HAR 420 Net Art + Design

Fall 2007 Syllabus

Fridays, 2-6 pm, Morton 201 (MAC Lab)
Instructor: Prof. Mariam Ghani
Contact: Mariam.Ghani@stevens.edu, Skype ghanimariam
Office: Morton 204
Hours: Thursday 2:30-4 pm or by appointment

Net Art + Design is an introduction to the history, theory and practice of web-based and networked art. Through readings, encounters with artwork, instruction, lab time, and projects, we will explore some of the technologies, techniques, and strategies used by net artists and study the principles and problems of graphic, multimedia, and interaction design for the web. Net Art + Design will combine discussion with hands-on work to investigate the roles played by artists in networked environments, and the ways in which their work can create and has created new ways of thinking about interactivity. Each student will produce three projects, including a final project that will be launched online at the end of the semester. Projects will be presented, critiqued and debugged in class.

Students are not expected to have previous programming experience but should already be familiar with the digital imaging, audio and/or video tools necessary to produce media that they wish to include in their projects. Please note that while this course will cover several of the technologies used by net artists, including an introduction to HTML, CSS and Javascript, it will not cover any programming languages in depth and cannot be taken as an equivalent to technical courses offered by other departments. Students are encouraged to collaborate on projects in order to make the best and most creative use of the different skill sets they already possess.

1) To give students a practical grounding in the principles of making web-based and networked art through instruction in both graphic and interaction design for the web;
2) To introduce students to the history, theory and practice of net art through readings and encounters with artists and their work;
3) To familiarize students with some of the strategies and tools used by net artists, both by studying and deconstructing significant historical and contemporary net art projects, and by giving them a basic introduction to some of the technologies used to produce those projects;
4) To equip students with a working proficiency in HTML and CSS, as well as a broader understanding of the programming mindset as an approach adaptable to a number of different programming languages/environments;
5) To discuss with students the role of artists in networked environments, the importance of networked practices, software art and programming as artistic strategies across new media, and the ways in which artistic production can create and has created new ways of thinking about interactivity;
6) To have students produce their own net art projects, first to be presented and critiqued in class, and by the end of the semester to be launched to the wider public.

Methods + Assignments:
The objectives will be met through graded projects, critiques, demonstrations, readings, discussions, lectures, and exposure to the methods of artists, programmers and designers through guest lectures and viewing of work. Students will be required to present their own work verbally, as well as constructively comment on the work of their classmates, during class critiques of projects in progress. Remember that participation in critique is the best indicator of your class participation, which is part of your grade. When an assignment is produced collaboratively, all group members are expected to contribute equally to the planning, execution, and reporting of the work, and you will be asked to submit an evaluation of each group member's contribution.
Keep a journal to develop your ideas, to document your experiments and results, and to take notes during lectures and demonstrations. Document all critiques throughout the semester, and pay special attention to keeping a written record of the bugs you encounter and how you resolve them. Your journal will be reviewed as a part of your mid-term and final "portfolios." Specific written responses to your assigned reading will also be required. These response papers, even though they will often be short, will still be graded on style as well as substance, so please type and proofread every written assignment you hand in. You will sometimes be required to write your response papers in HTML in order to increase your fluency with the language. In these cases please keep in mind that the text editors we use for writing code do not always have spell-checkers installed, so you will have to proofread your text the old-fashioned way. The instructor will meet individually with each student at mid-term and the end of the semester, and is available during the semester for "in progress" critiques during office hours and by appointment, and for technical help via email or Skype.
Net Art + Design is a studio course that meets for four hours once a week. We will split the classes between viewing of work, discussion, critique, technical demos, and lab time, with one fifteen-minute break.

Studio courses require students to put in a considerable amount of time outside of class to conceptualize, plan, and design assigned projects. In addition to fulfilling specific assignments and readings, you should expect to spend a minimum of 2 hours per week working in the Media Arts Lab outside of class. The lab is open late and on weekends but is not available when another class is in progress. Please refer to the lab schedule posted outside of the lab. EATING AND DRINKING IS NOT PERMITTED IN THE MEDIA ARTS CENTER (MAC) LAB.

Required Text:
Greene, Rachel. Internet Art. Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Online Resources:
See the class del.icio.us links, which will continue growing over the course of the semester. Students in the course can add links to the page as well - see the instructor for the password.

Recommended Texts:

REFERENCES: HISTORY + THEORY (in the Stevens library):
Equipment Checkout
If you need to produce multimedia elements for your projects, and have already learned to use the equipment available for checkout through the lab, you may use the lab equipment for your work. Some of you may already have access to this equipment through another class. Please remember that there are several classes using this equipment this semester, and only check out equipment when you really need it. Checkout will be on a first-come, first-served basis. If the lab manager puts a signup system in place for equipment checkout, it is your responsibility to become familiar with this system so that you will be able to access the equipment when you need it. Please plan ahead so that you are not left without the means to produce project elements at the last minute.
A lab attendant will administer checkout. You will need your student ID and must be registered for this course, and have obtained prior authorization from the instructor, to use equipment. Equipment is checked out on a 24-hour basis. Please note: Do not keep equipment in your car. Do not keep it in hot or dusty areas. Always check your equipment when checking it out to make sure it works and has all of the parts you are signing for, as you are responsible for everything you sign for. If a piece of equipment is damaged, tell us immediately so that it can be fixed.
There are five video production packages available for your use. Each package includes a camera, tripod, and a lavalier microphone. We have two lighting kits and two shotgun mics with a boom (shared among all groups) that can be checked out from the cabinet. There are also several digital audio recorders that can be checked out if, and only if, you have received instruction in a prior class on how to use them. You will be responsible for the scheduling and budgeting of your time and equipment usage. You may not check out any equipment unless you have already been instructed in how to use it in a prior class, or you have received prior authorization from an instructor. We will not be covering the use of this equipment in this class.
Report any and all malfunctions, damage, problems, etc. with media equipment immediately to the appropriate person in charge.
You will also be penalized if you keep equipment beyond the end of your check-out period. ALL EQUIPMENT MUST BE RETURNED BY THE LAST DAY OF THE SEMESTER. ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS.
Please remember that it is your responsibility to make sure everyone has equal access to functioning equipment. This is part of your grade.

Course criteria:
Quality of ideas, quality of work executed and ability to articulate and explain your thought processes. Understanding of the historical and theoretical material presented, and ability to relate that material to an overall understanding of digital and experimental media, as built up through other coursework and in your own practice. Willingness to explore and take genuine risks in your work as an artist. Amount of time, effort, and thought given to coursework. Technical skills mastered. Participation in all levels of course activities.
Department criteria:
AOutstandingInsightful, generous, energeticExcellent form & contentAlways prepared for class, makes intelligent & considered contributionsAlways present, work in on time
BGoodInquisitive, engagedGood form & contentUsually prepared for class, able to make interesting contributionsAlways present, work in on time
CAverageJust sufficientHolds together, but unconvincingNot always prepared, only able to make obligatory contributionsMisses some classes, work sometimes late
DPoorLimited, formulaicWork thrown together just before classOnly makes very limited contributionsExcessive absences, work late & incomplete
FUnsatisfactoryVirtually noneVirtually noneMakes almost no contributionAbsent most of the time

Your grade will be based on your projects, your reading response papers, and your class participation. For all writing assignments, you can refer to Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style for a classic guide to clean prose style. You may not receive any grades in writing until mid-semester, although I will make every effort to evaluate projects as they are completed. If you need feedback on how your work in the course is being received, you may meet with me during office hours.
Grade allocation is as follows:
Final project - 35%
Project 1 - 20%
Project 2 - 20%
Reading responses + code assignments - 15%
Class participation - 10%
Finished projects will be graded based on clarity of concept, effectiveness of formal strategies, integration of content and form, and level of technical skill demonstrated. All assignments will be graded on a scale of four. Your final course grade will be determined as follows: 4=A; 3.67=A-; 3.33=B+; 3=B; 2:67=B-; 2.33=C+; 2=C; 1.67=C-; 1.33=D+; 1=D; .67=D-; below this is an F. Once issued, all grades are final and will not be changed unless a student hands in a substantially revised project within the time limits allowed. I reserve the right to determine borderline grades on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions about how grades are assigned in this course, please bring them up at the beginning of the semester, not the end.


This schedule is subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances (or more interesting alternatives). I will do my best to notify you of changes a week in advance, either in class or through email. If you do not attend class, it is your responsibility to find out if changes to the schedule were made. When in doubt about an assignment, check your email or the online version of the syllabus for the most recent information. If we have to cancel a class for any reason, we will schedule a make-up session during the following week.

Friday, August 31st
Week 1: Introduction & Expectationst
Assessment of student skill levels & interests, introduction to course goals & expectations, review of evaluation methods and critique protocols.
Demo: HTML, server protocol
Practice: W3C schools + evaluators, Rhizome ArtBase, Turbulence, net art discussion + announcement lists
Assignment due next week: Read pages 8-28 of Internet Art and the article The World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee et al) in The New Media Reader, pp 792-277, or as a PDF download on Pipeline. For your written response, answer the following question in 1-2 paragraphs: what do you think was the most important precursor to net art, and why? Your answer could emphasize either an artistic development or a technological development.

Friday, September 7th
Week 2: Network Protocols
Theory: What is http? History of the Internet and World Wide Web; deep structures of the web; servers, packets and processing; the hyperlink.
Practice: HTML, IDEs (Dreamweaver, BBEdit, etc.), FTP
Assignment due next week: Read Chapter 1 (pp 31-70) of Internet Art. For your written response, answer the following question in 1-2 paragraphs: which of the early net art works described in this chapter were you most interested in, and why?

Friday, September 14th
Week 3: Hyptertext and net.art
Theory: Hypertext and mark-up languages, Ted Nelson & Tim Berners-Lee
History: New media pre-histories; hypertext narratives; the original net.artists; Cosic, Lialina, My Boyfriend Came Back from the War and other HTML-based works; text and frames in early HTML
Practice: HTML + CSS
Assignment due next week: Visit the Rhizome ArtBase, conduct a search using the keywords “hypertext” or “net.art,” and spend some time interacting with at least one of the net art works that comes up as a result of your search. Make sure to grab a screenshot from one of the pages you view. For your written response, describe the work you viewed, paying particular attention to the way your interaction with its content was structured by the form, strategies and/or particular technologies used by the artist. Using TextWrangler or gEdit, code your response as an HTML page. Include the screenshot you grabbed earlier, using in-line styling to format the page and resize the image, and email the .html file to the instructor. Make sure to preview your HTML page in a browser before you submit it.

Friday, September 21st
Week 4: Computational Aesthetics
Theory: logic + math for programming, variables + strings, arrays, algorithms and computational aesthetics; content v. form and form as content in new media
History: John F. Simon Jr., Andy Deck, Michael Takeo Magruder, Ricardo Miranda Zuniga
Practice: HTML, CSS + Javascript, graphic design for the web
Assignment due next week: Read Chapter 2 (pp 73-116) of Internet Art. For your written response, describe at least two different ways that the net artists discussed in this chapter have appropriated, adapted and subverted existing forms of mass media or network culture. Using TextWrangler or gEdit, code your response as an HTML page, using a header style script to format the page, and email the .html file to the instructor. Make sure to preview your HTML page in a browser before you submit it.

Friday, September 28th
Week 5: Scripting the Page
Theory: Early conceptions of the web as a string of discrete pages; one-page projects; animating + ultimately multiplying the page
History: The gallery of classic GIFs; the advent of the pop-up ad and the rise of the pop-up blocker; jodi.org; Fakeshop
Practice: HTML, CSS + Javascript, graphic design for the web
Assignment due next week: HTML Project: The parameters for your first project are as follows: you must use HTML and CSS to construct the project; the project must include either several different pages or several different frames within the page; and you should use Javascript at least once to dynamically change either the HTML or the CSS structure of the project. Your project can consist entirely of text, or include images, graphics, sound and/or video. The project may NOT be a portfolio page. However, it could build creatively on an earlier work in another medium, provided that you really translate that work into the net art form. Think about all the different elements of a web page, a website, and the world wide web, how they interact, and how other artists have used those elements. Then make something new and even surprising out of those same elements. You should create a dedicated folder for your project inside your MacLab server folder, title it “yourname_netart_project1,” and make sure that your splash page is titled “index.html.” As always, make sure you preview your project in a browser several times before class, and also come prepared to present your work to your peers.

Friday, October 5th
Week 6: Hello World: Inviting Interaction
HTML project due – in-class presentation/critique of projects
Theory: the “world models” of different programming languages; DOM & event handling; online identities; early interactive projects
History: Eliza, Adrienne Jelinek’s Eliza Redux
Practice: HTML + Javascript / HTML + PHP scripts
Assignments due next week: 1) Revise/debug your HTML project in response to the feedback you received in class. Once you are sure that your project has arrived at the version you wish to be graded on, use Fugu to open up an FTP/SCP connection to your folder on the CS server, create a directory in that folder called “public_html,” and copy your project folder into the new folder on the CS server. If you have completed the transfer correctly, you should now have a publicly accessible website at http://personal.stevens.edu/~yourusername. 2) Read pages 119-144 of Internet Art (Sections: Infowar and Tactical Media in Practice, Data Visualization and Databases). For your written response, answer the following question in 1-2 paragraphs: what is the importance of database form for net art, according to Greene and/or those she quotes in this chapter?

Friday, October 12th
Week 7: Database + Interface
Theory: database narratives, data visualization, data aesthetics, and connecting back-end data to front-end interfaces
History: form art; Lisa Jevbratt, Andrea Polli, the McCoys, the Warm Database, “Database Imaginary” at Banff
Practice: HTML forms with back-end scripts, prepping multimedia content
Assignment due next week: Read pages 173-178 of Internet Art (Section: Voyeurism and Surveillance).
Assignment due in two weeks: Database Project: Construct a project that maps/visualizes/narrates data. Your source data could be drawn from an existing public database (for example, census data, news aggregators, social networking sties, or weather patterns) or it could be data specifically requested by you, input by users through a form and stored in a database of your own design. In the second case, please plan ahead and talk to the instructor about access to/help with database setup. If you want to work with dynamic data, you will need to put your project online, so please notify me of that as well. You can also collect your data from offline sources, organize it into a database structure, and then visualize it in a web-based form.

Friday, October 19th
Week 8: Mining + Mapping
Theory: data aesthetics, data mining, locative media, “critical” cartography
History: the Situationist precedent, “[ctrl] space: Rhetorics of Surveillance” and “Making Things Public” at ZKM; Atlas of Radical Cartography; Picture Projects, FutureFarmers, Angie Eng, M.T. Magruder, kanarinka/The Institute for Infinitely Small Things, C5
Practice: using PHPmyAdmin to manage a pre-built database, design for mobile devices, on- and off-line interaction design
Assignment due next week: Database Project: Once your project is complete, create a folder for your project in your MacLab server folder, give the new folder the title “yourname_netart_project2,” and make sure that your splash page is titled “index.html” or “index.php.” As always, make sure you preview your project in a browser several times before class, and also come prepared to present your work to your peers.

Friday, October 26th
Week 9: Open and Closed Sources
Database project due – in-class presentation/critique of projects
Theory: The GNU Manifesto, FLOSS, Creative Commons, and the ethics/aesthetics of open-source versus proprietary codebases; browser art
History: hacktivism, tactical media, contagious media; Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Mongrel, Electronic Disturbance Theater, Blackness for Sale, Google Will Eat Itself, Fundrace
Practice: VersionTracker, Freshmeat, & other aggregator sites for open-source tools
Assignments due next week: 1) Revise/debug your Database project in response to the feedback you received in class. Make sure that by next week, you have transferred the final version of your project folder to the “public_html” folder in your CS server folder. 2) Read pages 180-212 of Internet Art. For your response, take one of the works described in this chapter or discussed in class, look at it online using the View Source command, and try to draw a diagram of the structure of the work as a whole – how the different pages connect to each other, what interactions are possible and what pathways they open up, and so on.

Friday, November 2nd
Week 10: Designing the Site
Theory: Dreamweaver, Flash & designing for sites vs. pages; the visual / multimedia web
History: Christina McPhee; Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries
Practice: HTML + Dreamweaver, designing project pathways
Assignment due next week: Submit a proposal for your final project to the instructor by email. Your proposal should include a 1-2 paragraph description of the project concept and content, an outline of the form/strategies/techniques you will use to build the project, and a diagram of the project’s structure in the format discussed in class.

Friday, November 9th
Week 11: Dynamic Processes
Guest Lecturer: Multimedia Designer Rob Durbin
Rob Durbin has designed websites, CD-ROMs and multimedia presentations for a wide range of clients, collaborated with artists, and also taught the Pratt Institute’s introductory multimedia class for many years. He will talk about web design using multimedia content, dynamic structures and processes, for both commercial and artistic uses, and will give you an overview of the capabilities of and differences between Flash, Proce55ing and Nodebox.
Assignments due next week: 1) Read pages 152-170 of Internet Art (Section: Generative and Software Art). 2) Schedule a meeting with the instructor during the next week to discuss your final project proposal.

Friday, November 16th
Week 12: Generative Art
Theory: Generative and software-based net art
History: Casey Fry, Ben Reas & the development of Proce55ing; MIT Press Proce55ing commissions; Andy Deck’s useful systems; Runme.org; Carnivore
Practice: basics of Proce55ing; dev libs; pre-built libraries & toolkits
Assignment due in two weeks: Final Project: Your final project can be constructed in any form around any content, pending instructor approval of your proposal. You should be prepared to present your project in progress to the class in two weeks.

Friday, November 23rd – no class – Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 29th
Week 13: Final Projects In-Progress Critique / Tech Consults
First versions of final projects due – in-class presentation/critique of projects
Final projects in-progress will be presented to the class for critique and debugging. We will then have a lab period, during which the instructor will be available for tech consults and individual meetings, and will talk about building index pages for your “public_html” folders that will make all the projects in that folder accessible to the public.

Friday, December 7th
Week 14: Final Projects Launch
Final versions of final projects due – in-class presentation of projects
Last week of class! We will launch our final projects to the public (and each other) online. Make sure to have all the elements of your project uploaded to our class folder on the Stevens web server in a folder titled with your name. As always, make sure you preview your project in a browser several times before class, and also come prepared to present your work to your peers.