this is not an online course

Course Syllabus - AVT 399 - 005: Tactical Media | Course Outline

Professor: Mark Cooley
Spring 2007

Required reading

Printed Texts

The Interventionists: Users' Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life, by Nato Thompson (Editor), Gregory Sholette (Editor) - Available to order here.

Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media, by Critical Art Ensemble - Order here or download here.

Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda - 2nd Edition, by Noam Chomsky, Order here or here.

"Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses", Louis Althusser, 1971 - Class handout

"Signs Address Somebody", Judith Williamson, from Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and meaning in Advertising 1978, 1983, 2002 - Class handout

Online Texts

0100101110101101.org interviewed by Jaka Zeleznikar, Now You're in My Computer
Autonome a.f.r.i.k.a., What is Communication Guerrilla
Autonome a.f.r.i.k.a., Communication Guerrilla - Transversality in Everyday Life?
Luther Blissett, XYZ of Net Activism
Natalie Bookchin interviewed by Beryl Graham, New Media, Community Art ...
CAE, Framing Tactical Media
Ricardo Dominguez interviewed by Coco Fusco, Electronic Disturbance
David Garcia & Geert Lovink, The ABC of Tactical Media
David Garcia, Islam & Tactical Media
Nathan Martin of Carbon Defense League, Parasitic Media
Joanne Richardson, The Language of Tactical Media
RTMark interviewed by Sylvie Myerson & Vidyut Jain, The Art of Confusion
RTMark Interviewed by Glen Helfand, Q&A With RTMark
Sfear von Clauswitz, A Reaction to Tactical Media
McKenzie Wark, On the Tactic of Tactics
Peter Lamborn Wilson, Response to the Tactical Media Manifesto

Stefan Wray, The Electronic Disturbance Theater and Electronic Civil Disobedience
CAE, Digital Resistance
George Orwell archive
Streets into Stages: an interview with Surveillance Camera Players’ Bill Brown

Recommended reading

Alex Galloway, Protocol, - How Control exists after Decentralization
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle and Comments on the Society of the Spectacle
Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Luce Giard, Pierre Mayol, Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life: Vol. 2

Artists, Cultural Producers

Krzysztof Wodiczko - Interrogative Design Group
The Yes Men

Critical Art Ensemble
Beatriz da Costa
Fereshteh Toosi
SubRosa
0100101110101101.org
De Geuzen
Telestreet
RTMark
Reverend Billy
my dad's strip club / The Vacuum Cleaner
next 5 minutes
Political Friendster
Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT)
The Surveillance Camera Players
The Bureau of Inverse Technology
The Center For Tactical Magic
The Carbon Defense League
The Conglomco Media Network
The Institute for Applied Autonomy
Counterproductive Industries
Guerrilla News Network
Big Noise Films

Videos

Retooling Dissent, Street Rec
This is what democracy looks like, Big Noise Films
Zapatista, Big Noise Films
Manufacturing Consent, Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick
The horribly stupid stunt that resulted in his untimely death, The Yes Men
The Yes Men
rtmark.com video promo & independent film channel piece, rtmark
The Corporation, Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan

...& various other media clips

Course Description

AVT 399 Tactical Media, Prerequisite: AVT 382, Investigates the notion of Tactical Media; the fusion of contemporary art, activism and mass media production / distribution. Partly seminar and partly studio, the course will consist of research, discussion and individual and group projects.

Course Statement

"New media may be virtual but what they, in fact, need is not a further virtualization but a grounding in everyday life."  - Geert Lovink

About Tactical Media?
Tactical media can be described as the fusion of art, activism and media. Tactical media projects reject the classic view of view of media as a one-way dissemination of content and reimagines it as a vehicle for active engagement and participation with our media culture and material world. Tactical media arose to prominence in both the mainstream and contemporary art cultural scenes in the mid 90's and is strongly connected and sometimes interchangeable with culture jamming, independent and participatory journalism, open source activities and other activities aimed at democratizing media. Art historical precedence for tactical media include dadaism, situationism, fluxus and new genre public art among other movements devoted to critical thought and social engagement.

About the Course
The course looks at ways in which artists appropriate established art and media outlets and reinterpret them as participatory structures while exploding the notion of mass media and fine art as necessarily guarded, hierarchical and highly regulated zones within our culture. Tactical media is partly seminar and partly "studio" course. With readings and discussions of contemporary art and media theory, the course sets up a context for developing sound theories and processes for public visual cultural engagement while making use of student's existing skills and interests. Students will test their ideas, with careful consideration of the immediate and specific qualities of a given social site, by experimenting with soft interventions in spaces not typically accessed by artists.

Course Requirements

Projects: Students will complete a series of tactical media projects and exercises.

Readings / Presentations: On a rotating basis all students will present summaries and initiate discussions concerning course texts. 

blog: Each student will keep a blog that will include reading outlines and documentation of projects and exercises.

Critical participation: All students are expected to fully participate in discussions of the texts and critique of works in the class.

Attendance, Deadlines, Work habits:
Attendance is extremely important. More than two unexcused absences will result in a one letter reduction to final course grades. Meeting deadlines is essential. Late work will be lowered 1 letter grade for each class day it is late. Establishing and maintaining a disciplined work schedule will help to ensure positive evaluations.

Evaluation

Students will receive one midterm and one final grade for blogs, discussion of reading and general course participation. Student will also receive one grade for each "action" completed.  All grades will be averaged together at the end of the semester to obtain a final grade.

A   Work that demonstrates an excellent understanding of relevant tools and concepts by creatively, knowledgeably and thoroughly dealing with project parameters and project resources. Work that is accompanied by a critique and/or written response where the student successfully communicates his/her intentions and provides meaningful justification for creative decisions.

B   Work that demonstrates a knowledgeable and creative understanding of relevant tools and concepts accompanied by well stated intentions in critique and/or written response.

C   Work that satisfactorily meets the requirements of the project and displays adequate know-how in the appropriate conceptual and technical tools.

D   Work that meets the minimum requirements of the project yet is unsatisfactory because because of a lack of commitment on the part of the student to expand his/her vocabulary and know-how.

F   Work that does not fulfill the requirements of the assignment, excessively late, and/or work that displays very little effort and interest.

Digital Studio info

Lab schedule and open hours
Computer Lab Policies

University Policies and Resources

As a courtesy to others in the class, and in accordance with George Mason University policy, please turn off all beepers, cellular telephones and other wireless communication devices at the start of class.

Official Communications

Mason uses electronic mail to provide official information to students. Examples include communications from course instructors, notices from the library, notices about academic standing, financial aid information, class materials, assignments, questions, and instructor feedback. Students are responsible for the content of university communication sent to their Mason e-mail account, and are required to activate that account and check it regularly.

Honor Code

Students in this class are bound by the Honor Code, as stated in the George Mason University Catalog. The honor code requires that the work you do as an individual be the product of your own individual synthesis or integration of ideas. As a faculty member, I have an obligation to refer the names of students who may have violated the Honor Code to the Student Honor Council, which treats such cases very seriously. Digital technologies are particularly suited to copy, sample, or appropriate, mash etc. previously created content. Many artists, visual, audio and literary, have used these techniques quite successfully in order to parody, celebrate or otherwise comment on cultural icons and what they represent. Often, there emerges a gray area between the two poles of plagiarism vs. appropriation, sampling etc. As a class we will discuss techniques such as these and their relevance to copyright law and the university honor code, but as a rule students should always be up-front and honest with the class and professor as to what visual content has been sampled and how it has been manipulated or rearranged in any given project. Failure to do so will be considered a honor code violation.

Here is a link to some interesting articles regarding art and ethics - look for "Art Issues: Plagiarism and Art"  - http://www.research.uiuc.edu/ethics/art.asp#codes

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences

If you have a diagnosed disability or learning difference and you need academic accommodations, please inform me at the beginning of the semester and contact the  Disabilities Resource Center (SUB I room 234, 703-993-2474).  You must provide me with a faculty contact sheet from that office outlining the accommodations needed for your disability or learning difference. All academic accommodations must be arranged in advance through the DRC.

University Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action Statement

George Mason University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution committed to the principle that access to study or employment opportunities afforded by the university, including all benefits and privileges, be accorded to each person—student, faculty or staff member, or applicant for employment or admission—on the basis of individual merit and without regard to race, color, religion (employees), national origin, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, sex, or age (except where sex or age is a bona fide occupational qualification).

Statement on Ethics in Teaching and Practicing Art and Design

As professionals responsible for the education of undergraduate and graduate art and design students, the faculty of the Department of Art and Visual Technology adheres to the ethical standards and practices incorporated in the professional Code of Ethics of our national accreditation organization, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Writing Center

Students who are in need of intensive help with grammar, structure or mechanics in their writing should make use of the services of the Writing Center, located in Robinson A116 (703-993-1200). The services of the Writing Center are available by appointment, online and, occasionally, on a walk-in basis.

See Academic Calendar for important deadlines, etc.

Course Outline

M 1/22 - Media, Democracy & Making History

In-class
Course introduction

Assignment
Read and outline - Noam Chomsky - Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda pg. 1-34

Tactics, Models, Tools: Independent Media & Participatory Media
Guerrilla News Network, Big Noise Films, Independent Media Center

W 1/24

In-class
Discuss reading
Video - Manufacturing Consent, Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick

Assignment
Read and outline - Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda pg. 35-69

Set-up a blog for this class @ blogger.com or another free service

Action - 1. Using press listed below.  Compare and contrast how each addresses and represents the same subject or event.  3. post your findings on your blog. Due 1/31
Subject / Event - The State of the Union - FOX, BBC, Democracy Now, Al Jezeera

Tactics, Models, Tools: Independent Media & Participatory Media
Guerrilla News Network, Big Noise Films, Independent Media Center, Democracy Now

M 1/29

In-class
Discuss reading
Continue video: Manufacturing Consent, Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick

Assignment
Read and outline - Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda pg. 69-100

Tactics, Models, Tools: Independent Media & Participatory Media
Guerrilla News Network, Big Noise Films, Independent Media Center, Democracy Now

W 1/31

In-class
Discuss Action & reading
Videos - Retooling Dissent, Street Rec, This is what democracy looks like, Big Noise Films

Assignment
Read and outline - George Orwell, As I Please, published in Tribune, 4 February 1944

Tactics, Models, Tools: Independent Media, Participatory Media and Media Remix
indie news - Guerrilla News Network, Big Noise Films, Independent Media Center, Democracy Now
some projects - cnnplusplus, Interrogative Design Group (various projects), Remebering Ron, Global Anxiety Monitor, Telestreet, meta-cc

M 2/5 - The  Good Consumer

In-class
Discuss Actions & reading
Video - The Corporation, Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan

Assignment
Read and outline - "Signs Address Somebody", Judith Williamson, from Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and meaning in Advertising 1978, 1983, 2002

Tactics, Models, Tools - Detournement, Culture Jamming & Guerrilla Hacks
Adbusters.org, Billboard Liberation Organization, Negativland, Barbie Liberation Organization

W 2/7

In-class
Discuss Reading & video
Videos - The publicity Image, John Berger

Assignment
Action - 1.Create a detournement of an advertisement or other product graphic. 2. Distribute as parasitic or viral media. 3. Document the distribution process.  Due 2/19

Tactics, Models, Tools - Detournement, Culture Jamming & Guerrilla Hacks
Adbusters.org, Billboard Liberation Organization, Negativland, Barbie Liberation Organization

M 2/12

In-class
Discuss Reading & video
Videos - The publicity Image, John Berger

Assignment
TBA

Tactics, Models, Tools - Detournement, Culture Jamming & Guerrilla Hacks
Adbusters.org, Billboard Liberation Organization, Negativland, Barbie Liberation Organization

W 2/14 -

In-class
Discuss Reading & video
Videos - Reverend Billy, "The publicity Image" from John Berger's Ways of Seeing

Assignment
TBA

Tactics, Models, Tools - Detournement, Culture Jamming & Guerrilla Hacks
Adbusters.org, Billboard Liberation Organization, Negativland, Barbie Liberation Organization

M 2/19

In-class
Discuss Action
Video - The Yes Men

Assignment
Action - 1. Create an identity for a fictional organization. Write a mission statement for the org or corp that clearly indicates parameters for the organization's operations. 2. Acting as a representative of this organization, perform a service to a chosen public. The service should include visual representations of the organization and be documented for others to see. Due 3/7

Tactics, Models, Tools - PROformances & Shifting Identities
Reverend Billy, my dad's strip club / The Vacuum Cleaner, RTmark, The Yes Men

W 2/21

In-class
Video - Reverend Billy
Clips - my dad's strip club & more
Discuss action

Assignment
TBA

Tactics, Models, Tools - PROformances & Shifting Identities
Reverend Billy, my dad's strip club / The Vacuum Cleaner, RTmark, The Yes Men

M 2/26

In-class
Discuss action

Assignment
TBA

Tactics, Models, Tools - PROformances & Shifting Identities
Reverend Billy, my dad's strip club / The Vacuum Cleaner, RTmark, The Yes Men

W 2/28

In-class
Video - Reverend Billy

Assignment
TBA

Tactics, Models, Tools - PROformances & Shifting Identities
Reverend Billy, my dad's strip club / The Vacuum Cleaner, RTmark, The Yes Men

M 3/5

In-class
Visiting artist Fereshteh Toosi

W 3/7 - The Loyal Subject

In-class
Discuss Action
Video - SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY part 1, part 2, part 3

Assignment
Read - Streets into Stages: an interview with Surveillance Camera Players’ Bill Brown. Download from this page.

Actions - 1. Choose a physical site where surveillance cameras are in use.  2. Make a map of the site including placement of all cameras. 3. Perform an act of sousveillance. 4. Document the action.

Tactics, Models, Tools: Sousveillance, Interruptions and Reversals
Beatriz da Costa - swipe, The Surveillance Camera Players

M 3/19

In-class
Video - SCP Tour with Bill Brown. Download from this page.
Clips - Bob Dylan, more

Assignment
Read - Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments* Steve Mann1, Jason Nolan and Barry Wellman. Download from this page.

Tactics, Models, Tools: Sousveillance, Interruptions and Reversals
Beatriz da Costa - swipe, The Surveillance Camera Players

W 3/21

In-class
TBA

Assignment
TBA

Tactics, Models, Tools: Sousveillance, Interruptions and Reversals
Beatriz da Costa - swipe, The Surveillance Camera Player

S 3/24 - NY artsbus trip to meet The Yes Men

M 3/26

In-class
TBA

Assignment
Final Project due 5/2

Tactics, Models, Tools: Mapping, touring, drifting
Alex Villar, Situationist International

W 3/28 - Territories - Cyberfeminism

M 4/2 - Cyberfeminism

W 4/4 - Cyberfeminism

M 4/9 - Territories - Infowar, Resistance, ECD

W 4/11- Infowar, Resistance, ECD

M 4/16 - Infowar, Resistance, ECD

W 4/18 - Territories - Biotech

TH 4/19 - Steve Kurtz lecture 7PM @ American University

M 4/23 - Biotech

W 4/25 - Biotech

M 4/30 - Biotech

W 5/2 - Final course review

Final - We will not meet for a final. However, all project revisions and blog entries must be done by the end of the day on 5/10.

Additional Dates - These dates are events that happen outside of scheduled class times -

S 3/24 - NY artsbus trip to meet The Yes Men
TH 4/19 - Lecture: Beral Madra: “Art as Mediation” 7PM @ Katzen Arts Center, Recital Hall, American University
4/20-4/22 - Multimediale - Provisions Library, DC