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Many artists and activists have turned to new technologies that privilege the activation of social networks to create experiences intent on the transformation of dominant attitudes in society at large or effect social change. In this course we look at graphic strategies, corporate marketing strategies and tactical media forms that have the potential for rapid adoption and propagation. With a focus on emergent social systems, viral events and trendcasting, this course investigates the power of the crowd for artistic and political expression. Is it collaboration, mutation, or individual expression and what does it mean for an artist to trigger a viral event?  In fact, who really starts the spread? Does the origination of an idea matter or how many times it circles a community, a nation or the globe? This course explores the clever use and misuse of popular media forms of distribution from fly posting and Andre the Giant stickers, to voicemail/email message forwarding to smart mobs and more. This is an intermediate Digital Arts course and students are expected to have a basic understanding of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and web page creation.


Active student participation throughout all aspects of this course will make your experience much more meaningful and is necessary for the successfully completion of the assigned work.  There are reading/research assignments, weekly discussions, student presentations, critiques and the production work during this course. Students are expected to be present for all class meetings. Please email the instructor if you must miss a class.

Students will be evaluated based on the following: Participation/attitude, creative/conceptual work, technical dexterity and progress over the term.

Midterm Project, “Found in Translation”

Drawing upon our readings, students work in small teams to design a real world contagious project that works to translate another (external) group/organizations message(s). Once a message is chosen the group identifies the site for the project (web, email, the college campus, Bennington, mobile phone etc) and completes site impact and feasibility research. Implementation strategies and techniques are researched and then set into motion for project actualization. For the mid-term project please focus on issues that impact the local region and/or communities of the College or the town of Bennington. The instructor must approve projects and all work is to be documented on the web.

Final Project

Building on the midterm project and class readings, students work to design a contagious project of their own choosing. Implementation strategies and techniques are researched and then set into motion for project actualization. The instructor must approve projects and all work is to be documented on individual websites.

>> I do not accept late work <<


All students are expected to visit and contribute to the class weblog on a regular basis. Each student is expected to maintain a personal website or weblog for this class. All research, documentation, and creative work should be posted on your site for peer review and comments. In-class presentation materials should be located on your website.

Sign up for Rhizome Net Art News list.


All required course readings are located in the course pack, to be distributed the first day of class.

This schedule is a guide and is subject to change over the course of the term.

Session 1


Introduction to course.
Video Screening, Network

Session 2



Malcolm Gladwell, “The Law of the Few: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen,” From The Tipping Point, Little, Brown and Company, 2000.


Group Assignment part one. Examples of contagious media for class discussion. Group one collects email forwards, group two collects web sites.

Session 3



Malcolm Gladwell, “Case Study: Rumors, Sneakers and the Power of Translation.” From The Tipping Point, Little, Brown and Company, 2000.


Group Assignment part two. group three collects street memes, and group four collects tactical media interventions.

Session 4



David Garcia and Geert Lovink, “An ABC of Tactical Media,” From Nettime list, 1997 and Jonah Perreti, “My Nike Media Adventure,” from The Nation, 2001 and Michelle Chihara, “The Poster Boy of Guerilla Media,” from Alternet, 2002 and Stephen Lemons, “Andre the Giant Bombs the World!,” from Salon, 2000.


First round of ideas for midterm project. Brain storming.
Site/implementation discussion with Guest Carol Stakenas, via iChat AV.

Session 5



Malcolm Gladwell, “The Power of Context (Part One): Bernie Goetz and the Rise and Fall of New York City Crime,” From The Tipping Point, Little, Brown and Company, 2000.


Site/implementation research for midterms.

Session 6



Final midterm project presentations. Implementation begins

Session 7



Visit/read: http://meme.wikiverse.org and Dr. Susan Blackmore in conversation with R.U. Sirius “I Meme Mine,” from Life-enhancement.com, 2003.

Midterm assessment.

Session 8



Clay Shirky, “Social Software and the Politics of Groups” and Howard Rheingold “Smart Mobs: The Power of the Mobile Many.

Session 9



Hal Foster, “Brow Beaten” and “Design and Crime,” from Design and Crime (and Other Diatribes), Verso, 2000


First draft of ideas for final project

Session 10



Elizabeth Grosz: “Notes on the Thing, A Brief Manifesto,” from The Pragmatist imagination: Thinking about Things in the Making, Joan Ockman, ed., New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000.

Carol Stakenas visits class via iChat AV


Site/implementation research for final project.

Session 11



Final project revisions.

>>Thanksgiving Holiday November 24-28<<

Session 12



Presentation of final projects and begin implementation.

Carol Stakenas on-site for critique.

Session 13


Last Class. Final project assessment.