Honors Colloquium:

HNRS66 course: Art and the Machine.

The Impact of Technology on Aesthetics

Winter 2002

Focus of the Course:

This study will attempt to combine a traditional framework of aesthetic theory, starting with Aristotle, and apply it to the expanded genres of artworks or the present day. Issues of virtual identities, perception, and internet art will be addressed in the readings. One project paper, due on the second day of exam week will be the major component of the final grade, along with a cumulative evaluation of the students' participation in class discussion. It is ESSENTIAL that the readings be completed on the days on which they are assigned.

Summaries of the Poetics, and other aesthetics texts may be found at: http://www.minotaurz.com/minotaur/edu.html under aesthetics.

Big list of Virtual Reality Sites.

New Links, contributed by Aaron Wilcher:

3D Experiments from the NYU Media Research Lab.

Virtual Jazz Musicians.

One-Dimensional Cellular Automata.

Site for Artificial life sources.

Java versions of complex systems and ALife.

Cellab software.

All students dealing with Postmodernism in general , and Postmodern architecture as a specific topic should read: The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, by Charles Jencks, (Rizzoli, 4th Ed.), 1984).

For those of you who still search in vain for a topic:

In 1981 Vernor Vinge wrote a novella entitled True Names that set off a furor among futurists, because it spoke of the "other plane." Twenty years afterward, a series of essays on the ramification in cyberculture have been published under the title: True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier, a series of essays edited by James Frenkel (A Tom Doherty Associates book, 2001). This book includes the original novella, with an afterword by Marvin Minsky. You could fashion your project out of this collection.

The sites below should provide additional raw material for your projects (please check this regularly):

Collection of cyberfiction.

Think Quest Library.

Database of student and teacher websites, fiction oriented toward cyberspace.

The Psychology of Cyberspace.

This series of essays and links could form the basis of a project.

A Sociological Tour Through Cyberscape.

The links here could be used for general inquiries into sociology, as well as the discipline in cyberspace.

Links to Experimental Art (updated every two days).

Hot Virtual Reality Sites.

What is Virtual Reality? (Isdale)

Be sure to try the FAIT Cube.

It usually does not work, but you can see a programming tree.


  • Aristotle, Poetics, transl. Malcolm Heath (Penguin Books, 1996).
  • Ars Electronica: Facing the Future (referred to as AE), Ed. Timothy Druckery (MIT Press, 1999).
  • Morse, Margaret, Virtualities, Television, Media Art, Cyberculture, (Indiana University Press, 1998).
  • Mumford, Lewis, Art and Technics, (Columbia University Press, 1952, 2000).
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Birth of Tragedy, transl. Shaun Whiteside (Penguin Books, 1993).
  • Norman, Donald A., Things that make us Smart, (Addison-Wesley, 1993).
  • Stone, Allucquere Rosanne, The War of Desire and Technology at the close of the Mechanical age, (MIT Press, 1998).
  • Turkle, Sherry, Life on the Screen, (Simon & Schuster, 1995).
  • Xerox handouts:
    Timeline of Technology.
    History of Aesthetics.
    Problems of Aesthetics.

  • Tuesday, January 8: Introduction.
    The dynamic redefinition of ambient space and our perception of it.
    Developing an approach to this contemporary study: aesthetics and psychology.
  • Thursday: Aristotle.
    Read Introduction, PP. vii-xvii, Synopsis, PP. xxii-xxiv.
    Poetics text, PP. 3-17.
    Norman, "A Human-Centered Technology, " PP. 3-18.
    AE, Herbert W. Franke, "Prologue," PP. 22-42.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 15: Aristotle, continued. Nietzsche, introduction.
    Introduction, PP. xviii-lxiii.
    Poetics, PP. 17-48.
    Xerox handout on History of Aesthetics.
    Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, PP. 14-71.
  • Thursday: There will be no class, but the following readings should be prepared.
    AE, Peter Weibel, "On the History and Aesthetics of the Digital Image," PP. 51-65.
    AE, Hannes Leopoldseher, "Ten Indications of an Emerging Computer Culture," PP. 67-70.
    Xerox handout on the Problems of Aesthetics.
    AE, Feuerstein and Strickner, "Trace Apparatus," PP. 257-260.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 22: Nietzsche, continued. Thursday readings. Virtualities, another point of view.
    The Birth of Tragedy, PP. 71-117.
    Morse, "Virtualities: A Conceptual Framework," PP. 3-35.
    Mumford, "Art and the Symbol," PP. 3-32.
    Turkle, "A Tale of Two Aesthetics," PP. 29-49.
  • Thursday: Methods and tools.
    Mumford,"The Tool and the Object," PP. 33-58.
    Mumford,"From Handicraft to Machine Art," PP. 59-84.
    Turkle, "The Triumph of Tinkering," PP. 50-73.
    Steele, James, "Architecture and Computers," Introduction excerpts (Xerox handout).
  • Tuesday, January 29: Computers.
    Stone, "Introduction: Sex, Death, and Machinery, etc.," PP.1-32.
    Turkle, "Making a Pass at a Robot," PP. 77-101.
  • Thursday: The Group.
    Members of the class should have already selected projects, and an outline of the paper should be handed in.
    Stone, "Collective Structures,PP. 33-44.
    Stone, "In Novel Conditions: The Cross-Dressing Psychiatrist," PP. 65-81.
  • Tuesday, February 5: The process of integration with media.
    Morse, "Television Graphics and the Virtual Body," PP. 71-98.
    Historical precursors in film: Metropolis, Son of Frankenstein, Citizen Kane.
    Turkle, "Taking Things at Interface Value," PP. 102-124.
    AE, Vilem Flusser, "Memories," PP. 202-206.
  • Thursday:Integration II. Transport for the Mind: Theory (a new pencil?).
    Morse, "An Ontology of Everyday Distraction: The Freeway, the Mall, and Television," PP. 99-124.
    Stone, "Reinvention and Encounter: Pause for Theory," PP. 83-97.
    AE, John Sanborn, "Statement about art and Technology," PP. 368-369.
    A film influenced by conepts of VR: Carlos Saura's Tango (1999).
  • Tuesday, Feb. 12: Cyberphilosophy: Artificial Intelligence.
    Morse, "What do Cyborgs Eat?- Oral Logic in an Information Society," PP. 125-151.
    Turkle, "The Quality of Emergence," PP. 125-148.
    Charles and Ray Eames, "Powers of Ten," significant film anticipating VR.
  • Thursday: Perception and content, Socrates and reflective thought.
    Norman, "Exeriencing the World," PP. 19-41.
    Norman, "The Power of Representation," PP. 43-75.
    Stone, "Agency and Proximity: Communities/CommuniTrees," PP. 99-124.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 19: Human Games- Human Interaction.
    Stone, "The End of Innocence, Part I: Cyberdammerung at the Atari Lab," PP. 123-155.
    Norman, "Fitting the artifact to the Person," PP. 77-113.
    AE, Jurgen Claus, "Expansion of Media Art: What Will Remain of the Electronic Age?" PP.180-184.
    AE, Gerhard Johnann Lischka, "Media Art, " PP. 185-191.
    Human-Machines in film: excerpt from Tron, 1982.
    Full-blown VR in a commercial narrative film: Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.
  • Thursday: Human Games- Human Mind.
    Stone, "The End of Innocence, Part II: Cyberdammerung at Wellspring Systems, " PP. 157-164.
    AE, Melita Zajc, "Keep Him on the Phone- The Human Body in the Realm of Technology," PP. 292-299.
    AE, Peter Weibel, "Virtual Worlds: The Emperor's New Bodies," PP. 207-223.
    Characteristics of digital environments: new, experimental computer animation films.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 26: Virtual Reality in Main (Virtual Beauty?)
    AE, Derrick de Kerckhove, "Virtual reality for Collective Cognitive Processing," PP. 234-240.
    Mumford, "Standardization, Reproduction, and Choice," PP. 85-110.
    Morse, "The Body, The Image, and the Space-in-Between: Video Installation Art," PP. 155-177.
    Morse,"Cyberscapes, Control, and Transcendence: The Aesthetics of the Virtual,". PP. 178-211.
    AE, Scott S. Fisher, " Virtual Environments, Personal Simulation & Telepresence," PP. 107-113.
  • Thursday: Alive and Not Alive (Frankenstein Walks Among Us).
    Turkle, "Artificial Life as the New Frontier," PP. 149-174.
    Norman, "Distributed Cognition," PP. 139-153.
    Norman,"A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place," PP. 155-184.
    AE, Bilwet/Adikno/Filwis, "Cybermedia and the Fatal attraction of Realities," PP. 224-228.
    AE, Christopher G. Langton, "Artificial Life," PP. 261-268.
  • Tuesday, Mar.5: Architecture and Cities.
    AE, Kathy Rae Huffman, "Video and Architecture- Beyond the Screen," PP. 135-139.
    Mumford, "Symbol and Function in Architecture, " PP. 111-135.
    AE, Paul Virilio, "The Overexposed City," PP. 276-283.
    AE, Edouard Bannwart, "The Medialization of the Cities," PP. 284-285.
  • Thursday: You and Me: Now and Then.
    Turkle, "Aspects of the Self," PP. 177-209.
    Turkle, "Tinysex and Gender Trouble," PP. 210-232.
    Norman, "Predicting the Future," PP. 185-219.
    Norman, "Soft and Hard Technology," PP. 221-242.
  • Tuesday, Mar. 12: Their Regrets and Conclusions.
    AE, Kristine Stiles, "Thresholds of Control- Destruction Art and Terminal Culture," PP. 124-134.
    AE, Heimo Ranzenbacher, "For a Digital Renaissance of Situationalism," PP. 161165.
    Mumford, "Art, Technics, and Cultural Integration, " PP. 136-162.
    Stone, "Conclusion: The Gaze of the Vampire," PP. 165-183.
  • Thursday: Our Conclusions and Doubts- Freud need not Apply.
    Turkle, "Virtuality and its Discontents," PP. 232-254.
    Turkle, "Identity Crisis, " PP. 255-269.
    Norman, "Technology is not Neutral," PP. 243-253.
    AE, Marvin Minsky, "The Future Merging of Science, Art, and Psychology," PP. 229-241.
    AE, Jurgen Claus, "Terminal Art," PP. 370-375.

  • Final projects may consist of analyses or research on projects described in Ars Electronica, PP. 388-394, 397-402, or 428-430. Other topics may be arranged in advance with the instructor.

    Updated, March 12, 2002.