Digital Environments - Level 2 Elective

University of the Arts London, Camberwell College of Arts

tutor: Jonathan Kearney


Imagine trying to navigate through a newly discovered land where the usual rules of physics do not apply and nothing is as it is supposed to be. The possibilities created by digital environments are not dissimilar to what such a strange landscape might feel like. Any attempt to explore this new landscape using old maps and theories will be of limited help, it is time to go exploring this uncharted digital environment and keep an open mind to the possibilities.
Three themes are suggested – sustainability – identities – technologies – and each of these is challenged and redefined by the ever expanding digital environment.
Sustainability is not simply about environmental issues, as important as they may be in relation to the digital, it is also about diversity and productivity.
Identities are being challenged like never before for example the potential of augmented reality is only just beginning to be explored.
Technologies are of course crucial to digital environments, but it is not a simple pursuit of the latest, fastest or newest that is interesting here but more the integration, the ubiquity of technologies that challenges all areas of life and in particular creative practice.
Therefore, this elective will look specifically at the impact and the possibilities created by digital environments for art and design. Artists are usually the first people to engage with new technologies and reflect on their cultural implications and during this elective we will consider the history of this engagement as well as attempting to map out some of the current territory. It would be wrong to attempt to define digital environments at this early stage in its development, for now we will have to live with the fear of the unknown and balance this with the excitement of new discoveries.
According to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 may not have existed in 2004. Therefore your time at university may be preparing for work that does not exist yet, using technologies that have not yet been invented and solving problems that we don't yet realise are problems. This elective will give you an excellent foundation from which to explore and create your own possibilities.
The aim is to encourage experimentation and a bold approach to this fast changing and expanding digital environment. It could be argued that art is no longer about pushing at the boundaries as those boundaries have now disappeared. Instead art is now at the forefront of redefining boundaries and engaging with questions that profoundly question how we define ourselves and the world around us.

Jonathan Kearney
Jonathan is a practising artist and Course Director of MA Visual Art (Digital Art) at the University of the Arts London. He works with PVA glue and a variety of digital technolgies exploring an 'embodied experience' of the world. His work has been exhibited worldwide with recent shows in China, Sweden, Brazil and London. As Course Director, Jonathan is responsible for this innovative MA course which explores cross disciplinary expressions of art through the ever expanding medium of the digital. He also works with FADE (Fine Art Digital Environment) a research group at the same university and regularly lectures in China where he used to live.

Recommended Texts and Resources
Blais, J. Ippolito, J. (2006) At the Edge of Art. Thames & Hudson
Wands, B. (2007) Art of the Digital Age. Thames & Hudson
Tribe, M. Reese, J. (2006) New Media Art. Taschen
Lunenfield, P. (1999). The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media. The MIT Press
Manovich, L. (2002). The Language of New Media. MIT Press
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York, McGraw Hill
Murray, J. H. (1998). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The MIT Press.
Negroponte, N. (1996) Being Digital London, Hodder & Stoughton
Paul, C. (2003). Digital Art (World of Art). Thames & Hudson
Rush, M. (2001). New Media in Late 20th Century Art. London, Thames & Hudson
Reas, C. Fry, B. (2007) Processing: a programming handbook for visual designers and artists. London. The MIT Press.
Rheingold, H. (2000). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. London, MIT Press
Shaw, J. Weibel, P. (2003) Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film. London. MIT Press.
Turkle, S. (1997). Life on the Screen; Identity in the Age of the Internet. London,Phoenix
Websites (Accessed 07.05.09) (Accessed 07.05.09) (Accessed 07.05.09) (Accessed 07.05.09)

Assessment Criteria for the elective:

Subject Knowledge: Understanding and application of subject knowledge and underlying principles
Analysis: Examination and interpretation of resources
Research: Systematic identification and investigation of appropriate sources
Personal and Professional Development : Management of learning through reflection, planning, self direction, subject engagement and commitment

Assessment Evidence:
Assessment Records (attendance)
Student Log (blog)
Presentation of practical and contextual research outcomes to peer group (final elective event)
Evaluative Report - 500 - 700 words (on your blog)


The electives programme requires you to choose from an Electives menu that compliments and enhances your main area of study with the possibility to work alongside peers and staff from across Camberwell. The elective provides you with the opportunity to broaden your enquiry in relation to practice, critical and professional contexts. It enables you to strengthen practice, deepen critical enquiry and expand skills in relation to your core study.

You will investigate the underlying concepts and principles of Digital Environments and you will be asked to integrate your research into your current practical work, reflecting on and evaluating the outcomes.