Randall Packer - Course Information


Welcome to Electronic Media and Culture (EMAC)
Spring, 2004
Thursday, 4 - 10 pm, Bunting 330
Randall Packer, Instructor
course material: http://www.zakros.com/mica (click on Electronic Media and Culture)

This semester, we are experimenting with a new approach: the course and its syllabus will grow on-line as the semester unfolds. Students will have significant input into the evolution of the course. The main theme is "Communication as Art," a commentary on the impact of telematics in contemporary art and culture.

We will keep a weekly Web journal or blog as a workspace for projects.

Student projects

Week 13: April 22, 2004

Final Projects

We will spend the evening working on final projects.

Week 12: April 15, 2004

Final Projects

We will spend the evening working on final projects.

Week 11: April 8, 2004

New Techne: Scott Fisher, Keynote

Write a short summary and be prepared to discuss the lecture.

Week 10: April 1, 2004

Discussion : Final Projects

To review, your final projects will consist of the following:

home page with links to the following pages
-- bio page: a profile of yourself, short statement, photo, etc.
-- Web log: the web pages you have been working on all semester
-- portfolio page: includes digital images of works in any media, include photos, titles, and any other information you want to include
-- Flash piece: a work created in flash, or incorporating flash, that consists of an animation, sound + image, and interaction to convey a short narrative.
The project is due on Thursday, April 29th, and each student will present their final work in a class critique.

Flash : Animation and Sound

We will go over techniques used in the creation of Flash animation, looping movie clips, and sound.

Guest Lecturer: Dan Trachtman

Dan Trachtman, Web designer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, will discuss his on-line portfolio, as well as his interactive project created entirely in Flash. Dan will also introduce basic techniques in interactivity, the creation of buttons, and simple action scripts.

Assignment: Read Lynn Hershman's Fantasy Beyond Control; review the Web overview of Lynn's projects. Write a 500 word short paper discussing the work of Lynn Hershman and her techniques in interactivity. How does she use interaction in narrative? What kind of issues does she address in her work? How does she think media and telematics impacts the individual and society. How does she think media alters the way we communicate? These are some of the questions you should focus on in your paper. This is due the last day of class on Thursday, April 29th.

Next Week: We will not have class. Instead, I expect everyone to attend the New Techne symposium at the Brown Center, Thursday April 8. Events are the following:

-- Reception / DVD presentations from 5 - 7 (Brown Center lobby)
-- Keynote lecture by Scott Fisher at 7 pm (Brown Center auditorium)

Assignment: Write a 250 word summary of the event: How did the lecture and the DVD presentations address the idea of collaboration in the arts and sciences? What is the importance of collaboration in the creation of media art? What is your understanding regarding collaboration between the artist and the engineers, how do you see their roles in the process? These are some of the questions you can answer in your summary. They are due the following week on Thursday, April 15.

Week 9: March 25, 2004

Discussion : Telematic Narrativity

The Net presents opportunities for new narrative, using techniques of branching narrative, interactivity, linking, downloading, email, etc. Here are three examples of "classic" Net art.

Examples: My Boyfriend Came Home From the War by Olia Lianina; Grammatron by Mark Amerika; and Jodi.org by Jodi. Refer to my hyperessay, "Net Art: Theater of the Senses," on Jodi and Grammatron for background information.

Flash : Authoring software for creating Web-based animation and interactivity. We will overview basic techniques for creating graphics, text and simple animation, timeline, etc.

Examples: The Experimental Party, 'Anarchic Entertainment for the Nation' by Randall Packer;

Final Project: "My Telematic World:" - The net is a space for self expression, defining one's identity, self promotion, etc. First review the advanced Flash work of Dan Trachtman, Web designer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, who has created an on-line portfolio, as well as an interactive project created entirely in Flash. Think about how you might portray yourself, your work, creating a space that can be experienced only on the Net. The project includes a new home page / main interface, with links to your biography, examples of work, your EMAC blog, and an animated space created in Flash. If you like you can do the whole thing in Flash, or just elements. The assignment is due on April 29, our last class (I will be going the last week of school).

Reading Assignment: Lynn Hershman, Fantasy Beyond Control; review Web overview of Lynn's projects.

Week 8: March 11, 2004

Illustrator (Steph)

Week 7: March 4, 2004


Week 6: February 26, 2004

Discussion : Telemusic Collage

Think of the Internet as a vast repository of media, including sound. How could these sounds be brought together compositionally, as we have already done with images?

A work by Peter Traub, "Bits & Pieces," explores the idea of music composed of sounds stored on the Web. A quote from his Thesis Paper: "Media technology, especially as we know it today, has created a world in which images and sounds can easily be disconnected from their original source. Furthermore, they can be fragmented, spliced and reconstituted to such a degree as to often blur the distinction between original source and reproduction, as is evidenced by the increasingly realistic digital effects used in most of today's action and science fiction movies. This, compounded with the advent of the Internet, has created an environment and a medium with almost unlimited artistic possibilities."

How can we apply techniques of collage to the sound medium? The idea is very similar: audio samples are taken out of context, mixed, remixed and reconstituted as an original composition. We can create layers of sound, they can be stretched, slowed down, sped up, played backwards, given new ambience (reverb), distributed across the stereo field (pan). There are many ways to alter sound in time and space.

This is a work by the French composer Edgard Varese, one of the early pioneers of electronic and experimental music: Poéme Électronique. In this piece he collages found sounds (bells, children, etc.), with electronic modification and synthesized sounds.

Sound Composition in Soundtrack

We will cover the basics of sound editing, processing, mixing, and exporting to quicktime for playback on the Web.

Entry # 6: Telemusic Remix

Go to Sounddogs, conduct a search with a keyword of your choice, download several sounds that come up with the search, and then mix/remix the sounds to create a sonic portrait based on the keyword. How might the sounds be removed from their original context? How might new narrative context be superimposed? These are ideas to consider as you develop your piece.

Once you have completed the sound piece, embed the file in your Weblog. Use this scripting as a model:

<embed src="poeme.mp3" width="200" height="32" autoplay="false"></embed>

Midterm Critique

Next week, March 4, we will have a midterm critique summing up our study of telematics and artistic mediation. I want everyone to give a 10 minute presentation of your Weblog, discussing the issues you have explored in your projects, how you have approached them, and any technical and aesthetic ideas you want to share related to your work. You might want to emphasize two or three entries that best convey your intrepation of the assignments. It is critical that everyone has completed all the entries so that I can assess a grade.

Week 5: February 19, 2004

Discussion: Artistic Mediation Through Telematics

The art collective Josh On and FutureFarmers created the piece, They Rule, which was selected for the 2002 Whitney Biennial exhibition. The project uses the net to expose the ruling class of corporate America: who are the CEOs, what are their connections, how are corporations linked to one another by wealthy businesspeople. The interconnections of information contained on the Web reveals these reletionships and the viewer can research and learn about them via telematics.

How does this project function as an act of artistic mediation?

Animation in ImageReady

We will review the technique of gif animation in Imageready. Here you can create simple animations using Photoshop layers. They are useful for small Web graphics that bring dynamic movement to the page, as opposed to the static quality of graphics.

The idea is simple: each frame of the animation corresponds to one or more layers. You turn the visibility of layers on or off with each frame, indicating speed, transitions, and whether or not the entire animation will loop.

The animation is then optimized as a .gif file and output for the Web. This technique does not work well with large, complex images and animations.

Entry #5 : Telematic Remix

Pick a topic (such as an issue, idea, concept) and a conduct a Google image search. Download images and construct a narrative that alters the original intent or meaning of the images. You may add text to help articulate your narrative. Create a gif animation from the resulting images and place on your site. You can add additional commentary to the animation on the Web page.

Week 4: February 12, 2004

Discussion: Telemusic

We will discuss how artists are using telematic devices, such as the cel phone, to create interactive artworks. Golan Levin, Dialtones: a Telesymphony is an example of a work that transforms the obnoxious sounds of the cel phone into a musical performance played by artist and audience alike.

Compositing in Photoshop

A discussion of layers, blends, opacity, feathering and compositing.

The blending mode specified in the options bar controls how pixels in the image are affected by a painting or editing tool. It's helpful to think in terms of the following colors when visualizing a blending mode's effect:
• The base color is the original color in the image.
• The blend color is the color being applied with the painting or editing tool.
• The result color is the color resulting from the blend.

See Photoshop help for blend descriptions.

Popup windows in Dreamweaver

The popup window is a java behavior in Dreamweaver that allows you to size a new window and determine the attributes of the window itself (location, buttons, etc.). Place a # symbol in the link window and then select from Behaviors "Open Window." Then fill out the attributes.

Discussion: Artistic Mediation

1. Definition

act n. The process of doing or performing something; One of the major divisions of a play or opera. artistic adj. Of or relating to art or artists; Sensitive to or appreciative of art or beauty. mediation n. The act of mediating; intervention.

2. Statement

The “Act of Artistic Mediation” involves the insertion of art and the artists’ voice into the larger cultural dialogue for the purpose of mediating or intervening in the forces of social and political events. It is an act of art which employs any form of artistic media, embodies any artistic genre or form, bridges any combination of artistic disciplines, in order to visualize new ideas, concepts, and models that form a foundation for alternative and visionary modes of conduct.

Entry # 4: Artistic Mediation continued...

Pick a current event or issue: Iraq War, 2004 National Election, Terrorism, Gay Marriage, National Security, Civil Rights, Patriotism, etc., and conceputalize an act of artistic mediation. Download an image or take a photograph, and modify the image in order to visually illustrate how you will confront the issue in your conceputal project. This project is carried out in the spirit that artists really can make a difference in the world by giving new perspective not considered by government officials, politicians, press, political scholars, etc. How can the artist perspective shed new light on contemporary issues?

Example: The Experimental Party by Randall Packer

Take a look at my project entitled the Experimental Party, "Anarchic Entertainment (click on the button on the left side of the home page). This is a flash project that will introduce to you to examples of artistic mediation confronting such issues as: corporate control of media, future of democracy, homeland insecurity, etc, and how art can express forms of parody, humor, and satire in order to view these issues in a different way.

Week 3: February 5, 2004

Discussion: Telematic Images

Critique of images captured during the week. How does each image evoke the impact of telematics? We will explore the many perspectives of the class to better understand social transformation being brought about through the pervasive influence of telematic devices in our lives and in our relationships with others. We will use this discussion as a springboard for advancing our blogs, raising important issues in the broader context of telematics, such as how telematics mediates and changes our view of reality, our engagement with others, the nature of our social activity, the speed with which we conduct our lives, attention span, and perhaps most importantly, how emerging forms of telecommunications can be channeled into artistic thinking and expression.

Continue and complete work on Entry #3. I will give individual critiques of student work, providing feedback on the quality of analytical aspects, how each student confronts and develops specific issues; quality of design, layout, and presentation of information.

Uploading Web documents:

• Host: digital.mica.edu
• Folder: spring/emac/ea210h
• User id: portal ID
• Password:  portal password
• Website: digital.mica.edu/spring/emac/ea210h/portalID/

Web access:


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

Assignments for week 4:

Entry #4: Artistic Mediation
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 insert your artistic voice by revealing these transformations through a composite of imagery. 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. Our objective is to use techniques of collage to heighten our awareness of the the transformations. The goal is for the composited image to reveal how the electronic media has altered some aspect of the human or social condition as a result of its implementation and use.

Examples of previous students:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The work of media artist Lynn Hershman:

Phantom Limbs

Week 2: January 29, 2004

Roy Ascott, Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace
(pg 333), Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality, required text for the course

At the level of the interface, content is created rather than just received. Changing paradigm of the artwork as fluid, collaborative and non-fixed. The viewer participates in the production of a "global vision" through networked interaction with other minds, other sensibilities, other sensing and thinking systems across the planet.

Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs

In a telematic work based on communications, what is the content?

Kit Galloway & Sherry Rabinowitz: Hole in Space

Meaning is the product of interaction between the user and the system, a state of flux change, and transformation. The observer "negotiates" the meaning by becoming a participant.

Mark Napier: The Shredder

Instead of the artwork as a window on to a composed, resolved and ordered reality, we have at the interface a doorway to undecidability, a datasphere of semantic and material potentiality (the meaning emerges and clarifies itself in the process of interacting).

But the very ease of transition from "reality" to "virtuality" will cause confusion in culture, in values, and in matters of personal identity... The issue of content in the planetary art of this emerging telematic culture is therefore the issue of values, expressed as transient hypotheses rather than factualities, tested within the immaterial, virtual, hyper-realities of dataspace.

Randall Packer: US Department of Art & Technology

In summary:

"The technology of computerized media and telematic systems is no longer to be viewed simply as a set of rather complicated tools extending the range of painting and sculpture, performed music, or published literature. It can now be seen to support a whole new field of creative endeavor that is as radically unlike each of those established artistic genres as they are unlike each other. A new vehicle of consciousness, of creativity and expression, has entered our repertoire of being. While it is concerned with both technology and poetry, the virtual and the immaterial as well as the palpable and concrete, the telematic may be categorized as neither art nor science, while being allied in many ways to the discourses of both. The further development of this field will clearly mean an interdependence of artistic, scientific, and technological competencies and aspirations and, urgently, on the fomulation of a transdisciplinary education."

Entry #2:
Document and describe a telematic experience you have during the week and then post it on your site. Include a photograph by downloading it using a search based on keywords from your entry. The World Wide Web is a vast database and repository for images, which can be retrieved using search methodologies. The function of searching is here conducted as a creative exercise in discovering relationships between text and image as revealed by the mechanism of the search engine.

Review techniques for image search with Google.

Review basic terminology for imaging: Glossary of terms
Image formats for the Web: jpeg, gif

Image placement in Dreamweaver.

Assignments for week 3:

Entry #3:
Write a response to the Roy Ascott article, discussing his view of telematics and how it is changing the way we express ourselves creatively. For this entry, take your own photograph with a digital camera of someone (or a group) engaged in a telematic exchange that illustrates your response.

Week 1: January 22, 2004

Art & design is about communication, the expression of ideas. Multimedia is the multi-sensorial transmission of ideas that dissolves the distinction between media and between disciplines. Electronic media allows an immediacy of this transmission that collapses time and space.

How does the artist transform the act of communication, the immediacy of the “telematic embrace,” the sensorial nature of multimedia into artistic expression?

Here we will learn to bring the 24/7 nature of contemporary communications into the realm of art? When is communication more than just an exchange between individuals and when does it become art?

Topic for discussion: How has telematics entered into and impacted contemporary culture?
What is telematics?

"It involves the technology of interaction among human beings and between the human mind and artificial systems of intelligence and perception. The individual user of networks is always potentially involved in a global net, and the world is always potentially in a state of interaction with the individual."
– Roy Ascott

Forms of telematic communications: email, blogs, im, cel phone, blackberry, pda’s, television, satellite/cable tv, etc.

How has telematics impacted your life? How has it changed your relationship with friends, family, boyfriend/girlfriend? How has it changed your view of the world, the way you think about other cultures, countries, world events? Do you communicate more often? Do you multi-task when you communicate? Are you more isolated? Do you engage in social activity more often?

How might telematics be introduced into your work as an artist and/or designer? How might communications function as art in your own work? How might communications be used as a form of expression? How might communications reveal something meaningful about the human condition? How might communications become another "material" in your work?

Throughout the semester, we will post weekly Web entries that will serve as a record of your understanding of telematics and how it applies to artistic practice. We will begin with text only and then gradually incorporate images, sound, video, animation, and interactivity. Applications will include: Dreamweaver (html), Photoshop, Imageready, Illustrator (graphics) Soundstudio, Soundtrack (sound), Flash (animation, interactivity).

Assignment (Entry #1): describe the most interesting telematic experience or observation you have ever had. Do you have friends who you only know through email? Do you have a favorite blog? Do you have someone who you particularly enjoy communicating with via telematics, that you consider a very creative exchange? Has the use of telematics ever horrified you? Amazed you?

(1) Write an approximately 200 word description in your notebook (2 pages); (2) Type the descriptions into a word document; (3) Print them out in the lab; (4) Share them in class; (5) Email them to me; (6) Enter them into a dreamweaver html document; (8) Add links wherever appropriate (no images!); (9) Use basic text formatting (css later); (7) Upload to the web

Examples of telematics in contemporary culture:

Politics: Howard Dean campaign blog
Media: Independent Media
Government: White House Website
Media Arts: Rhizome Net Art Resource
Cultural Record: Internet Archive
Entertainment/Music: Apple’s iTunes

Assignments for week 2:
Roy Ascott, Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace
(pg 333), Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality, required text for the course

Entry #2:
Document and describe a telematic experience you have during the week and then post it on your site. Include a photograph by downloading it or taking your own image with a digital camera.