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Digital Art and Philosophy - Semester Course

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Digital Art and Philosophy - Semester-length Course

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Contact information: MelanieSwan.com/contact.html

Short Course Syllabus


Syllabus: Pluralist Narratives in Digital Art and Philosophy


This course examines the intersection of digital art, technology, and philosophy, and digital art as a unique venue for the democratization of creative expression and narrative construction. Much of current human endeavor involves technology and aesthetic design as art becomes technology and technology becomes art, and this can be analyzed from the standpoint of philosophy and how new narratives and epistemologies are being created. Artists, scientists, and individuals alike are exploring new media such as information, personal data, biology, and virtual reality with exciting and unexpected results. Specific digital art contexts are covered including generative art, interactive art, information visualization, video games, virtual reality, performance, play, bio art, crowd art, synthetic biology, molecular design, wearable electronics, and identity construction.


Format: lecture and discussion. Assignments: oral presentations of assigned texts and longer assignments responding to the course material in writing, performance, and/or digital art work; co-creating from the class as an output. Objective: become aware of the context and topics in the philosophy of digital art and contemporary technology. The course meets for 6 weeks, in three 2.5 hours sessions per week.



  • ·         Human activity is not discrete, there are elements of technology, art/design/aesthetics, philosophical enactment, and narrative-making in everything we do
  • ·         Contemporary shift away from institutional production to democratized individual and crowd production of art, science, technology, objects, and knowledge
  • ·         What is real becomes harder/impossible to discern; uncoupling of real and authentic
  • ·         Representing the unrepresented and de novo creation: accuracy and agenda
  • ·         What constitutes qualitative change? Shifts in objective and subjective experience


Text Books (other readings listed below)

  • Digital Art (Christiane Paul 2008)
  • New Philosophy for a New Media (Mark Hansen 2006)
  • What is New Media? (Lev Manovich 2002)


Module 1: Introduction to Digital Art and Philosophy

What is New Media? (Lev Manovich 2002)

Digital Art (Christiane Paul 2008) Ch. 1 Digital Technologies as a Tool

Review of a Philosophy of Computer Art (Timothy Binkley 2010)

An Essay in Aesthetics (Roger Fry 1908)

Photography Is Not Art (Man Ray 1943)

The Artworld (Arthur Danto 1964)


Module 2: Conception and Properties of Digital Art: Interactive Art, Generative Art

Digital Art (Christiane Paul 2008) Ch. 2 Digital Technologies as a Medium

Dada Redux: Elements of Dadaist Practice in Contemporary Electronic Literature (Scott Rettburg 2008)

What is Generative Art? (Margaret Boden 2009)

The Further Exploits of AARON, the AI Painter (Harold Cohen 1995)

The Ontology of Interactivity (Jonathan Frome 2009)

The Origin of the Work of Art (Martin Heidegger 1937)


Module 3: The Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Perception and the Philosophy of Information

Digital Art (Christiane Paul 2008) Ch. 3 Themes in Digital Art

The Philosophy of Information (Luciano Floridi 2013)

Context is Half the Work (Peter Eleey 2007)

Representation, philosophical issues about (Martin Roth 2009)

Measuring Aesthetics for Information Visualization (Daniel Filonik 2009)

Framing Artistic Visualization: Aesthetic Object as Evidence (Jessica Hullman 2009)

Deleuze and Art (Anne Sauvagnargues 2013)


Module 4: The Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Information Visualization, Representation

Aesthetics of Information Visualization (Warren Sack 2013)

Authenticity and Computer Art (Margaret Boden 2006)

Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Jean-Francois Lyotard 1991)

The Sublime in Interactive Digital Installation (Tegan Bristow 2009)

Towards a Philosophy of Virtual Reality: Issues Implicit in "Consciousness Reframed"

(Stephen Jones 2000)


Module 5: Video Games, Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

(Jane McGonigal 2011)

Designing Futures: a Deleuzian take on design as embodiment of virtuality (Betti Marenko 2012)

Are Computer Games Real? (Patrick Coppock 2012)

Games and Narrative: An Analytical Framework (Jim Bizzocchi 2007)

Computer Games and Emotions (Petri Lankoski 2012)

A Rape in Cyberspace (Julian Dibbell 1998)

Videogames and Aesthetics (Grant Tavinor 2010)


Module 6: Democratized Creativity: Play, Performance

Performance is the Thing (Dzifa Benson 2006)

Theatre and Philosophy (Tom Stern 2013)

What is Performance Philosophy? (Laura Cull 2012)

Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance: Cultural Memory in the Present (Freddi Rokem 2010)

Affect, Percept and Micro-brains: Art according to Gilles Deleuze (Catarina Pombo Nabais 2012)

New digital options in geographically distributed dance collaborations with TEEVE: tele-immersive environments for everybody (Katherine Mezur 2007)

Computational and Cognitive Infrastructures of Stigma: Empowering Identity in Social Computing and Gaming (Fox Harrell 2008)


Module 7: Natural Aesthetics: BioArt, Biomimicry, SynBio

Topics in Philosophy and Ethics of Bioart (Peter Anders 2011)

The Art of Living Systems (Marta Mikolajewska 2011)

Towards a Deeper Philosophy of Biomimicry (Freya Mathews 2011)

A theatre of individuation: theorising bioart encounters after Gilbert (Andrew Lapwort 2013)

The ethical claims of Bio Art: killing the other or self-cannibalism? (Ionat Zurr 2011)

Aesthetics in synthesis and synthetic biology (Steven Benner 2012)

Sensation: in search of aesthetic experience in chemical biology (Alexandra Ginsberg 2012)

Assembling an aesthetic (Emily Candela 2012)


Module 8: Portable ArtTech: Wearable Electronics, Gadgetry, and Data in the Construction of Identity and Narrative

The Power of Identity: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture (Manuel Castells 2003)

Pixels, Parts & Pieces: Constructing Digital Identity (Kelly Boudreau 2007)

The Quantified Self becomes the Qualified Self (Melanie Swan 2013)

The Extended Self (Eric Olson 2011)

I am against us? Unpacking cultural differences in ingroup favoritism via dialecticism (Kaiping Peng 2011)


Module 9: Creativity, CrowdArt, the City, Virtual Dwelling

Vitality of Digital Creation (Timothy Binkley 1997)

The Creation of Art: New Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics (Berys Gaut 2003)

The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space, Introduction: The Uncanny Home (Scott McQuire 2008)Building, Dwelling, Thinking” (Heidegger 1951)

Passages on nihilism from Beyond Good and Evil, The Gay Science, The Will to Power (Friedrich Nietzsche 1872-1888)

Nietzsche, Nihilism, and Meaning (Lawrence Hatab 1987)
On the Plurality of Grounds (Shamik Dasgupta 2013)


Module 10: Transhumanism, the Future

A History of Transhumanis Thought (Nick Bostrom 2005)

Nietzsche gets a Modem: Transhumanism and the Technological Sublime (Elaine Graham, 2002)

Nietzsche, the Overhuman, and Transhumanism (Stefan Sorgner 2009)

An ontology of virtual humans: Incorporating semantics into human shapes (Mario Gutiérrez 2007)

Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Gilles Deleuze 2009)

Computational Narration of Inner Thought: Memory, Reverie Machine (Jichen Zhu 2011)




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