New Media Course Takes Art into Digital Realm

A new media course, taught by visiting experts, gives students hands-on experience with art in the digital realm.
Scott Vignos '06 Oct. 1, 2003

With the lights low in the Mac lab at the CMC, students enrolled in "Digital Art: Art after New Media" present their latest projects. The assignments take the forms of Flash animations, 3D rendered maps, Web sites and PowerPoint presentations, with several physical art pieces to round out the broad range of media utilized. The projects are focusing on the notion of psycho-cartography, mapping mental travels and comparing them to physical movement. As an added element, the mapping exercise must include observations of communication technology around campus and the world at large. Many students have little experience with digital art and a project of this nature is a stretch from the comfortable biology lab write-up or history essay, which is exactly what the instructors are hoping for.

The class, taught by Steve Dietz, former curator of New Media at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and Justin Bakse, artist in residence at the Minnesota College of Art and Design, is part of the ongoing Digital Arts Festival that is taking place at Carleton through October. The class, a media studies course, aims to delve into the world of New Media, art in the digital realm.

The first few days of class are spent explaining what exactly New Media entails. From Web site art pieces that sense the time of day and change accordingly, to machines that paint graffiti on walls that you control from your home computer, the field of New Media is fast growing and staggering in its potential. "What we’re witnessing now with New Media, is what the world was seeing with the advent of photography a hundred years ago," Bakse said while explaining the course to students.

Students start small in their introduction to the field. A beginning assignment involves using basic shapes and colors to animate emotions and virtues using Flash, a computer animation program. Animations take the forms of circles hiding behind squares to represent modesty, to orbs crawling across a screen to signify patience. Projects grow more complicated in nature, with the mapping exercise representing the first chance for students to branch out in unique directions to complete their assignments.

Ultimately, the goal of the course is for students to create their own New Media narrative that will grow from concept to execution through knowledge of the field and by learning how to use the wide range of technologies to build pieces. A selection of these projects will appear in the Digital Arts show on October 22 in the Art Gallery. For now, students continue to present their works to the class, receiving input from their peers and growing into their new positions as digital artists.

Learn more about Media Studies 252 at www.volcanokit.com/aanm

View student projects by:

Ike Phelps www.student.carleton.edu/~phelpsi/map

Scott Vignos www.student.carleton.edu/~vignoss