Programming as enabler of new aesthetic qualities in sculpting. A study of 3D modelling in student teacher education in visual arts

Mie Buhl*, Kirsten Skov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


Research topic/aim
The purpose of this paper is to discuss how digital coding and construction may change the didactics in artmaking in visual arts education. The discussion is based on a study of 3D modelling practices by student teachers in visual arts. The aim is to reveal potential new aesthetic qualities emerging from an attempt to merger practices from two different epistemological paradigms: visual arts and computer science (Buhl 2019) exemplified by sculpting and thereby contribute to Danish discussions of ongoing currents about implementing technological comprehension, computational thinking, and programming in education from the perspective of visual arts education (Andersen et al 2022).

Theoretical framework
According to Knochel (2016), artmaking can be approached as a social and material process. He argued that digital technology is the non-human and co-productive partner in artmaking. Fenwick and Landri (2012) suggested that the well-established dichotomy between human intentionality and non-human objects must be overcome for a fuller understanding of learning processes. They suggested that the agency of digital technology and other materialities may be approached with the term hybrid assemblages to describe how learning emerges from a continuous social practice of different materialities of ‘doing’ to which meaning is attributed rather than by an approach drawing on a 'human-using-tool-metaphor'.

Methodology/research design
The study was conducted as observations of a conducted learning design where visual art teacher students conducted a 3D-modelling assignment using the software app Tinkercad at University College Copenhagen (UCC). The notion of hybrid assemblages (Fenwick and Landri, 2012) formed the basis for an analysis of the social practices of artmaking as well as the framework for understanding how the negotiation between art and technology was enacted. The empirical data were approached and analysed from the perspective of how digital technology was entangled with other materialities in the student teachers’ practices of meaning-making (Fenwick and Landri, 2012), and to what extend these practices indicated the emergence of aesthetic qualities differing from well-known ‘adding and carving’ methods attached to sculpting.

Expected results/findings
A theoretical transition away from the tool metaphor towards a technological comprehension approach involving programming, construction and computational thinking provide the visual arts curriculum new content and the opportunity to reconsider aesthetic modelling in terms of conceptualising perceptions, making step-by-step solutions in interaction with the computer, developing principles for editing, utilising the infinite possibilities for change of design, setting criteria for knowing when to stop experimenting since 'the fabric' of digital material cannot be exhausted, and imagining the transforming of analogue aesthetic qualities (surface, texture, scale, volume) in to codes for programming actions of an 'digital-interface-construction-phase' of a 3D artefact.
From this perspective, digital technology not only offers new digital activity forms; it exposes the traditional means of thinking about artmaking and offers a conceptualising of artmaking processes and an integration of computational activities such as programming as the becoming of meaning-making.

Relevance to Nordic educational research
The discussion is relevant for a further development of the paradigmatic basis for subject didactics and professionalisation of future visual arts teachers.


Andersen, L. B., Brabrand, C., Buhl, M., Caprani, O., Georgesen, M., Hachmann, R., Hjorth, M., Jørnø, R., Køhrsen, L., Misfeldt, M., Toft Nørgaard, R., Nortvig, A-M., & Middelboe Rehder, M., (2022). Anbefalinger til indførelse af teknologiforståelse i uddannelse af lærere og andet pædagogisk personale, 56 s.

Buhl, M. (2019). Computational thinking utilizing visual arts, or maybe the other way around. I: Ørngreen, R. Forfatter, M. & Meyer, B. (red.), Proceedings of the 18th European conference on e-learning, s.102–108. Academic Conferences and Publishing International.

Buhl, M., & Skov, K. (2021). Challenges in educating student art teachers in technology comprehension. I C. Busch, R. Frieß, M. Steinicke, & T. Wendler (red.), Proceedings of the 20th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2021 (s. 66-72). Academic Conferences and Publishing International. Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL

Fenwick, T. & Landri, P. (2012). Materialities, textures and pedagogies: socio-material assemblages in education. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(1), s.1-7, DOI: 10.1080/14681366.2012.649421

Knochel, A.D. (2016b). Photoshop teaches with(out) you: Actant agencies and non-human pedagogy. Visual Arts Research, 42(1), s. 71-87
Original languageEnglish
Publication date15 Mar 2023
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023
EventNERA Congress 2023: Digitalization and Technologies. Opportunities and challenges - Oslo Metropolitan Univesity, Oslo, Norway
Duration: 15 Mar 202317 Mar 2023


ConferenceNERA Congress 2023
LocationOslo Metropolitan Univesity
Internet address
  • NERA Congress 2023

    Mie Buhl (Participant)

    15 Mar 202317 Mar 2023

    Activity: Attending an eventOrganisation or participation in workshops, courses, seminars, exhibitions or similar

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