Open Source Culture Spring 06 - Outline

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MC170.08: Open Source Culture: Art, Technology, Intellectual Property

Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
Spring 2006

Syllabus | Resources | Student Work | Production Two Manual

Instructor Information

Name                     Mark Tribe
Email                     Mark_Tribe AT brown DOT edu
Office phone          401 863-7886
Office Location      155 George Street, Room 101</td>
Office Hours          Tuesdays 2:00pm - 4:00pm, or by appointment
Campus Box          1957
Web Site     []

Course Meeting Times and Location

Wednesdays        3:00-5:50 PM
Tuesdays             8:00-10:00 PM

Unless otherwise indicated, all course meetings take place at 135 Thayer Street, Room 102 (Production Two)

Course description

This production seminar explores the tension between appropriative artistic practices and intellectual property laws, using open source software as a model for cultural production. Assignments include readings, research, presentations, and art projects. In the first part of the course (weeks 1-9, or until Spring Break), we will study key concepts in intellectual property law (copyright, fair use, and copyleft) while we consider four modes of appropriative artistic practice: collage, found object sculpture (AKA readymades), audio (re)mixes, and found footage film and video. Each student will select two of these four modes in which to produce an art project. In the second part of the course (weeks 11-16, or after Spring Break), students produce two projects: the first is either an second pass at one of the first two projects (making changes in response to critique or extending the project in some way) or an open-ended individual project (any mode, any topic); the second is the final project (a more ambitious undertaking produced either independently or in collaboration with other students).

Course Goals

This course combines history, theory, and production toward five primary goals for students: 1) develop an understanding artistic appropriation, intellectual property law, open source software, and how these domains intersect in contemporary culture; 2) discover ways to respond creatively to course material using new media tools; 3) develop an informed and carefully considerd position regarding appropriation and intellectual property.


Prerequisites: at least one MC course; MC 23 or 75 recommended.

How to Apply

No application is required, unless the course is over-enrolled, in which case an application will be distributed at the first class meeting.


This course may be taken for a grade or S/NC. Student performance will be assessed in six areas: 1) participation in class meetings; 2) engagement with readings, screenings, and other course materials; 3) completion of individual production projects; 4) participation in and successful completion of collaborative final project; 5) completion of an in-class presentation; 6) attendance and punctuality.

How To Prepare for a Class With Assigned Reading

Assigned readings are required, and must be completed before class.

  1. Print the readings if they are distributed online.
  2. Read them quickly but attentively. Underline and/or take notes.
  3. Bring your copy of the reading to class and be prepared to quote from the reading during discussion.

Students who are not able to demonstrate a thorough and thoughtful engagement with the readings by participating actively in discussion risk failing the course.


  • Due Tue, February 15: Found Image. Produce a project involving appropriated images and/or text.
  • Due Tue, February 22: Found Object. Make a readymade sculpture for exhibition in List. Guidelines:
    • Your sculpture should make use of one or more appropriated readymade objects
    • The readymade object(s) you appropriate must, by definition, be the product of human production
    • Your sculpture should stand (or be scattered or otherwise placed) on the floor, and can occupy no more than a square of 3x3 floor tiles.
    • Your sculptures will be arrayed in a grid on the floor with equal spacing between sculptures
    • Each sculpture will be accompanied by an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper that serves as label and wall text. Please email me the following info, and I'll lay out and print up the sheets:
      • Title
      • Your Name
      • Materials used
      • A short artist's statement (no more than 150 words) that sheds light on your intentions or provides some kind of interpretive clue
  • Audio Mashup: Due Wed, March 9
  • Video Remix: Due Wed, March 23
  • Final Project Pitch: Due Wed, April 13
  • Final Project: Due during final exam period, date to be determined

In addition, each student is required to give an in-class presentation on a topic of his or her choosing. Presentations should be approximately 20 minutes long and should involve some kind of media support (PowerPoint, web, etc.).

Attendance and Punctuality

Attendance and punctuality are 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 risk failing the course.


On reserve in the Rock:

  • Buskirk, Martha. ''The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art.'' Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.
  • Raymond, Eric S. ''The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary.'' Sebastopol: O'Reilly and Associates, 1999.
  • Miller, Paul D. AKA Dj Spooky That Subliminal Kid. ''Rhythm Science.'' Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.
  • Vaidhyanathan, Siva. ''Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity.'' New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Available at Allegra Print & Imaging:

  • Samuels, Edward. ''The Illustrated Story of Copyright.'' New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Syllabus | Resources | Student Work | Production Two Manual

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