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Experimenting with the Internet as Form


Sam Lavigne, The New School, Fall 2017 


Welcome to Experimenting with the Internet as Form! This is a project-based class where we'll explore the many esoteric possibilities of online expression, approaching the internet through the lens of experimentation and performance.

The class will also serve as introduction to web programming (HTML, CSS and Javascript). Assignments will either involve producing small web projects, or with experimenting and exploring with things like:

  • Chat rooms
  • Live streams
  • Bots
  • Social media profiles
  • Online multiplayer games
  • Youtube channels
  • Online stores
  • Advertisements
  • Torrents
  • Memes
  • Splash pages
  • Digital labor
  • Forums
  • Maps
  • Email and spam
  • Selfies
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Product ratings
  • Supercuts
  • ...and more!

By the end of the class you'll have a basic understanding of HTML/CSS/Javascript, and an insight into what's possible online.

Please bring laptops to class. Mac is preferred, but any laptop will do - no tablets please.


Note: schedule and readings are subject to change. All readings will be available online.

9/1/2017: Introductions

  • Course overview
  • Introductions
  • Short lecture: the structure of the internet and the web
  • In class activity
  • Reading: From Counterculture to Cyberculture
  • First assignment: Create a list of the most interesting and unique things you can find online. Draw from our list of internet "genres" if you need inspiration.

9/8/2017: Web sites

  • Introduction to HTML
  • Assignment: Make a simple website to host your projects for this class.
  • Read: Artificial Hells, Chapter 1

9/15/2017: YouTube Microgenres

  • Topic: a survey of YouTube
  • Introduction to CSS

9/22/2017: Live streams

  • Note: this class will be held remotely as a livestream. Details to follow.
  • Assignment: make a live stream
  • Watch: Notes of Feeds

9/29/2017: Supercuts

10/06/2017: Piracy and Torrents

  • Topic: Peer-to-peer distribution systems
  • Introduction to javascript
  • Assignment: create a torrent

10/13/2017: Email and Spam

  • Topic: Email and spam
  • Assignment: Abuse email or a messaging platform of your choice
  • Reading: Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet, Chapter 1

10/20/2017: Digital Labor

  • Topic: mechanical turk and machine learning
  • Assignment: do some digital labor or make someone do your digital labor
  • Reading: The Coming '17

10/27/2017: Buying and Selling

  • Assignment: Sell something on the internet

11/03/2017: Memes, Bots & Politics

  • Assignment: Make a meme or make a bot

11/10/2017: Advertising and Privacy

  • Assignment: Create and advertisement and post it on Facebook, Google Ads, Twitter, or a platform of your choosing

11/17/2017: WiFi & Radio

  • Guest speaker: Surya Mattu

12/01/2017: TBD

12/08/2017: TBD

12/15/2017: Final Presentations

Final presentations

Assignments & Grading

There will be 10 short assignments and one larger final project. Short assignments may be completed individually or in small groups (no more than 3). Every week students will present their work and receive feedback from the class.

Weekly assignments

Each week we will cover a different online "form" and you'll be expected to produce a project that makes use of that form. Because the turn-around is fast, I do not expect the assignments to be perfectly executed, but I do expect them to be brave, highly experimental and thoughtfully conceived.

For each assignment you will need to provide:

  • Documentation of the work.
  • 100 to 250 words describing the piece and placing it within a larger context.

TIPS: Each genre of internet thing we cover will have unique affordances, capacities and constraints. When thinking about how to complete an assignment, consider the form: what can this form do that other forms cannot? What does it allow you to do? How does it work? How can you draw out its innate qualities, or, how can you break them? Consider the mode of distribution that the form permits, and what modes of feedback exist around it. How does the audience interact with the work? For example, shares, likes, comments, downloads, etc. Also consider the culture and norms of the platform you are using.

Final project

For the final you should expand on and complete a previous project.

Grading breakdown:

Participation/attendance: 20%
Weekly assignments: 50% 
Final project: 30%


  • Please come to class, and be on time!
  • Coming to class more than 20 minutes late counts as an absence.
  • If you are absent four times you automatically get a grade reduction.
  • If you are absent more than four times you automatically fail the class, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as:
    • Extended illness requiring hospitalization or visit to a physician (with documentation)
    • A family emergency, e.g. serious illness (with written explanation)
    • Observance of a religious holiday

If you are going to be very late or can't come to class for whatever reason please just let me know beforehand.

Expectations and General Notes

Please be respectful to everyone in the class. Some general rules:

  • It's OK to show work that has sensitive or difficult content, but if you do so give everyone a quick heads up beforehand.
  • We will be critiquing each others work in the class. Be honest but friendly when critiquing other students. When receiving critique please listen and take feedback seriously.
  • Feel free to use your laptop in class to take notes or follow along when I'm covering programming topics. Please do not use your laptops to do stuff on social media unrelated to the class etc.
  • The only time laptop use is strictly prohibited is when other students are presenting their work.
  • Turn off your phones or put them on silent during class

Office Hours and General Help

I'm available to meet by appointment in person or by Skype/Google Hangouts. Please email me at to schedule a meeting, or if you have any questions or concerns about the class.

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