Theory and Practice of Digital Arts:

Territory, Identity, and Spatiality

Spring, 2003


Tues./Thur. 11am-1:30pm; N274


Instructor:         Willard Uncapher, Ph.D.

Office/Tel.        Ketchum 8F (By Basement Stairs); 492-8626; also Soc Dept.

Office Hrs:        M/W 4 - 4:50pm and by appt./ Mailbox: In Fine Arts & Soc. Dept Office

Email:      ; Website: <>


Course Description

As the mania subsides and as the netwaves and museums fill with digital art and advertisements, it becomes time to re-consider not what we have learned, what is possible, and how to make it, but also for whom and where to make it.  There is subtle undercurrent of the of a new politics of aesthetics and place that should play an ever more crucial role.  The following course explores the mutual influences, aesthetics, (and politics) of space, territory, identity, and the digital arts.  Each week, we will look at selected texts, as well as different online or archived digital media or video  projects.   We will cover both classics and newer works.


Class Requirements

* Two short papers and a web based art project.

* Paper 1. Choose a 'digital' theorist associated with our course. Provide a 5 page analysis of their work.

* The "3-D" Web-based Art Project. We will construct (and theorize) a 3-D web world in which one need to navigate through or around objects and spaces. No avatar software nor even complicated web-design software need be employed (although they can be, eg. Adobe Atmosphere, ActiveWorlds, flavors of VRML). Mere click-through of a space will suffice. Each web project will be presented during the last three week with an oral presentation and discussion. A 'space' may be used to look at/blend 'one' object from a variety of perspectives, or to move through an environment.

* Paper 2. Now use the course materials and theorists to analyze/critique/plan the experience and design of the final web project.

* Optional: Bring in additional readings or sites related to the topic


Required Texts and Access

Readings will be made available first on our Web site, and then be moved to Norlin Reserve Online. 

University Computer Account


Grading Break-down

Paper 1 10% / paper 2 20% / class participation 20% / attendance 10% / final project 40%


Disability Statement

If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities that require accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. You will need to provide documentation of your disability to the Disability Services Office in Willard 322 (phone 303-492-8671).


Academic Honesty

All work done for this course must be the original work of the student submitting it and should be undertaken exclusively for this course.  Assisting in academic dishonesty (e.g. letting someone copy your assignments) can retroactively lower your grade. Violations of academic honesty will result in appropriate action under the University's rules.


Course Outline and Readings


1. Week of Jan 14/16 – Introductions

A visit to, scroll down on the Avatar Teleport to sample some worlds (assuming you have, install, and can run the software!) like ActiveWorlds / OuterWorlds, World's Chat, Onlive' Traveller.

2. Week of Jan 21/23rd  - Rethinking the Digital, the Analog, and the Paradox of Change


* Wilden, Anthony. (1980). “Analog and Digital Communication: On Negation, Signification, and Meaning.(link)” In System and Structure: Essays in Communication and Exchange.

*Von Neuman, John. (1958). The Computer and the Brain (link). New Haven: Yale (The Silliman Lectures).  Selections

Optional Reading (on cybernetics), Heylighen's Principia Cybernetica WebSite,

Optional Search on 'Claude Shannon' and/or 'John von Neumann' (eg. Computer History in Rheingold's Tools for Thought)

Optional Reading (based on discussion): Barsook and Cameron, "The California Ideology"

Optional Links (based on discussion), Gaskin and the Farm, The WELL,

also mentioned: Banff New Media, Walker Art Gallery: Gallery 9,

 3. Week of Jan 28th/30th – Boundaries are political – Distinguishing the Digital/Analog Interface


* Laurel, Brenda. 1992. Computers as Theatre (link). Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley

* Manovich, Lev. 2001. “The Interface” (link) in The Language of New Media.  Cambridge, MA: MIT.

* Ahl, Valerie and T.F.H. Allen. (1996). Hierarchy Theory: A Vision, Vocabulary, and Epistemology (link). NY: Columbia. Selections

Optional Reading, Nathan Shedroff Interview (good reading)

Optional Links, 2003 Net Art Links, Virtual Performance Links, Conceptual/Net Art links

Some examples used: IBVA ("Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer")& Bio-muse, Monika Fleischmann & IMK, Jorn Ebner, Kurzweil, Natalie Bookchin's The Intruder, Natalie Bookchin's Database of Everyday Life, and Baunarts' 3d-Music

 4. Week of Feb 4rd/6th  Rhizome/Connection – Can revolutionary postmodern classics still remain autonomous?


* Deleuze, Gilles & Felix Guattari. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus (link). Minneapolis: U. Minnesota. Selections.

* Bey, Hakim. (1985). TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone. Brooklyn: Autonomedia.

* Lessig, Laurence. (1999). Code and other Laws of Cyberspace (link).  NY: Basic.

Optional Reading, Hakim Bey Resources <>, Deleuze and Guattari Resources <>.

Optional Links,,, [local collectives, eg.Australia's Fibre and New Delhi's Sarai]

Some Examples:

* Optional Reading - Michel Foucault, "Questions on Geography" in Power/Knowledge; Henri Lefebvre, "Plan of the Present Work" in The Production of Space; Edward Soja, "Fractal City" in Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions; Yi-Fu Tuan, "Introduction" in Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience and Passim in Topophilia;

* Optional Example - Diego Bonilla's A Space in Time <> [Asymptote is a non-linear experience composed of more than 70 scenes, 18 Flash animations, and 180 QTVRs. You need to install the front-end software and preferably have a fast connection. A virtual tour of a building is used as a narrative device to tell the story of Panda. Many interesting 'artworks' in the building.]

* Optional Example -David Blair's Waxweb <> [early 'hypertext/hyperlinear' movie]

[Please be looking at your copy of Dreamweaver MX / use the tutorials / locate your scanner]

 5. Week of Feb 11/13 –  Sharing Landscapes, until the sharing is done gone.


* Becker, Howard S. (1982). Art Worlds. Berkeley: U. Cal.

* Deutsche, Rosalyn. (1996). Evictions: art and spatial politics. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.  Selections (eg. Richard Serra Tilted Arc Controversy)

* Schuler, Douglas. (1996). New Community Networks: Wired for Change. NY: Addison-Wesley. Selections

* Lippard, Lucy. (1997). The Lure of the Local: Senses of place in a multicentered society. Norton


Now, rethink arts as environment, the complexity of agency, the world of support, consumption, interpretation, investigation, production - art in the expanded community / self. We look at:

Optional Video: Roy Ascott on Interactive Art and Art as an Environment. UCLA's EDA Archive Feb 28, 2000 (We watched just the first part from a downloaded version).

Optional Sites - linking places, cultures, and arts, Part 1: Internet Society's "Digital Divide" Pages. Site: Kothmali "Internet Access via Community Radio" / Fluid Arts - Dissolving the Global Digital Divide /

Optional Example: Paul Sermon's "A Body of Water." / Maurice Benayoun "Somebody, Somewhere, Sometime"

Optional Images: Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc."

Optional Software: Fractal Software Page [where are the edges of the community/a thing?]


 6. Week of Feb 18/20 – Planet as the Gallery – GPS, Macro-art, and the Digital Combinations


* Gene Youngblood. (1986) "Virtual Space: The Electronic Environments of Mobile Image." International Synergy Journal #1.

* Gene Youngblood (1986). "Defining the Image as Place." High Performance.

* GPS Explorations: “The Degree Confluence Project” <>, Terri Rueb's "Trace", Stephan Baran's Mixing Clouds / Agar's Tele-window /

* Space Explorations: History of Ars Astronautica /

Distinguishing our models (cf. Youngblood): 1. VideoArt Models; 2. Progressive Documentary/Guerrilla Video Models; 3. Interactive Models


So, now, go out and connect/merge different art events / gallereries / artworks / communities / yourself:

* The historic, but now premium: CU-SeeMe <>;

* Microsoft's Netmeeting <>, which includes the elements of video-conferencing: video sharing, audio sharing, whiteboard sharing, file transfer, remote desktop sharing, [security features], all or any of which can be of use. There are many support sites (eg.

* Many video-conferencing and video-chat software, eg. Eyeball Chat 3.0, ISPQ, VisionVS

* Integrating Global/Local/Speciality WebCam Sites, eg., Tommy’s -;

* Integrating via Audio Connections using phones - eg. Net2phone <>, Speak Freely <>
* Don't forget sharing with digital projections, and looking for donated software/hardware in association with bone fide public art projects.

 7. Week of Feb 25th/27th  Did an artist make this? Algorithmic Interaction and Freedom in Real and Virtual Worlds


* Whitelaw, Mitchell. (2002). “Breeding Aesthetic Objects: Art and Artificial Evolution.”

* Extra Reading. To be added. Bentley, Peter, David Corne (2002). "An Introduction to Creative Evolutionary Systems.

* Extra. Literature: Stanislaw Lem (1981). Imaginary Magnitude.

* Harold Cohn's "Aaron" AI Art Program <Download a version here>. or Cohn's website

More: AlgoArt at XeroxParc, Ken Rinaldo, Karl Sims, Perry Hoberman, Sharon Daniels, and AI Web Sites.

 8. Week of March 4rd/6th – I am not the self I used to be – place for bodies fraught with forces.


* Meyrowitz, Joshua. (1985). No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. NY: Oxford. Selections

* Gergen, Kenneth (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. NY: Basic. Selections

* Heidegger, Martin. 1971 (1954). "Building, Dwelling, Thinking" [Discussed the following week as we consider issues associated with our final 3-D project]

9. Week of March 11th/13th – Making a difference that makes a difference - Social Action


Part 1- Presence and Digital/Avatar Art Continued:

* Sensuous Digital Art - Jeremy Blake - Images-Home Page / Essay

* Sensuous Avatar Art - Char Davies - Images / Essays

Optional - *Adobe Atmosphere Demo - The Software [includes builder, but for PC only, alas] / An Atmospher Gallery and Resource Page /

Optional - * JOe FArbrook's Adobe Atmosphere Based Art Work @ the current Dairy Center for the Arts Show in Boulder, CO.

Optional - *Web 3D Home Page / Web3D Resource Page [note the sidebars on learning and/or using VRML, etc.]


Part 2 - Tactical Art

* Lovink, Geert.  2002-2003. “The Insider’s Guide to Tactical Media” in Dark Fiber. Also, the tactical media debate on Nettime listserv, and material from The Next 5 Minutes Workbook (Amsterdam) [Program Archive/Link].

* Optional - Gala Committee - Movie on Melrose Place, Constance Penley 5/31/00 Digital Video

* Optional - @RtMark Promotional Movie / WebSite - Look for the 'Mutual Funds'

* Optional - eToy/eToys Campaign / Website - Look through 'E-toy value system' to 'Chart-E-toy History'

10. Week of March 18th/20th – Travel and Identity – Selves in motion

[Snow Days due to blizzard. Independent Work Week! Work on 3-D projects]


[Spring Break]

11. Week of April 1st/Apr 3rd – Travel and Identity – Selves in motion


* Clifford, James. (1988). The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art. Cambridge: MA. Selections.

* Rogoff, Irit. (2000). Terra infirma: geography’s visual culture. NY: Routledge. Selection

* Appadurai, Arjun. (1996). "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy" in Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: U. of Minn. Selection.

* Uncapher, Willard. (1995). “Placing the Mediascape in the Transnational Cultural Flow: Learning to Theorize an Emerging Global Grassroots Infrastructure”

* Optional Reading. Appadurai, Arjun (2000). "Grassroots Globalization" Public Culture 12-1.


12. Week of April 8th/10th  Cyborg, Nature, and Selves


* Haraway, Donna. 1991. “Cyborg Manifesto” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. NY: Routledge

* Optional Reading. Donna Haraway. 1992. "The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others" in Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler, eds., Cultural Studies (NY; Routledge) , pp. 295-337.

* Optional Reading. Chris Hables Gray. Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age.

* Optional Reading. From N. Katherine Hayles, How we became Post-human

13. Week of April 15th/17th  New Dimensions or New space in Avatar Worlds


* Wertheim, Margeret. (1999). The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace. NY: Nortson

* Read loosely: Muldoon, Sylvan. The Projection of the Astral Body. Also, Selections. Powell, A.E.. The Astral Body (selections from series).

* Visit Damler's Avatar WebSite. Links here to many other avatar and 3-d worlds, some are a bit outdated. Optional - if available: Damler, Bruce. Avatars!

* optional - Alexander, Christopher. A pattern Language

* ma


14. Week of April 22nd/ 24thWorlds of new media / Presentations

* Aberley, Doug (1999) “Interpreting Bioregionalism: A story of many voices.” In Michael Vincent McGinnis’ Bioregionalism. NY: Routledge

* Sarai and other new projects to be discussed.

Prelim. Discussion of Projects - don't forget to include a textual discussion of your work


15. Week of April 29th/May 1st – Presentations and Recap.


Have a great break!