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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Sally McKay


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 417

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23675

Office Hours: Thursdays, 10:00-11:00 am

Course Objectives:

Course Description and Objectives: This courses examines historical and contemporary perceptions of art emerging at the conjunctions of art, science and technology. Students will engage in a critical exploration of the role of the observer in art historical writing and research, examining conditions of perception and subjectivity from the Enlightenment to the present day. Topics include the foundations of scientific method, Renaissance perspective, 18th and 19th century visual technologies, 20th century technologies, constructions of the body, cyborgs and new media. This is an in-depth reading seminar designed to foster independent thinking and critical writing skills with an emphasis on class participation and the open exploration of ideas.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Texts:

Required readings are drawn from three sources: texts available publicly online, texts available through the ArtBibliographies Modern database on the Mills Library website, and books placed on reserve at the Library. Students are required to have either digital or hard-copy versions of texts on hand for reference during class discussion.

Method of Assessment:

Assignments Breakdown:

Participation (including reading presentations) ........................................ 20%

Written Reading Reponses (due weekly, Wednesdays by 2:00 pm)......... 25%

Art & Technology Review (due in class, Oct. 16)..................................................... 15%

Research Presentation (Nov.13, Nov.20 or Nov.27)................................. 20%

Final Essay & Proposal (proposal due XXX, essay due Nov. 27)......................... 20%


Assignments Details:

Participation (including reading presentations) 20%

Students are required to attend all classes and participate in class discussions. Students will be assigned to lead the discussion on required readings. It is of utmost importance for the class that we each remain welcoming and open to points of view that differ from our own. Students are expected to participate fully, treat one another with courtesy and respect, and contribute with sensitivity to a group dynamic of collaborative exploration. Attendance is mandatory for all classes, including those where other students besides yourself are making presentations. Missing class, coming late to class, leaving early, not being prepared and not participating in class will negatively impact your grade.


Written Reading Reponses (due weekly, Wednesdays by 2:00 pm) 25%

This course revolves around class discussion of weekly readings. All students must submit written responses to all required readings on a weekly basis. Drop boxes will be set up on Avenue to Learn for weekly submissions. Students must also bring copies of their written responses to class for reference during class discussion. Written responses must be in your own words. If you do quote from the text, make sure to explain the quote in your own words. The format for written responses is as follows:

            • 2-3 sentences outlining the author’s primary concern

            • 2-3 sentences describing one aspect of the text that stands out for you

            • At least one question that the text raised for you


Art & Technology Review (due in class, Oct. 16) 15%

(1000-1200 words) Students will write a short essay on an artwork viewed in person in the context for which it was intended (eg. a work displayed in a gallery or museum, a public sculpture, a live performance, an artwork designed to be viewed online). Reviewing an artwork seen only in reproduction is not acceptable. For this essay, students will be asked to assess how the technological conditions of production and display convey meanings within the work. You will also be asked to consider how your own role as observer is impacted by technological environments. Detailed guidelines for this assignment will be discussed in class


Research Presentation (Nov.13, Nov.20 or Nov.27) 20%

Each student will deliver a 15-minute conference-style Power Point presentation on their research project (see Final Essay below). Students will be assigned a date for presentation in class. Detailed guidelines for this assignment will be discussed in class.


Final Essay & Proposal (proposal due Oct.30, essay due Nov.27) 20%

Each student will identify a specific research question about art, science and/or technology raised for them by the course material. Students will conduct independent research on their topic, examining key texts and artworks that speak to the issues they are examining. The essay proposal will be one page that includes the following:

            • a clearly stated research question

            • a brief methodology answering the following questions: What are your sources? Why                         have you chosen them? How do the inform your research question?

            • an annotated bibliography of at least 5 sources

            • a list of artworks (or a single artwork) that inform your research including artist, title,                         date, and medium

The final essay (2000-2400 words) will follow a clear structure as follows:

            • introduction (1 paragraph)

            • thesis statement (1 paragraph)

            • short methodology section (1 paragraph)

            • carefully structured argument (body of the essay)

            • conclusion (1 paragraph)

All sources must be properly cited according to the Chicago/Turabian style guide (posted on Avenue to Learn). Detailed guidelines for this assignment will be discussed in class.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Required Readings and Schedule


Sept. 11 - Senses and Subjectivity

• Olia Lialina, “Turing Complete User,” (October 2012)

• René Descartes, “First Meditation” and “Second Meditation,” in Meditations of First Philosophy, John Cottingham, trans. (Cambridge; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1986),  12-23. [Library Reserve]

•Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965) [Library Reserve - P 90 .M16 1965]


Sept. 18 - Interface

• Alan Turing, “Computing machinery and intelligence,” Mind, no. 59 (1950): 433-460. []

• Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Touchstone, 1995),  9-26, 85-88 [Library Reserve]

• Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 241-264. [Library Reserve]

• Emily Leisz Carr, “25 Internet Artists you Need to Know” Compex Art&Design (April 26, 2013)


Sept. 25- The Air Pump

• CBC Ideas, How to Think about Science, Episode One: Steven Shapin and Stephen Schaffer (online audio interview) []

• Paul Duro, “‘Great and Noble Ideas of the Moral Kind’: Wright of Derby and the Scientific Sublime,” Art History, vol.33, no. 4 (September 2010): 660-679 [e-text]

• Donna Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™ (New York: Routledge, 1997), 23-47. [Library Reserve]


Oct. 2 - Visual Technologies

• Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 151-182. [Library Reserve]

• Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer, On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, MASS & London: MIT Press, 1990), 1-4, 22-23, 27-29, 38-47, 47-53, 62-66, 67-72, 102-110, 110-113, 113-118, 118-126, 126-136 [Library Reserve]

• Isaac Newton, Optiks (London: William Innys, 1730), 16-17 and 21-27. [e-text]

• Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colours (Cambridge;Massachusetts;London: The MIT Press, 1997 [note: 1st published in 1840]), 16-28. [e-text]


Oct. 9 - Human Bodies

• Priscilla Netto, “Reclaiming the Body of the ‘Hottentot’: The Vision and Visuality of the Body Speaking with Vengeance in Venus Hottentot 2000,” European Journal of Women’s Studies, vol. 12, no. 2 (2005): 149–163 [e-text]

• Elizabeth Stephens, “Inventing the Bodily Interior: Écorché Figures in Early Modern Anatomy and von Hagens’ Body Worlds,” Social Semiotics, vol. 17, no. 3 (September 2007): 313-326 [e-text]

• N. Katherine Hayles, "Flesh and Metal: Reconfiguring the Mindbody in Virtual Environments," Configurations, vol. 10, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 297-320 [e-text]


Oct. 16 - Colour Perception (Art & Technology Review due in class)

• Olafur Eliasson, “Some Ideas about Colour,” Olafur Eliasson: Your Colour Memory, Ismail Soyugenc and Richard Torchia, eds., Exhibition catalogue (Glenside: Arcadia University Art Gallery, 2006), pp. 75-83 [e-text]

• Semir Zeki, Splendours and Miseries of the Brain, (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) pp.21-34 and 42-49 [Library Reserve - QP 376 .Z39 2009]

• Carolyn L. Kane, "The Synthetic Color Sense of Pipilotti Rist, or, Deleuzian Color Theory for Electronic Media Art," Visual Communication, no. 10 (2011): 475-497 [e-text]


Oct. 23 - The Synaesthetic System

• Susan Buck-Morss, “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin's Artwork Essay Reconsidered,” in October, no. 62 (Fall 1992): 3-5, 5-6, 6-8, 8-10, 11-13, 14-15, 16-18, 18-21, 21-23, 23-26, 27-29, 29-32, 32-33, 33-36, 37-38, 38-41 [e-text]


Oct. 30 - New Media 1 (Essay Proposal due in class)

• Margaret Morse, “Video Installation Art: The Body, the Image, and the Space-in-between,” Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, eds., Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (New York: Aperture in association with the Bay Area Video Coalition, 1990), 153-167. [e-text]

• Noah Simblist, "Interview: Omer Fast," …might be good (July 27, 2012)

• Kristin Lucas, Yard Sale in the Sky (2011-2012)

• The AR Art Manifesto,


Nov. 6 - Cyborgs

• Marîa Fernández, “Postcolonial Media Theory,” in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, Amelia Jones, ed. (London: Routledge, 2010), 520-533. [Library Reserve]

• Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, Amelia Jones, ed. (London: Routledge, 2010), 475-497. [Library Reserve]

• Kim Beil, “Seeing Syntax: Google Art Project and the Twenty-First Century Period Eye,” Afterimage, vol.40, no. 4(Jan/Feb 2013): 22-27. [e-text]


Nov. 13 - Student Presentations


Nov. 20 - Student Presentations


Nov. 27 - Student Presentations (Final Essay due in class)


Dec. 4 - New Media 2

• readings TBA based on class discussions


Optional Readings & Online Resources

•  Benjamin, Walter, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in

Media And Cultural Studies, Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Douglas Kellner, eds.

 (Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2005), 18-40.

• Berland, Jody, “Cat and Mouse: Iconographies of Nature and Desire,” in Cultural Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2, (Spring 2008) pp. 431-54.

• Braidotti, Rosi, “Cyberfeminism with a Difference,” in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, Amelia Jones, ed. (London: Routledge, 2010)

• Bush, Vannevar, "As We May Think," Atlantic Monthly (July 1945)‎

• Chan, Jennifer, “Why Are There No Great Women Net Artists?” Pool (June 4, 2011)

• Fernandez, Maria, “Is Cyberfeminism Colorblind?,” Art Women, online publication (July 2002),

• Gould, Stephen Jay, The Mismeasure of Man (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996).

•  Haraway, Donna, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (Fall 1988): 575-578, 581-583

• Heidegger, Martin, “The Question Concerning Technology” in Martin Heidegger : Philosophical and Political Writings (New York: Continuum, 2003)

• Ihde, Don “Heidegger’s Philosophy of Technology” in Heidegger's Technologies: Postphenomenological Perspectivesn (Ashland, Ohio: Fordham University Press, 2010)

• InterAccess (Artist Run Centre in Toronto focused on art & technology)

• Johnson, Paddy "Graphics Interchange Format At Denison University’s Mulberry Gallery" ARTFCITY (Feb. 15, 2011)

• Kelly, Kevin, “What Does Technology Want?” Ted Talks (Feb. 2005)

• Lialina, Olia, “A Vernacular Web,” (February, 2005)

• Lozano-Hemmer, Rafael, “Perverting Technological Correctness,” Leonardo, vol.29, no.1 (1996): 5-15.

•  Manovitch, Lev, “Distance and Aura,” Lev Manovich Official Website (1996),

• Midgley, Mary, Science and Poetry, (London & New York: Routledge, 2006).

• McKay, Sally, “The Affect of Animated GIFs,” Art & Education (September 2009)

•  Nelson, Joyce “Atomic Fictions,” in The Perfect Machine: TV in the Nuclear Age (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1987), 40-57.

• Plant, Sadie “zeros + ones: Digital Women + The New Technoculture” in Art and Feminism, Helena Reckitt, Peggy Phelan, eds. (London and New York: Phaidon, c. 2001, 2006), 285-6.

• Rhizome (online organization focused on new media and digital art)

•  Stephenson, Neal, “Metaphysics in the Royal Society 1715-2010,” in Some Remarks: Neal Stephenson (New York: William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2013), 38-57.

• Stephenson, Neal, “Mother Earth Mother Board,” Wired Magazine, vol.4, no.12 (Dec.1996)

• Subtle Technologies (annual conference in Toronto for art & science)

• Turkle, Sherry, “Connected But Alone?” Ted Talks (Feb. 2012)

•  Varela, Franciso, J. Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind (Cambridge, MASS & London: The MIT Press, 1993, c.1991).


Other Course Information:

Policy on Late and/or Missed Work: It is the responsibility of each student to meet the requirements of submission for coursework. Handing work in late is not acceptable. A penalty of one full letter grade will be imposed for every academic day assignments are late. For example, a grade of A will be reduced to an F if assignment is five days late. Exceptions to this policy will only be made in specific instances where a student is eligible to file a McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) and follows the proper procedure online at Please note the following stipulations.

 • MSAF is a self-reporting tool for Undergraduate Students to report absences due to minor medical situations that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation   for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period.

Extensions or Accommodations: Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation.  Absences of less than 5 days may be reported using the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) at  . If you are unable to use the MSAF, you should document the absence with your faculty office.  In all cases, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take. There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations.

Avenue to Learn: In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn.  Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course.  The available information is dependent on the technology used.  Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure.  If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

Support Services: The University provides a variety of support services to help students manage their many demands. Reference librarians can provide invaluable research assistance. The Student Accessibility Services Centre (SAS) provides assistance with personal as well as academic matters. MUSC B107 and