Open Source Culture Spring 10 - Outline

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

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

MCM 1700N: Open Source Culture: Art, Technology, Intellectual Property
Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
Spring 2010


 A quick intro courtesy of former TA Zack McCune (click here to watch the video):

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 1:30-2:30pm and by appointment
Campus Box : 1957
Web Site:

TA Information

Name: Claire Kwong
Email: Claire_Kwong AT brown DOT edu
Campus Box : 5219

Course description

Where do we draw the line between sampling and stealing? What does it mean to call a urinal a work of art? This course explores the tension between artistic appropriation and intellectual property law, and considers recent efforts to use open source software as a model for cultural production. We will trace a history of open source culture from Cubist collage and the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp through Pop art and found footage film to Hip Hop and movie trailer mashups. Students give presentations and produce media projects. Readings include Roland Barthes, Nicholas Bourriaud, Rosalind Krauss, and Paul D. Miller.

Course Meeting Times and Location

Wednesdays     10:00am-1:45pm

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 artistic appropriation, intellectual property law, open source software, and how these domains intersect in contemporary culture.
  2. Produce media art projects that respond aesthetically and conceptually to course material.
  3. Learn to critique art projects rigorously and constructively.


There are two course packets for Open Source Culture; both are available at Allegra. Please bring the relevant packet to class when discussions are scheduled on the syllabus, and be prepared to cite to the texts.


  • 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.

Lead Discussion on Readings

  • You will be responsible for leading discussion on several readings over the course of the semester
  • When one of the readings you are responsible for is due, coordinate with other students responsible for the week's readings to prepare questions or develop other strategies for facilitating a lively and rigorous discussion

Present an Open Source Culture Project

  • Two weeks before your presentation: Select an open source culture project, in consultation with the instructor, that exemplifies or otherwise relates to the themes explored in the class during which you will present.
  • Make a presentation on your selected project using Google Docs, add the project to the Mediography and include a link to your presentation.
  • Your presentation should be no more than 20 minutes long and should:
    • Make reference to relevant articles and/or other research;
    • Include not only detailed description but also interpretation and critical analysis of the work.

Collage Project: due February 17

  • Your first production assignment is to make a work of art using found images. The term collage may be construed loosely.
  • Document your project on the wiki and link to it from the student work page and from your personal wiki page.

Video Remix: due March 17 or 24

  • Your second production assignment is to make an art project using found footage.
  • Projects will be presented in class during critique: be sure you have your media ready to go!
  • Maximum duration = 5 minutes.
  • Your project must be available online.
  • Document your project on the wiki and link to it from the student work page and from your personal wiki page.

Group Project: due May 5

  • Collaborate with other students to produce an art project in any form or medium that demonstrates or exemplifies open source culture.
  • 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 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 only be taken S/NC. 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 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.

Course Application

Click here to complete the online course application.

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

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