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Digitalization Strategy Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Digital technologies are always also ways of organizing social life. In this way, they belong to the core issues of art academies. Including digital technologies is crucial for the strategic self-understanding of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. However, the relevance of digitalization is measured by its value for the core competences of an art university.

Especially at an art university, linking the digital and the analog is more than just a question of (technical) media use. The Covid19-pandemic in particular, has shown very clearly that the shift of physical contacts to digital locations causes structures and social contexts in digital systems that tend to become increasingly unclear. With unprecedented speed and not without side effects, many digital tools were established in education – also at the academy. With this, the effects of digitality in everyday university life manifested quite often as a reduction of the sensory complexity of social interaction.

In this sense, it is one of the Academy's central tasks to expand the digital portfolio (in teaching, research, and administration). However, careful evaluations of digital tools and its potentials are crucial to enable a differentiated and reflected use of digital workflows in university education.

The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna profile essentially includes the critical and reflexive examination of social processes and the power relations that are condensed in them. Discourses on gender issues, questions of intersectionality, on climate justice (which are, among other things profile-forming for the Academy) find a complement in the thematic field of digitalization, in which all these questions unfold once again. This results in an expanded thematic field for pointed artistic work.

Digital and analog approaches are complimenting the conditions of a shared problem. In the sense of a diversity of methods, they, therefore often coexist. Hybrid learning, teaching, and research landscapes demand the simultaneous use of wide-ranging digital and analog tools and media. In this respect, they will also significantly shape future developments at the Academy.

Digitalization in the field of teaching

When using digital tools in teaching, there are opportunities and challenges for the respective fields of knowledge and disciplines. The Academy stands for digitalization with prudence. It continuously promotes the dissemination of digital skills[1] and theoretical reflection on corresponding developments. Through events and cooperation with relevant networks, institutions, and projects, the Academy remains engaged with the respective discourse. Digital communication, however, can lead to one-sidedness of teaching and learning processes. That has to be prevented. Digital access is often bound to socially specific aspects. While on the one hand, digital natives can be reached specifically via digital communication, internet access cannot be taken for granted for others. Such exclusion mechanisms, which result from different previous experiences with and access to digital ways of working, must be continuously analyzed and dismantled through targeted offers and support. At the same time, new media and forms of communication open up an inclusive potential that expands classical educational concepts as well as established academic ways of working.

At an art university, teaching in shared physical spaces is central. In addition, the potential of digital services is used to support teaching and studying and to increase flexibility and accessibility. Digital services and infrastructure are continually being expanded to support the development of teaching and learning methods.[2] This expansion is particularly concerned with online access to teaching and learning opportunities. These developments also imply the ongoing updating and improvement of the campus management system (including the Student Lifecycle Service) and teaching-related applications (Moodle, etc.).[3]

Digitalization in the field of research, development, and development of the arts

The digitalization process of the Academy requires a focus on the research content and the perspectives of art practice. With a thematic priority on media restoration in conservation and restoration (IKR) and within the field of new media art (IBK) an intensive examination is taking place with regard to the possibilities of digital art. In addition, digital research in art and architecture (IKA), in art didactics (IKL), in natural sciences and technology (INTK), as well as in art theory and cultural studies (IKW), is further accentuated. This is also reflected in applications and research collaborations.

The Academy's research landscape benefits from digital environments – especially in the development and dissemination of research results. Digital platforms also play a decisive role in the initiation, acquisition, and administration of third-party funding and the networking of funding institutions. The Academy is guided by the principles of open – digital – access in the sense of Open Science and Open Access.[4] The platforms and interfaces that bring the Academy together with diverse publics at these levels will be further expanded.

A particular challenge for the digitalization processes at the Academy is the heterogeneous data material that needs to be made accessible, presented, and preserved. The historical collections also open up diverse research accesses, due to their present orientation. Appropriate formats are needed to map the diversity of data and content and to develop it adequately. The Academy is actively involved in co-operations to expand digital infrastructures.[5]

Digital public sphere

The Academy's claim to serve the public – and not just particular, milieu-specific – interest as a public institution is part of its digitalization strategy. This includes digital accessibility at all levels[6] and addressing diverse contexts in digital formats.[7] The Academy's scope is increased through digital media by primarily addressing people who are predominantly digitally socialized. The use of hybrid formats is becoming increasingly important for the diverse program of events. Discussions, meetings, and conferences, as well as their results, can thus be made accessible location-independently and over the long term.[8] In this sense, a strategic focus of the Academy is reducing barriers and the expanding social permeability through the targeted use of digital communication.

The digital accessibility of the Academy's collections and archives also plays a special role.[9] Here, research efforts to make the collections and databases accessible should be thought of in a cooperative manner. Intensive cooperation with art and cultural institutions as well as educational and research institutions supports the Academy in making the diversity of exhibits, exhibitions, and events visible to diverse target groups via digital formats.

Digitalization in the field of administration

Administrative processes can be significantly simplified through the use of digital technologies.[10] In cooperation with other (art) universities, the existing potentials in terms of shared infrastructures and services must be examined and weighed up. In this sense, participation in relevant university co-operations[11] will be intensified. But also, with regard to processes within the Academy, the requirements for efficiency and the avoidance of redundancies must be implemented transparently and in accordance with the respective needs. For example, individual teaching and learning environments require specifically tailored administrative systems and interfaces. Research and, last but not least, students also need customized digital services that are integrated into administrative processes and, at the same time, are adapted to the user perspective. In doing so, sustainability aspects must be strengthened, and the effective use of digital environments for mobile working, virtual communication, and paper-free administration must be promoted.           

Responsibility and self-commitment

The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna is committed to reflexive and deliberative digitalization. Digitalization is never an end in itself at an art university. The positive side effects of the increasing use of digital tools are to be observed, as well as the losses resulting from the displacement of analog ways of working.

In order to react sufficiently sensitively to these challenges, the far-reaching processes of digitalization can only be implemented together and in coordination across the Academy. The Vice Rectorate for Infrastructure and Sustainability coordinates the central projects and developments with the IT Service department, with digitalization officers and project leaders. In addition, discourse formats are set up to reflect on the further development of digitization in a competence-driven and theory-based manner with researchers, lecturers, and colleagues in the area of administration as well as external experts. These centrally coordinated processes are supplemented by targeted training and further education programs to involve all members of the institution and to ensure the gradual implementation of this digitalization strategy. In this way, the challenges are met in interaction with all areas of the Academy, and at the same time, the digitalization discourse is conducted responsibly.

March 2023 

Mag. Dr. Johan Frederik Hartle            Mag. Dr. Ingeborg Erhart      Mag. Werner Skvara  

[1] Digital Competencies Project: Curriculum development and digital advancement; didactic and administrative support for teachers; (self-)assessment of digital competencies of teachers and students, etc.

[2] E-learning project: the creation of a central facility for the further development of technology-supported barrier-free teaching and learning; didactic and administrative support for teachers and students; mobile hybrid equipment; contact point for the certification of Open Education Resources (OER) at the academy.

[3]Student Lifecycle project: Introduction of curriculum organization (SPO) - digital mapping of study programs in AkademieOnline; further development of digital admission procedures with analog connection option; digital portals for studying and teaching (u:space) at individual level; capacity building - continuing digital education for students and alumni.

[4] Open Access / Open Science projects: PID - persistent identifier at personal, institutional and object level; participation in ORCID Austria, DOI-Service Austria, FAIR DATA Austria, etc.

[5]Repository and FIS/CRIS system projects: replacement of the current repository by PHAIDRA; implementation of Portfolio/Showroom as a low-threshold and user-friendly documentation and publishing tool; development of interfaces.

[6] Digital accessibility projects: Synergy Space; Accessible Library; Diversity Platform; New Website; Submission Platform for Academy Competitions and Calls for Proposals.

[7] This is what the Diversity platform stands for in particular.

[8] Events project: Green event management as a continuing education format; digital documentation of events; mobile hybrid equipment.

[9] Collections and archiving projects: Akbild forum; digitization of holdings (several projects); digital archives for research results.

[10] Digital administrative processes project: Smart Work Flow; digital signatures; Erasmus Mobility Online; digital admission procedures with analog connection.

[11] Exemplary university cooperations: ACOnet, ORCID Austria, PHAIDRA Network, DOI-Service Austria, Austrian Library Network, Kooperation E-Medien Österreichs (KEMÖ).