art and technology

To be human is to be a tool user.

We use tools to engage the world in purposeful ways--and in so doing define the world around us.

The archaeologist defines "man" by the first appearance of tools. While the Earth is roughly 5,000 million years old, it is thought that humans have existed on the planet for at least 2.5 million years. This scope of time also marks the range of technology of humans. The earliest tools found to date--that is, the earliest evidence of human beings using technology--are stone implements from Ethiopia, some 2.51 million years old. As new technologies are developed, our practical and philosophical concerns as a species evolve. Technologies have a direct impact on the methods we use to encode and transmit information. New inventions like the loom, the automobile, the telephone, the airplane, and the Internet impact the nature of family, community,and society in profound ways. Technology alters the very way in which we think about ourselves and define our "humanness."

To be an artist is to be a tool user. To be an artist is to utilize technology of some kind--be it oil paint, a lithography press, or a computer. Contemporary society defines itself through its most recent technologies; artists who utilize new technologies such as computers and video are directly involved in shaping society's definition of itself.

Inquiry Questions

1) How do you define "technology" for yourself?

2) Can you give examples of how the history of art has been impacted by technology?

3) Have you used technology in the creation of an artwork?

4) Can you think of some examples of how technology is used to capture, process, or duplicate images?

5) Can technology be used to express human concerns?

6) How is the meaning of your artwork affected (reinforced/diminished) by the use of technology?


1. Moving Images (ref., 2D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT IX: Time, Change, and Motion)

2. Pin-hole Camera (ref., 2D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT I: The Frame)

3. Zoetrope (ref., 2D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT IX: Time, Change, and Motion)


Marcel Duchamp, Naum Gabo, Hans Haacke, Jenny Holzer, Edweard Muybridge, Nam June Paik, Mark Pauline and Survival Research Labs, MIT Media Lab, Dan Sandin, Stelarc, Jean Tinguely, Woody and Steina Vasulka


Benjamin, Walter (193_). "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Illuminations.

Burnham, Jack, Beyond Modern Sculpture.

Immersed in Technology. Banff Center.

Kurzweil, Ray (1999). The Age of Spiritual Machines. New York: Penguin.

McLuhan, Marshall (1967). The Medium is the Message. New York: Bantam Books.

Rheingold, Howard (1991). Virtual Reality. New York: Summit Books.

Weiner, Norbert (1965). Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.