“In the beginning, computers were just a tool in a designer’s or artist’s arsenal, but today they offer a platform for unlimited experimentation and expression in art, media, and design,” says Sven Travis, who launched Parsons' original Department of Design and Technology and today is dean of the School of Art, Media, and Technology. Says Travis, himself a photographer and textile designer, “I consider myself a fine artist in terms of my own work, but technology opens up so many possibilities.”
Travis spearheads technology-related projects that lay the groundwork for social networks both locally and worldwide. “Increasingly, art and design are a social enterprise in terms of process and product,” he explains. “Artists and designers need to learn to work with one another to get things done.” In the school’s YACHT CLUB project, students participated in new media workshops with peers at Tsinghua University in China. More recently, Travis led an interdisciplinary group on a design ethnography expedition to Beijing and Hong Kong, where students and faculty brainstormed with the research and development departments of companies such as Nokia and BBH Worldwide.
“It’s not about telling students ‘sit down and let us tell you how things are.’ It’s about reversing that role by creating an environment that allows for exchange and collaboration,” says Travis. “We are really a sort of incubator—It’s not always clear where the next idea is coming from, and it’s not necessarily coming from the professors. It could be coming from students or from interactions in the outside world.”