Randall Packer | Course Information

Web Design

Introduction to Net Art & Culture

Syllabus - Spring, 2001
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 Syllabus: http://www.zakros.com/mica

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 (January 17)

Review of course objectives, readings, assignments, and projects. Presentation of the emerging genre of net art: works that exploit the political, aesthetic, subversive, and poetic possibilities of the medium.

Search Voyeur - The collective consciousness of the Net.
Light on the Net - Collective, distributed sculpture.
The Shredder - Deconstruction on the Net.

  Reading: "Net Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction," David Ross, Director, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (on-line)

Week 2: Telematic Art (January 24)
  History and evolution of communications technologies, the Internet, and the World Wide Web as an emerging artistic medium. Early telematic artworks by Nam June Paik and Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, and the first pioneering Internet works by Douglas Davis, "World's Longest Collaborative Sentence" (1994); Antonio Muntadas, "The File Room" (1994); and Jenny Holzer, "Please Change Beliefs" (1995)
  Apropriating images and text in Netscape; introduction to HTML; integrating and hyperlinking image and text in Dreamsweaver; ftp documents to the MICA server
  Project: Hypermediated construction.
Reading: "Presenting Information," Jeff Raskin

Week 3 : Information Architecture (January 31)
  Techniques and aesthetic tools for the organization of Web-based content and interface issues beyond the graphical. Hypermediated architectures present a unique set of design problems and understanding of how to communicate specific to the medium of the Web. As an example, we will use my site, "Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality," commissioned by Intel's Artmuseum.net, as a case study.

Layout in Dreamweaver: tables, graphics, and hypertextual strategies.

Work on hypermediated project.

  Begin on-line portfolio project: sketch site map/architecture on paper, work on page layouts, hierarchies, and interactivity. Complete hypermediated project.

Week 4 : Telematic Connections (February 7)
Presentation On-line
  I will be attending the opening of Telematic Connections, which my installation work Mori, and hypertext project Telematic Manifesto are a part of. I will not be giving a lecture that day. Chris and Andy will hold lab sessions. Use this time to work on "telematic connections" assignment (see below).

Web-specific graphics and image production. Understanding the application of compression standards such as jpeg and gif (Photoshop), optimizing files for gif (ImageReady), incorporating graphics for Web authoring and imagemapping. (Dreamweaver).

Complete hypermediated project.


Writing: I want everyone to review the site for Telematic Connections, write a short synopsis of what is intended by the theme "telematic connections, as well as critiquing one piece in depth, and email it to me.

Reading: "Introduction: The Unique Phenomenon of a Distance", The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet, edited by Ken Goldberg

Begin work on on-line portfolio in Dreamweaver.

Week 5 : Telepresence (February 14)
  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 forms of virtual reality and the further distribution of this concept via the web, through the work of Paul Sermon (Telematic Vision, 1993), Eduardo Kac (Teleporting an Unknown State, 1994), Lynn Hershman (Tillie the Telerobotic Doll, 1997), Ken Goldberg (Telegarden, 1995), and Randall Packer and Ken Goldberg (Mori, 1999) all of whom are part of the Telematic Connections show. Take a look at CornCam and watch the corn grow or search for Webcams all over the world.

Typography and cascading style sheets. (Dreamweaver)

  Complete on-line portfolio.

Week 6 : Critique (February 21)
  On-line Portfolio critique.

Animated/dynamic graphics: gif animation in Photoshop and Imageready; rollovers in Dreamweaver.


Reading: "The Net and the Art of Being Fictive," by Sheldon Renan

Week 7 : On-line Narrativity (February 28)
  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 forms of networked writing by pioneering hyperfiction, including Olia Lialina's "My Boyfriend Came Back From the War," Mark Amerika's "Grammatron," and Natalie Bookchin's The Intruder.

Dynamic media: Slicing techniques in Imageready. Rollovers and animation. Image mapping and hyperlinks.

  Begin narrative project: Beyond the Landscape

Week 8 : On-line Narrativity Continued (March 7)
  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. In preparation of Mark Amerika's visit next week, we will look at another of his works, Phone:E:me, featured on-line at the Walker Art Center's Gallery 9, that he describes as, "the random or arbitrary nature of the various elements at the users' control is intentional so that they too can "conduct" a "remix" to their own liking." Refresh, by Diller + Scofidio explores the quotidian nature of the webcam, transformed into fictional narrative.

Work on narrative projects.

  Continue narrative projects.

Week 9 : On-line Narrativity Continued (March 14)

Attend Mark Amerika lecture, Monday, March 12 at 4:00 PM at the Mount Royal Station Auditorium. Write a summary of the presentation for your Web notebook.

In class we will have a short discussion of the Amerika lecture followed by individual sessions focusing on your narrative projects and sites.


Work on narrative projects


Complete narrative projects.

Week 10 : Critique (March 21)
  Critique of Narrative Project. I am basing your evaluation not only on your work, but your ability to discuss your work with your colleagues. It is my hope that this will encourage in-depth discussion on various issues inherent in web design, as well as give you an opportunity to formulate your ideas on your work, thought process, etc.

Finish narrative project.



Week 11 : Deconstructing the User Interface (April 4)

Go over the final project: Telematic Identities.

What is user interface? We will review the work of Alan Kay, creator of the graphical user interface, from my site on the history of multimedia.

Net artists are employing various strategies that undermine conventional approaches to user interface design and interactivity. An introduction to European artists, including Jodi and Alexei Shulgin who are all associated with the on-line gallery Art.teleportacia, have constructed and deconstructed new forms using the raw material of html. Mark Napier is using customized browsers to undermine the conventions of interface and interactivity in such works as The Shredder.


Flash (programming techniques, animation, etc.)


Begin final project

Summary of Alan Kay's work with the graphical user interface for the Web notebook.

Week 12: Politics and Subversion (April 11)

Presentation of final project summaries: Telematic Identity.

The Web, as a medium of mass commication, has been a vehicle for grass-roots art/political action on a global scale. Chief among these artist/activists are RTMARK, a loosely-knit group from San Francisco who pitch their services as "Corporate Counseling for the 21st Century," have created and exhibited sites that have, for example, brought such companies as Etoy to their knees for wielding power over vulnerable artists.

Other sites to explore:

Hell.com - "HELL.COM has been private since 1995 and has absolutely nothing to do with theology, religion, cults, adult content, entertainment, or art."

Mongrel - Mongrel is a mixed bunch of people, machines and intelligences working to celebrate the methods of London street culture. We make socially engaged culture, which sometimes means making art, sometimes software, sometimes setting up workshops, or helping other mongrels to set things up.

We do this by employing any and all technological advantage that we can lay our hands on. Some of us have dedicated ourselves to learning technological methods of engagement, which means we pride ourselves on our ability to program, engineer and build our own software, while others of us have dedicated ourselves to learning how to work with people. Mongrel sets up strategic alliances to expand and contract. Sometimes fifty mongrels work on a project, sometimes one.



Flash continued. Work on final projects.


Continue work on final project.

Week 13 : Telematic Architectures (April 18)
  The Net has yielded new aesthetic opportunities for designing new architectural structures and human interactions that are no longer constrained by conventional notions of time and place. Just as the early pioneers, such as Galloway and Rabinowitz discovered the "hole in space" through telematic connections, the globally connected World Wide Web has expanded the opportunity for extending the sensorial realm into virtual space. We will look at the work of pioneering artist Myron Krueger, whose responsive environments such as Videoplace (1970) were among the first to network human interaction in electronic space; Michael Naimark's "Aspen Movie Map" from 1979, which allowed interaction with videodisc mappings dubbed surrogate travel; cyberpunk science fiction writer William Gibson, coinced the word cyberspace in 1984 in order to give literary definition to the hubs and routers that transported data; self-proclaimed wizard Pavel Curtis took up world building, creating a new kind of social space on-line known as MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons); trans-architect Marcos Novak has constructed what he calls "liquid architectures," habitable spaces in virtual space.

Advanced techniques (TBA).

  Continue final project.

Week 14 : Summary (April 25)
  Wrap-up discussion of course and final projects.

Work on final projects.

  Complete final project.

Week 15 : Final Critique (May 2)
  Critique of final projects.

Assignments and Grading

Class Discussion and Presentation (20%)

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

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)

2 Midterm Projects (20%)

Two midterm projects will focus on narrative and the use of dynamic media.

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.