Randall Packer - Course Information

Electronic Media and Culture

EA 210
Syllabus - Fall, 2003
Maryland Institute College of Art
Monday, 4:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Randall Packer, Instructor
Email: rpacker@zakros.com
office hours: TBA
Website: http://www.zakros.com/
On-line course information: http://www.zakros.com/mica/
EMAC technical support information
EMAC server info
EMAC General info


Course Description

Electronic Media and Culture is a broad overview of the tools, aesthetics, and cultural paradigms brought about through the application and integration of electronic media with art and design. Students will be introduced to an array of multimedia tools and techniques used in the production and authoring of graphics, text, animation, video and sound. The goal of the course is to develop practical and critical skills vital to the creation and interpretation of digital and electronic art forms.

Week 1 - 9/8


    Review of course objectives, assignments, and projects.

    Overview of the history of art and technology: Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality

    Introduction to media types: image, text, sound, video and animation. The course will cover basic techniques in working with the essential components of digital production, understanding their unique processes, methods of editing and manipulation, and strategies for creative application.

1. Digital Imaging – We will overview basic techniques in digital imaging in Photoshop: digitalization through various input processes including scanning and digital photography; resolution; sizing and positioning; and file formats. Glossary of terms.

Macintosh basics - The Macintosh operating system as it is used in digital production: file management; file and directory naming; directory paths; saving and backing up. Desktop example.

Assignment #1 : Media Transformations - The history of technology can be viewed as a continuous transformation of our culture and the way we interact in society. Communications technologies, media technologies, information technologies, machine technologies have all had impact on the quality and nature of our daily existence.

This assignment is to capture those transformations resulting from electronic media as a composite of photographic images. Over the next two weeks, we will collect images that reveal transformations resulting from media that are taking place all around us. These images can be of people, places, broadcast media, billboards, etc. The only requirement is that each image reveal how the electronic media has altered some aspect of the human or social condition as a result of its implementation and use.

Times Square collage

Week 2 - 9/15

1. Digital Imaging – We will continue with more advanced techniques in digital imaging including: layers and layer properties; moving images, adjusting color and light values; cloning and touchup; flattening and saving.

Wagner to Virtual Reality collage

Assignment #1 : Media Transformations - The second part of the assignment is to take your collection of images and create a collage, sequence or juxtaposition. It is up to you to decide how you want to layout your composite: the number of images, size, orientation, configuration, etc. It is important though that the result articulate your perspective on the transformative nature of technology. Utopian? Dystopian? Optimistic? Future as Blade Runner? This is your observation.

Previous example projects:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Artists whose work critiques media and the human/social condition.

Lynn Hershman - Phantom Limbs
Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway
Jenny Holzer - Truisms
William Gibson - Neuromancer

Sign up with Rhizome.org List, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1996 to provide an online platform for the global new media art community. The Rhizome.org community is geographically dispersed, and includes artists, curators, writers, designers, programmers, students, educators and new media professionals.

Reading: William Gibson, Academy Leader, pgs 267-271. Write a brief summary.

Week 3 - 4 - 9/22 + 9/29

1. Digital Imaging – We will continue techniques in digital imaging including: adjusting color and light values; cloning and touchup; flattening and saving.

Review of Mac Basics.

Discussion of Rhizome.org and William Gibson's Academy Leader.

Assignments :

US DAT Visitor Center - Prepare a short summary statement for next Monday. Here is the topic in two parts based on our discussion of the US Department of Art & Technology: (1) What is the role of the artist in society? (2) How can artists use new media to make probing commentary in our increasingly technological and global society? Your statements should be approximately 300 words.

Academy Leader - Prepare for discussion of the reading of William Gibson's Academy Leader. Summary is due.

Media Transformations - Work on projects: critique and presentation of completed works.

Week 5 - 10/6

2. Text – Introduction to text manipulation in Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator's vector graphics capability allows the manipulation of text as a graphic object, while retaining the ability to scale the object without loss or degradation (as is the case in Photoshop's rasterized imaging). We will cover the creation of text objects, paths and text aligning, transforming techniques, file formats, etc.

Assignment #2 : Media Avant-garde - During the early 20th century, the avant-garde, most notably such movements and schools as the Futurists, Dadaists, Constructivists, Bauhaus, de Stijl, and Surrealists, were interested in treating text as a graphic object to be manipulated, not limited to its literary connotation. In particular, El Lissitzky spoke of the potential for representing text as a dynamic medium, with the speed, movement and intensity of the modern age.

Now with such advanced tools as Illustrator, we have unprecedented control over text elements as expressions of meaning and dynamic shape. The assignment is to write a text as your own statement of revolutionary thought pertaining to digital media and how it is advancing artistic expression. Your design should reflect how you might imagine the representation of the digital medium through text elements: it's speed, virtuality, changeability, interactivity, and immersive qualities. The result is to be a printed poster "advertising" digital media as a revolutionary new medium for artists and designers.

Avant-garde texts and graphics.

Previous EMAC projects: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Contemporary Projects:

Mark Amerika - Grammatron, Phone:e:me
Plumb Design - Visual Thesaurus
Vuk Cosik - ASCII Art
Jodi - Jodi.org

Discussion of Gibson essay.

Week 6 - 10/13

2. Text – We will discuss text generation in Illustrator without paths, and various forms of manipulation and transformation.

Assignment #2 : Media Avant-garde - Project presentations

3. Sound – Introduction to sound production. We will overview basic techniques in recording, digitizing, editing, processing, and mixing digital audio.

For 10/27 - Assignment #3 : Sound Space- Such artists and composers as the Futurists, Edgard Varése and John Cage introduced the idea in the early 20th century that any sound could be used for compositional purposes, not just traditional ones played by musical instruments. They introduced percussion sounds, noises played by instruments, recorded sounds, and electronically generated ones.

For this assignment we will work with an assortment of recorded sounds. Construct a sonic narrative in which the resulting composition evokes an imaginary space. Sound when thought of as sculptural material, can be used to create virtual spaces that articulate a world that is fabricated from the processing and layering of sounds. This world can be violent, dream-like, loud, soft, but it expresses a representation or form in sound that is not possible through the image.

For 10/21 - Reading: John Cage, "Diary: Audience 1966," pgs 91 - 94. Write a brief summary.

Week 7 - 10/27

3. Sound – Advanced techniques in sound production including: special effects, filtering, changing tempo, etc.

Discussion of Cage reading.

Assignment #3 : Sound Space - Complete sound compositions.

Week 8 - 11/3

Sound Critique – Presentation of sound projects

4. Sound & Image – We will cover the essential techniques for constructing media projects that integrate image and sound using Sound Track.

Art, Media & Propaganda

We are surrounded by images and sound. Television, advertising, electronic billboards, all trying to convince us to buy a product, adopt a lifestyle, etc.

The foundation of a free society is its ability to receive information that is honest and unbiased. However, in this age of instant and global media, when corporations are vying for our attention, the information we receive is becoming increasingly saturated with more and complex forms of propaganda.

This assignment is intended as a critique of media propaganda by employing techniques of illusion for our own artistic purposes. Are artists so very different than corporate media specialists in our use of image and sound to convey our vision of the world. What is the difference?

This assignment will involve the creation of a 30 second TV ad on George W. Bush. The activist organization Moveon.org has initiated this campaign and you are welcome to apply. Information can be found on the Bush in 30 Seconds website where this is excellent information on the creation of political ads.

Your current assignment is to read the material at Moveon.org and prepare your ideas for class next week.

Movies can be constructed of found material on the web (graphics, animation, video), original graphics produced in Photoshop and / or Illustrator, and sound material. We will discuss this in class next week.


Week 9 - 11/10

Art, Media & Propaganda – Begin projects

Moveon Guidelines

Length: Ads should be no longer than 30 seconds.

MoveOn.org Voter Fund is a so-called section 527 political organization, and is prohibited from expressly advocating for the election or removal of specific candidates for federal elections. In other words, your ads can say lots of different things about George Bush and his administration, but you are not allowed to say that people should vote for or against him.

Respect for Existing Copyright: You must be the original author of everything in your ad or have permission to use copyright protected material. So while we want you to be creative, you need to be careful about what you put into the ad. If you're thinking about using existing music, video clips, photos or the like, odds are that someone else owns a copyright to that material and you will need to get the copyright owner's permission before using the material in your ad.

1. Choose/write/appropriate text for ad

The following is a set of content guidelines from Moveon:

1) Overall Impact: educational, informational, persuasive (weighted 40%);
2) Originality: concepts/ideas/format (weighted 20%);
3) Memorable Content and Delivery (weighted 20%); and
4) Clear Message (weighted 20%)

2. Gather and prepare images (photoshop/illustrator)
-- use google advanced image search or take photos
-- size to 320/240 (final ads need to be less than 4 megs)
-- save in .psd format
-- prepare texts on images
-- apply drop shadow / effects as needed

3. Edit movies (imovie)

-- import graphics
-- place on timeline
-- set duration / zoom in clip window
-- add transitions
-- add special effects

Format: Submissions will be accepted online ONLY in mpeg or Quicktime digital formats. Your ad needs to be 4MB or smaller in its final, encoded version. You'll be able to start posting submissions on this site beginning on November 24th through December 5th; online voting to pick the finalists will take place from December 15th through December 30th.

Week 10 - 11/17

Art, Media & Propaganda – Work on projects

Quicktime Settings

3. Export movie / sound from iMovie (see link for Quicktime for settings)

4. Sound Recording
- record voiceover in Sound Studio (sync with video for timing)
- use 44.1k 16 bit mono
- setup in Sound control panel for USB input
- importing music from CD (44.1k 16bit stereo
- use sound files if needed

5. Sound Mixing
- Import movie (including sound) into Sound Track
- Import additional sound files
- mix voiceover and other audio
- add effects

(it is possible to go back and forth several times between Sound Track and iMovie)

6. Additional editing in iMovie
- Export audio from Sound Track and bring back into iMovie
- Execute additional edits
- Export as quicktime.mov

7. Final Export
- Export final movie quicktime.mov
- See handout for compression and other settings
- Use mpeg-4 audio compression, 16bit 44.1 k mono or stereo

8. Presentation
- Use Quicktime Movie Player in Presentation mode for full screen

Week 11 - 11/24

Art, Media & Propaganda – Work on projects

Week 12 - 12/1

Art, Media & Propaganda – Present projects

5. Hypermedia – We will cover the essential techniques for constructing hypermedia environments in Dreamweaver: layout, integrating text and graphics, video, hyperlinks, etc.

Project: create a Web page that incorporates the Bush video ad. Give the video a title and include relevant information, description, and links.

Here is a simple example.

Reading: Lynn Hershman, "Fantasy Beyond Control" pgs 327 - 332. For discussion on 12/8

Week 13 - 12/8

Work on Web project.

Discussion of Lynn Hershman essay.

Week 14 - 12/15

Final Critique – Presentation of Web project and Rhizome Net Art News piece

Assignments and Grading

Readings and Discussion (20%)

Attendance (on time) is mandatory and will be incorporated into the grade. Each student is required to participate in class discussion focusing on readings and lectures.

Projects (40%)

Biweekly projects will be assigned focusing on the application of digital tools and techniques.

Final Project (40%)

A final project will consist of a hypermedia work that integrates all the media through the Web.


Required Reading

Multimedia : From Wagner to Virtual Reality, edited by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan, W.W. Norton, 2001. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com. Be sure and buy the paperback expanded edition.


Each student is required to store their work on zip cartridges or firewire drive.

Internet Access

Everyone is required to have an e-mail account. All written assignments will be handed in electronically by e-mail. Each student also has individual Web space for on-line assignments.

ADA Compliance

In MICA's efforts to provide the highest possible quality educational experience for every student, MICA maintains compliance with the requirements of the ADA and Section 504. Any student who has, or suspects he or she may have, a disability and wants to request academic accommodations should contact Dr. Kathryn Smith at the Learning Resource Center (443) 695-1384, (410) 225-2422, or e-mail ksmith@mica.edu immediately.