Syllabus for History and Theory of Digital Art Professor Mark Amerika
Fall 2002
T/TH 3:30 - 4:45
HUMN 1B35 (Macintosh Instructional Lab in basement of the Humanites Building)
Email: Mark.Amerika@Colorado.Edu
Website: markamerika.com
Weeks One through Eight  
August 27 through October 17

Course Introduction and Survey of Online Exhibitions
What is Internet Art?
How do we exhibit it?
Where do we find it?

Begin survey of various Internet art exhibitions relevant to the course including:

  1. adaweb
  2. Digital Studies: Being in Cyberspace
  3. beyond interface
  4. turbulence
  5. net_condition
  6. Desktop Is
  7. Whitney Biennial 2000 (where is it?)
  8. takesyou.to/manyplaces
  9. tate modern
  10. SFMOMA's e.space
  11. Rhizome's ARTBASE
  12. Art Entertainment Network
  13. 010101
  14. Histories of Internet Art: Fictions and Factions (HIAFF)

First project assignment: develop a research strategy for curating a new section of the net.practice area of the student-run "Histories of Internet Art" (HIAFF) website. Start by looking closely at the current areas developed by former students and then investigate the various online exhibitions linked to from the syllabus. After having conducted a thorough investigation into this emerging art form, locate 5 works of Internet art under a new subject heading (similar to the ones that already exist such as "digital narrative," "hactivism," "gui art," etc.) and begin developing a uniquely designed web "exhibition" that has the following components:

  1. an 1800-2000 word curatorial statement that discusses the general developments in digital/internet art as well as the specific developments in your particular area of inquiry. Emphasize the qualities of the selected work that make it a strong selection (visual, conceptual, interactive, performative, literary, programmatic, etc.). Be sure to devote more than half of your statement to reviews of each of the individual works selected for your curated "exhibition" (think of it as if you were "making a case" for the inclusion of this work on our HIAFF web site). This statement can be creatively designed as a multi-linear hypertext, an animated Flash object, a publishable .pdf document, or a scrollable html document.
  2. external links to all of the selected works (clicking on these links should open up in a new pop-up window)
  3. at least three references and links to online sources (essays, reviews, exhibitions, etc.) that you cite in your curatorial statement to help "make your case" (clicking on these links should also open up a new pop-up window)
Besides creating this online "exhibition" and curatorial statement for the web, you will also be making 20 minute presentations of your research and "exhibition" results to the entire class. These presentations should be specific and articulate what it is about the work you are showcasing that makes it an important model for our digital studies and why it should be included in the HIAFF web site. Only the most convincing "exhibitions", statements, and presentations will have a chance of influencing developments on the larger HIAFF web site.

These online research projects are due before class on October 17th. Each day late, including after 3:30 p.m. on October 17th, will result in a one letter grade loss. Send me an email before class with the exact web address of the project.

Presentations will take place starting on Tuesday, October 22nd.


Throughout the Fall semester our class will be actively involved in and enjoying the benefits of both the "Rethinking the Visual" conference / "Mapping Transitions" online exhibition, as well as the TECHNE visiting digital artist series.

From September 12-15, students in this class will be participating in the "Rethinking the Visual" conference and "Mapping Transitions" online exhibition. Visiting artists, theorists, and curators participating in this event include Mary Flanagan, Lisa Jevbratt, John Klima, Christiane Paul, W.J. T. Mitchell, Joanna Drucker, Rod Coover and Faye Ginsberg.

During the first half of the semester, participants in the TECHNE Visiting Digital Artist Series include:

See below for even more visiting artists coming to class the second half of the semester.


Do a web search on the recent phenomenon known as "blogs" or web-logs. You are encouraged to create an experimental "blog" although popular spots like blogger.com even let you start building and designing your own "blog" at their website if you want to do it the easy way.

Throughout the semester, compose a series of 200-300 word entries to your "blog" detailing your thoughts about the various essays, art works, artists, curators, events and discussions you encounter over the course of the semester. Create at least two links from each entry of your "blog" to external sites of relevance. You should have at least 6 entries by the close of the semester. Hint: after you see/hear a visiting digital artist, go back and reflect on what you learned and immediately create an entry in your blog. If your blog can develop a compelling theme over the semester, perhaps one that directly relates to your two web projects, that's even better.

Feel free to include digital images, diagrams, animations, and Quicktime movies in your "blogs" in addition to your writing.

Keep in mind that these "blogs" should be subjective but can also be playful, fictional (in other voices or from other POVs), or constitute your version of "pure research". Feel free to speculate and offer insights into how the work you are being exposed to this semester is starting to effect your own developing practice as an artist, writer, student, or appreciator of the digital arts. You may want to ask yourself a lot of questions, right in the blog itself, and then set out to answer these questions as best you can.

Since these will be online, that means they are "already published" and, as such, are open to the public. Keep that in mind!

A few sample blogs to look at:

Here and here and here, not to mention here, here and definitely here.

Fall Break: no class on Thursday, October 10th.

Walter Benjamin's seminal essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

The Scientific Perspective: Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think"

A Brief History of the Internet (1993)

ZKP 4. Alternative publication focused primarily on net politics and net.art propaganda.

Check out the complete nettime for other ZKP publications as well as the complete archive of the nettime email list.

Art and the Age of the Digital (transcript of lecture delivered by David Ross, former Director of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

Seven Misunderstandings of Interactive Art

The Walker Art Center's Shock of the View program. Notice how this program consists of only online elements, i.e. a discussion list, an area for invited respondents to deal with crucial issues of digital art, and an attempt to critically/historically evaluate art work created in more traditional media in conjunction with art work created in digital media.

Here's one alternative "History of Internet Art" timeline with good links.

And here's another alternative Internet art history, i.e. a comprehensive, if somewhat subjective, index of links.

Weeks Nine through Twelve  
October 22 through November 14

Presentations of First Project

Introduction to the "Histories of Internet Art" Collaborative Project

Areas of development:

  • Interface design
  • content development
  • publicity/marketing

Second and final project assignment: develop a creative and/or critical hypertext web site on a topic relevant to the course. Questions that your project may want to investigate include:

  • What is Internet art and how is it exhibited? Is there a difference between net art and art on the net?
  • At this early stage of I-art history, what are the evolving models of net art being employed by its practitioners?
  • How do the various online exhibitions reviewed in class compare to each other? What are their similarities and/or differences?
  • How does Walter Benjamin's ideas, as well as other early philosophers and critical theorists, prophesize the development of new media art forms like those associated with the Internet?
  • How does Internet art compare to other works of art from other media? Use concrete examples comparing work from one discipline/artist/era to those works of Internet art investigated in class. For example, how does experimental writing or conceptual art inform hypertext production? Or, how does video art or installation art relate to browser art? Are there any connections to be found when comparing Modern art movements like Dadaism with some of the net art work created by European and Russian net artists? If yes, is that this form of net art retro? Is it intentionally satirical? Is there an ongoing Rival Tradition in art that "goes against tradition" and if so, what value might that Rival Tradition bring to art history? Etc.
  • How does Internet differ from other forms of art? What are the implications of creating art work specfically for the Internet that create a new set of challenges for more institutional art settings like museums and galleries? Is this work being collected? If yes, by who? And how?
  • What are the larger political and economic implications of art on the net?

Other topics of interest would include "gender and technology," "the digital divide," the bridging of the "two cultures" (science and the humanities) in digital art, and "the blurring of art forms in cyberspace (visual, literary, conceptual, performace, etc.)".

Develop a uniquely designed hypertext site that has the following components:

  1. at least 25 interlinked documents that are part of a well-conceived multi-linear navigational structure where each page has at least two relevant links embedded in the page (one of the links on each page can be to an external site but this link must open in a "pop-up" window)
  2. images, screenshots, diagrams, etc. that help the reader "visualize" what it is you are writing about
  3. at least five quotes from external sources (i.e. critical reviews, new media theories, quotes from artists from interviews or artist's statements, etc.).
Links to student hypertexts:

William Pea, Meditations on First Cybersophy

Joel Swanson, Edentity

Kelly Yamamoto, E-Hole

Halsey Chait, Lost Laboratory

Vivian Rosenthal's Poetic Space

Matthew Hutson on community

Jesse Chan-Norris, Virtual Worlds: Communication in the Digital Realm

Kyris Ang (with Ma Shaoling), H.y.p.e.r-t.r.a.v.e.l

Leni Zumas (with G. P. Landow), Semio-Surf -- a mystory fiction

Many others here.

Hypertext projects are due before class on December 10th.

Weeks Thirteen through Sixteen  
November 19 through December 12
Continue creating "Histories of Internet Art".


TECHNE Visiting Digital Artist Series:

Students with disabilities who qualify for academic accommodations must provide a letter from Disability Services (DS) and discuss specific needs with the professor, preferably during the first two weeks of class. DS determines accommodations based on documented disabilities (303-492-8671, Willard 322, www.colorado.edu/sacs/disabilityservices)