and Emberling refer primarily to textbooks, their commentary
is clearly relevant to new media in education. In addition it
is important to recognise that they are hostile to what they
see as a dangerous California-isation of curriculum (spreading
to other states - and they refer in particular to Texas) with
its associated multiculturalism and orientation to world cultures.
They are also hostile to new media which they claim 'dumbs down'
the quality of education, and are unaware of the development
of cyberliteracy and its associated multimedia skills.
significant US creation in relation to cultural diversity has
been the proliferation of various anthropological encyclopedias
on CD-ROM, where again large corporations have sought to provide
authoritative accounts of ethnicities and their content. Jasco's
review of three of these (by the Gale Corporation, Macmillan,
and Microsoft in conjunction with Brigham Young University's
Culturgram project) indicates that they offer little if any
scope to interrogate or question the interpretations offered,
and provide no sense that culture is a contested space in which
conflict and change is characteristic rather than deviant (Jasco
USA there are now multitudes of CD-ROMS that attempt to address
the national history of invasion and occupation - two of which
give a sense of how the position of indigenous people and other
minorities have been addressed. In Microsoft's "500 nations:
Stories of the North American Indian Experience" produced
in 1995, Kevin Costner hosts a CD-ROM version of a book and
film of the same name. The project offers the authoritative
narrator introducing a variety of locales - from Mexico to Canada
- and offers both a celebration of pre-contact societies and
a memorial to the history of the Indian peoples after European
contact. It pays little attention to the contemporary situation
and the processes of de- and re-tribalisation, building as it
does on the uncritical celebration of indigenous nobility which
marked Costner's film "Dances with Wolves".
as the database and encyclopedic approaches, there are many
simulation games - the most heralded of which have been the
two versions of 'The Oregon Trail'. In his review of the CDs,
Bigelow undertakes a detailed deconstruction of the content,
examining the highly individualised subjectivities the simulation
requires of its participants (Bigelow 1997:92). He concludes
by noting "Which social groups are students not invited
to identify with in the simulation? For example, Native Americans,
African Americans, women and Latinos are superficially represented
in The Oregon Trail, but the 'stuff' of their lives is missing".
media - with CD-ROMs linking through the Internet to WWW sites
and other on-line databases and up-date sources - are becoming
a central element in educational strategies in advanced capitalist
societies. Holzberg notes in her brief discussion of historical
narratives on CD-ROM, the increasingly important role they were
playing even in 1995 (Holzberg 1995). In the USA nearly all
schools will have multimedia capable machines and access to
the Internet by the year 2000, while in other technologically
sophisticated societies such as Singapore all schools and most
residential locations will have direct access to high speed
Internet connections within two to three years. In New South
Wales, Australia, the state government has committed every school
to have multiple computers and Internet access within the next
three years, and is now demanding all teachers, irrespective
of discipline, be computer literate.
In new media
projects about national histories we have already seen how little
room is given to controversy, and how much energy is spent on
producing anodyne and non-confronting material. Perlmutter concludes
that " the visual depiction of history and society...is
a construction derived from industrial, commercial and social
influences... [and] undermines the assumption that visual or
verbal educational messages are neutral transmissions of self-evident,
naturally arising, unstructured or objective content" (Perlmutter
need to be aware of the processes through which new media national
imaginings are produced (such as "Vital Links" produced
by Davidson and Associates and published by Addison Wesley,
to support the U.S. history curriculum "Vital Issues: reshaping
and Industrializing the Nation" (Holzberg 1995)) These
products provide very carefully programmed learning environments
that help students build cyber-literacy skills, but may not
facilitate alternative interpretations of events.
when the new technologies are used specifically with the aim
of empowering the traditionally 'silenced' elements of society,
voices emerge which have a resonance and authority that might
otherwise not be available. While most histories are written
by the victors, and tell the stories of the powerful and victorious,
popular history can move beyond these versions to more subtle,
multi-layered and complex pictures of the past and the present.
This is Thomson's conclusion in his discussion of oral history
practices, where he sees in new media "the potential to
expand such possibilities. Multimedia formats can include a
massive amount of textual, oral, visual, and video material.
They facilitate the simultaneous juxtaposition of diverse forms
of evidence, including both complementary and contradictory
accounts..." (Thomson 1998:594).
issues, the context, dangers and constraints, and the opportunities,
we turn to an examination of an Australian example of the making
of a "national imagining" CD-ROM project, "Making
Multicultural Australia: a multimedia documentary". It
was based on original research, while skirting along the thin
boundaries of industrial production, commercial pressures and
social conflict and interpretation. The consortium that produced
it came together with different institutional priorities. The
agreed goal was a multimedia product that would somehow engage
its audiences with the dynamic history of Australia as a multicultural
society, without becoming propagandistic or defensive.
have to be a project that could be used in high schools, and
would thereby pass the educational curriculum criteria of the
co-ordinating government educational agency; it had to be positive
about the achievements of governments in managing ethnic conflict
and delivering services in a diverse society, and thus pass
the political antennae of the relevant government ethnic affairs
agency (and primary funder); it had to fit within the charter
of operation of the national multicultural broadcaster to ensure
access to copyright video materials; and it had to be independent
in stance and accurate and balanced in academic terms, while
retaining an intellectually critical, culturally incisive and
socially exploratory address to the materials to justify university
participation. Finally it had to be well designed, easy to use,
accessible to a range of potential audiences and `users', economically
viable, and commercially marketable.
Australian context - new media and the national imaginary
One of the
characteristics of the post- Cold War world, linked to spreading
globalisation of economic and cultural relations, has been the
re-emergence of `ethnic identity' as a focus for nationalist
struggles. In many previously multicultural states, ethnic struggles
have fragmented trans-cultural linkages, and generated demands
for state forms that either suppress or exclude previously tolerated
is no different in this regard - as a colonial settler society,
its past is based on the invasion by British and later other
European and Asian immigrants. The Act which federated the former
colonies allowed for the creation of a `White Australia' in
1901, in which all would be equal as long as they were white
- populist democracy based on rigid views of race and culture.
For three generations this view persisted until, after a rising
call for social reform, White Australia was abandoned in the
By the late
1970s, `Multiculturalism' had been installed as the official
ideology of nation building, and race had been reduced if not
removed as a criterion for entry to Australia. For a short period
this policy remained unquestioned, until in the early 1980s
voices began to be heard querying the policy.
came from the libertarian Right of Australian politics, and
from among populist intellectuals whose celebration of Australian
cultural traditions had become a crucial part of the national
imagining. For them, Australian democracy and freedom was a
fragile plant that could be eroded by the introduction of culturally
distinctive and physically differentiated populations - people
who would undermine by their very presence the `social cohesion'
which was claimed to be typical of Australian society. This
offered, in distant echo, elements of the same arguments which
had been used to justify White Australia in the late nineteenth
century - that Asian cultures were lower in quality and capacity
to those of White Europe, and in particular, were unable to
cope with concepts of democracy, civil behaviour, and social
about the mid-1980s a growing social debate developed around
the whole question of cultural diversity. Ethnic organisations
and coalitions argued for more specific services and programs
for immigrants, while assimilationist forces argued against
`multiculturalism' , portraying it as a policy that promoted
`tribalism'. Key institutions that supported multiculturalism
included the Special Broadcasting Service with its charter to
reflect cultural diversity, multicultural education and community
language programs, and bodies such as the Australian Institute
of Multicultural Affairs (abolished in 1986 and replaced over
the next few years with an Office of Multicultural Affairs and
a Bureau for Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research).
1990s were thus a period of rising tensions over policies associated
with immigration and settlement, complicated by the local effects
of globalisation and the accession to the Primer Ministership
of Paul Keating. Keating made two major contributions to the
debate on the imaging of the nation - one concerned his acceptance
of responsibility for the tragedies experienced by indigenous
people during and after the invasion; the second emerged from
his re-orientation of Australian national policy to be seen
as part of Asia.
and pluralist perspectives in conflict, and government policies
reflecting the tensions, popular culture and educational materials
had failed, in the eyes of proponents of multiculturalism, to
reflect adequately the diversity of cultures and changing experiences
of the population. In 1993 ethnic leaders, political representatives
and public sector managers met to put together an educational
project about multiculturalism. In that context I was asked
to participate, as an academic with a record of independent
but critical support for multicultural policies.
governments have taken a particular interest in the development
of new media - focussing especially on software and content
development. From the early 1990s various government bodies
have been involved in `scoping' the field, and developing a
local software design industry (Harley 1993; Australia 1995).
Over recent years the digital media industry has grown in scope
and influence, with films such as Babe (Dir. George Miller
1995) and Babe in the City (Dir. George Miller 1998),
and the special effects of Matrix (1999), examples of
the work emerging from the "digital ghettos" of Sydney's
Ultimo and Crows Nest. Part of this was pre-figured in initiatives
developed in the early and mid 1990s, particularly through the
former Labor Party government's strategy of `Creative Nation'
(launched by then Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1994).
broader vision of `Creative Nation' (abandoned by the current
conservative government but adopted as a catch-cry by Singapore),
there were a number of major initiatives associated with new
digital media. These ranged broadly across political economy,
policy, and content strategies. Thus an Australian Multimedia
venture finance corporation was established, as were a string
of joint tertiary education and industry co-operative research
also provided to make ten CD-ROMs, which would link Australian
national cultural institutions with multimedia producers (and
in most cases universities). The final two of these were released
in March 1999 (Stagestruck -theatrical production virtual
reality - and Mission Australia - an environmental protection
interactive game), from a portfolio which included Real Wild
Child (1996) (Australian rock music history) and From
Convict Ships to Dragon Boats (1998) (Australian immigration
history). Each of the `Oz on CD' discs was given free to over
10, 000 schools and libraries. Their direct relationship to
curriculum varied, with some finding readier acceptance, and
others not taken up as widely due to limitations in content
of Studies NSW Interactive Design Group
Design Group at the NSW Board of Studies is probably the most
experienced multimedia educational producer in Australia, with
15 CD ROM packages produced and in use by 1999 - all of which
have direct curriculum relevance, with attractive and user-friendly
interfaces and design. In 1993 it had created its first projects,
including Flashback, an exploration of Australians at
War, and Oz ID, an examination of key symbols and moments
in Australian popular culture and history.
of the group depended on the two brothers at its heart - Lyndon
and Lloyd Sharp. Lyndon, a history teacher, brought the curriculum
and organisational skills, while Lloyd was a digital artist
and programmer. Their personal trajectories offered in miniature
a synopsis of the characteristics emerging as necessary for
effective educational multimedia - educational integrity and
creative innovation. They were backed by the experienced curriculum
teams and editors at the Board, and a marketing organisation
geared to the school system.
multicultural Australia project
the steering group for what had become to be called "The
Making multicultural Australia project" agreed to explore
CD-ROM technology as a delivery strategy for the material it
wanted to make accessible to the educational system. And so
began the consortium that was to work together over the next
six years in the production of the CD-ROM project.
government body, the Ethnic Affairs Commission, seconded staff
to the project as researchers. Funds were brought together from
a variety of sources, including the University of Technology
Sydney, the Australian Research Council, the Australian Foundation
for Culture and the Humanities, the Australia Council for the
Arts under its new-media and audience development programs,
and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The Special
Broadcasting Service, Australia's second national (multicultural
public) broadcaster, also agreed to join the consortium, and
provided access to its video and sound archives.
form of the project was achieved after many months of argument
over content, educational strategy, size and trade-offs between
programming space and media. The tensions over intellectual
integrity, efficient multimedia design, and audience involvement
contributed to the dynamism of the project.
of key principles were protected through the process - this
was to be a people's history, one which looked at the impact
of immigration and settlement on the public culture of Australia.
It was not to be a history of immigration, nor an ethnographic
encyclopedia. Rather it was an exploration of social and cultural
interaction and change, in which questions of power, gender,
race and class would all find a place. It was a work of original
social history as well as a multimedia educational project.
one conceptualise a project like this? The most straightforward
way would be a time-line history - and many attempts at Australian
and other histories have done this (e.g. Australia through
Time). The encyclopedic approach (and in this case what
we end up with is a multimedia database with little interactivity)
usually translates from an existing printed text, and seeks
to be as exhaustive as possible - small amounts of information
about lots of things, events etc. There tends to be little if
any conscious editorialising, though domain assumptions about
the value of specific events can readily structure the material.
In this case, as the material grew and the concept developed,
MmA became three discs - the first dealing with the temporal
dimension of cultural and political transformation, the second
with contemporary cultural, social and political issues, and
the third a resources base of documents, transcripts, and articles
relevant to researchers.
map of the project reveals the pedagogical and political structures
underlying its presentation. The project was designed to facilitate
`discovery learning'. Unlike educational projects which have
a structured learning philosophy, where the audience is constituted
as student and interrogated in an interactive question and answer
[Laurillard, 1999 #63], MmA promotes what has been referred
to as `discovery learning". Discovery learning requires
exploration by the audience, where the user builds the questions
s/he wants to understand, and uses the materials as resources.
While MmA can run as two sequential documentaries, audiences
are prompted to freeze the authorial narrative and test the
proposals advanced at the "top level". Audiences can
dig more deeply into the body of the materials presented to
support and contest the narrative. The materials could be video
interviews, video documentary or news material, video performances,
audio interviews and clips or texts. The texts include diaries,
book excerpts, original documents, government reports, policy
papers, newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, art works,
and dozens of commentaries prepared for the project. There are
over 100 video clips, 300 audio interviews, 1000 photographs
and graphics, and 2500 pages of printed text.
project was built on Macintosh computers, it is designed to
run across platforms including the latest Windows networks.
The primary target audience - high school students and their
teachers - meant that the CD-ROMs had to be designed to be simple
to use in the class-room, and to be linked to curricula. It
is already clear that educational CDs which are complex or not
directly relevant to curricula, do not receive widespread acceptance.
All of the graphics and text can be printed and the open architecture
of the program design allows teachers and students to access
all of the copyright-cleared images, text, audio and video files
for their own multimedia Powerpoint-style presentations and
illustrated assignments. Thus teachers can produce their own
class-room tailored multimedia presentations - almost an impossibility
with commercial products that are concerned about protecting
their investment in content.
discs in the set each have a different format. The first, labelled
"Timeline", uses the metaphor of a documentary set
around specific key events in the history of Australian politico-cultural
development under the impact of immigration. There are six major
sections - Before the Australian nation (up to 1901); White
Australia (from 1901 to about 1965); From assimilation to multiculturalism
(about 1966- 1978); Multiculturalism in practice (1978- 1985);
Transforming multiculturalism (1985-1992); This generation (1992
to 1999). At the "top level" it runs for just under
an hour - some forty screens establish the chronology and the
controversial issue which can be taken further in the "explore"
prior to the European invasion, documenting the diversity of
cultural and language communities which inhabited the continent
before 1788 (the date of the British claim to the land). It
them moves through the European settlement period until the
Federation of the Colonies into a White Nation in 1901 [Hage,
1998 #54]. As the material moves towards the present the content
becomes more intense and the time periods shorter.
So if not
a more shallow overview, how to select the "moments"
which are historically important for culturally transformative
relations? The Australian story had to begin prior to the arrival
of Europeans, to provide a basis for a later discussion of the
struggles between Indigenous and invading peoples. It also needed
to stress the complexity and richness of Indigenous cultural
experiences, and highlight the cross-cultural communication
that went on between Indigenous communities long before European
settlement. There had to be an Indigenous- centred world view
available, so that users could "read" the story of
settlement from a position which reflected Indigenous experiences,
and have an alternative frame of reference to reflect on later
issues of race relations and human rights. However, `multicultural'
in Australia has tended to be an adjective which refers to issues
associated with the post-invasion populations, even though the
latest Australian government position seeks to extend the term
to include Indigenous people - (see http://www.immi.gov.au/nmac.)
was not to be a chronology of key events in immigration - but
rather an exploration of the transforming of public culture.
Thus the detailed history of immigration was not used - rather
the points at which particular paradigms were embedded in the
culture and its institutions - most notably the demonisation
of Asia, and the creation of the concept and legislative armoury
of White Australia at the time of federation (1901). The problem
was to explain the close link between racism and egalitarianism,
the fervent belief that only north western Europeans - White
people - could understand and operate an egalitarian democracy
that escaped the hierarchies of Europe and the autarchies of
key process was that associated with public culture - the Government
decision, within the context of the aftermath of the Second
World War, to embark on a major recruitment campaign to attract
immigrants and thereby convert Australia from a "farm to
a factory". This element combined contemporary cinema clips,
newsreels, documents, and interviews, with reminiscences recorded
in the 1990s.
immigration tap was turned on, the White Australia/ assimilationist
ground-rules were soon overwhelmed by the reality of a de-colonising
world and a population which resisted total absorption into
traditional Anglo-Australian mores and practices. Here we find
social movement materials - murals and artworks, newsreel, photographs
and documents, interviews with activists, prime ministers, bureaucrats
growing domestic pressures from globalisation, Australia has
experienced the resurgence of racism. Legal and community strategies
for combatting racism are explored, including whole school approaches,
and community arts projects.
last decade the particular character of Australian multiculturalism
- with all its contradictions- has been formed. It has also
been challenged - from the Left, through deconstruction of the
hegemonic practices involved; from the Right in discourses of
populist and unitary nationalisms. The user can explore a series
of possible futures, in which a variety of roads are taken,
through the visions of their advocates.
is one thing -contemporary cultural and political debates take
us into a different realm, where selecting perspectives and
approaches can be fraught with problems. In exploring popular
discourses of multiculturalism, we set up a series of themes
- "problems" central to social relationships. These
included laying out popular conceptions of multiculturalism
- as food, as song and dance, as a license for importing "homeland"
conflict, as a basis for cross-group co-operation, as the cause
of social collapse, or the basic underpinning of social cohesion
in a pluralist society.
key areas of social conflict around pluralism - the economy
and employment, education, welfare provision, media, and political
representation and influence. The selection of three of these
- the economy, media and politics - allowed the project to examine
specific areas in some depth. These included a major segment
on women and employment - covering the politics and realities
of outwork in the clothing industry, and the fourteen year struggle
for equal job rights undertaken by women in the industrial city
remains a controversial policy and perspective in Australia,
with waves of hostility and support vying with each other for
control of the public psyche. Participants in these debates
- from strong advocates of the current policies, to radical
egalitarian critics (often from feminist positions) to hostile
opponents (the former parliamentarian Pauline Hanson is included)
- argue their cases.
One of the
major concerns of the project was to explore and expose the
emergence of new cultural expressions of Australian multiculturalism.
The Arts Festival is structured around four fields of artistic
work - the visual arts, performance, cinema and creative writing.
In addition a vigorous set of `debates' engages with questions
of authenticity, hybridity and fusion, participation and exclusion
in the arts, and the role of tradition in the contemporary arts
It is the
arts festival where the users/audience/participants are most
empowered to explore and reflect on materials - dozens of art
works with artist comments, interviews, and thematic presentations
are provided. For instance, the Balkans provides a set for the
discussion of identity, the past and the present, Australian
political uses of older histories - a Macedonian graphic artist
and a sculptor, Greek artists and writers, a Croation sculptor
- are some of the creators involved in this. Another segment
works through representations of being a refugee, by artists
from Vietnam, Somalia, Poland, Russia, and Yugoslavia.
dilemmas continue in pluralist Australia - questions of citizenship,
identity and social cohesion. The developing debate reflects
wider concerns for the possibilities of mutual recognition of
difference in multicultural societies - and the tensions about
issues of national identity and loyalty, language, and diversity
in mores and values.
of understanding the story overall is through a scroll painting
of the Chinese experience of Australia. Originally a 50 metre
long 2 metre high celebration of the bi-centennial of 1988,
it has been digitised with annotations, and covers the detail
of a Sino-centric vision of Australia from the early 1800s until
1988. The first frames are set in a landscape of tortured bush,
kangaroos and nomadic indentured labourers - the last frames
picture lawyers, politicians, business people and two bleached
blond Chinese boys with surf-boards. The scroll serves as a
celebration of Australian Chinese culture and history, and argues
that despite White racism, Australia now accepts Chinese Australians
as participants in the broad public culture, a signal of their
fortitude and resilience.
disc contains all the written texts (2500 pages) in a searchable
(Adobe Acrobat) and downloadable format, with a 2600 item reference
library (including abstracts), and a data base of Australian
archives of multicultural materials. This research library provides
a more systematic research resource than that in any school
library, and matches specialist collections needed for graduate
level research and teaching.
project provides an example of how educational multimedia can
be developed in ways that do not "dumb-down" or sanitise
history, without rendering it only in the most sombre shades
of interpretation. The project will be used extensively in the
schools' system, and due to the nature of the production can
be used for primary to tertiary teaching and learning.
One of the
questions that has been raised about the new media refers to
concerns it is an intrinsically inferior as an intellectual
and narrative form to literary and analytical accounts in written
form. Reading texts could be supposed to be an intellectually
more demanding and challenging process, to seeing visual images,
listening to audio accounts, and viewing video reports and interviews.
It might be argued the work of imagination required to convert
written argument to understanding, the linguistic and conceptual
skills thus developed, are of a higher order to other forms
of communication. It could further be claimed that the lack
of a sustained and developed argument - the equivalent of an
academic article or a book - is a significant loss, and that
the student gains greatly from experiencing such an argument
and undertaking the intellectual labour necessary to understand
argues that "narrative beauty is independent of medium...We
need every available form of expression and all the new ones
we can muster to help us understand who we are and what we are
doing here. The real literary hierarchy is not of medium but
of meaning" (Murray 1997:273-274). She goes on to argue
that there is an authorial voice in narratives such as Myst
(which is a programmed adventure game).
suggest that there is an authorial voice and a substantive intellectual
argument in projects such as "Making multicultural Australia".
Indeed, the use of the producer's voice as narrator and `guide'
allows the participants to recognise that there is an authorial
position, but that furthermore, the evidence to test that authorial
position is also provided. Participants can choose to accept,
contest, reinterpret and challenge the authorial position -
but can only do that effectively as they grasp the dimensions
of the argument and the social perspective that underpins the
project. Their imagining of the arguments and their responses
to them can now carry a dimension of authenticity - both from
written texts if that is required and desired, but also from
direct access to the contextualised accounts by people who have
been and are part of the making of multicultural Australia.
As the project
unfolds, the participants become the latest creators of the
meanings that the society has - building in their own imaginations
and works their personal sense of where the narratives have
come from and where, for them, they might lead. As "Making
multicultural Australia" has entered the classrooms of
Australia and universities and libraries around the world, it
has become the standard primary multimedia resource for understanding
a society in transition, and the struggles that have produced
the eclectic public culture with which the society seeks to
address its future. Soon the CDROMs will be supported by a major
on-line educational website, which will provide new material
and offer the opportunities for participants to launch out from
the specific location of the discs, into the more adventurous
possibilities that will challenge those concerned with the working
of multicultural societies and the creative hybridities they
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