Course Description

This lecture course surveys the history, theory and practice of new media as communications media, popular media and art form. The course draws on a range of readings, websites and media materials to look into the cultural values embedded within media technologies and to explore the historical contexts from which today’s technologies emerge. The computer will be studied as a vehicle that extends the body and senses, extends the mind, and extends cultural interaction. The course will look at many examples of new media art and practice, from the formerly-new media of early 20th century experiments to today’s convergent media forms: from radio art, early cinema, telegraphy and television, to net-art, hypertext, digital imaging, networked communities, digital cinema, virtual reality, cybernetics, robotics, ubiquitous computing, net activism and gaming.

The term “new media” is, by definition, a relative one. This course will approach the “newness” of new media from two different perspectives. The first is historical, looking at successive milestones in the modern and post-modern development of media technologies and studying the cultural impact of each new introduction; the first half of the semester will be concerned with this historical perspective. The second perspective is applications-based, focusing on specific media and the ways that they shape and reflect human subjectivity, social systems and cultural evolution in our current media landscape; the second half of the semester will explore this applications-based perspective.

It is important to note that any history of New Media is necessarily a construct: a narrative traced through the rhizomatic space of multiple histories, ideologies and views relating to the subject. For the purposes of this course, we will define “new media” as media technologies that exert a transformative force at the moment of their introduction and adoption into general usage. Such “transformation” will be understood as causing a social re-organization on a mass scale, either in the interests of political and economic
control or as an expansion of human experience and capability. These two dynamics of new media technologies—control and expansiveness—will be studied as interdependent.

Course Goals

The purpose of this course is twofold: first, it is to expose students to a broad historical sampling of the theory and practice of new media; second, it is to engage each student in a thoughtful critical dialogue, through which he or she will explore, question and develop an individual perspective in regard to current developments in new media art. Students will demonstrate their integration of the material presented through three short writing assignments, one formal term paper and numerous in-class or online discussions
and exercises. Students will be expected to attend all classes as active participants in discussion and in individual and group exercises.

Jill Scott
Frontiers of Utopia by Jill Scott (1995)

The course is divided into three parts.

Part I: Participation

Participatory Culture, History and Implications of Participatory Art/Culture, Participatory Forms –
Relational Aesthetics, Remix – Collective Authorship, Tactical Media – Hacker Art Forms, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction –
History of Artists who Embrace Technology, Emergent Systems – Swarm Theory, Open Data, Networked Art, Tactical Media – Mass Culture and Art as Intervention

Part II: Space/Time

Locative Media, Locative Narrative – Psychogeography, Rhizomatic Mapping, Situationist International, 2nd Life, Augmented Reality, Semiotics, Gaming, Locative Gaming Projects, REAL Time, Immersion and Liveness, Virtuality and Virtual Interaction, Video Games and Phenomenology

Part III: Embodiment

The Cyborg, Hybridity, Interactivity, Media and Performance: New Bodies, Interactivity, Media and Performance: New Mind,
Artificial Intelligence, Interactive Narrative, Post-Human, Interactive Installation, Wearable, Embedded and Prosthetic Devices


Reading List

Clive Thompson on how YouTube Changes the Way We Think
Participation, by Claire Bishop & Nicolas Bourriaud, eds.
“Author as Producer,” by Walter Benjamin
Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud
Remixability and Modularity by Lev Manovich
Totalitarian Interactivity by Lev Manovich
The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin
Jeremy Hight: View From Above: Locative Narrative and the Landscape
Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord, translated by Ken Knabb
The most radical gesture: The Situationist International in a postmodern age by Sadie Plant
The Semiotic Method, from Signs of Life in the USA, Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon
The Cyborg Manifesto, excerpt from Simians, Cyborgs and Women, by Donna Haraway
Theresa M. Senft’s Reading Notes for Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto
WIRED Interview with Donna Haraway by Hari Kunzru
Donna Haraway, “Compoundings” from Sensorium, Caroline A. Jones, ed.
Re-Thinking VR: Key Concepts and Concerns by Char Davies
Computing Machinery and Intelligence, sections 1-4, by Alan Turing
Excerpt from How We Became Post-Human, by N. Katherine Hayles
The Dis-Embodied Re-Embodied Body, by Jeffrey Shaw