Randall Packer | Course Information

Critical Studies Seminar

Net Culture

Syllabus - Spring, 2000
Digital Arts

Maryland Institute College of Art

Thursday, 4:00 - 7:00 PM

Randall Packer, Instructor
office hours: 2 - 3 PM

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

seminar syllabus: http://www.zakros.com/mica/sp00/seminarsp00.html

Zero Gravity : Digital Arts Resource On-Line

Course Description

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 explore artistic strategies and technical issues specific to work created for the Internet, as well as work that bridges virtual and physical space. Students are expected to 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 "paper" created for the Web that explores the medium's potential as a vehicle for artistic and social transformation.



    Review of course objectives, readings, assignments, and projects.

    Artworks: Discussion of the ZKM (Center for Art and Media) Net_Condition and the Walker Art Center's Network Art Entertainment Net art exhibitions. Students will select works for independent study and class presentation.

Assigned Reading for 2.24

  • "Hypomnemata" from an interview with Michel Foucault, ArtNetWeb's <i>iola</i> journal. (Web)
  • "Art as Interactive Communications: Networking a Global Culture," Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media; Margot Lovejoy, 1998


Telematic Art

History and evolution of communications technologies, the Internet, and the World Wide Web as an emerging artistic medium.

Works: Paul Sermon, "Telematic Dreaming" (1992); Douglas Davis, "World's Longest Collaborative Sentence" (1994); Eduardo Kac, "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1994); Antonio Muntadas, "The File Room" (1994); Jenny Holzer, "Please Change Beliefs" (1995);

Assigned Reading for 3.2

  • "Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities," Pavel Curtis, (1992)
  • "Introduction: Identity in the Age of the Internet," Life on the Screen, Sherry Turkle 1996


MUDs (Multi-user Dungeons)

On-line multi-user environments and their impact on social interaction, identity, and role-playing.

Work: LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis (1992); Pleasure Island, Randall Packer and Jan Millsapps (1999)

Assigned Reading for 3.9



Definition: Extending our physical and mental being into a remote space by means of telecommunications technologies.

Photo of earth.

Work: "Telegarden," Ken Goldberg; Refresh, Diller + Scofidio, "Light on the Net," Musaki Fujihata

Assigned Reading for 3.14

  • "Gesamtdatenwerk: Connectivity, Transformation and Transcendence," Roy Ascott, 1995
  • "Essay on 16 Sessions," Randall Packer, 1999

3.16 (on-line), 3.23

Gesamtdatenwerk: Data Mapping

Internet methodologies and tools such as data analysis, intelligent agents and database technologies are being adopted for artistic purpose.

Work: "16 Sessions," C5 and Joel Slayton (1998); 1:1, C5 and Lisa Jevbratt (1999); "Desktop IS," Alexei Shulgin

Special: Whitney Museum of American Art 2000 Biennial, Internet Art. "RTMark" Ray Thomas; "Every Icon," John Simon; "Superbad," Ben Benjamin

Assigned Reading for 3.30 (on-line)

  • "The Net and the Future of Being Fictive," Sheldon Renan

3.30 (on-line)


Hypermedia and networked technologies have created new opportunities for interactive narrative and non-sequential on-line experience involving viewer participation.

Work: "My Boyfriend Came Back From the War," Olia Liolina; "Grammatron," Mark Amerika

Assigned Reading for 4.4

  • Alan Kay, "User Interface: A Personal View" 1989


Deconstructing the User Interface

Net artists are employing "low-tech" strategies that undermine conventional approaches to user interface design and interactivity.

Work: "Jodi.org," Dirk Paesmans and Joan Heemskerk, "The Shredder," Mark Napier, "Form," Alexi Shulgin

Assigned Reading for 4.13

  • Marshall McLuhan, "Introduction" Understanding Media, 1964


The Global Village

The Internet has brought about the dissolution of space and time. How does Net art transcend geographical and temporal boundaries?

Work: "JennyCam," Jenny; "Breathing Earth," Sensorium; "Mori," Randall Packer and Ken Goldberg.

Assigned Reading for 4.20

  • Marcos Novak, "Liquid Architectures," Cyberspace: First Steps, 1991


Liquid Architectures

Networked virtual spaces that combine the poetics and fluidity of cyberspace with architectural structures.


  • "Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace," Roy Ascott, 1990
  • "The Art and Architecture of Cyberspace", Collective Intelligence, Pierre Lévy, 1995


Collective Intelligence

Definition: Individuals collectively producing an expanded intelligence and knowledge through social interaction in networked space.

"Human intelligence? Its space is dispersion. Its time, the eclipse. Its knowledge, the fragment. Collective intelligence realizes its reintegration... Through the intermediary of virtual worlds, we can not only exchange information but think together, share our memories and our plans to produce a cooperative brain." -- Pierre Lévy, from Collective Intelligence


Final Project

Discussion and critique of final projects.

Assignments and Grading

Class Discussion and Presentation (20%)

Each student is required to participate in class discussion and present Net artworks selected from current on-line exhibitions.

Web Notebook (40%)

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.

Final Project (40%)

A final project will consist of a "paper" created for the Web that explores the medium's potential as a vehicle for artistic and social transformation, drawing from class discussion, readings, and research of Net artworks.



Work will be stored on a class server. There is a limit of 5 megabytes per person, so if you want to create additional media, or transport your work home, it will be necessary to use removable storage media.

Internet Access

Everyone is required to have an e-mail account. All written assignments will be created on the Web or handed in electronically by email.

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.