Media art history is an interdisciplinary field of research that explores the current developments as well as the history and genealogy of new media art, digital art, and electronic art.[1][2][3] On the one hand, media art histories addresses the contemporary interplay of art, technology, and science.[4][5][6] On the other, it aims to reveal the historical relationships and aspects of the ‘afterlife’ (Aby Warburg) in new media art by means of a historical comparative approach. This strand of research encompasses questions of the history of media and perception, of so-called archetypes,[7] as well as those of iconography and the history of ideas. Moreover, one of the main agendas of media art histories is to point out the role of digital technologies for contemporary, post-industrial societies and to counteract the marginalization of according art practices and art objects: ″Digital technology has fundamentally changed the way art is made. Over the last forty years, media art has become a significant part of our networked information society. Although there are well-attended international festivals, collaborative research projects, exhibitions and database documentation resources, media art research is still marginal in universities, museums and archives. It remains largely under-resourced in our core cultural institutions.″[8]

The term new media art itself is of great importance to the field.[9][10][11][12] New media art is an umbrella term that encompasses art forms that are produced, modified and transmitted by means of digital technologies or, in a broader sense, make use of ‘new’ and emerging technologies that originate from a scientific, military or industrial context. The majority of authors that try to ‘delineate’ the aesthetic object of new media art emphasize aspects of interactivity, processuality, multimedia, and real time. The focus of new media art lies in the cultural, political, and social implications as well as the aesthetic possibilities – more or less its ‘media-specificity’ – of digital media. Consequently, scholars recognize the function of media technologies in New Media Art not only as a ‘carrier’ of meaning, but instead as a means that fundamentally shapes the very meaning of the artwork itself.

Furthermore, the field of new media art is increasingly influenced by new technologies that surmount a traditional understanding of (art) media. This becomes apparent in regards to technologies that originate from the field of biotechnology and life science and that are employed in artistic practices such as bio art, genetic art, and transgenic art. Consequently, the term new media art does not imply a steady ‘genre’ of art production. Instead, it is a field that emphasizes new technologies (in order to establish an explicit difference with traditional art media and genres). The list of genres that are commonly subsumed under the label of new media art illustrates its broad scope and includes, among others, virtual art.[7][13] Software Art,[14][15][16][17] Internet Art,[18][19] Game Art,[20][21] Glitch Art,[22][23] Telematic Art,[24][25][26][27] Bio Art / Genetic Art,[28][29][30][31] Interactive Art,[32] computer animation[33][34] and graphics, and Hacktivism and Tactical Media. These latter two ‘genres’ in particular have a strong focus on the interplay of art and (political) activism.[35][36]

Resources and research projects

Since the end of the 1990s, the first online databases came into being, as exemplified by the university-based Archive of Digital Art,[37] Rhizome[38] platform located in New York, Netzspannung[39] (until 2005), the database project Compart[40] in which early phase of Digital Art is addressed, and the collaborative online platform Monoskop.[41] In terms of institutional resources, media art histories spans diverse organisations, archives, research centres as well as private initiatives. Already at this early stage in the development of the field, the actors of media art histories were connected by way of digital communication, especially by so-called mailing lists such as Nettime or Rohrpost, both channels of communication that remain prime resources for the new media art community.

In the last few years, there was a significant increase of festivals and conferences dedicated to new media art, though the dominant festivals in the field continue to be the Ars Electronica, the Transmediale, the ISEA (Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts), and SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques). To this day, museums and research facilities specializing in New Media Art are the exception. Nevertheless, ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) or specific focuses in collections (including the Whitney Museum, the New York Museum of Modern Art, or the Walker Art Center) serve as important spaces for exchange. Beyond museums that reach a wider audience, there are more and more smaller museums and galleries that focus on new media art (such as the Berlin-based DAM – Digital Art Museum). Additionally, archives in which are exhibited artifacts situated at the intersection of the histories of media, art, and technology are important resources, including collections such as that of Werner Nekes or those cabinets of wonder and curiosity incorporated in art history museums.

Even given this increase in festivals, however, a variety of significant research initiatives have been discontinued. These include the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research, the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology,[42] and Media Art Net. This difficulty in establishing sustainable funding structures as well as support for access to shared data for the scientific research of new media art was made public and addressed by the Liverpool Declaration. Scholars and artists based at institutions all over the globe signed the declaration in a call to develop systematic strategies to fulfill the task that digital culture and its research demands in the 21st Century.[43] Already in the late 1990s it became clear, that media art research is spread over many disciplines and the need became urgent to give it common ground: Therefore, at Humboldt University Berlin Oliver Grau developed with Wendy Coones in a research project the concept for a new type of interdisciplinary conference. Support was given by Roger Malina, Leonardo and Sara Diamond, at the Banff Center, who hosted the first of an international Conference Series on the Histories of MediaArt, Science and Technology. Grau directed the first conference in 2005, involving more than 10 disciplines related to media art. The world conference series attempts to foster the exchange between these different disciplines and their various actors. To date, the conference took place ten times including the Villa Vigoni-meeting invited by Grau in Menaggio 2004 and with Re-fresh (Banff 2005), Re-place (Berlin 2007), Re-live (Melbourne 2009), Re-wire (Liverpool 2011), Re-new (Riga 2013), Re-create (Montreal 2015), Re:Trace (Vienna/Krems 2017), RE:SOUND (Aalborg 2019), Venice 2023. Conference founder Grau is chair of the international board of the series, Wendy Coones is running the Headquarter in Austria. Documentation of the meanwhile more than 2000 papers and applications can be found on Media Art History

Focus of research

Several scholars in the field of media art history claim that there is still a considerable lack of knowledge regarding the origins of visual and audio-visual media.[44] Consequently, it is the objective of media art histories to expand the historically informed knowledge of current media cultures with its developments and detours – the field is driven by the idea of a ‘deep time of the media’ (S. Zielinski).

Hence, scholars stress that the technological advances in current media cultures are best understood on the backdrop of an extensive media and art history. Contributions to this field are widespread and include, among others, researchers who have disciplinary focuses such as the history of science (Lorraine Daston, Timothy Lenoir), art history and image science (Oliver Grau, Barbara Stafford, Dieter Daniels, Slavko Kacunko, Edward A. Shanken, Gunalan Nadarajan, Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Andreas Broeckmann, Jonathan Crary, Horst Bredekamp, Peter Weibel, Hans Belting), media studies and media archaeology (Friedrich Kittler, Erkki Huhtamo, Jussi Parikka, Wolfgang Ernst, Siegfried Zielinski, Stephan Oettermann, Lev Manovich), sound studies (Douglas Kahn), film studies (Sean Cubitt, Ryszard Kluszczyński), as well as computer science (Frieder Nake).


  1. ^ Cubitt, Sean and Paul Thomas. eds. 2013. Relive: Media Art Histories. Cambridge/Mass.: MIT-Press.
  2. ^ Grau, Oliver. ed. 2007. MediaArtHistories. Cambridge: MIT-Press.
  3. ^ Frieling, Rudolf and Dieter Daniels. eds. 2004. Media Art Net 1: Survey of Media Art. New York/Vienna: Springer.
  4. ^ Wilson, Stephen. 2002. Information Arts. Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology Cambridge: MIT Press.
  5. ^ Wilson, Stephen. 2010. Art + Science Now. London: Thames & Hudson.
  6. ^ Henderson, Linda. 1983. The Fourth Dimension and Non - Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art . Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  7. ^ a b Grau, Oliver. 2003. Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  8. ^ "Media Art History » Declaration". Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  9. ^ Rush, Michael. 2005. New Media in Art. London: Thames & Hudson
  10. ^ Tribe, Mark, Reena Jana and Uta Grosenick. 2006. New Media Art. Köln: Taschen.
  11. ^ Shanken, Edward A. 2009. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon Press.
  12. ^ Paul, Christiane. 2003. Digital Art. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  13. ^ Popper, Frank. 2007. From Technological to Virtual Art. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  14. ^ Broeckmann, Andreas. “Software Art Aesthetics.” In Mono 1, edited by FBAUP Porto (July 2007), 158-167.
  15. ^ Gere, Charlie. ed. 2006. White Heat, Cold Logic: Early British Computer Art. Cambridge: MIT Press/Leonardo Books.
  16. ^ Higgins, Hannah and Douglas Kahn. eds. 2012. Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  17. ^ Taylor, Grant D. 2014. When the Machine Made Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art. New York: Bloomsbury.
  18. ^ Greene, Rachel. 2004. Internet Art. London: Thames & Hudson.
  19. ^ Stallabrass, Julian. 2003. Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce. London: Tate.
  20. ^ Schwingeler, Stephan. 2014. Kunstwerk Computerspiel – digitale Spiele als künstlerisches Material: eine bildwissenschaftliche und medientheoretische Analyse. Bielefeld: transcript.
  21. ^ Sharp, John. 2015. Works of Game. On the Aesthetics of Games and Art. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  22. ^ Cates, Jon. “Re: Copying-IT-RIGHT-AGAIN.” In Relive: Media Art Histories, edited by Sean Cubitt and Paul Thomas, 337–345. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013.
  23. ^ Menkman, Rosa. 2011. The Glitch Moment(um). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.
  24. ^ Ascott, Roy. 2003. Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness (edited by Edward A. Shanken). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  25. ^ Grau, Oliver. “Telepräsenz. Zu Genealogie und Epistemologie von Interaktion und Simulation.” In Formen interaktiver Medienkunst. Geschichte, Tendenzen, Utopien, edited by Peter Gendolla, 19-38. Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp, 2001.
  26. ^ Kac, Eduardo. 2005. Telepresence and Bio Art. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press Press.
  27. ^ Goldberg, Ken. Ed. 2000. The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  28. ^ Anker, Suzanne and Dorothy Nelkin. 2004. The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age. Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
  29. ^ Gessert, George. 2010. Green Light: Toward an Art of Evolution. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  30. ^ Hauser, Jens. “Bioart – Taxonomy of an Etymological Monster.” In Hybrid: Living in a Paradox. (Ars Electronica 2005), edited by Gerfried Stocker and Christiane Schöpf, 181-192. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2005.
  31. ^ Kac, Eduardo. ed. 2007. Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  32. ^ Kwastek, Katja. 2013. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  33. ^ Klütsch, Christoph. 2007. Computer Grafik: Ästhetische Experimente zwischen zwei Kulturen. Die Anfänge der Computerkunst in den 1960er Jahren. Vienna: Springer.
  34. ^ Stocker, Gerfried and Christiane Schöpf. 2003. Code: The Language of Our Time: code=law Code=Art Code=Life (Ars Electronica Catalogue). Ostfildern-Ruit: hatje Cantz.
  35. ^ Raley, Rita. 2009. Tactical Media. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.
  36. ^ Bazzichelli, Tatiana. 2013. Networked Disruption. Rethinking Oppositions in Art, Hacktivism and the Business of Social Networking. Aarhus: Digital Aesthetics Research Center.
  37. ^ "Home - ADA | Archive of Digital Art".
  38. ^ "Rhizome". Rhizome. Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  39. ^ "". Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  40. ^ "home | Database of Digital Art". Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  41. ^ "Monoskop".
  42. ^ "The Daniel Langlois Foundation - Home".
  43. ^ Signatories are, among others, Sean CUBITT, Goldsmith; Oliver Grau, Danube U; Ross HARLEY, UNSW Sydney; Christiane PAUL, New School, New York; Diana DOMINGUES, Universidade de Brasília; Horst BREDEKAMP, Humboldt-University Berlin; Barbara Maria STAFFORD, Georgia Tech; Frieder NAKE, University of Bremen; Peter WEIBEL, ZKM; Roy ASCOTT, University of Plymouth, Sir Nicholas SEROTA, Tate; Martin WARNKE, Leuphana University, Mike STUBBS, FACT Liverpool; Benjamin WEIL, LABORAL; Andreas BROECKMANN, Leuphana Arts Program; Jeffrey SHAW, City University Hong Kong; Eduardo KAC, Chicago Arts Institute; Christa SOMMERER, University of Art Linz; Alex ADRIAANSENS, Institute for the Unstable Media, Lanfranco ACETI, Sabanci U; Howard BESSER, NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Ianina PRUDENKO, National Univ. Kiew; Anna Maria GUASCH, Universidad de Barcelona; Anne-Marie DUGUET, Sorbonne; Sara DIAMOND, OCAD Toronto; Vera FRENKEL, FRSC, York University, Gilbertto PRADO, São Paulo University; Itsuo SAKANE, IAMAS, Gifu; Lev MANOVICH, UC San Diego; ZHANG Ga, Tsinghua University; Ryszard W. KLUSZCZYNSKI, University of Lodz; Wolfgang MUENCH, LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore; Raivo KELOMEES, Estonian Academy of Arts; Jin-Woo LEE, Pohang University of Science and Technology; Bent FAUSING, University of Copenhagen; Mitsuhiro TAKEMURA, Sapporo City University; Nelson VERGARA, National University of Colombia; Monika FLEISCHMANN, Fraunhofer Research; Uršula BERLOT, University of Ljubljana; Margarita PAKSA, University of Buenos Aires; Julian STALLABRASS, Courtauld Institute of Art; Peter MATUSSEK, University of Siegen Jon IPPOLITO, The University of Maine; Darren TOFTS, Swinburne University; Andreas LANGE, Computerspielemuseum; Pier Luigi CAPUCCI, NABA, Milan.
  44. ^ cf. Grau, Oliver. Introduction. In MediaArtHistories, edited by Oliver Grau, 1-14. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.