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New Media Theory Seminar: Telematic Embrace: Computer Networking and Visionary Consciousness

Academic Year: 
Remote Synchronous Instruction
This seminar explores telecommunications as an artistic medium by investigating its history and current practice and by speculating on its future. In 1980, artist Roy Ascott launched his first art project using computer networking as a medium, a form of practice he later theorized as “telematic art.” Although early telematic artworks were limited to ASCII text - a far cry from Zoom and MMRPGs of today - the participants were exhilarated by the unprecedented experience of collective, creative exchanges with remote collaborators. Like the effusive rhetoric surrounding multimedia interactivity in the 1990s digital revolution, Ascott’s intention was utopian, enmeshed in McLuhanesque visions of a global village of expanded collective consciousness. Forty years later, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, telematics has become the primary channel for sociality and education. What once was a magical realm of science fiction and experimental art has become utterly mundane. Yet, in this time of crisis, we now rely on videoconferencing so greatly that it would be hard to imagine what we would do without it. This seminar raises the questions: Beyond the mundane, what can we imagine doing with it? What visionary potentials can we imagine for it? What convergences can we imagine between telematics and video, games, XR, and performance? How can the disembodied medium telematics enable remote shared experiences of embodiment and ecstasy? Can artists deploy telematics in ways that expand individual and collective consciousness? Final projects may be written or a combination of practice and writing.