Michael Century

Michael Century, a musician and media arts historian, is Professor of Music and New Media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He founded the Media Arts program at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

  • Northern Sparks

    Innovation, Technology Policy, and the Arts in Canada from Expo '67 to the Internet Age

    Michael Century

    An “episode of light” in Canada sparked by Expo 67 when new art forms, innovative technologies, and novel institutional and policy frameworks emerged together.

    In Northern Sparks, Michael Century examines a period of intense creativity in Canadian arts and technology—an “episode of light,” spurred by the national excitement surrounding Expo 67 and Canada's 1967 centennial. Century describes new art forms, innovative interdisciplinary configurations, and novel institutional and policy frameworks that emerged between 1967 and 1992, creating an alternative technological ethos in which new media technologies were shaped and valued through experimental artistic uses. Canadian experimental artists, Century argues, were central actors in the transition to the digital era.

    Century offers a series of detailed cross-media case studies that illustrate the cross-fertilization of art, technology, and policy. These cases span animation, music, sound art and acoustic ecology, cybernetic cinema, interactive installation art, virtual reality, telecommunications art, software applications, and the emergent metadiscipline of human-computer interaction. They include Norman McLaren's “proto-computational” film animations; projects in which the computer itself became an agent, as in computer-aided musical composition and choreography; an ill-fated government foray into interactive networking, the videotext system Telidon; and the beginnings of virtual reality at the Banff Centre. Century shows how Canadian artists approached new media technologies as malleable creative materials, while Canada undertook a political reinvention alongside its centennial celebrations. Northern Sparks offers a uniquely nuanced account of innovation in art and technology illuminated by critical policy analysis.

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