Digital Arts and New Media 202 / Music 254: Dialogues and Questions: Writing at the Intersection of Theory and Practice

Ben Carson | contact | office: Music Center 148

Meetings: Wednesdays 11:00 am - 2:00 pm, DARC 206

Office hours are on Mondays 12:30 am - 1:30 pm or by appointment.
Phone:  9-5581 (I do not check voicemail frequently.)

Catalogue description: Students engage in dialogues at the intersection of theory and practice with the goal of producing a pre-thesis proposal and essay. Readings and seminar discussions (which coalesce around the work of five guest speakers), will inform the development of project proposals and essays, which theoretically contextualize students’ work.

Prerequisites: In fall quarter’s DANM 201, students learned “methods and approaches to research and writing in digital art and new media, while exploring key theories concerning technology, art, and culture.”  (In the winter quarter, students will have developed their own approaches as practicing artists, in individual and collaborative projects.)

Course description:

After your “methods and approaches” seminar in the fall, and praxis-oriented project groups in the winter, DANM 202 returns us to a conversation “at the intersection of theory and practice”, by framing your work in a series of four dialogues. These dialogues will be grounded in the research of five guest speakers: the School of Engineering’s Sri Kurniawan, Film and Digital Media’s Warren Sack and Margaret Morse, History of Art and Visual Culture’s Derek Murray, and Theater’s Brandin Baron-Nusbaum.

The dialogues, and the readings assigned to support them, attempt various disassemblies and reassemblies of the world in which new arts and media practices operate. Students and guests will meditate on attractions and repulsions in the relation between their own practices and aspects of the dialogues; through that process, we will try to develop new ways of writing about our own work. The seminar work culminates in an essay that should serve as a foundation for future grant proposals and/or the MFA thesis prospectus.


[[ See entries below for each of our five dialogues this quarter. ]]

A blurb from Ben about William James — 


April 4:

Optional background to be read, in greater depth, btw 4/4 - 4/18: Read a brief introduction to radical empiricism, and then William James’ “Radical Empiricism [excerpts]” (in The Writings of William James, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1967).]

Jonathan Culler’s “Performative Language,” and “Identity, Identification, and Subject” from Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Suggested [but not required] Books:

Gumbrecht, Hans Urlich, and Michael Marrinan, eds. Mapping Benjamin: the Work of Art in the Digital Age. Stanford: Stanford University, 2003.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia, 2008.

Kondo, Dorrine. About Face: Performing Race in Fashion and Theater. London: Routledge, 1997.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Lingis, Alphonso. Dangerous Emotions. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California, 2000.

Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute — or, why is the christian legacy worth fighting for? London/New York: Verso, 2000.


Possible additional reading for (some) presentations:

Cindy Patton’s “Performativity and Spatial Distinction: The End of AIDS Epidemiology,” in Parker & Sedgwick (eds.) Performativity and Performance (cited above).

Chapters by Behnke, Lynch, Weimar, and Klima in Mapping Benjamin: the Work of Art in the Digital Age.Stanford: Stanford University, 2003.

Continue with Deleuze’s [1969] Logic of Sense, in “Second Series of Paradoxes of Surface Effects”, “Third Series of the Proposition”, and “Fourth Series of Dualities.”

A New Introduction to Donna Haraway’s Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors that Shape Embryos (Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2004; originally New Haven: Yale, 1976).


Unit X. Preparation

Elizabeth Grosz’s Chaos, Territory, Art (Ch. 1: “Cosmos, Territory, Architecture”)

Alphonso Lingis’ Dangerous Emotions (Chs. 1: “The Navel of the World” and 3 “Faces”).

Optional background: 

1. Jonathan Culler’s “Performative Language,” and “Identity, Identification, and Subject” from Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). Cathy Caruth’s “Traumatic Awakenings” in Andrew Parker and Eve Sedgwick (eds.) Performativity and Performance (London: Routledge, 1995)

2. A quick (but dense) example of Žižek’s (usually much more elaborate) take on Deleuze’s take on Lacan. Oh, and if this is your first exposure to Lacan, here’s a great overview of the “Symbolic, Imaginary, Real” system.

3. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a nice collaboratively written summary of the work of Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Read sections 4.1 on What is Philosophy (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1991; trans. by H. Tomlinson and G. Burchell, New York: Columbia, 1994), for an acquaintance with the notions of science, art, and philosophy that inform Elizabeth Grosz core text above; 4.2 on A Thousand Plateaus offers crucial background on the Deleuzian/Guattarian notion of “planes of intensity” and “planes of immanence”; read section 5 if you’re interested. 


Unit I. Sense, Action, Experience

April 11:  [Post your reading responses in one of two threads in the “Contexts, Responses” section in the menu above and to your left.]

Fallman, Daniel (2007). “Persuade Into What? Why Human-Computer Interaction Needs a Philosophy of Technology.” In Lecture Notes in Computer Science.” 4744/2007, pp 295-306.

Sri Kurniawan—Human Computer Interaction: Users and Designers as Subjects

Allman, T., Dhillon, R., Landau, M., & Kurniawan, S. “Rock Vibe: Rock Band Computer Games for People with No or Limited Vision.” (SOE/DANM - UCSC 2010) 

DANM alumnus Rupa Dhillon’s “Rock Vibe”:

Holloway, Alexandra and Kurniawan, Sri.System Design Evolution of The Prepared Partner: How a Labor and Childbirth Game Came to Term” (SOE/ UCSC - 2011)

GAME—”The Prepared Partner

April 18:

John Dewey’s “Having an Experience,” (Ch. 3 of Art as Experience).

Carson, Ben. UNPULSER. (Freeware for rhythm composition.)

Connor, Steven. “Edison’s Teeth: Touching Hearing.” Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening and Modernity. New York: Berg, 2004. 153-72. <>.

Sobchack, Vivian. “A Leg To Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality.” In The Prosthetic Impulse: From A Posthuman Present To A Biocultural Future. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2006. 17-41.

 [ Postponed: Excerpts from Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” in Socialist Review, 80 (1985): 73. ]


Unit II. Relational Aesthetics and Epistemologies

April 18, continued:

Nicolas Bourriaud (1998) “Foreward” & Ch. 1 (“Relational Form”), in Relational Aesthetics. Dijon: Les Presse Du Reel.

Beth Coleman’s (2009) “Race as Technology” in Camera Obscura 70, V. 24/1. 


April 25:

Sack, Warren (2012). “Agonistics: a language game.” In Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.

Warren Sack— Agonism as a political philosophy and the channeling of discord <>


Warren Sack will present on his collaboration with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis: “Discourse and Discord: Architecture of Agonism from the Kitchen Table to the City Street” (


Unit III. Desire and Minutiae

May 2: 

Introduction, and Judith Butler’s “Burning Acts—Injurious Speech” in Parker & Sedgwick (eds.) Performativity and Performance, Cathy Caruth’s “Traumatic Awakenings” in Andrew Parker and Eve Sedgwick (eds.) Performativity and Performance (London: Routledge, 1995).


May 9:

Derek Murray—Identity, Representation, Art Practice

Hal Foster, “The Artist as Ethnographer,” in The Return of the Real. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996.

Kristeva on the abject, Foster on the Real. [SAVE FOR LATER: Žižek on Evil, and Nobody… ]