The histories of the Open Source Studio project begins in the context reigning, unorthodox paradigms of the era of the 60s and 70s in which the collective process defined the way artists created systems of collaboration and experimentation. During the time of the Happenings from the 1960s through 70s, the paradigms concerning audience participation, open form, non-hierarchical structures, distributed spatial concepts are linked to our present day information society.

[see Janet Sarbanes essay:

Additionally, the histories of software development and open source vs proprietary thinking provides a context for the philosophical foundation and raison e’tre for the open source studio approach to open knowledge sharing and distribution. The paradigms of technological openness can be applied to dissolving the boundaries proprietary approaches to academic intellectual property and discourse.

three of the key figures behind the emergence of information technology as critical to the overall framework of the OSS project: Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart, and Alan Kay. Each of these scientists pioneered a critical component of personal computing and digital networking that is fundamental to our understanding of collaboration, creativity, and media documentation in an educational context.

First, MIT Professor Vannevar Bush authored the 1945 essay “As We May Think” to introduce the concept of the “Memex,” based on the need to extend human memory via the “hyperlink” in anticipation of the emerging information culture. According to Bush, “He [mankind] has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records.” [1] In today’s media arts, there is a critical need to find solutions for documenting and organizing the substantial output of digital production. Bush’s call for the mechanization of our “records” provides both a philosophical and technological rationale for the OSS project: the development of an effective content management system and online database to serve as a “memory extension” and “knowledge repository” for preserving media-based research and creative work.

Second, Douglas Engelbart, whose work at the Stanford Research Center in the 1960s led to the concept of the “Intranet,” a collective space for collaborative online work and learning, stated in 1963: “Our goal is to augment the human intellect… by organizing his intellectual capabilities into higher levels of synergistic structuring.”[2] In our study of online teaching, we have found that the aggregation of student work in the “synergistic” space of the Web leads to increased sharing of information, thus “augmenting” the student learning process by increasing their access to one another’s work. When students share the process of studio work online it multiplies the opportunity for connection and interaction. This many-to-many form of collaborative online learning, as expressed in Engelbart’s work, has been found to provide a level of student engagement consistent with the quality of traditional arts-based studio instruction.

Third, the role of interactivity in arts education finds roots in the seminal research of Alan Kay, whose work at Xerox PARC in Silicon Valley, California during the 1970s led to the invention of the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Working with children enabled Kay to focus his research on intuitive processes of learning, influenced by the scholarship of Jerome Bruner, an educator and psychologist from Oxford University. Bruner identified the key stages of learning as “enactive, iconic, symbolic.”[3] Kay systematized this process as fundamental to interface design, developing the learning axiom: “doing with images makes symbols.” These three distinct stages or mentalities of learning apply specifically to how visual artists grasp and communicate ideas. Iconic, interactive learning provides a basis for OSS pedagogical technique, such as the “hyperessay,” a multimedia form of online writing that integrates text, image, sound, video, animation, and hyperlinking. The “hyperessay” is particularly effective with art and design students, whose ability to grasp concepts (symbols) are reinforced by kinetic interaction (enactive) in the creation of images and other forms of visual and audio information (iconic).

[1] Bush V. (1945). “As We May Think” in Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (Eds.). Multimedia : from Wagner to Virtual Reality ([Expanded ed.). New York: Norton 2001.

[2] Engelbart, D (1963). “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” in Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (Eds.). Multimedia : from Wagner to Virtual Reality ([Expanded ed.). New York: Norton 2001.

[3] Kay, A (1977). “User Interface: A Personal View” in Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (Eds.). Multimedia : from Wagner to Virtual Reality ([Expanded ed.). New York: Norton 2001.

The project took root at the California Institute of the Arts where open, interdisciplinary forms are valued, where the concept of the studio or “post-studio” provides a model for the virtual studio situated on the World Wide Web.  CalArts is renowned for pedagogical innovation, with its own histories rooted in the artists of Fluxus (Nam June Paik, Dick Higgins, Allison Knowles, Alan Kaprow) who brought their own forms of “open source” thinking and artistic processes into the art school environment to form new radical pedagogies.