World Bridger Media: Sustainable Media
Vlogging the Hypercity: Utopian Practices in Multimedia

Fall 2005, Eyebeam

Instructor: Antonio Lopez

Overview: The goal is to examine various media practices from pre-technological oral cultures to the present digital media environment through a group project that enables us to report from a Utopian future hypercity using a video Web log (Vlog). The objective is to use a media ecology approach to understand how communication tools both shape and reflect cultural practices. A scaffold approach to media ecology embodies within it both deconstruction and production media skills.

Background: Though we see Utopian visions everyday in advertising, in the "real" world Utopia remains an illusive goal.  Yet many on-line artists and community networks are creating and promoting new technology as a path to a Utopian society. Is this true?  To answer this question it is necessary to excavate how past communication technologies influence Utopian concepts. By learning about various modes of communication (text, oral, time, space, networked) and how they influence our perception of the world (and future), we will explore various media practices that will be combined in a final project, documenting a Utopian future through available communications technology.

Rough breakdown of the class schedule:

We will be exposed to a variety of artistic practices in conjunction with a historical context following the theme of Utopia. For example, in the progression of ideas and art in the Western world, societies began primarily as oral cultures, but developed communication practices that have led to our current digital multimedia environment. So in order to engender this idea of oral culture, students will be exposed to early art and architecture while simultaneously creating sound diaries of their communities. To perceive the shift to written culture, students will then run through writing exercises while simultaneously examining examples of visual social constructions that came out of text-based cultures. We progress in a linear fashion in the historical developments of artistic forms of communication, learning about perspective technique through drawing, then moving to photography, video/film, modern art, architecture and finally to on-line environments. Through out this project exercises are designed to develop and understand community and the student's relationship to both her/his neighborhood and self, and to garner a sense of place. The final project, an on-line Vlog, will combine the various elements of composition created during the weekly sessions.

Week 1:  10/24

1) Theme: Intro: What is Utopia?

Overview: Review entire project, show PowerPoint, explain objectives, requirements, lead discussion: "Is Utopia possible, can it exist?"

Activity: Group map-making exercises using symbols to psychologically describe their neighborhoods. What spaces are youth friendly? How could a community become more youth friendly?


2) Theme: Oral Societies

Overview: Share images of art and architecture of matriarchal, pre-Columbian, African and Asiatic cultures. Explore time vs. space-based cultures. How is Utopia conceptualized in such cultures? Does it even exist?

Activity: Sound map Central Park; audio diaries.

Field Trip: Central Park

Guest: Angel Navarro, Neurotransmitter

Week 2:  10/31, 11/2

3) Theme: Text-based societies and communication/autobiographical monolog.

Overview: Explore images of art and architecture from text-based cultures; examine differences between oral and written cultures. How is the perfect world conceived of?

Activity: Writing exercises: autobiographical monolog based on the theme, "Where I come from…"; videotape readings on camera.

Week 3: 11/7, 11/9

4) Theme: Perspective technique: changing concept of bodies in space/emplacement.

Overview: Comparative images and maps from colonialism in the Americas; transition from old world to new world; comic books- "primitive" vs. "realistic." Discuss Moore's Utopia.

Activity: Drawing with and without perspective; scavenger hunt at the Cloisters.

Guest: Nicola Lopez, printmaker and pen and ink artist

Field Trip: Cloisters

Week 5: 11/14, 11/16

5) Theme: Heroic Architecture: Nationalism European notion of Utopia; Utopia and Modern State

Overview: Discuss how Utopia is a European concept based on the ideal state; show architectural projects that represent these ideas (museums, libraries, capitals)

Field Trip: Met and Guggenheim

Activity: Photography- photograph concept of nation at the Met and Guggenheim to compare architectural visions through spatial layout; use digital cameras.

 Week 6: 11/21

6) Theme: Modernism - Film

Overview: Explore how film changes our view the world; explore differences between film and other arts; how does that influence our sense of place? Where does Utopia fit in the era of modernism?

Field Trip: View Andy Warhol's screen tests at MOMA

Activity: Kino-eye video exploration of community; Lumeire video with no sound.


7) Theme: Dada - Collage - Media as art

Overview: Explore the introduction of media into art (Futurists, dada, constructivism, punk, hip hop).

Activities: Ad remixes. Re-edit TV commercials in iMovie2; make a simple photocopied zine.

Week 7: 11/28, 11/30

8) Theme: Sustainability - A Sense of Place

Overview: Introduce Bucky Fuller, Paulo Solari and other visionary architects interested in farsighted ecological design; discuss deep ecology; building Utopia here and now.

Activity: Open space, eco-mapping of neighborhood; visit Museum of the City of New York to learn about visionary planners who shaped New York history.

Field Trip: Museum of the City of New York

Week 8: 12/5, 12/7

9) Theme: Space Age and Visionary Architecture - physical and virtual

Overview: Computers, hippies, funk and online communities: new visions of community as Utopia.

Activity: Create on-line community; visit Times Square to discover new communication practices in media and architecture.

Field Trip: Times Square

Week 9: 12/12, 12/14

10) Theme: Building the Hypercity

Overview:  Combine all the information and skills into developing a simple on-line Vlog environment where users can view video reports from a Utopian future.

Activity: Work with basic Vlog environment to develop fictional identity of the imaginary hypercity; scanning, digitize files, write and videotape reports; upload files to vlog.

Guest: Cinematographer Yvie Raij

Class Links:
Video Hosts: