Open Source Studio

In the telematic culture, pluralism and relativism shape the configuration of ideas – of image, music, and text – that circulate in the system. – Roy Ascott

Nanyang Technological University art student Diana Toh tethered to the third space


Conceived by Randall Packer and launched in the fall of 2012 in collaboration with the California Institute of the Arts, Center for Integrated Media, Open Source Studio (OSS) is an entirely new approach to studio practice and online education in the new media arts. The online project is intended as an immersion in the study of Internet art and culture, in which students are invited to participate in an experience that encourages collaboration and transparency in the educational / artistic process.

In this age of pervasive networked communications and social media, the idea of recalibrating my practice as both an artist and educator to fully embrace the network emerged from the observation that online education could become a more vital arena for innovation in the arts. I began to think about how Internet broadcasting techniques, the integration of Web-conferencing, social media, and Web-based content media systems could create a richer more engaging experience for online teaching.

Thus the Open Source Studio was born, a project that has involved rethinking the “studio of the future:” in which “studio” and “classroom” and “networked space” combine as a flexible, multi-purpose environment for teaching. In 2012, I began to engage students around the world in courses, netcasted lectures, seminars, workshops, and net-based exhibitions. During this time, OSS has been offered at CalArts as a graduate seminar; the School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore as an undergraduate course; and as a seminar for the Media Art Histories graduate program based at Danube University in Krems, Austria.

Essay: Open Source Studio (to be published in IEEE Potentials 2015)

White paper: (PDF) (January, 2013, documenting OSS at the California Institute of the Arts)
Open Source Studio:
a telematic educational project

OSS Multi-Site

in collaboration with Juan Gonzalez

During the spring of 2014 in the School of Art, Design & Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the focus of the OSS project is the development of The Open Source Studio (OSS) Multi-Site. This configuration of WordPress is designed for a class or multiple classes of students to collectively work across a network of WordPress Websites. As applied to art and design, OSS essentially functions as an online virtual studio environment for creative work. OSS builds on the model of the suite of studios, in which artists and designers are exposed to the work of other students, encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas and inspiration through collective authoring in the networked space.

Utilizing the open source content management system (CMS) WordPress, along with customized software specific to the project, and multiple forms of social media, OSS is intended to provide collective workspace that takes its inspiration from the power of a CMS database, allowing students to easily share, document, retrieve, and distribute their work and ideas across the network to enhance the artistic and educational process. Furthermore, by aggregating and displaying student work in creative ways, both students and instructor can participate in the creation of a vital online workspace that encourages collaboration and cooperative learning through shared research and artistic production.

During the second semester of 2013/2014 at ADM, visiting artist Randall Packer, along with PhD student Juan Camilo Gonzalez Jimenez we developed a prototype multi-site system that is being used by three different classes at ADM, as well as the New School for Social Research in New York City. The goal of the project is to create a proof of concept that demonstrates the successful implementation of technical goals to achieve smooth operation for students and faculty. At the conclusion of the semester, documentation will provide critical assessment of the project’s outcome, along with instructions for future implementation, including how it could be used for the undergrduate theseis project. It is hoped that the Open Source Studio Multi-Site project will yield a compelling model that encourages further adoption of these innovative online educational techniques.

Class Site for Media & Performance: Spring of 2014, School of Art, Design & Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Below are photographs and screenshots that document  activities of the Open Source Studio project.

Discussing the history of telematic art via Adobe Connect



Adobe Connect web-­conferencing software was used for weekly seminars, student presentation of work, and live discussion. Adobe Connect integrates video-­conferencing, Powerpoint presentations, video and audio files, together with real-­time chat functions and multi-­layered discourse. It is a dynamic space that is essential for teaching studio art and can rival the dynamics of a physical seminar. The central concept of the course was to provide CalArts students, all of whom were in residence at the Institute, a visceral experience of the virtual, that is, an immersion in net art and culture through study in the medium itself.

Class photo in the Adobe Connect video-conferencing software with guest speakers: Robert Whitman, Julie Martin, Shawn Van Every


Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 10.01.49 AM
The home page of the OSS WordPress site from the Open Source Studio course taught at the School of Art, Design & Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

The Open Source Studio Website can be viewed as a virtual studio space for collaborative research, production, and documentation. The site, built in WordPress, was designed as a multi-author system, which facilitates the aggregation of work generated during the course, including: social media feeds, blog posting, embedded media, online discussion, and discussion. This approach encourages a more collective experience, in which research, critical writing, media documentation, and the multifarious forms of artistic production are created and stored in a shared working environment.


Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.09.46 AM
The scripting of Cheong Enliang NTU student project created in the programming language Processing.

Traditionally in the studio arts, critiques are a central component of evaluating and providing feedback on student work. However, the critique is easily replicated online, in which live sessions are conducted in one-­to-­one interactions via Skype. Here, student and teacher can discuss the work by sharing the desktop, presenting physical materials, or gesturing to the camera. More complex software projects can be visualized in real‐time via the virtual studio visit. Through the shared desktop, I can view a program written in Processing that converts a live Twitter feed into a 3D word cloud.


The telétea installation created by CalArts theater student Peiyi Wong, connecting two remote spaces as an integrated “third space.”

For the Open Source Studio exhibition at CalArts, we transformed the Integrated Media Lab  into a “third space,” staging student works that explored the integration of physical and virtual presence. The idea of the OSS show was to create a richly networked space for interactive communications: a third space for dialogue and social interaction. Each of the students in the course created an installation or a Web-­based project that critiqued and analyzed the conditions of an increasingly mediated society: establishing a laboratory for engaging the network and dissecting its effects within the context of artistic activity.

Please contact Randall Packer for further details regarding the Open Source Studio project.

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