Contemporary Art and Digital Culture ~ Reading List

Interested in contemporary art and digital culture? Art Historian and Modern Art Oxford’s Exhibitions Administrator Jess Robertson has curated an introductory reading list for you. 

Many of these texts are available to read for free online, or to download as ebooks – perfect for isolation reading!

The list includes key texts from artists, curators and theorists which explore questions of privacy, artistic labour, image circulation, identity and embodiment in recent artistic practices engaged with the internet and digital technologies. These are accompanied by a small selection of interdisciplinary texts, which offer critical perspectives on social network sites, surveillance, communicative capitalism and archival tendencies in the digital age.


Melissa Gronlund, Contemporary Art and Digital Culture (Routledge, 2016)

Taking a thematic approach, which explores questions of circulation, privacy and globalisation, this book is an accessible and engaging insight into the relationship between contemporary art and digital culture.

David Joselit, After Art (Princeton University Press, 2013)

Presented in the form of an illustrated essay, After Art sits at the juncture of media studies and art history to provide a theory of art and architecture in the age of global networks.

Hito Steyerl, Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War (Verso 2017)

Berlin-based artist Hito Steyerl’s collection of essays, drawn from past lectures and performances, is a fast-paced and at time bewildering exploration of contemporary art under the conditions of neoliberal capital, proprietary digital technology and mass surveillance.

Omar Kholeif, I Was Raised on the Internet (Prestel, 2018)

Published to coincide with a major exhibition of the same name the at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, this anthology of essays, provocations and manifestos penned by artists, theorists and curators seeks to broaden the critical debate on art that engages with the internet and digital technologies.

Aria Dean, ‘Poor Meme, Rich Meme’, Real Life (25 July 2016)

In this much-cited and compelling essay, Dean makes a case for the blackness of memes and addresses ideas of collectivity, visibility and circulation.

Benjamin Bratton, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (The MIT Press, 2015)

This extensive text addresses digital technologies in relation to concept of sovereignty and power. Based in political and design theory, The Stack argues for computational systems to be understood as a complex and multi-layered global mega structure, or rather as ‘planetary scale computing’.

Rachel Dubrofsky and Shoshana Magnet, eds., Feminist Surveillance Studies (Duke University Press, 2015)

Presenting surveillance as a specifically feminist concern, this edited volume explores the relationship between surveillance, social media, representation and embodiment, situating gender, race, class, and sexuality at the centre of critical surveillance discourse.

Ina Blom, Trond Lundemo and Eivind Røssaak, eds., Memory in Motion: Archives, Technology, and the Social (Amsterdam University Press, 2016)

This complex but engaging volume draws together interdisciplinary approaches to archival practices and concepts of memory in the digital age.  As an open access text, it can be downloaded for free:

Christian Fuchs, Social Media: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edition (Sage, 2017)

This textbook style volume by media theorist Christian Fuchs is a useful overview of critical approaches to social media.

You can download a sample chapter here.

Jodi Dean, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive (Polity Press, 2010)–blog-theory.pdf

Over the past 20 years, political theorist Jodi Dean has written prolifically on democracy, activism, neoliberalism and digital technology. This text from 2010, while not her most recent, is a good entry point into her theory of ‘communicative capitalism’, which sees democracy and capitalism converge in entertainment media and networked communications.


Jessie Robertson’s PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art explored digital art practices in the period 2011-2016. Her research interests include social practice, internet art, and pop culture. 


Modern Art Oxford’s Activating our Archives project is a live digital archiving and curating project led by artist and curator Sunil Shah, organised in collaboration with Fusion Arts Oxford.

Banner image credit: Kevin Burrell, Activating our Archives 2020 participant.

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