The Collabor 8 Project: Realities within Design-Based Online Cross-Cultural Collaboration

By Ian William McArthur.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper discusses the implications, challenges and opportunities for design
educators revealed in a case study examining the online interactions of ninety-four graphic design and visual communications students from universities and colleges in Australia and China. The Collabor8 Project (C8) was at first seen as a vehicle to examine the relationship between cultural background, cognition and media types in collaborative online design education. However data gathered through observation, questionnaire, student discussions, and the integration of specific research tasks into design briefs highlighted a complex interplay of internal and external dynamics suggesting that a disjuncture existed in many students’ understanding of what was expected of them regardless of media used to deliver the lectures and briefs in C8. Language, divergent student expectations, different levels and styles of knowledge production, and outside forces such as the Sichuan earthquake, are important areas of focus in this study exposing what might be described as multiple realities within the project. The preliminary findings suggest that successful online collaboration between Western and Confucian heritage culture (CHC) design students will most likely be born out of an approach that is representative of all cultural inputs. Continued research and intercultural cooperation will be crucial to facilitating online intercultural collaboration necessary for preparing students for work in the globalised, technological landscape of contemporary design practice.

Keywords: Design Education, Cross-Cultural, Collaboration, Online, China, Australia

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.257-268. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.281MB).

Ian William McArthur

Lecturer and COFA Online Co-ordinator, School of Design Studies, COFA Online, The College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

In 2003/2004 Ian McArthur initiated the COLLABOR8 Project to foster multidisciplinary projects online between design education programs in different institutions, and specifically across different cultures. Having over 25 years experience as designer and design educationalist, Ian McArthur has held leadership roles in vocational and higher education in Australia and South East Asia. From 2001 - 2003 Ian was Program Director of Graphic Design, La Salle DHU International Design College (Dong-Hua University, Shanghai, China). He is a Phd candidate within the School of Digital Media at COFA, holds a Master of Design (Middlesex University, UK) and two education degrees (UTS, Sydney). Ian’s professional practice focuses on cross-cultural design management and is based on a perspective that China, India, and Asia more generally, offer significant opportunities for design as a profession to maximise the potentials of collaborative practice, new technologies and design education in the global community. Ian currently coordinates COFA Online’s Undergraduate online program and lectures in the School of Design studies at The College of Fine Art (UNSW).


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