Open Source Culture Spring 07 - Outline

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

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

MC170.08: Open Source Culture: Art, Technology, Intellectual Property
Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
Spring 2007


Instructor Information

Name: Mark Tribe
Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Modern Culture and Media
Email: mark_tribe AT brown DOT edu
Office phone: 401 863-7886
Office Location: 155 George Street, Room 101
Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:00pm - 4:00pm, or by appointment
Campus Box: 1957
Web Site:

Course Meeting Times and Location

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

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. We will study key concepts in intellectual property law (copyright, fair use, and copyleft) and consider various modes of appropriative artistic practice, including collage, found object sculpture (readymades), audio remixes, and found footage film/video. Assignments include readings, research, presentations, and art projects.

Course Goals

  1. Develop an understanding of artistic appropriation, intellectual property law, open source software, and how these domains intersect in contemporary culture.
  2. Discover ways to respond artistically to course material using new media tools.
  3. Develop an informed and carefully considerd position regarding appropriation and intellectual property.
  4. Learn to critique art projects rigorously and constructively.


  1. Presentation. Give an in-class presentation on an artist or art work related to the topic of the class in which you present. Select your artist/work in consultation with the instructor. Presentations should be approximately 20 minutes long and should involve some kind of media support (Web sites, video, PowerPoint, etc.--but no bullet points!). Dates and topics are as follows, two presentations per class (sign up below and on syllabus):
    • 2.14: Appropriation: Deborah and Davis
    • 2.28: Found Sound: David and Kiera
    • 3.7: Found Footage: Sonya and Joey
    • 3.14: From Free Software to Open Source Software: Matt and Quint
    • 4.4: Copyleft: Christina and Meg
  2. Found Images/Found Objects. Due Feb 21: Make an art project using either found images or readymade objects for exhibition in a gallery in List. Collaborate with other students to organize, promote, and install the exhibtion. Guidelines:
    • Found image works must be wall-mounted and can occupy up to nine square feet of wall space;
    • Found object works must stand (or be scattered or otherwise placed) on the floor and can occupy up to nine squre feet of floor space;
    • Readymade objects are, by definition, products of human production.
  3. Audio/Video Remix. Due March 21: Make an art project using found sound and/or found footage. Maximum duration = 5 minutes.
  4. Group Project. Collaborate with other students to produce an art project in any form or medium that demonstrates or exemplifies open-source culture. Deadlines as follows:
    • Pitch. Due April 10: Pitch a group project idea to the class. Media support is required. Maximum duration = 5 minutes.
    • Group Project Mediography. Due Tue April 17: Compile a list of readings and art works that are relevant to your group project.
    • Presentation. Due April 25: Present your project to the class for critique.
  5. Open Project. Due May 11: This can be a new independent project or a revision or extension of a previous independent or group project.

Nota bene: Art projects are considered complete when they have been documented on the Student Work page of this wiki. Add a thumbnail image of your work and the title of your work to the Student Work page, and link from the title of your project to your personal page. For each assignment, your personal page should contain, at a minimum, the following:

  1. Your name;
  2. The title of you project;
  3. Images, audio, video, links, or other appropriate documentation of your project;
  4. A statement that describes your project and sheds light on your intentions and, if relevant, your process.

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.


This course may be taken for a grade or S/NC. Student performance will be assessed in the following areas:

  1. Participation in class meetings;
  2. Demonstrated engagement with readings, screenings, and other course materials;
  3. Individual production projects;
  4. Active participation in and successful completion of a group project;
  5. 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 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.

A Note on Technical Skills

The emphasis in this course is not on technical mastery but on understanding new media technologies as tools and sites for creative cultural practice. Some students will come to the course with advanced new 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 new media 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 | Texts | Student Work | Production Two Manual

Enter labels to add to this page:
Please wait 
Looking for a label? Just start typing.