Media, Art, and Text @ Virginia Commonwealth University

Participation in the Digital Public:
New Media Art as Online Community

Participation In The Digital Public: New Media Art as Online Community examines community online art projects— works of art produced and orchestrated by artists who employ the interconnected and participatory nature of the Internet. Garland contends, in part through a reevaluation of a statement made by artist Nam June Paik concerning a radio performance by John Cage, that community online art projects exist as the newest example of new media art because of a utilization and implementation of established and functioning technology. Through the application of Internet technology, contemporary artists, along with their collaborators and spectators, have the potential to create, build, engage, and exhibit new works of art and form new concepts for the production and practice of art making.  This dissertation maintains that Community online art projects serve as the most current example of new media art because they examine the shared uses of the Internet.  Participation In The Digital Public: New Media Art as Online Community includes examples and critiques of new online artworks as well as historical analysis of the theories of new media, participation, interconnectivity, and remediation in art through the 20th century.


A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy, Media Art and Text Ph.D. Program at Virginia Commonwealth University


Chair, Dr. Richard Fine, Dr. Jennifer Rhee, Dr. Eric Garberson,

Dr. Marcel Cornis-Pope, Dr. Nancy Stutts, Mr. Richard Roth


PDF (not currently attached)
Degree Awarded November 18, 2013
Defense November 18, 2013


A growing number of artists, theorists, critics, and curators view the Internet as a powerful tool that enables wide-spread access to the world in real time—a tool which facilitates improved participation and communication among users and through this can challenge some conventional ideas about the nature of art.  Such projects as Google Maps Road Trip, Marisa’s American Idol Audition Training Blog, The Artist is Present, LearningtoLoveYouMore.com, and JstChillin, represent only a sample of the range of works that use the online community itself as a site for art practice.  In doing so, these projects employ the specific characteristics of the internet: participation, interconnection, and remediation. In some new digital artworks, what becomes significant is the manner of participating, not the production of a discrete object.  Anyone—at any time—can potentially share with others instantly.  This cooperative nature has enormous possibilities for the art world, as for so many others.  As such, these works pose a number of intriguing questions.  What does it mean to be a participant within a community of users?  How are current art objects created?  Is the concept of creative originality and ownership of an object disappearing?......

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Dissertation Table of Contents


Imaginary Landscape 4
Manovich’s New Media: Code and Film
Amending New Media’s Past
Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1   “Move Your Screen Up To The Left As I Do”

A Virtual Road Trip
Defining Community Projects
Futurism, and DaDa
Moving Through A Web
Fluxus, Neo DADA, and Relational Aesthetics
Properties of Participation
The Growth of a Smart Mob
Just Chillin In A Virtual World
Experiments in Art and Technology

Chapter 2   A City That Never Sleeps: Interconnectivity as Creativity

Command and Control
“Hi Mom.  Hi Dad.  I Miss You”
Good Morning, Mr. Orwell
Familiar and Strange: New Media Art Through Networks
Remixing Networks
The Artist Is Present
The Network of a Mob
Tactical Media
Improvised Empathy Devices
Performing Interconnection
A Talking Web

Chapter 3   Remaking Remediation: Immediacy and Hypermediacy in Online Art

It just feels right
Google Art
Artist in Training Online
The Printing Press and Presence
The Most Infamous Leap
Can This Be Real?

Chapter 4    Virtual Practice

Live Feed
Quiet: We Live in Public
The Digital Divide
The Internet on the Run
Shared Versus Owned
Looking Forward





Defense Presentation



MATX Examinations

Exam 1: Eportfolio

(Website elements mentioned below have been removed from Eatrva.org since Jan 2011)

Eatrva.org is an online art environment created by Vaughn Whitney Garland.  This digital project stems from several ideas concerning the art object and the different forms that objects may take in the online platform.  The works that are presented on eatrva.org are individual projects that, when working together in the main index page of this site, create one environment, much like a cabinet of curiosity or a museum of natural history.  With the exception of “The Something in Coming Collective,” the works presented here were created in the months between June and November of 2010.  The page that includes “The Something is Coming Collective (SIC),” is a group project created by three Virginia Commonwealth University Media, Art, and Text Ph.D. students.  All other work, including parts of “SIC,” were created by me for this portfolio review.
During the spring 2010 MATX Lab class, I became very interested in how the art object, and the document that surrounds and defines that object, relate and are created when moved online.  After completing that course, I proposed that this eportfolio would address the notions of object and document.  I hope that I have addressed some of the different realtionships between object and text, including fusing text and object into a visual document. 



Exam 2: Comprehensive Topics Part 1

During the past year as a doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s
Media, Art, and Text program, one of the main interests developed out of the debates concerning the relationships between an author/creator to the produced document/object.  As a student of the studio arts, with a Masters in Fine Arts in Painting, this question weighs heavily on my own interpretation of art object, specifically those objects constructed in context of being sole representations of the artist’s hand.  The debates concerning the role of the author/creator have produced some remarkable philosophies of ownership and presence among the reader, the text or the art object, and the author or creator; however, there are additional questions yet to be answered or even uncovered.  New concerns that emerge from these conversations appear when the position of the author moves from a sole, independent individual to one that shares responsibility as an contributor within a group.  While at first this idea—the transformation of the artist/author, changes from a sole creator to shared producer may seem odd within a culture that prizes the heightened position of the created object as a singular objet d'art.  With close reading into philosophies developed by some of the foremost scholars on the subject of authorship, it is compellingly argued that a shared environment is neither new nor abstract, and has been part of the creative apparatus for quite some time. With internet technology, documents can be easily shared, searched, redefined, erased, and even co-written within a community structure wherein a group of people not necessarily in contact with one another assume shared creative ownership over usable material.  What is revealed when we look at the transition from oral, to scribal and manuscript, to print – an ultimately to electronic – traditions, is a clearer picture of how Internet technology allows for the development of conversions about the reader, the viewer, and the conscious...

Vaughn Garland Question 2 MATX Comprehensive Exam PDF  



Exam 2: Comprehensive Topics Part 2

Unlike the debate about authorship, one figure has taken the brunt and backlash of the critiques and theoretical fortifications the theory of medium specificity has created: New York art and literary critic Clement Greenberg.  With his concept of Formalism, Greenberg, who started writing in the late 1930’s, posited the ideas that would become emblematic of media specificity.  For most of the latter part of the twentieth century, Greenberg’s ideas have caused much commotion in academia and personal studios, forcing some artists to take sides in order to address the position of their own material choice for production.  What is rarely discussed in academic studio seminars is that Greenbergian Formalism, and the larger debate about medium specificity, comes out of a long conversation that highlights the privileging of materials. Greenberg’s ideas are part of a long line of historical defenses on the true nature of art.  This line reaches as far back as the doctrines of art have existed.  This is why, even looking past Greenberg’s Formalism, it is significant we address medium specificity – to use as an historical marker that sheds light on the dialectics of Modernity and the development of art history itself.  Furthermore, while later multimedia responses have entrenched and further challenged Greenbergian Formalism, and medium specificity, I do not see that these responses challenge the validity of medium specificity.  The responses to Greenberg and the theories others have created in response to Greenberg, and medium specificity, have served to instigate additional directions and ideas on aesthetics.... 

Vaughn Garland Question 2 MATX Comprehensive Exam PDF  


Exam 3: 2nd Competency, HTML Language


Check out this site.

The current verison of VaughnGarland.com was completed during the Summer of 2011 with the help of Christopher (Chip) Stevens of VCU's Mass Communication Department and Dr. David Golumbia of VCU MATX's program.

A big thanks to my brother, Brett Garland, for all his coding lessons

Thanks you all for the awesome help.





Exam 4: Dissertation Bibliography Review

Exam Qeustion 1

Each day the amount of extant technology grows exponentially, it becomes faster, more compact, more democratic, and more user friendly.  We use gadgets to carry out the procedures of daily life and to advance or document who and what we are.  Yet, due to the speed of which current technology changes, and to the theories that try to keep up with that rapid growth, it is easy to see that over the past several years our notions and perception of how current technologies are extensions of past technologies get lost in the excitement for what is “new.”  In trying to understand how we communicate, make new works of art, and document how we interact with each other, the term “new media” has been used and misused.  Even though new advancements in digital media may in fact be new media, it is not enough to say that new media and new media artworks began with the invention of the computer.  I argue that what we understand as “old” media could, in fact, have been new media.  Contemporary theory should consider all the ways in which artworks encourage collaboration with technology, and separate theoretical distinctions should be made for each category of mediated work.  

Vaughn Garland Question 1 MATX Bibliography Exam PDF  


Exam Question 2

Conventional definitions of new media and digital media often posit the crowning achievement of technology within the context of the ever-expanding interconnectivity between people. These same definitions often celebrate the creation of the Internet as a place where anyone—at any time—can communicate with everyone else.  Not only does the Internet enable access to the world in real time, it also facilitates improved participation and communication among users.  Artists using the online community either as a viewing participant, or as a creativity collaborator, are challenging notions of authorship, originality, and presence.  Along with participation, the Internet allows anyone access, is a public space, and gives the user information and communication at a click of the button.  The possibility for new online artwork is vast.  These artworks can comment on a range of questions including what it means to be a shared participant within a community of users.  These online artworks, which speak to—and of—Internet communities, address what it means to be connected to others but do so in a disembodied way.  For some critics, being a member of an online community is not a real interaction, only a mediated illusion.  For others, it is a way to make works of art.

Vaughn Garland Question 1 MATX Bibliography Exam PDF  


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VCU Electonic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs)

VCU Digital Archinves


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