New Media Art Histor(ies)

Module Description

This module is based on the notion that New media is a different culture than traditional media. While many assume its history to be rather recent and based on contemporary ideas and technologies, in reality it has roots in a wide variety of very old traditions. And since new media art is at the crossroad of many disciplines, cultures and traditions, it cannot have a single history.

The module is entitled New Media Art Histories to reflect this idea: that history is non-linear and based on many histories. It facilitates an exploration of how deeply rooted new media art cultures actually are. It introduces students to the notion that to understand the historical influences on a new media artwork, we must explore a broader scope of ideas and histories than those of art itself.

Module Level: Introductory - requires no prior knowledge.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • investigate and apply trans-disciplinary methodologies appropriate for research in new media art history by analyzing new media artworks from the past and in the present;
  • demonstrates their ability to deconstruct the complex set of historical, social and creative influences that inform our understanding and interpretation of new media artworks;
  • undertake independent research and autonomous learning.
Suggested Learning Activities and Assignments

(Re)definitions of Terms: In small groups, students undertake to define and then examine their assumptions about three terms: History, Art and New Media. After each defined terms, a lecture will provide a contemporary academic suggested definition.

Journal Entries: Students will write reflections on history, art and new media and participate in a hieroglyphics design activity.

"Ancient Media Archeology": In groups, students become media archaeologists trying to understand the ancient roots of one of visual, experiential and telematic art cultures.

New Media Art Cultures Quiz: In this activity, students will match the art works represented by an image to their art culture.

Research Project: In groups of six, students are to pick a contemporary artwork from the list provided and retrace the various cultural histories related to this artwork.


Dr. Alexandra Bal is an Associate Professor in the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University. Alex’s research is focused on both new media and education, exploring the potential of technology-enhanced informal learning in children’s education. Her publications include the chapter "Melange of Making: Bridging Children’s Informal Learning Cultures in the Classroom", in DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media (2014), exploring the role of social media and critical media making for active, interest based learning.