The Department of Creative Studies belongs to the Faculty of Arts at Umeå University.
The staff of the Department represent the subjects of Art, Music, Handicraft, Dance and Me-dia. These areas are represented in both the basic teacher education and in the research that is conducted in connection with the teacher education and the professional educational activities of the Department.
The research is conducted in close connection with the third-cycle subject area of Educational Work, which was established on April 1 2000 by the then newly appointed Faculty Board of Teacher Education at Umeå University. From January 1 2009 the Faculty Board of Teacher Education was transformed into a new form of organisation: Umeå School of Education (USE). Educational Work was at the same time established by the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Technology.
Educational Work is a third-cycle subject area dealing with professional educational activities, their prerequisites, theory, practice and methodology. Research and postgraduate studies in Educational Work are to contribute to the development of scientifically based knowledge and theory formation of knowledge generation, the work of educational practitioners, teaching and learning, pupils’ development and the social contexts they belong to. As an overarching research area, Educational Work has also become a platform for subject didactic research on school subjects such as Art, Music, Handicraft and Dance. This research is focused on cur-ricular issues, subject contents, working methods, assessment and marking, evaluation, teacher education and various different collaboration projects both in and outside school and between schools and society. For further information, see the respective researcher’s homepage (Anders Marner, Hans Örtegren och Eva Skåréus (Art), Tommy Strandberg and Manfred Scheid (Music), Kajsa Borg, Jarl Cederblad, Eivor Neikter och Esko Mäkelä (Handicraft), Anna Lindqvist (Dance) and Per-Olof Erixon (Media).
In this context, the research in the Department of Creative Studies is largely based on the fact that we live in an increasingly multicultural and media-oriented world that offers and de-mands new and varied ways of representing and structuring our experiences. We are sur-rounded by an unlimited supply of pictures, sounds and artefacts. In this way visual and audi-tory media are challenging older linguistic and verbally oriented media, which places other and different demands on communicative skills. For this reason schools, which by tradition are verbally oriented, must both develop understanding and knowledge both of how meaning changes with regard to different media, genres and cultural frames of reference, and a kind of media reflexivity, i.e. that different “languages” or sign systems use different means of com-munication. Research in this area comprises development of concepts and theories associated with the concept of ‘multimodality’.
Overarching research projects
For three years (2010-2012) the Department has been granted resources from the Swedish Research Council for the cross-departmental research project “Skolämnesparadigm och un-dervisnings¬praktiker i skärmkulturen – bild, musik och svenska under påverkan” [‘School subject paradigms and teaching practices in the screen culture – art, music and Swedish under influence’]. The point of departure of the project is the fact that teaching in schools is to an increasing degree being influenced by a digital media and screen culture. Another point of departure is that different school subjects are embedded to varying extents (Sutherland et al., 2004) in the new media technology. The three school subjects of Art, Music and Swedish are in focus in the project. What are characteristic of these school subjects are, among other things, that in different ways they are in the midst of the new youth and media culture (Scheid, 2009) and hence represent different competences or literacies that are required in a digital media society (Skåréus, 2008), such as writing texts, using and relating to various kinds of pictures and music, and naturally, combining and constructing these into different multimodal configurations. The project aims at studying how new technology and new media affect the content of the respective subject from an epistemological perspective, i.e. the sub-ject’s paradigm (Baggot et al., 2004) and what the concrete consequences are for the way in which the subject is designed in practice, i.e. the subject’s teaching practice. Such aspects have so far been largely neglected in research. In the project we want to study and critically analyse (a) what actual changes can be discerned in the three school subjects’ paradigms and teaching practices when new technology and new media are integrated, and (b) how teachers and pupils look upon the integration of new technology and new media in the different subjects. A sub-question is here: What pupils and what teachers are attracted by and included in such a development? What pupils and teachers are excluded? (c) in what significant ways the developments in the different subjects are similar and in what significant ways they are differ-ent, and finally (d) to what extent the aspects of a-c are related to gender.
In the subjects of art, music and technology, the physical material is and has been important in various ways: paper, pen, paintbrush, guitar, piano, wood, metal and textiles. When new ma-terials and new technology find their way into schools and teaching in the form of e.g. digital photography, video cameras, music programmes, editing programmes for both sound and im-age etc., the subject content is also affected. In a world where, with the aid of different pro-grammes, the computer screen and the keyboard are important tools, large parts of these sub-jects tend to become virtual and immaterial. In semiotic terms the interface of the computer acts as a code carrying with it cultural messages by means of different media. By organising the computer’s information in a specific way, the interface provides a model of the world. According to Manovich (2001), the database format, as it appears in the interface between computer and human being, represents a new way of structuring our experiences and our world. The question that the project poses is not only whether something is then lost but also what gains are possible. In digital media and by means of modern media technology the indi-vidual has an opportunity to process, reflect on and edit media messages based on her/his own preferences. It is a matter of positioning oneself in a changeable society and in the knowledge structures that are created and required. Forming and designing teaching and learning on the basis of aesthetic criteria may be seen as a post-modern approach. Research in the aesthetic subjects at Umeå University focuses on these possibilities in the interface among aesthetics, technology and society from both theoretical and practical perspectives.