Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: Images Under Control: Aesthetics of Digital Culture (HIAR10180)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines some significant aesthetic categories of digital culture. These are social and cultural forms that have their own history, but which have taken on a new life in the digital world. The point of this analysis is to give attention to and scrutinise contemporary digital culture and to provide a longer historical trajectory to these current phenomena.
Course description Taking its starting point from Gilles Deleuze's periodizing essay 'Postscript on the Societies of Control' (1990), which suggests that we have entered a new social and cultural situation with the rise of digital computing technologies, this course examines key cultural and aesthetic forms and categories that emerge in this situation, such as for example, 'cute', 'anonymous' and 'horror'. Structured as a series of two-hour seminars, the course will test Deleuze's hypothesis, considering case studies drawn from everyday visual culture as well as examples of contemporary art, analysing the aesthetic categories that emerge from them, and situating them in a wider social, cultural and political field. A particular emphasis will be placed on the idea of the historic avant-garde, whose typical tropes (for instance, anonymity and transgression) are, to a certain extent, facilitated and normalised by online technological platforms. Through in-depth analyses of individual works of art, we will consider how these aesthetic categories are negotiated and repurposed by contemporary artists. Possible artists we will study include for example, Amalia Ulman who has worked with the new photographic language of Instagram, Jordan Wolfson who engages with the wilfully provocative and misanthropic image-sharing culture on 4chan, and Thomas Ruff, who explores the materiality of digital photographs. In this respect, we will consider the digital within a longer art history of the avant-garde, questioning what life is left in its forms of oppositionality, criticality and subversion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2A Reason, Romance, Revolution: Art from 1700 to 1900 (HIAR08027) AND History of Art 2B From Modernism and the Avant-Gardes to Postmodernism and Globalisation (HIAR08028)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who have passed at least 60 credits of Architectural History at Level 8 can also take these courses. If the pre-requisites cannot be met, entry to this course can be negotiated in consultation with either the Course Organiser or Programme Director (History of Art).
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  22
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Formative Assessment Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 x 2500 word essay 50% - submitted weeks 8-10

1 x 3 hour online exam 50% - December diet.
Feedback Students are given feedback on formative assessment as follows:

You will be asked to prepare a presentation to deliver to the class and to submit a short (c.300 word) summary of your presentation with references. You will receive verbal feedback at a one-to-one meeting afterwards.

Summative Assessment

There will be an essay and an exam, equally weighted. Written feedback on student essays will be provided, in addition to a one-to-one meeting towards the end of semester.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)3 hour online examination paper3:15
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate skills of visual analysis and interpretation by looking in detail at art and visual culture on the internet.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to analyse a series of aesthetic categories and set them in a historical and theoretical context.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of digital media and its impact on the way we make and look at art.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to critically examine the ways in which digital culture can be periodized.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to present ideas clearly and well in writing and in debate.
Reading List
Jean Baudrillard. In The Shadow of the Silent Majorities [1978],(Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007).

Gilles Deleuze. 'Postscript on the Societies of Control' [1990], October, vol. 59. (Winter 1992), 3 - 7.

Vilém Flusser. Towards a Philosophy of Photography [1983], translated by Anthony Matthews (London: Reaktion Books, 2006).

Angela Nagle. Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump and the Alt-Right (London: Zero Books, 2016).

Sianne Ngai. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis;
Clear thinking and the development of an argument;
Independent research;
Presentation and communication skills;
Organisation and planning.
KeywordsDigital,Aesthetics,Avant-garde,Photography,Social media
Course organiserDr Ian Rothwell
Course secretaryMr Nathan Ross-Hammond
Tel: (0131 6)51 5880
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information