from Paul Pant
The first thing that embodies the new digital university in real life is art. IDSA Summer School students present art projects alongside a “Transformation Lounge” and “Workshop Space” available to the public. Beer benches, coffee machines and electronic installations are located beneath and next to massive metal strips that snake their way through Linz’s abandoned Postcity. Postal parcels used to travel through the building.
Presentations, discussions and negotiations are now taking place in the foundation laboratory at ARS Electronica. Above all, the questions are asked: What should the university of the future look like? How can open spaces be secured in rigid university structures? How should the diverse, interdisciplinary scientific community in Linz be established? The 78 students in the summer school grapple with these questions. They are guided by 21 Fellows, a group of internationally active experts and scholars who will later also teach at IDSA.
the Institute of Digital Science Austria (IDSA) Starts in the winter semester 2023/24. IDSA should be a “living laboratory for teaching and learning technologies.” The focus of teaching and research should be on “transformation themes for digitalisation”.
The founding conference of IDSA had to fight for the free framework of the laboratory of the future, reports Katja Schechtner. You and other members of the founding team are responsible for conceptualizing the content and organization of the new university. Schechtner says it was important to them that students and teachers could discuss and work together about what this university should look like in the future.
“We don’t come up with a strategy paper written by people over 60 imagining what they wanted to have when they were students,” Schechtner says. It’s about talking to those who are now in their twenties and asking them how they imagine the future. One of these students is historian Nathan Cornish. The Oxford University graduate is currently a PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden, specializing in environmental history. When asked what students want from the ideal university, he said: What everyone wants. “To be able to live comfortably in an uncomfortable world.”
It will always be important to keep in mind when envisioning a university that students need a “safe space.” Because you also have to be able to be in systems specifically designed for performance and output. “I believe a university will never be functionally successful if students cannot be healthy individuals in healthy communities,” Nathan says.
Architect Luisa do Amaral from Brazil studies computational social sciences in South Korea. Human behavior and social networks are the focus. Luisa says that students do not expect anything revolutionary from the University of the Future. It’s about living diversity and inclusion and not discussing it if you want to find answers to current problems. “We are really approaching the time when we have to make stronger efforts for a more equitable society. We need to address the big structural problems, to address climate change. These things cannot be solved in the current context,” says Luisa.
the Foundation laboratory It consists of three parts: “Summer School” (until September 13), the results of which will be presented in the “Forum” within the Ars Electronica Festival and will be delved into and applied in the “Autumn Semester” seminar program (winter semester 2023/24). Among 78 students In the summer school, 25 of them will receive an invitation to the fall semester.
It is fully expected that students will primarily formulate resource questions in the workshops given budget constraints and resource concerns at local universities. Even the Austrian Universities Congress (UNICO) questions the establishment of a university in Linz. The criticism is that given the serious financial needs of the 22 public universities and 17 private universities, there is no need for a digital university. A view that Dietmar Offenhuber, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, can understand, but a new institute like IDSA will be needed. You shouldn’t save money here, he says.
Offenhuber says that the academic system in the USA is more pragmatic and more problem-oriented than in Europe. There is a greater desire for collaboration and more interdisciplinary research projects. An understanding of the university that should also be implemented in IDSA. Offenhuber also says that there are 70 universities around his hometown of Boston alone, and that more universities means more opportunities. When thinking about it in the European context, more exchange and communication is needed, Offenhuber explains.
Katja Schechtner explains that one of the ways of working that IDAS wants to develop is project-based learning. A wide range of scholars and artists come together at the multidisciplinary university. Therefore, a doctor who wants to program an application for a research project will not have to attend a lecture on the basics of programming. “But we dedicate ourselves to the topic, question, and practice of project learning in the courses. That’s the goal,” says Shechtner.
IDSA will initially start only with a doctoral program. The Master’s degree will be added from 2025. However, there will be no new university location in Linz for the time being. IDSA will find its first headquarters on the campus of Johannes Kepler University.
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