Master of Arts Integrated Studies (MAIS) 656

Datascapes: Information Aesthetics and Network Culture (Revision 1)

Permanently closed, effective December 12, 2014.

Delivery Mode  Grouped study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: Professor approval or successful completion of a senior level undergraduate course in the Humanities/Social Sciences with a major essay component. An undergraduate course in theory is also recommended. Students should realize that 50% of their course grade is a web-based project. Instruction on the skills required to create web pages is not provided in MAIS 656. As a result, students should be able to design web pages and work with images and other web elements before they register for this course.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Integrated Studies

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**Note:Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


Master of Arts—Integrated Studies 656: Datascapes: Information Aesthetics and Network Culture critically examines the intersections of the information arts and information technologies in our rapidly changing times, and explores how cross-pollination between these fields alters not only art and culture but the world we live in. Through exploring the differences among how contextualized information, data, and knowledge are written in and by a diversity of media, this course maps the unique shapes that information assumes in digital culture. It engages new approaches to understanding the transformation that information is enacting on our temporal, spatial, and visual perceptions. The increasing fragmentation of cultural structures and the rise of connectivity as a new paradigm is evident all around us, from the world of medicine to multinational capital to theWorld Wide Web. The ascendance of the database as a new pre-eminent cultural form begins to blur the boundaries between art and reality, and representation and simulation, and creates new social networks necessary for interactive engagement.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to

  1. identify the differences between information, knowledge, and data, and describe the characteristics of each.
  2. describe the import of cultural structures within their historicized contexts.
  3. assess critically the importance of an urban, networked cultural paradigm to the arts, the sciences, business, and society.
  4. identify forward-looking approaches to the organization of information arts and technologies, including communities and social networks.
  5. analyse the impact of the cataclysmic effects of network culture and the increasingly urbanizing trends of aestheticized information.
  6. understand the dialectic between technology and culture.
  7. assess critically the importance of creative engagement with these ideas to the goal of acquiring fluency in the new digital literacy.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Integrated Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 15%
Presentation 35%
Creative Project 50%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for Master of Arts-Integrated Studies 656 include the items listed below. If you find that any of these items are missing from your course materials package, please contact the Course Materials Production department of Athabasca University at (780) 675-6366, or 1-800-788-9041, ext. 6366 (toll free from anywhere within Canada and the United States). You may also write in care of Athabasca University, 1 University Drive, Athabasca T9S 3A3; or direct your e-mail to


  • Borgmann, Albert. Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • Foster, Hal, ed. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. New York: The New Press, 1983.
  • Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997.


Wachowski, Andy, and Larry Wachowski, screenplay and director. Matrix. 1999. Warner Brothers. VHS, DVD.


Coverley, M. D. (Marjorie C. Luesebrink). Califia. Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 2000. CD-ROM. Note: The Califia CD-ROM included with the course materials is for use only on Windows systems. Students who require a MacIntosh compatible CD-ROM will be able to borrow a copy of Mauve Desert: A CD-ROM in Translation by Adriene Jenik (Shifting Horizons Productions, Twenty Nine Palms, CA, 1997), on request, from Athabasca University Library.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Course Guide: The Course Guide contains the introduction, objectives, reading assignments, online activities, assignments, and other information students will need to complete the course successfully. Students should take time now to review the information in this document to become familiar with the design of the course.

Reading File: The Reading File is a compilation of assigned readings that supplement the course textbooks and online articles and Internet sites linked to the Digital Reading File. The "Study Guide" section of this manual will direct you when to read these articles.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information at the top of the course home page. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, September 1, 2002.

Updated April 29 2016 by SAS