CCTP-802: Art and Media Interface(d)
Professor Martin Irvine
Communication, Culture & Technology Program
The Interdisciplinary Research Context
This course will provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding visual art, photography, film, and other media in our contemporary context of genres, technologies, and institutions of mediation. Working with a knowledge base that draws from social systems theory, semiotics, and art historical methods, we will expand the implications of four main conceptual metaphors: interface, medium, networks and nodes, and de-blackboxing. These terms and concepts are used in multiple disciplinary domains and communities of practice with simultaneously technical-material and semiotic-conceptual applications.
Using the concepts of interface and medium, we will recover and investigate continuities in our key ideas about representation and transmission of cultural genres and artefacts: museums and artworks themselves are interfaces to the larger systems of meanings, values, and social relations in which they function as nodes in a network.
We will investigate big questions: how are cultural genres of representation and expression mediated by institutions, technologies, and ideologies of symbolic value? Understood in the longer history of cultural and technical mediation, how are museums and other cultural institutions using digital images and data for Web-based access to their collections? What happens to cultural reception in interactive and social media platforms? How are cultural genres mediated, re-mediated, and interpreted in the context of Web-based digital media and digital interfaces?
As a concluding case study, we will investigate the Google Art Project platform (recently re-branded as Google Arts and Culture) and other online cultural data projects, and inquire into the complex issues of design and social institutions for how or whether online platforms can mediate (or re-mediate) the institutional function of the museum, the cultural categories of art and art genres, and the complex knowledge that we value for cultural interpretation.
Case Studies in Washington Museums: COVID Safety and Online Virtual Visits
Depending on the COVID safety policies for visiting DC museums during January-April, we will build many course units on visiting and studying first-hand curated exhibitions in museums as case studies to apply the methods in the course. We will also study the online and virtual interfaces and designed contexts for presenting and interpreting artworks. In both “interface” modes (physical institutional contexts and online presentations) the museum case studies will open up the role of institutions, cultural interpretive contexts, and technologies for mediating and transmitting forms of cultural artefacts.
With historical and conceptual background developed in the course, we will use artworks and artefacts in their museum contexts (whether on-site or virtual views) as cases for developing research questions and applying theory and methods for in-depth interpretation and analysis. Students will develop their own research projects based on artworks, photography, and other artefacts in Washington area museums, whether by visiting them personally and/or by presentation in “virtual museum” interfaces.
Course Objectives and Outcomes
Students learn important interdisciplinary methods for interpreting art and media in multiple contexts, and will be equipped to analyze current and past technologies of mediation and representation. This knowledge base and will also equip students to participate in current ongoing research, critique, and implementation of technical and institutional interfaces for cultural knowledge and transmission of the cultural heritage.