Randall Packer | Course Information

Web Design

Introduction to Net Art & Culture

Syllabus - Fall, 2000
Graphic Design

Maryland Institute College of Art

Wednesday, 4:00 - 10:00 PM

Randall Packer, Instructor
office hours: Wednesday, 2 - 3 PM

Website: http://www.zakros.com/

On-line course information: http://davinci.mica.edu/~rpacker/ or

Class Projects

Course Description

Web Design is an introduction to technical, aesthetic, and critical skills integral to the creation and interpretation of internet art. Through the writings of artists, scientists, and theorists, and the work of contemporary net artists, we will examine issues surrounding internet culture: its history, evolution, and impact on art, society, and the human condition. Central to this study will be the identification of trends, issues, and key concepts critical to our understanding of the emerging contemporary net culture. The course will also focus on design strategies, tools and applications used in site production. We will apply this technique to the creation of new forms that are web-specific, as well as those that bridge virtual and physical space. Students are expected to produce net projects, a home page/on-line portfolio, independently research and critique net artworks, engage in class discussion (including on-line), and maintain a web notebook in which they will record and synthesize their reflections on net issues. A final project will consist of a site that explores the medium's potential as a vehicle for artistic and social transformation.

Week 1: Introduction (August 30)


    Review of course objectives, readings, assignments, and projects. Presentation of the emerging genre of net art including recent major exhibitions at ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Net_Condition, the Walker Art Center, Network Art Entertainment, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, 2000 Biennial Internet Art exhibition.


Authoring, HTML and hypertext (Macromedia Dreamweaver)
Project assignment: home page/portfolio

Week 2: Telematic Art (September 6)


History and evolution of communications technologies, the Internet, and the World Wide Web as an emerging artistic medium. Early telematic artworks and theoretical discussions by Nam June Paik, Roy Ascott, and Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz,



Web-specific graphics and image production (Adobe Photoshop and Imageready)

Week 3: Multi-user environments (September 13)


On-line multi-user environments, including MUDs, MOOs, and chat spaces, and their impact on social interaction, identity, and role-playing. LambdaMOO, one of the first MUDs created at Xerox PARC in 1991, as well as a recent multimedia environment, Pleasure Island, by Randall Packer and Jan Millsapps will be closely examined.


  • Work: Selection from socially-oriented Moos compiled by Rachel Rein.
  • Reading: "Constructions and Reconstructions of the Self in Virtual Reality," Electronic Culture, Sherry Turkle 1991


Layouts, frames and windows (Dreamweaver)

Week 4: Telepresence (September 20)


Definition: Telepresence is the extension of our physical and mental being into a remote space by means of telecommunications technologies. Presentation of the origins of telepresence in early forms of virtual reality and the further distribution of this concept via the web, through the work of Paul Sermon, Eduardo Kac, and Ken Goldberg. Take a look at CornCam and watch the corn grow or search for Webcams all over the world.



Typography and style sheets (Photoshop and Dreamweaver)

Week 5: The Integrated Datawork (September 27)


Internet methodologies, systems of connectivity, and tools such as data analysis, intelligent agents and database technologies are being adopted for artistic purposes. We will analyze recent work and theoretical discussion, focusing on the work of artists whose focus is the integrated datawork, including Victoria Vesna and the artist group C5.


  • Work: "16 Sessions," C5 and Joel Slayton (1998); 1:1, C5 and Lisa Jevbratt (1999); "Desktop IS," Alexei Shulgin
  • Reading: "16 Sessions," by Randall Packer; "Gesamtdatenwerk: Connectivity, Transformation and Transcendence," Roy Ascott, 1995


Critique of home page/portfolio assignment


Collective Memory: Constructing on-line narrative

Week 6: On-line Narrativity (October 4)


Hypermedia and networked technologies have created new opportunities for interactive narrative, story-telling and non-sequential on-line experience involving viewer participation. We will review early forms of networked writing by pioneering hyperfiction writers Mark Amerika and Michael Joyce.



Work on Collective Memory project

Week 7: On-line Narrativity (October 11)


We will look at the work of Zoe Beloff who is lecturing this evening as part of the visiting artists series at MICA. Her work explores the paranormal, communication with the dead, artifacts of the recorded "medium" that border on the inexplicable.


On the Turbulence site, Distance by Tina LaPorta by Tina Laporte, linear storytelling reflecting the alienation and distance of telematics and on-line culture. Annette Weintraub' s Crossroads, Film genre and the icons of the Times Square/42nd Street landscape converge in an exploration of the capacity of film to shape our sense of place. Crossroads creates a layered narrative space in which familiar elements of film and advertising culture are remixed in a series of pseudo films that blend personal myth and public space.


Complete 1st Phase of Collective Memory Project

Week 8: Deconstructing the User Interface (October 18)


Net artists are employing "low-tech" strategies that undermine conventional approaches to user interface design and interactivity. An introduction to European artists, including Jodi, Alexei Shulgin, and Vuk Cosik who are all associated with the on-line gallery Art.teleportacia, have constructed and deconstructed new forms using the raw material of html.



Read and Critique Collective Memory Project


Create a telematic manifesto! Due next week.

Week 9: The Telematic Manifesto (October 25)


Telemusic #1, a new on-line performance work by Randall Packer and Steve Bradley that explores the dissolution of virtual and physical space. The work incorporates telematic roles, our relationship to the Net, relevant to our discussion of the Telematic Manifesto.

A prototype Flash animation used in Telemusic #1, created by Christopher Styles, Andrew Bruntel, and Bionicbox.com. I want to invite everyone to participate in the performance: Friday, November 3rd, between 9:00 PM - 12:00 PM EST. Go to telemusic.org to participate and for information.


Work on Telematic Manifesto projects.

Week 10: Dynamic Media and Flash (November 1)


There will be student presentations showing examples of Flash that demonstrate new expressive opportunities for web artists and designers. This will be the beginning of presentations everyone will make covering a range of topics from new technologies to net artworks to web design projects.

Here is an extensive list of Flash sites.

Andrew Bruntel from Bionicbox will join the class at 7:00 PM to discuss his work in Flash, and projects they are working on at Bionicbox.


For those who haven't worked with Flash, go through the 8 tutorials that come with Flash. You can find them in the help menu of Flash.

Assignment (due November 15)

Create a Flash animation (no interactivity) that articulates an element of "horror" or "fear" – in the spirit of Halloween – using primarily graphics generated in Flash. This means primarily vector graphics: the lines, ovals, squares, texts created with Flash tools. You may incorporate found or generated bitmapped graphics created in Photoshop, but sparingly. You may also use sound.

This assignment is due the following week on November 8, when we regroup. Keep it very simple. Concentrate in the basic animating functions that control movement and dynamic change, ie., tweening, scale, rotate, color, opacity, etc.

Week 11: Dynamic Media and Flash (November 8)


Presentation and discussion of key concepts in the integration of Shockwave Flash, dynamic media, and html. We will view sites that incorporate Flash, discussing how dynamic media, including animation and sound can extend the possibilities for site design and net art.

Entropy8, winner of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Web Prize.

Flash demonstration from Hillman Curtis' "Flash Web Design: the Art of Motion Graphics," a New Riders Publication.


Final project - Mediation of Politics: Virtualization of the Collective Social Body

RTMARK - Voteauction


Work on "fear" Flash project.

Assignment (due Nov. 15)

Write a final project proposal for your web notebook, to be discussed next week in class.

Week 12: Flash and Sound (November 15)


Incorporating sound in Flash. Brief presentation of SoundEdit 16: editing and mixing sound files, resolution and file formats for export to Flash.

Presentation of "fear" projects.

Presentation of final project proposals.


Complete "fear" projects, incorporating sound.

Assignment (due by end of semester)

Critique the work of a Net artist. Select from among the artists listed in my Zero Gravity project, using the description of the artist as a starting point for your investigation. Include your critique in your web notebook, writing a summary of at least 300 words that includes links to the artist's site and works. If you do not wish to choose one of the artists in Zero Gravity, you may select one of your own. Please let me know first who you plan to critique.

Week 13: Sound and Media (November 29)


Everyone will join Tim Druckrey's class, Thinking Media, for my presentation "Composing With Media," from 4 to 6:30 in room 170B. I will be discussing the integration of music and the arts. Beginning with 19th century opera composer Richard Wagner's notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Artwork), the presentation will focus on the development of electronic sound and media during the 1950s and 1960s with the work of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Morton Subotnick, followed by concluding remarks on the music theater work of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass from the 1970s.


Regroup in 320B at 7:00 PM and work on final project.

Week 14: European Media Art (December 6)


Student-driven discussion and presentation of net artists and projects.


Presentation of advanced techniques, work on final project.

Week 15: Final Project (December 13)

Discussion and critique of final projects.

Assignments and Grading

Class Discussion and Presentation (25%)

Each student is required to participate in class discussion and present net projects for Student Topics sessions.

Web Notebook (10%)

A Web notebook is maintained throughout the semester. The notebook will serve as a personal journal containing position statements to readings, critique of artworks, and summaries of class discussion, etc. The notebook is a multimedia sketchbook, a place to develop your ideas, experiment with media technologies, and record your observations. The notebook will be graded on the basis of your ability to process and absorb key concepts introduced throughout the course. The notebook needs to be kept up on a regular basis and will be checked weekly throughout the course.


  • Weekly critique of readings and net artworks
  • Incorporate relevant images and links
  • overall concept + design

Homepage/portfolio Project (20%)

Each student will create a homepage/portfolio that serves as a presentation of their work, ideas and web-specific interests.


  • home page with well-conceived splash concept
  • list of works with images and descriptions
  • biography and photo
  • link to web notebook
  • overall concept + design
  • incorporate animation (gif or flash)

Midterm Project (20%)

A midterm project will focus on the use of dynamic media. Each student will create an animated, interactive project in the Flash format.

Final Project (25%)

A final project will consist of a full developed website that focuses on the net as a medium for aesthetic and social transformation. Students incorporate topics presented throughout the course.



Work will be stored on the class server. Zips will be needed to transport material home and for backup.

Internet Access

Everyone is required to have an e-mail account at MICA. You may also have an outside account, but all projects must be done on the MICA server.

Server Account

Accounts will be issued for students to use the class server. A password and user ID will give you access to the server either from the lab, anywhere on campus, or by dial-in from home or work.