The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Film, New Media, Software and the Internet

The details
Art History and Theory
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
09 July 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA PV33 Film Studies and Art History (Including Year Abroad),
BA VW36 Film Studies and Art History,
BA VW37 Film Studies and Art History (Including Placement Year),
BA VW38 Film Studies and Art History (Including Foundation Year),
BA VW3B Film Studies and Art History (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA V351 Curatorial Studies,
BA V352 Curatorial Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA V353 Curatorial Studies (including Placement Year),
BA V359 Curatorial Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA V35B Curatorial Studies (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad)

Module description

Following on from modules on photography, this course presents the artwork of the post-mechanical age. Dealing broadly with what might most succinctly be called "New Media" art, the module presents for discussion and analysis the work of artists whose media of choice are those of the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, from film and video, through sound and electric light, to cybernetics, robotics, software, computer games, and the codes, structures and processes of the Internet itself.

'After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.' - Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.

The history of art is, in many respects, the history of artistic media and materials, and this has perhaps never been more visible than in the embrace by artists of the rapidly developing technologies of the second half of the twentieth century onwards.

Students will be asked to consider the particular issues of production, reception and display / exhibition / curation of new media art in terms of its material / immaterial forms and its social, political and historical contexts, as well as relate the issues raised by new media artists to their own experiences and lives as citizens of an increasingly digital, technologically-mediated world.

Particular attention will be paid to the institutionalisation of new media art by the art world (see, for example, the accession of video games to the collection at MoMA) and the problems such work poses in terms of collecting, storing and archiving.

Weekly readings will enable students to engage with the histories and theories of new media art in the broader practical and historiographic contexts of art history, and make connections between contemporary new media practice and the canonical art historical traditions from which they have emerged.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

1. to provide students with a grounding in the history of what might broadly be called 'new media' art: screen-based art beyond photography, including film, video, digital art, software art and internet art, amongst others;

2. to explore issues related to the main developments in new media art practice in Europe, America and beyond, and to be able to relate those issues to the politics, social contexts and ideological debates of their times, and subsequently;

3. to question the practical and conceptual implications of new media art for curators, museums and funding institutions, in theory, in history and in the law;

4. to develop skills of visual and conceptual analysis for the medium of new media art and its personal, political / activist, and artistic uses;

5. to encourage students to examine issues relating to their own engagement with contemporary screen-based visual culture and the media more broadly, including objectification, privacy, originality, materiality, virtuality and commodification;

6. to introduce students to specialised debates in past and recent literature around the role and interpretation of new media art;

7. to learn to summarise and re-present key theoretical and historical arguments concisely;

8. to raise student awareness of different methods of approaching the discipline through analysis of chosen texts;

9. to stimulate students to develop skills in written communication through essay and oral communication and debate in seminars.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module the student should have:

1. a sound grasp of the history of new media art;

2. the ability to interpret new media art practice and texts which criticise and theorise it based on sound knowledge of the appropriate historical and interpretative contexts;

3. the confidence to subject the artworks and texts studied to critical analysis;

4. the ability to communicate complex ideas concerning representation, medium-specificity, and (post-) modernity;

5. some insight into the different methods of art-historical investigation that have been explored with reference to new media art;

6. some experience in textual analysis relevant to works and theoretical debates on new media art;

7. an ability to discuss the history of new media art and demonstrate all these competences through seminar presentations, one coursework essay of 2,500 words and a 72-hour timed research exercise;

8. an ability to summarise and synthesise academic sources, through weekly submissions of 100-200 word summaries of set readings (assessed);

9. an ability to quickly and concisely respond to research briefs.

Module information

Lectures will cover topics including: early experiments with autonomous, moving robotic machines (Jean Tinguely, Bruce Lacey); films by artists, (Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, Martha Rosler, Douglas Gordon); ground-breaking exhibitions such as the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at the ICA (1968); work with television and video (Nam June Paik); prosthetic cyborg investigations (Stelarc, Marcellí Antúnez Roca); bio-informatic projects (Eduardo Kac); virtual reality (Charlotte Davies) activist art hacking (Mark Napier), software and video game art (Cory Arcangel), art online (Eva & Franca Mattes) and more.

Learning and teaching methods

10 x 2 hour seminars 1 x Gallery visit Week 21 is Reading Week


  • James Bridle. (2018) 'Concurrency', in New dark age: technology, knowledge and the end of the future, London: Verso., pp.215-239
  • Paul, Christiane. (c2009) 'Context and Archive: Presenting and Preserving Net-Based Art', in Net pioneers 1.0: contextualizing early net-based art, Berlin: Sternberg Press.
  • Kac, E. (c2005) '‘The Emergence of Biotelematics and Bio-Robotics: Integrating Biology, Information Processing, Networking and Robotics’', in Telepresence & bio art: networking humans, rabbits & robots, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. vol. Studies in literature and science
  • Douglas Kahn. (1999) 'Introduction', in Noise, water, meat: a history of sound in the arts, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press., pp.2-19
  • John Parrington. (2016) ''Introduction: The Gene Revolution' and 'Natural Born Mutants'', in Redesigning life: how genome editing will transform the world, Oxford: Oxford University Press., pp.1-30
  • Walley, J. (Winter 2003) 'The Material of Film and the Idea of Cinema: Contrasting Practices in Sixties and Seventies Avant-Garde Film', in October Magazine: MIT Press. vol. 103 (103) , pp.15-30
  • Hobsbawm, E. J. (1994) 'The Avant-Garde Dies - The Arts After 1950', in Age of extremes: the short twentieth century, 1914-1991, London: Michael Joseph., pp.500-521
  • Caitlin Jones. (2014) 'Objects, Intent and Authenticity: Producing, Selling and Conserving New Media Art', in New collecting: exhibiting and audiences after new media art, Farnham: Ashgate., pp.159-170
  • Michael Pigott. (2015) 'Found footage', in Joseph Cornell versus cinema, London: Bloomsbury Academic. vol. The WISH list, pp.16-36
  • Brett, G. (2000) '‘The Century of Kinesthesia’', in Force fields: phases of the kinetic / Hayward Gallery, Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani.
  • (no date) Carnegie Mellon Computer Club, Detaled Technical Report on Andy Warhol’s Amiga, 2014..
  • Benjamin, Walter; Underwood, J. A. (2007) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, London: Penguin Books Ltd.
  • Steven Tomasula. (2002) 'Genetic Art and the Aesthetics of Biology', in Leonardo: The MIT Press. vol. 35 (2) , pp.137-144
  • James Newman. (2012) 'Videogames are Disappearing', in Best before: videogames, supersession and obsolescence, Abingdon: Routledge., pp.1-40
  • Wilson, Douglas; Sicart, Miguel. (no date) ‘Now It’s Personal: On Abusive Game Design’.
  • Mitchell, W. J. Thomas. (1994-) 'The Work of Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction', in Modernism/modernity. vol. 10 (3) , pp.481-500
  • Lambert, Nicholas. (2013) 'Internet Art versus the Institutions of Art', in Art and the Internet, London: Black Dog Publishing., pp.12-17
  • McLuhan, Marshall. (2001) 'The Medium is the Message', in Understanding media: the extensions of man, London: Routledge.
  • Amelia Jones. (2007) 'Stelarc's Technological "Transcendence"/Stelarc's Wet Body: The Insistent Return of the Flesh', in Stelarc: The Monograph, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press Ltd.
  • Kern, Stephen. (1983) 'The Cubist War', in The culture of time and space 1880-1918, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press., pp.287-312
  • Rush, Michael. (2007) Video art, London: Thames & Hudson.
  • Brett Martin. (2013) 'Should Videogames be viewed as Art?', in Videogames and art, Bristol: Intellect.
  • Donna Haraway. (1991) 'A Cyborg Manifesto', in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books., pp.149-182
  • Eamon, Christopher. (2009) 'An Art of Temporality', in Film and video art, London: Tate., pp.66-85
  • LaBelle, Brandon. (2015) Background noise: perspectives on sound art, New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Katja Kwastek. (2013) 'Interactive Art—Definitions and Origins', in Aesthetics of interaction in digital art, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press., pp.1-42

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Reading Summaries TOTAL 10%
Coursework Week 2 + 3 reading summaries 14/10/2019
Coursework Week 4 reading summary 21/10/2019
Coursework Week 5 reading summary 28/10/2019
Coursework Week 6 reading summary 04/11/2019
Coursework Week 7 reading summary 11/11/2019
Coursework Week 9 reading summary 25/11/2019
Coursework Week 10 reading summary 02/12/2019
Coursework Week 11 reading summary 09/12/2019
Coursework 2500 word essay 14/01/2020 40%
Coursework Take home exam (2000 words) 20/01/2020 50%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Matt Lodder



External examiner

Prof Richard Simon Clay
Newcastle University
Professor of Digital Cultures
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
18 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Art History and Theory

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