Digital Art Spring 08 - Outline

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Syllabus | Resources | Student Work | Production Two Manual | Mediography

MCM 0750 - Digital Art (CRN 21562)
Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
Spring 2008


Instructor Information

Name: Mark Tribe
Email: Mark_Tribe AT brown DOT edu
Office phone: 401 863-7886
Office Location: 155 George Street, Room 101
Office Hours : Tuesdays 3:00pm - 5:00pm, or by appointment
Campus Box : 1957
Web Site:

Course description

What would Andy Warhol's Facebook page look like? What would John Cage have done with an iPod? This introductory production course combines history, theory, and practice to explore the intersection of art and emerging digital technologies. Students work independently and in small groups on art projects that make use of new media. Examples of recent student work include a 3D model of a cybercafe for Google Earth, a Dadaist video game, MySpace pages for dead architects, and an iTunes visualizer that creates customized music videos by using song lyrics to look up photos on Flickr. The course will examine and critique groundbreaking new media projects by various artists, as well as art historical precursors/influences. Theoretical readings include Jean Baudrillard, Walter Benjamin, and Hans Magnus Enzensberger.

Course Meeting Times and Location

Mondays 2:00-4:30
Wednesdays 2:00-3:30

Unless otherwise indicated, all course meetings take place in the MCM Production Building, 135 Thayer Street, Room 102 (Production Two)

Course Goals

  1. Develop an understanding of the history and theory of Digital Art
  2. Apply this knowledge in Digital Art projects.
  3. Learn to critique art projects rigorously and constructively.


  • Nota Bene:
    • Assignments are not considered complete until they have been adequately documented on the wiki and linked-to from the student work page and from your personal wiki page. See How to Document your Project for the Wiki for details.
    • For each project your personal page should contain, at a minimum, the following:
      • A thumbnail image;
      • A project title that links to your project page.
      • A statement that describes your project and sheds light on your intentions and, if relevant, your process.
    • Late assignments will not be accepted without prior permission from the instructor.

Update Project: Due Feb 25

  • Make a Digital Art project that reinterprets and updates a historical art project from one of the movements we have studied.
  • Projects will be presented in class during critique: be sure you have your media ready to go!
  • Document your project on the wiki and link to it from the student work page and from your personal wiki page.

Curatorial Project: Due March 17

  • Create an online exhibition of Digital Art using Nexo, Blogger, or any other semi-permanent platform of your choosing.
  • Each exhibition should include ~5-7 works and should be organized around a specific, defined theme or topic.
  • Document your exhibition on the wiki and link to it from the student work page and from your personal wiki page.
  • Present your exhibition in class.
  • Your presentation should:
    • Be approximately 20 minutes long;
    • Make reference to relevant articles and/or other research;
    • Include not only detailed description but also interpretation and critical analysis of the work.
  • Some possible exhibition themes:
    • Identity, as in race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.
    • Character, as in fictional person/personality
    • Narrative, storytelling
    • Migration, cultural hybridity
    • Mobility, ubiquitous computing
    • Location, as in locative media
    • Site/situation specificity, psychogeography
    • Globalization, empire
    • Public space, public domain, public sphere
    • Political action, radical/tactical media (could be a particular issue, e.g. Iraq war or global warming)
    • Open source, copyleft
    • Appropriation, readymades, found media
    • Performance, performativity
    • Surveillance, eavesdropping, privacy
    • Gaming, ludology, serious games
    • Formalism, aesthetics
    • Virtuality, e.g. SecondLife
    • Cultural nostalgia, retro-aesthetics
    • Filesharing, peer-to-peer networks, mesh networks
    • Archiving, database as aesthetic form, preservation
    • Folksonomy, metadata
    • Social software, social sculpture

Here are some notes to help you understand the Suggested Curatorial Process and some notes on setting up a Rhizome account and curation.

Group Project: Due April 14

  • Collaborate with other students to produce a Digital Art project in any form or medium that explores themes address in the course.
  • Projects will be presented in class during critique: be sure you have your media ready to go!
  • Document your project on the wiki and link to it from the student work page and from your personal wiki page.

Open Project: Due May 5

  • Your final production project can be a new independent project or a revision or extension of a previous independent or group project.
  • Projects will be presented in class during critique: be sure you have your media ready to go!
  • Document your project on the wiki and link to it from the student work page and from your personal wiki page.

Attendance and Punctuality

Attendance and punctuality are simply required. Plan to attend all course meetings. Please contact me in advance if you won't be able to make it to a class due to an unavoidable conflict or medical emergency. Class starts on time, so please make every effort to arrive on time. Students with multiple unexcused absences and/or persistent lateness may not pass the course.


  • Student performance will be assessed in four areas:
    1. Quality of production work;
    2. Relevance of production work to the concepts explored in the course;
    3. Active participation in class meetings demonstrating critical engagement with course material (readings, screenings, art works);
    4. Attendance and punctuality.

A Note on Technical Skills

The emphasis in this course is not on technical mastery but on understanding digital media technologies as tools and sites for creative cultural practice. Some students will come to the course with advanced digital media production skills, others with very limited skills. This is OK! Advanced skills are not necessarily needed in order to make advanced art. Keith Obadike's Blackness for Sale and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries'work are two examples of successful and influential Digital Art that required limited technological skill to produce. What makes these projects effective is, among other things, their conceptual deftness, the effectiveness with which they use relatively simple tools, and strength of their artistic voices.

New media technologies are so numerous and complex, and they are changing so quickly, that keeping up can be a sisyphean task. The most important tech skills you can learn are: how to teach yourself what you need to know in order to realize your ideas; how to find ways to realize your ideas given the skills and resources you reasonably can acquire; and how to partner or collaborate with others who have skills you need but don't have and don't want to acquire yourself. That said, there is no substitute for learning by doing. We will organize workshops on key skills, teach one another as we learn, and strive throughout to maintain a playful and experimental attitude toward the technologies we use.

Syllabus | Resources | Student Work | Production Two Manual | Mediography

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