Software is mind control - get some.       -- I.O.D. artist collective

Images demonstrate transformation, not information.         -- cultural theorist, Bruno Latour

Interactive artists manipulate their audiences. How, why, and how successfully this is done becomes part of the aesthetic. Success may also depend on the development of a sophisticated audience. Many art forms require the audience's suspension of disbelief. I would argue that interactive forms may sometimes require the participants to suspend their own will. 

 -- Josephine Anstey, Virtual Reality (C.A.V.E.  artist)

In 1962, the first computer game was invented by some hackers at MIT...Why was "Spacewar" the 'natural' thing to build with this new technology? Why not a pie chart or an automated kaleidoscope or a desktop? Its designers identified *action* as the key ingredient and conceived "Spacewar" as a game that could provide a good balance between thinking and doing for its players... Its interesting potential lay not in its ability to perform calculations but in its capacity to represent action in which humans could participate.

-- Brenda Laurel, Computers As Theatre

The poet is "preeminently the maker of the plot, the framework - not necessarily of everything that takes place within that framework...creates a situation wherein he invites other persons and the world in general to be co-creators with him! He does not wish to be a dictator but a loyal co-initiator within the free society of equals which he hopes his work will bring about."

- Jackson MacLow's post-WWII aesthetic of the 'open work',
cited by Matthew Fuller in essay, "The Impossibility of Interface"


This studio course focuses on the creation of interfaces and the design of interactivity as cultural and aesthetic form. The course emphasizes individual projects and one collaborative project in computer-based Interactive Multimedia production. Participants will extend their individual experimentation with time-based processes and development of media production skills (2-D animation, video and audio production skills introduced in ARS 162, 263) - developed in the context of interactive multimedia production for performance, installation, CD-ROM or Internet. Critical examination and discussion of contemporary examples of new media art will augment this studio course. Prerequisite: ARS 162 and permission of the instructor.


Amost everyone uses software, Whether for word processing or for browsing the Web, we barely give it a second thought. Yet, those who are concerned by social uses of software (for example, software used in touch-screen voting systems for recent elections) might reflect on the question: are there ways that software uses us?

In this course, we will be making our own software using simple artist-friendly tools, in the spirit of DIY ("do it yourself") aesthetics and as a way of examining and reflecting on the power of software. We will experiment with interactive storytelling and games-as-social-commentary. We will use software for performative improvisation with video. And we will experiment with simple methods of giving visual form unpredictable "behaviors" for time-based image display.

This semester our work and dialogue will involve the development of skills and critical strategies related to the following:

  • interface conceptualization and design.
  • simple coding using ActionScript (for Flash) and using Lingo (for Macromedia Director).
  • continuation (from ARS162) of digital imaging techniques towards creation of narrative or game space ("diagetic" or "generative" worlds).
  • introduction of audio techniques (for those who are continuing from ARS162).
  • continuation (for those who have completed ARS263) of video and audio techniques towards documenting and augmenting narrative space and action.
  • 2D animation using vector-based, structured graphics and bitmapped content towards creation of elements that may be soley generative or may extend into and inhabit the "diagetic world".

required reading and viewing materials

On-line (web) or photocopied materials will be assigned during the semester. You are also required to subscribe to Net Art News and Rhizome Digest (sent out as emails from the Rhizome website described below).

required textbook (1)

  • Rachel Greene, Internet Art (New York: Thames & Hudson World of Art, 2004)
    price approximately 17 dollars.

Other recommended books (check print bibliography for additional references):

  • Matthew Fuller, Behind the Blip: Essays on the Culture of Software (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2003). The intro essay, "Behind the Blip" is available online.
  • Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004). This book, aimed at artists and designers, is a significant contribution to theory and practice of game creation. [This book will be placed on reserve at Hillyer Library in Feb.]
  • Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, editors. The New Media Reader (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2003). This edited collection features historical documents, essays by artists and theorists across 50 years. Also included is a CDROM with historical video, early games, multimedia and other artifacts of "new media". [This book will be placed on reserve at Hillyer Library in Feb.]
  • Mary Farrell, Learning Computer Programming (Charles River Media, 2002). This book is recommended to those who want an overview of coding.
  • Lev Manovich. The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001). This groundbreaking examination of cultural and aesthetic frameworks of "new media" is available in paperback. Supplemental materials (images) for this book are available from the author's website: [This book will be placed on reserve at Hillyer Library in Feb.]

Note that numerous technical reference books are available in the DDS Lab (Seeyle B-3) on Macromedia Director, Flash, Blender 3D, Final Cut Pro, Dreamweaver, etc., for your work outside class.

From on-campus you can access the following two member organizations for free. Both are relevant to our studies this semester (along with others that will be cited during the semester).

  • Rhizome at - Rhizome is an artist-run, on-line, not-for-profit organization based in NYC. It features net art projects, reviews, news, announcements, etc. Access to this website is free to non-members on Fridays, but is otherwise restricted to "members" (those who pay a single $5 per year fee). Smith has an institutional membership so that while on-campus you can access it without restriction.
  • Leonardo Electronic Almanac at - This is an online extension of the academic monthly print journal (also recommended), Leonardo - Journal of Art, Science, and Technology. Its academic feel and scholarly style reflect its institutional ties and resources. However, the contributions are from new media artists, composers, sonic artists, and collaborating engineers and scientists.

supplies and hard-drive for media storage

Expect to spend from $20 to $40 on media materials for this course.

Supplies include such items as recordable media, idea notebook, production props,batteries, A-V cables, etc. For audio recording you will need to have your own set of headphones (approximately $5-10), plus a stereo mini cable may be required. You will also need at least 2 recordable (non-rewritable) CD-Rs (for final portfolio - as will be discussed further in class).

Each participant in the class will be loaned a portable hard-drive for the duration of the semester. This loan will be handled through through Media Services. Details will be discussed in class.


Attendance is required for every class meeting and for the full class period. In addition to non-attendance, unexcused absences include: arriving late to class, leaving class early. Unexcused absences will result in a lower grade proportionate to the number of days absent. The final grade will be reduced by a full letter grade for every unexcused absence beyond three.

One or more outside events will be assigned during the semester. There will be flexibility for those who have commitments that conflict with such events.

special needs

Please let the instructor know if, due to a difference or disability, you need special accomodations in this course. The information you share with her is confidential. Such arrangements will help the instructor facilitate, for the benefit of everyone, the full participation of every person in the course.


The grade you earn this semester will be based both upon the quality of the work you make and the quality of your contribution to the collective knowledge and experience of the class as a whole. Note also that you must turn in assigned projects on time to be eligible for a grade of "A" in this course.

  • Your contributions to the collective experience of the class will be based upon your attendance, participation in class discussions and exercises, and will include one collaborative curatorial project that will culminate in an online exhibition. (Earn up to 20 points).
  • The work you produce will consist of 3 main assignments, plus short exercises related to those assignments. (Earn up to 80 points total.)
  • Participants who have take ARS263 during the current academic year will also be required to submit one of their works to one media festival or conference. (This is optional for those who have only completed ARS162).

The quality of the work you produce this semester will be evaluated based upon your demonstrated ability:

  1. to take risks.
  2. to engage conceptual or representational issues issues with compelling focus and clarity.
  3. to begin to formulate verbally the conceptual or representational issues at stake.
  4. to make unusual and unexpected associations within the matrix of visual ideas that comprise your work.
  5. to draw from, and also to test and transgress the boundaries of your own individual experience - that is, to look beyond yourself through the creative process.
  6. to produce 'open-ended work'. (By 'open-ended work' is meant projects which suggest, by and through their visual strategies, further questions and directions to explore).

Your final grade is based on these broad criteria, You will not be receiving a grade on each individual assignment. Evaluation during the semester (prior to the final grade) will include intensive critiques and may include a mid-semester progress report involving an approximate grade assessment.