Randall Packer - Course Information

Electronic Media and Culture

Syllabus - Fall, 2001
Foundation, Maryland Institute College of Art

Monday, 4:00 - 10:00 PM

Randall Packer, Instructor
office hours: TBA
Website: http://www.zakros.com/

On-line course information: http://www.zakros.com/mica/

EMAC technical support information

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. 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 (August 27)

    Review of course objectives, assignments, and projects.

    Introduction to media types: image, text, sound, video and animation. The first half of 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 - Each week we will also cover basic aspects of the Macintosh operating system as it is used in digital production. This week we will cover: 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.

Week 2 (September 10)

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.

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.

Reading: Selections from William Gibson's Neuromancer (first three paragraphs, the last includes the very first use of the word 'cyberspace'); and William Mitchell's e-topia (Information, Infrastructure, and Opportunity from Chapter 1).

Week 3 (September 17)

1. Special Topic – In light of the recent attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, we will spend an additional week on imaging, creating a project the confronts the exploitation of terrorism in the media. We will create a collage using images I have downloaded from the Web, or you may gather on your own. The purpose of the assignment is to show how the image, as distributed through electronic media, can be used as a weapon. The assignment is due next Monday and we will explore the idea of a class exhibition soon after.

See the full topic description below:

Terrorism and Media

Week 4 (September 24)

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 can imagine the representation the digital medium through text elements: it's speed, virtuality, changeability, interactivity, and immersive qualities. The requirement is to use only text, no images. The result is to be a printed poster "advertising" digital media as a revolutionary new medium for artists and designers.

Week 5 (October 1)

2. Text – We will discuss outputting Illustrator files for print: color, resolution, settings, etc.

Assignment #2 : Media Avant-garde - Completion of posters.

Week 6 (October 8)

3. Sound – Introduction to sound production in SoundEdit 16. We will overview basic techniques in recording, digitizing, editing, processing, and mixing digital audio.

Assignment #3 : Sound Habitat - Such composers as 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 collect found "sound" objects, collected in your apartment or house and its surroundings. Any sound that you think might be interesting in the sonic reconstruction of where you live. No musical instruments or recorded music! Just those that you record, such as: ambient sounds (traffic out the window, people talking in the next room, someone cooking in the kitchen, etc.); sounds that you compose (such as banging a pan, vocal sounds, walking, running, etc.). The resulting composition should be a portrait of your everyday life and habitat through sound.

Week 7 (October 15)

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

Assignment #3 : Sound Habitat - Complete sound compositions.

Week 8 (October 22)

Midterm Critique – Present your sound project and one other project.

Week 9 (October 29)

4. Animation – Introduction to vector animation in Flash. Overview of basic animation techniques: the creation of vector-based graphical objects and text, keyframes, layering, motion 'tweening, etc.

Assignment #4 : Vision in Motion - The response to technology in the early 20th Century was to embrace the forward-leaning possibilities of machine aesthetics, geometric shapes, and the illusion of these elements moving in space. This was often referred to as the space-time continuum, when many artists were interested in new scientific ideas related to the 4th dimension. Among the artists who pursued these possibilities, were László Moholy-Nagy and Kazimir Malevich, as well as the film animator Oskar Fischinger, all of whom were interested in the composition of visual media in time.

In this assignment, we will explore the space-time continuum, the relationship between time and space, by creating simple animations that spatialize geometrical shapes in temporal trajectories. We will not only be composing shapes and their juxtaposition, but also composing the elements of time. The result of the project will be an animation that we will export for playback in Flash and video formats.

Week 8 (October 29)

4. Animation – Saving animation files for integration with Flash, video and the Web.

Week 9 (Nov. 5)

Assignment #4 : Vision in Motion - Complete animations.

Week 10 (November 12)

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

Assignment #5 : Telematic Identity - Everyone who uses the Net has as a result formed new ideas about identity, and communication with others. It is inescapable. The Net is changing everything around us: our sense of self, the way we communicate, and the way we make art.

For this project, I want everyone to analyze or possibly even fabricate their own telematic identity in the form of a home page. How do you think of yourself in relation to the medium? Are you Utopian, with grand aspirations for the future of the medium? Are you a Luddite, with great skepticism about the dangers of where the Internet is leading us? Are you a Lurker, who likes to roam anonymously about the Net? Are you an Anarchist, who wishes to undermine established hierarchies from politics to aesthetics? Are you a Hacker, with a desire to write subversive code?

Construct a home page that includes a photo of yourself (it can be modified in Photoshop), a personal description / bio, links to sites that you frequent, and anything else that articulates your perspective of the networked world.

Week 11 (November 19)

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

Assignment #5 : Telematic Identity - Work on projects.

Week 12 (November 26)

5. Hypermedia – Continue work on final projects.

Week 13 (December 3)

5. Hypermedia – Continue work on final projects.

For the final Critique, we will prepare the following:

  • Present your Hypermedia work
  • Write a 250 word brief summary of your Telematic Identity and how it is expressed through your project (due on the 11th)
  • Lead a brief Q & A discussion with the class

Week 14 (December 10)

    6. Hypermedia - Final Critique

Assignments and Grading

Projects (50%)

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

Final Project (50%)

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



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

Internet Access

Everyone is required to have an e-mail account. All written assignments will be handed in electronically by e-mail. An e-mail listserve will be used for class discussion and announcements.