in the focus
groups stressed the importance of bringing the library into the process
of accessing the images and accompanying text.
"This metadata had better
be there and be accessible and we better know how to do it or you're
going to have a bunch of really frustrated librarians." (Participant
F, p. 23, fgi1)
The issue of metadata use
was closely tied to that of recognition by the university and dominated
the first focus group session, providing the most controversy. Much to
our surprise, many participants stressed this need emphatically by requesting
to be quoted in this study. The larger issue of recognition from universities
for work with new technologies was discussed at length in the second focus
group, and in the MESL follow-up group discussion (Charlottesville, 5/20/97).
Some of the comments from the first focus group session included:
"If you can't add that
[your scholarship] to the database, you disempower the fundamental academic
act." (Participant I, p. 24, fgi1)
"We're all pioneers;
you don't have your name by it yet, and you become an invisible contributor."
(Participant D, p. 24, fgi1)
"It speaks to how much
of this accretion metadata is being generated and how many of us pioneer
types are actually at the bottom of the hierarchy." (Participant I,
p. 25, fgi1)
"Harvesting the crop
of the faculty's intellectual efforts"..."without us being folded
in from day one for the intellectual value of our ideas and effort and
research, we have no leverage"..."Suddenly we are like aphids." (Participant
I, p. 27, fgi1)
Training And Technical
The issue of technical
support and training was raised throughout both sessions. It was generally
agreed in both groups that technical support staff are underpaid, undervalued,
and difficult to keep. Technical support and training is often project
driven (and therefore temporary) rather than actively integrated within
a given program. The problem is figuring out what to do after the funds
run out for projects.
"We found it helpful
in History of Art to keep pointing out to the administration that they
spend a lot of money on highly-skilled technical support for the science
labs and that in History of Art, the images are our science labs, as
it were." (Participant D, p. 16, fgi1)
The challenge of establishing
a working relationship with technical support staff was particularly acute.
For example, being conversant in "tech speak" requires you to have a certain
level of technological savvy to even describe your hardware or software
problem, and participants stressed how difficult it can be to diagnose
a problem. Similarly, technical support staff rarely manifest any awareness
of the field to which their work is contributing. A common scenario found
the user being bounced around from one support person to another. The
"turf-territorial model" was described as the battle between the users
of the systems and the creators or technical support staff, particularly
when the creators act as gatekeepers to limit the access privileges of
One of the early adopters
described problems with incompetent technical support staff. He characterized
these problems as his most frustrating.
"If I had trusted what
the people told me I couldn't have ever done it...Nobody is willing
to let you have access to the tech side or let you talk about design
or learn how to do those things." (Participant K, p. 11, fgi2)
In response to these statements,
another participant put forth a more positive model.
"What I see in the best
cases and sometimes this happens at my institution, not always, is a
collaborative model where you've got this knowledge, we've got this
knowledge, how can we make this work. It tends to be a matter of person-to-person,
not so much an institutional model." (Participant L, p. 11, fgi2)
Similar concerns were expressed
in the post-MESL discussion conducted with MESL project coordinators (Charlottesville,
5/20/97). One participant described "tension between academic computing
and the libraries (turf issue)" (p. 35, MESL fgi tape 3, 5/97). Another
described a failure to communicate between an advisory committee and faculty:
"There was this lack
of communication between two worlds with two different agendas. We were
looking for help with this project. We weren't looking to be rescued
by someone who had all the answers. We were trying to figure out how
to formulate the questions." (p. 38 MESL fgi tape 3, 5/97)
Several participants stressed
the importance of taking part in the design of systems, learning to solve
related problems at the systems level, and understanding the system well
enough to do simple troubleshooting at the user level. The reason for
acquiring this knowledge is to gain some control over the manner in which
systems are deployed, thereby freeing the teacher/user from having always
to be dependent upon technical support personnel. Given the short "shelf-life"
of most technical support, this could be considered a method of saving
time and money. Without any familiarity with various systems, it becomes
only a matter of time before users are faced with the dilemma of what
can happen when the only person who knows the system leaves for a better
Some of the participants
complained that technicians are not accountable to the people they help,
and that it is difficult to build relationships with them. One participant
attributed the dilemma of not being able to build relationships between
technical support staff and faculty to the centralized computing environment
of the university.
"Management systems always
follow the technical infrastructure. If you have a distributed computer
environment, you have to have a distributed management environment.
If you have distributed computing environment, you have to have a distributed
support environment. But your functions, authority, responsibility and
accountability is out here, and if you have a central computing environment,
you can't build relationships." (Participant I, p. 20, fgi1)
Another complaint was technical
support staff's lack of subject expertise. The consensus was that technical
support people are linear thinkers with an engineering approach, and don't
understand the way humanities faculty members think. Participants agreed
"the separation between those who create the things and those who are
going to use them" was a problem. (Participant D, p. 16, fgi1)
One proposed solution was
to reformulate the role of technical support staff to that of an "educator"
passing on knowledge to the users of the system.
"The reason there's so
much conflict about technical support is because technical support people
are not educators the way they're being used now...The current structure
doesn't allow faculty to learn. It actually displaces the learning off
onto the technical people who are ostensibly worse than us." (Participant
I, p. 19, fgi1)
There was a strong consensus
on the issues of authorship and recognition. As one participant stated
succinctly, "As academics, we need to have our names by things to keep
our jobs." (Participant H, p. 24, fgi1)
Participants noted a lack
of recognition on the part of their institutions to offer release time
or credit toward tenure for their work with digital images. This was perceived
as a formidable barrier to non-tenured teachers. The warning was made
clear in both sessions:
"Don't get involved with
this until you get tenure. It's still not valued." (Participant D, p.
"I would never recommend
at this point that anyone untenured do what I do. I would advise them
against it. And I've seen some people who went ahead and maybe took
a hit." (Participant L, p. 14, fgi2)
"Most institutions in
granting tenure promotions do not place a very high weight on innovation
in teaching...the best teacher in the university is always an associate
professor. And they never get promoted to full professor." (Participant
K, p. 15, fgi2)
This same warning was voiced
by a participant in the MESL discussion group. "Tenure is necessary; using
digital technologies may count against you" (p. 20, MESL fgi tape 3, 5/97).
The majority of focus group
participants who were teaching with digital images and launching projects
with new technologies were, not surprisingly, full professors. Only one
art history teacher was not a full professor, and she was understandably
concerned with receiving recognition from her university for her pioneering
work. One participant recounted how at a meeting he looked around and
realized the four people active with new technologies (i.e., teaching
on-line) were over 60. As he put it, "these are the people the system
can't hurt and so they do what they want." (Participant K, p. 26, fgi2)
"Institutions need to
give credit towards promotion for publishing your activities. Those
that are not [full professors] have to do what the institution expects."
(Participant J, p. 13, fgi2)
pioneers in the classroom
"In my most visionary
moments, I think that it's not just a matter of a tool, but this will
change patterns of thought." (Participant L, p. 5, fgi2)
The term "pioneer" was
used in both sessions by participants to describe themselves and the challenges
they face as they venture into a new environment and make sense of it
for others who may follow.
"We are dealing with
a fundamentally different kind of image and I think we all belong to
a generation of explorers trying to figure out what that dynamism can
mean in terms of communication, in terms of teaching." (Participant
A, p. 13, fgi1)
"This is the period where
we're all pioneers." (Participant D, p. 24, fgi1)
"One of the things is
the difference between those of us who are some of the pioneers and
gung ho, and how do you bring everyone else along." (Participant L,
p. 8, fgi2)
While participants were
eager to share their positive and negative experiences with digital image
technology, they could only speculate about what might prompt their colleagues
to convert. Participants struggled to isolate even just one or two barriers
that impede the use of digital images among a wide body of their colleagues.
Instead they described a complicated set of issues ranging from problems
in the infrastructure to larger institutional issues. There does not appear
to be one single way to encourage widespread acceptance by faculty to
use digital images in teaching.
Advantages of Digital
Faculty perceived many
substantial benefits to using digital images and developing digital projects
despite numerous obstacles.. They offered the following examples of the
value of digital images:
"It's the ability to
take and use a standard tool to extract the structure of the picture
(EdgeFind to find the edges, Photoshop to show structural layers)...that
qualitative difference is the ability to do repurposing of data. You
build something big, then you repurpose a bunch of ways. These have
economic value." (Participant I, p. 15, fgi1)
"Now you can give a lecture
as though there were 2 slides except you can manipulate the images in
different ways, put them up with titles, take the titles away, click
on a map, get to a building and so on. And so, it has been an accretion
of interest." (Participant E, p. 15, fgi1)
"Using digital images
for study purposes reproduces in an easier way what we've been doing
forever with study slides and photographs." (Participant E, p. 5, fgi1)
"The students really
liked being able to click on an image and that you could have a whole
bunch of thumbnails projected at the same time and talk about those
in comparison. Or you could bring one up and then make it bigger or
compare. There was a lot more flexibility with that." (Participant J,
p. 3, fgi2)
"You can do it [study
digital images] at your own pace" (Participant L, p. 30, fgi2)
Study Images for
Participants with all levels
of experience with digital images could appreciate the value of making
the images available for students to study:
"What's the major thing
that art historians want most? They want their students to be able to
review the images...and so the digital imagery can provide that." (Participant
J, p. 13, fgi2)
Although the focus groups
were centered on faculty, it is important to note that from the perspective
of students, remote access to study images is likely to be a tremendous
advantage. Students do not have the same access to resources and privileges
as faculty. Students lack extensive private collections of books and the
extended library loan privileges that are afforded faculty, and may not
even have access to the slide library. Faculty have years of experience
researching art and have extensive personal knowledge of art. In the best-case
scenario, a student is able to visit a work of art in person. In the vast
majority of cases, students study works of art from reproductions posted
in one location (such as the library), they buy expensive art books, or
they compete with other students for the few copies of texts and art books
held in the library. Lack of source materials is a primary reason students
(and faculty) are limited in their choice of subjects to research.
What difference can digital
distribution of images make? Digital distribution of images from a network
offers remote access to images for asynchronous use (provided students
have the proper equipment and authorization). But the most important implication
of digital image distribution schemes is that more images may eventually
be available than any one university can provide.
Although this was not discussed
extensively within the focus groups, several participants described distance-learning
projects they had initiated. One participant claimed to have offered the
first browser-based course over the Web. Opinions varied about distance
education, but participants agreed it's currently a good way to "market"
their digital projects to administrators in order to get funding.
"If you say you know
the end product is really going to be delivered long distance to 12,000
people, instead of 70, then they'll consider investing." (Participant
A, p. 18, fgi1)
Schools without Slide
Some issues that were not
extensively addressed within the focus groups merit further consideration:
The schools that could
benefit most from digital image distribution (i.e., those without large
slide libraries) might not be able to afford the licensing fees nor even
have funds to buy the necessary equipment. Thus they might be "priced
out" of this new form of image distribution.
However, even in an environment
without up-to-date equipment and high-speed networks, alternatives to
take advantage of new technologies can be found. In some cases students
may digitize images and collect and organize content.
"We've digitized about
10,000 images that I own and another 10,000 are in process [partly done
by students]. We do two different things with them. One, a full-scale
digital course on CD...because most classrooms that you teach in don't
have appropriate networks yet that will carry big images. So the CD
has worked quite well." (Participant J, p. 2, fgi2)
Ideas to Encourage
Faculty To Use Digital Images
The following are a sample
of focus group participants' ideas for facilitating the conversion to
digital images, focusing on gaining widespread support among faculty.
A hybrid database that
tracks both slides and digital images by indicating the location of each
(physical or virtual). The presumption is that both technologies will
coexist for an indefinite period of time. The challenge is to integrate
the existing slide library records with the new digital image records.
The digital images themselves do not need to be stored along with the
text records; however, the records must point to the location of the image
Academic credit for faculty
who use new technologies to "publish". Faculty viewed the use of new technologies
in scholarly applications, such as online study guides and multimedia
projects, as a form of publishing. In order not to jeopardize their academic
careers, faculty need to receive credit towards tenure for their efforts.
Recognition of the value of this work from professional organizations
such as the College Art Association was also deemed important.
Release time for faculty
to learn software and develop curriculum and projects. One of the fundamental
issues raised in the focus groups was the amount of time required to adapt
to a new medium. Even with a technological infrastructure in place, it
is clear that the move to digital images would require a substantial time
investment for faculty and support staff. This in turn poses many questions
such as: Who will pay for this? Will faculty accustomed to one method
of teaching be willing to adapt to another and what is their incentive?
A colleague training program
that gives release time credit to faculty members who train others. Faculty
members who are seasoned users of digital image technology have a keen
understanding of both its pitfalls and potential, and are therefore good
candidates for training their colleagues. Although colleagues within the
same department often share an understanding of the subject matter, they
may feel uncomfortable training each other as it puts one person in a
Demonstrations for colleagues
of the uses of digital image technology and tools. Art faculty have exceptional
visual acuity. Visual demonstrations of digital image technology are naturally
suited to this audience. The biggest challenge of using digital images
may be getting started. One solution is to have staff (or outside presenters)
give initial technology demonstrations. Even the threat that digital images
will supplant slides is not enough to scare faculty into jumping on the
bandwagon. It is essential to prove the value of the technology. What
can one do with digital images that cannot be done with other media and
how will it further one's career?
The Challenge of
Using New Tools
The discussion of tools
produced a number of comments that ran the gamut from "too difficult to
learn" to "we want tools to be able to go beyond emulating slides". Most
participants were eager to learn new software provided they were given
the release time to do so by their departments. Many types of software
were mentioned over the course of the focus groups. Several participants
wanted the ability to customize the user interface of any image database
they might license or purchase. Several participants had a superior understanding
of software and had devoted considerable time to developing projects such
as their own software and image databases.
Participants from both
sessions found that students with varying levels of experience with the
software were equally receptive.
"I did not see an age
difference in the receptivity to the software. I was very surprised
by that. And so it didn't seem to be a matter of a generational split."
(Participant L, p. 30, fgi2)
"People who had never
logged on, to kids who really knew how to cruise all around the Internet...inside
of two weeks, everybody can work everything. And the class consisted
of a few key words to the students, no slides, and they had to find
the images and the information about the images." (Participant E, p.
Demonstrations were suggested
as a way to introduce colleagues to the use of digital images to teach.
Participants agreed that their colleagues are not eager to be approached
on a one-on-one basis, often leading to feelings of being overwhelmed.
"I think a lot of the
hesitation is at the most basic level of what can you do, what is this,
and not having any sense of how to get even from park into first gear...I
would have a team of people who would be ready to work with them." (Participant
L, p. 22, fgi2)
"A colleague asked if
it was difficult to make a website and put pictures on it...not very
difficult, I could teach you in 2 hours." (Participant A, p. 14, fgi1)
"Assigning a graduate
student to work with a faculty member to get over the fear in the beginning
and gradually learn." (Participant J, p. 27, fgi2)
One participant described
a model for a colleague training program. This program gives release-time
credit to faculty members who train others to use new technologies.
"Our institution is hiring
four faculty members for the next year to do training for colleagues.
We get half-time off. And I think this is a really good idea because
even though I'm further ahead than they are, I know what their problems
are. And you can talk on the same level and the same vocabulary as opposed
to having somebody who's just a 'techie' who talks real fast and then
they feel stupid." (Participant J, p. 22, fgi2)
"They have a certain
number of hours with say, somebody from the library, to help them get
their bibliography online. A certain number of hours with a student
assistant that would program for them. And I think the limitation of
hours is excellent because earlier we had done another kind of program
in which faculty were given special release time and supposedly people
would help them. Well, they ate up all the time. They wanted somebody
to just do their thing for them. That doesn't work, it's not economical."
(Participant J, p. 23, fgi2)
"They'll push and start
to learn some of it themselves because there is a possible payoff then
in some release time." (Participant J, p. 23, fgi2)
"Our institution has
actually been very good about workshops for how to do it. how to get
your course page on the web, how to do email...some are delivered by
faculty, some by software people...I think that has been very productive..
They are free and open to anybody, students, faculty." (Participant
L, p. 10, fgi2)
The idea of collaboration
was interesting because it is contrary to some faculty's tendency to favor
autonomy and solo endeavors over collaborative projects. Nonetheless,
in the academic world, colleagues are essential as peer reviewers and
refereed Web sites or electronic journals is an important part. Because
just putting up your thing on a Web site without your colleagues evaluating
it is not going to count. So that is something that perhaps College
Art Association could think about ways to deal with those kinds
of professional issues." (Participant J, p. 14, fgi2)
Whether the collaboration
involves a colleague (from the same department or another) or an outside
party (museum curator, university administrator or staff member), working
in collaboration poses many challenges. Several participants had good
experiences with forging alliances with colleagues from other departments
to share resources.
"A faculty and IT person
worked together every single day. Now they come and hold us up like
a dog and pony." (Participant I, p. 20, fgi1)
"Get colleagues from
other disciplines to form alliances, so administration can get the most
bang for it's buck across the entire institution." (Participant J, p.
"I've had to find out
who's out there with the same problem. Some of the people I work most
closely with are in Chemistry, Math, Electrical Engineering...coming
together with a team idea gives you clout." (Participant L, p. 28, fgi2)
mentioned by participants often occurred across disciplines rather than
within the same department. This type of collaboration may be successful
because it does not threaten the departmental hierarchy or individual
faculty members. Each faculty member remained the sole "expert" in his
or her field. Collaboration can extend to students too; many programs
allow students to take courses in other departments.
"We use the images in
a class that combines students from Art History, Design, and Computer
Art. They have to work together to create different kinds of projects.
And the technology they use depends on what the hottest ones are that
the students are interested in." (Participant J, p. 3, fgi2)
This study examined what
it will take for faculty to adopt digital image technology on a wider
scale. Following is a brief summary of the factors we found to be most
What do faculty need
in order to teach with digital images?
Faculty need incentives.
Department administrators and institutions must offer incentives to
encourage faculty to use digital images.
The conversion process
must be quicker and easier to accomplish. Assistance must be provided
to guide faculty, staff, and administrators through this time-consuming
Classrooms and labs
must be adequately equipped. Fully equipped facilities must be available
for faculty to teach with digital images and for students to access these
Faculty need tools.
Faculty members require different levels of tools to work with images
and descriptive data.
Technical support must
be ongoing. Training and technical support must be integrated within
Universities must value
this work. Faculty must be recognized for their work with digital
image technology on an academic level and professional level.
What features must
an image database include?
It needs a critical
mass of the right images. Each institution desires different images
depending on the curriculum. Moreover, faculty within the same institution
may use different images to teach the same class.
It needs to integrate
with the local system. Visual resource staff must be able to add images
and records from their own collection to any database provided.
It needs to be easy
to use and flexible. The interface should be user friendly and adaptable
to a variety of users.
It needs to permit customization
at the user's end. The database and interface must be configurable
to the needs of the local users.
Faculty must be able
to add text data. Faculty must be able to add descriptive data to
the database, and there should be a mechanism to track individual faculty
Text data should flow
in both directions. There should be a mechanism to permit faculty
to contribute their scholarship to the central database and data providers
(e.g., museum curators). This would open a mutually beneficial dialog
between subject experts.
Slides and digital images
are not mutually exclusive. They will undoubtedly coexist for quite some
time regardless of whether one or both eventually become obsolete. The
model offered by MESL for acquiring digital images was that of site licensing,
but digital image technology is not restricted to this model. It will
continue to exist whether or not site licensing is successful.
The site-licensing model
has been emphasized due to its recent emergence as a viable means of distribution.
However there is a wider perspective, and that is the potential of digital
image technology to transform the way art history is taught: from a lecture
mode to a participatory mode. Our focus group participants endeavored
to articulate the potential of digital image technology, but they have
already proven its tremendous potential with their success in creating
distance-learning environments, multimedia projects, animated reconstructions,
study guides, and online course materials.
6AFocus Group Questions
Appendix 6BPre-Focus Group Questionnaire
Appendix 6CFocus Group Participants:
Information on the Museum Educational Site Licensing Project (MESL) is
available at http://www.gii.getty.edu/mesl/.
See the two volumes of the MESL final report for further details about
the project; Stephenson and McClung, 1998; McClung and Stephenson, 1998.
Cost of Digital Image Distribution:
The Social and Economic Implications of
the Production, Distribution, and Usage of Image Data
Howard Besser & Robert Yamashita