The House of Aboriginality: Integrating Teaching, Research and Community Service.


Maree Gosper, Centre for Higher Education and Professional Development, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. Phone +61-2-9850-9752 Fax: +61-2-9850-9778 maree.gosper@mq.edu.au Home Page [HREF1]

Vivien Johnson, Sociology Department, Macquarie University, Sydney, 2109. Phone +61-2-9850-8069 Fax: +61-2-9850-9355 Vivien.Johnson@mq.edu.au


Keywords

Higher Education, Copyright, Aboriginal Art, Teaching, Research, Community Service


Abstract

The World Wide Web has the potential to reconceptualise the way teachers not only design and deliver educational programs, but the way in which universities deliver the three mandates of teaching, research and community service. The House of Aboriginality Website, being developed at Macquarie University, is an example of how teaching, research and community service can be integrated and presented under the one interface. The Website provides a teaching environment that presents students with authentic tasks which support collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation. It contributes to research by facilitating the collection and coordination of sightings of products using Aboriginal designs, thus providing a rich database for researchers. As a community service the site acts to disseminate information on Aboriginal culture and identify copyright issues, as well as provide a point of communication for the academic and general community.


Introduction

The World Wide Web (WWW) has proven to be a valuable and effective way of disseminating and engaging with information, as well as communicating between individuals and groups of people. In many applications to date, the Web has been used to support and enhance existing work practices, however it has the potential to do more than this. Through creative applications the Web can be used to reconceptualise the way teachers not only design and deliver educational programs, but the way in which universities deliver the three mandates of teaching, research and community service. The poster, on the development of the House of Aboriginality Website, is an example of how we can begin to move in this direction. The Website is being utilised to integrate teaching, research and community service under the one interface.

The House of Aboriginality

The House of Aboriginality Website [HREF2] has grown out of 'The House of Aboriginality' CD-ROM produced in pilot form by Macquarie University in 1996. The CD-ROM was conceived by the 1995 SOC388 [HREF3] 'Aboriginality' students through an ongoing class research project (Johnson, 1992). In this course, Aboriginal art is used as a medium through which the process of social change and shifts in the perception of Aboriginality are studied. Students engage in research into Aboriginal art and its intersection with the mainstream and address the artistic, legal, political and sociological dimensions of recent developments in this cultural arena. The research takes the form of students locating consumer items bearing Aboriginal designs, tracing the history and significance of the designs to Aboriginal culture and ascertaining the nature of copyright clearance, if it exists. As a result of this research, Dr Vivien Johnson and her students have acquired over the past five years a vast collection of consumer items, bearing Aboriginal and pseudo-Aboriginal designs. Analysis of these items maps out the history of commercial exploitation of Aboriginal imagery by non-indigenous interests, and also demonstrates the role art plays in expressing the wider Australian Community's changing relationship to Aboriginal people and culture.

The CD-ROM was developed to document Dr Johnson and her students' collection and to make this valuable resource available to the academic and wider community. 'The House of Aboriginality' is a virtual residence, furnished with products from the collection. By navigating through the house, the audience can choose and click on items of interest to obtain information on art designs, and their cultural significance.

Since its development, the CD-ROM has been used for both community outreach and teaching. It formed the multimedia component of a national touring exhibition called 'Copyrites: Aboriginal Art in the Age of Reproductive Technologies' (Spunner,1996 [HREF4]; Johnson, 1996) and, in this role met with wide acclaim (Anderson, 1996). After some minor revision, in 1996 it was used in conjunction with the Internet as a teaching resource for SOC388. With more than 200 items items present in the virtual house, students are exposed to a visually exciting database which reveals the nature and extent of the usage of Aboriginal art. It also helps to focus student research by providing them with quick and easy access to items already located by students from previous years. The Internet is used as a research tool to help locate products currently on the market.

A preliminary evaluation of students' experiences with both the Internet and the CD-ROM was undertaken by Macquarie University's Centre for Higher Education and Professional Development. [HREF5] using a focus group exercise based on the Nominal Group Technique (Roe and McDonald, 1983). Findings indicated that the combination of the Internet and CD-ROM in teaching was both effective and motivational. Specifically:

The preliminary successes with the CD-ROM and Internet as a tool for teaching and research and as an educational and entertainment medium in the national touring exhibition led to the notion of developing a Website to combine all these functions. The Website will allow teaching, research and community service to be integrated and presented under the one interface.

The House of AboriginalityWebsite

The global communicative and interactive capacities of information technology will enable the Website to extend the scope and impact of 'The House of Aboriginality'. The site will be used in teaching and research and will also serve to publicise information and educate the local and international community about Aboriginal cultural and copyright issues. At the same time, it will act to help combat the problem of copyright infringement itself by acting as a data collection centre.

The site will feature four interrelated components:

  1. 'The House of Aboriginality': the virtual house is the same as that which appears on the CD-ROM, but with a reduced image bank. It will provide a concise overview of how Aboriginal art and culture have been adopted by mainstream society.
  2. 'How to be a Copyright Detective': a training package designed to alert students and the community to copyright issues and to train interested people as copyright detectives.
  3. 'Feedback and hot discoveries': an information resource to provide an update of current sightings of products and developments in the fight agains the expolitation of Aboriginal culture. There will also be an email facility to allow students and the general community to report their own findings for further investigation. SOC388 students will be involved in recording these reports and assisting the project team to sift through them and pass on significant findings to relevant Aboriginal and legal contacts.
  4. 'Other fascinating sites': an information resource which provides a series of links to other relevant sites both nationally and internationally.

Contributions to teaching, research and community outreach

The four main components of the website interrelate to contribute in different ways to teaching research and community service.

Teaching: There is general agreement amongst cognitive and educational researchers that learning is an individualistic process of knowledge construction that is tuned to the situation in which it takes place (Resnick, 1989). From a constructivist perspective, student learning is facilitated by the development of learning environments that present students with authentic tasks which support collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Jonassen, 1994). Such a learning environment is being developed in SOC388 and being supported by 'The House of Aboriginality' CD-ROM and Website. The active research component of the course, essentially requires students to become Copyright Detectives, and in doing so they are developing knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture through the exploration of Aboriginal art. In the process they are also developing practical and vocationally valuable skills in sociological research methods, computing and analysis of complex culturally sensitive materials.

Research: The unprecedented scope of the contemporary 'Aboriginalia' industry is widely considered within the Aboriginal arts community to pose a serious threat to the integrity and hence continuance of Australia's indigenous cultural traditions, and to the economic viability of emerging Aboriginal enterprises. What is needed to understand the extent and scope of this threat is research in the form of a systematic and comprehensive industry study. The Website will provide the means of collecting and coordinating sightings of products using Aboriginal designs thus, providing a rich database to assist reaserchers to form a realistic assessment of the issues.

Community Service: As indicated, the Website will disseminate information on Aboriginal culture and identify copyright issues as well as act as a point of communication for the academic and general community. An extra dimension of community outreach is that through the website, strong lines for communication, both personal and electronic can be established between the project team at Macquarie University and the remote Aboriginal communities which are the home to most of the artists involved in cases of copyright infringement and other exploitative uses.

Conclusion

'The House of Aboriginality Website' is still in its infancy. By combining the three facets of academic work under the one interface, the site is already being used to support individual aspects of teaching, research and community service. More importantly, it will promote and strengthen the interrelatedness of teaching, research and community service, thus providing a dynamic and coherent approach to scholarship and outreach. This is just the first step towards using the web in more creative ways to enhance the work of universities.

Acknowledgments

In developing this site we would like to acknowledge the work of the following people at Macquarie University: Mr Teong Eng Tan and Mr Fabian Astore, Design and Visual Production; Ms Lassity Martin, Research Assistant, Department of Sociology; Mr Mark Gregory, Centre for Higher Education and Professional Development.


References

Anderson, P. (1996). Copyright and Wrongs. The Bulletin, February 20, p.81.

Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational ResearcherJan-Feb, 32-42.

Johnson, V. & 3rd year Sociology students. (1992). The Copyright Issue. Sydney: Macquarie University. Sydney: National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association & Macquarie University.

Johnson, V. (1996). Copyrites. Aboriginal Art in the Age of reproductive Technologies: Touring Exhibition 1996 Catalogue. Sydney: National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association & Macquarie University.

Jonassen, J. (1994). Thinking technology. Towards a constructivist design model. Educational Technology, April, 34-37.

Resnick, L. B. (1989) Introduction in, (Resnick L B. (Ed)) Knowing learning and instruction : Essays in honour of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Roe, E. & McDonald, R. (1983). Improved Professional Judgment: A guide to evaluation in post-secondary education. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.


Hypertext References

HREF1
http://www.chepd.mq.edu.au/chepd/staff/~mgosper/home.html - Maree Gosper's Home Page.
HREF2
http://www.mq.edu.au/hoa - The House of Aboriginality Website
HREF3
http://teach.bhs.mq.edu.au/soc/388/ - The Home Page for SOC 388
HREF4
http://sysx.apana.org.au/realtime/rt13/copy.html - A report by Suzanne Spunner (1996) on the national touring exhibition, 'Copyrites: Aboriginal Art in the Age of Reproductive Technologies'.
HREF5
A HREF=http://www.chepd.mq.edu.au/ - The Home Page for the Centre for Higher Education and Professional Development.

Copyright

Maree Gosper, Vivien Johnson © 1997. The authors assigns to Southern CrossUniversity and other educational and non-profitinstitutions a non-exclusive licence to use this documentfor personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grants a non-exclusive licence to Southern Cross University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and on CD-ROM and in printed form with the conference papers, and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the authors.


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AusWeb97 Third Australian World Wide Web Conference, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia Email: "AusWeb97@scu.edu.au"