nl en

Digital Media, New Imaging Technologies, and Machinic Cultures


Admission requirements

This course is open to students from the ResMA Arts and Culture and the ResMA Literary Studies. The course is also listed as a NICA Core Course open to ResMA students. NICA enrollments are prioritized. For more info see: NICA website


Digital Media, New Imaging Technologies, and Machinic Cultures
The rise of the networked computer forces us to rethink a series of concepts and conceptual distinctions that have long dominated the humanities and the arts, concepts such as representation, meaning, ideology, and the pairs structure & agency, subject & object, production & reception. It has also led to the introduction of concepts derived from such fields as cybernetics, information theory and systems theory, which challenge the traditional humanistic focus on hermeneutics and interpretation, such as operation, capture, embodiment, affect, assemblage, individuation, affordance, obfuscation, noise, and interference.

The aim of this course is to come to terms – conceptually, if not psychologically – with the machine-centric logic of our present-day culture. We will study new ways of understanding the relations between digital media, new imaging technologies, arts and politics today. To this end, we will read a range of classic texts, including Marx’ “fragment on machines” (from the Grundrisse) and the French post-structuralist and Italian post-operaist thought it has inspired (Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard, Hardt, Negri, Lazzarato, Berardi, Esposito). We will also look into the more recent debates about machinic modes of mediation, touching on topics such as surveillance and capture; machine learning, pattern recognition, and big data; critique, noise and disruption; disconnection and withdrawal; and new forms of fatigue, burn-out and depression (authors include Agre, Amoore, Apprich, Berrardi, Birchall, Brunton and Nisselbaum, Chabott, Chun, Cvekovich, Fisher, Galloway, Halpern, Han, Hayles, Kaun, Karppi, Parisi, Rouvroy, Steyerl, Stiegler, Zuboff). We will read these texts in relation to relevant artworks, films, songs and novels, so as to broach the ethical, political and psychological questions that digital media and machinic cultures give rise to.

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student

  • has mastered a critical purchase on the standing debates on digital media, new imaging technologies, and machinic cultures in relation to the arts and the political in the modern period and beyond;

  • has acquainted themselves with classical and current debates within this field;

  • has acquired a advanced set of methodological tools and theoretical concepts that allows them to carry out research in the field of digital media, the arts, and theory independently;

  • is able to demonstrate their knowledges and advanced skills in a series of written and verbal assignments.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

  • Writing Assignments (40%)

  • Oral examination (60%)

The resit consists of the same subtests as the first opportunity.

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest.

Reading list

Readings will be made available on Brightspace


For information about registering for this course, see: NICA website.

After following all procedures and processes described at the link above, Leiden University students will be enrolled in uSis by the Administration Office befre the start of the course.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. P. Hesselberth

Dr. Y. Horsman


Not applicable