Randall Packer - Course Information

Electronic Media and Culture

EA 210 B
Syllabus - Fall, 2001
Maryland Institute College of Art
M 225 - Main Building
Monday, 4:00 - 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

Teaching Instructor - Dina Mussano

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 - (September 9)

    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 - 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 (September 16)

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.

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 247 - 251. Write a brief summary.

Week 3 (September 23)

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.

Assignment #1 : Media Transformations - Work on projects: critique and presentation of completed works.

Week 4 (September 30)

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.

Contemporary Projects:

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

Week 4 (October 7)

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

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

Reading: F.T. Marinetti, "Futurist Cinema," pgs 10 - 15. Write a brief summary.

Week 5 (October 14)

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

For 10/21 - Assignment #3 : Sound Habitat - 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 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.

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

For 10/21 - Listening: " Luigi Russolo (Futurists), "Risveglio di una Citta; Edgard Varèse; Poéme Électronique; John Cage, Cartridge Music. Write a brief summary explaining how these composers have transformed noises and electronic sounds into musical composition.

Week 6 (October 28)

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

Discussion of Cage reading.

Assignment #3 : Sound Habitat - Complete sound compositions.

Week 7 (November 4)

Midterm Critique – Present your sound project and Rhizome Net Art News presentation.

Week 8 (November 11)

Complete Midterm Critique – Present your sound project and Rhizome Net Art News presentation.

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.

Reading: László Moholy-Nagy, "Theater, Circus, Variety," pgs 22 - 26. Write a brief summary.

Week 9 (November 18)

4. Animation – Work on "Vision in Motion" projects.

Week 10 (November 25)

4. Animation – Work on and complete "Vision in Motion" projects.

Week 11 (December 2)

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

Assignment #5 : Virtual Parody- The Web has extended the opportunities for copying, appropriating, sampling, and synthesizing material. Much satirical and political work on the Web has taken advantage of this, such as the Department of Art & Technology, or other projects that explore the possibilities for social commentary in the on-line environment.

Everyone will create a project that explores social commentary in the form of parody and satire through Net-based appropriation and transformation.

To carry out your satirical project, you will create the home page (plus some internal pages) of a fictitious Website by designing and constructing its contents based stylistic qualities derived from the corporate, political, or entertainment world.

You may choose to exaggerate the positivist message of the original site, thus exaggerating its original intent, or you may find it appropriate to present your satire as shamelessly evil and conspiring, and making no effort to disguise its real intent, your site may suggest an absurd or useless message or product.

You will design logos, banners, buttons, etc. as you see fit. You may choose to portray your site with elements that convey realism, or blur reality and fiction, or perhaps portray unabashed mockery of corporate culture, politics, and greed.

The project will be due on the last day of class, December 16th.



US Department of Art & Technology
The White House
The White House
George Bush


Britney Spears


The Onion



Search Engines

Hasta la Vista Engine

Reading: Lynn Hershman, "Fantasy Beyond Control," pgs 299 - 305. Write a brief summary.

Week 12 (December 9)

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

Assignment #5 : Virtual Parody - Work on projects.

Week 14 (December 16)

5. Hypermedia – Final Critique

For the final Critique, we will prepare the following:

  • Present your Virtual Parody project
  • Write a 250 word brief summary about your project and how it uses the tools and processes of new media to comment on contemporary issues
  • Lead a brief Q & A discussion with the class

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.


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.