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An Artist’s History of Computer Viruses and Malware

Todd Anderson
Herdimas Anggara
October 4, 2022 to December 8, 2022 (10 classes)
Section 1: Tuesdays, 3-6pm ET Section 2: Thursdays, 3-6pm ET
Online (Zoom)
$1200 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on September 9, 2022

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The course looks at the history of computer viruses and malware both from an analytical perspective ("what are these things and how do they work?") and an aesthetic perspective ("is a virus designed to display an animation on a strangers computer an artwork? a crime? both?"). We will read and discuss, experiment with new technologies, and create creative work in response to the topics we cover. In addition to low level terminal commands, the course will use browser extensions as a creative medium to explore some of the aesthetic possibilities of malware art in a safe, non-destructive way. By the end of the course participants will have a working understanding of a range of cybersecurity topics as well as a creative way in to some of the thornier issues in computing.

Images courtesy of teachers, participants, class documentarians and guests.


Course of Study

  • The Pre-Internet BBS Era and the First Viruses
  • Infection Mechanisms and Virus Payloads
  • Detournement and Culture Jamming
  • Ransomware
  • Spam
  • Botnets and Distributed-Denial-of-Service
  • Hacktivism and Tactical Art
  • Data Breaches
  • Stuxnet and Cyberwarfare

Technology We Will Use

  • Terminal / Bash Scripting
  • SSH, Remote Access
  • Basic HTML/JS
  • Chrome Extensions
  • APIs
  • Encryption


Time & Workload

Participants will be expected to do 1-2 hours of reading each week to prepare for class and to participate in discussions. Participants will also receive prompts each week to creatively respond to the topics covered in class and are expected to share a response in class at least once. At the end of the class participants will be expected to submit something to a digital class anthology.

Technical Experience

This class will assume no prior programming experience and will make frequent use of examples and template code to get everyone up and running quickly.

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you if:

  • You are curious about the dark side of computation and the internet
  • You think computer viruses are cool or interesting but don't want to hurt people
  • You have felt your heart start pumping as you click to download a file from a dubious source
  • You want to better understand how to defend against digital attacks
  • You are interested in using computation as a form of protest or activism
  • You want to create boundary-pushing software art in a safe and consentful way
  • You want to interrogate the idea of what computers are "allowed" to do
  • You are a fan of The Matrix (1999).

This class may NOT be for you if:

  • You want to write computer viruses or ransomware to make money or harm people
  • You are looking for an advanced cybersecurity programming course that will prepare you to work as a penetration tester or security consultant (you might still enjoy the class but that's not what this is)
  • You think Ronald Reagan basically nailed it on the first try with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1984)

Meet the Teachers & Guests


Todd Anderson

Todd Anderson is a digital poet, software artist and educator based in New York City. He has been making experimental software art for over 10 years including the live interactive poetry project Hotwriting, the Chrome Extension ARG 'An Experience', the performance-inside-the-browser extension HitchHiker, and multiple plays and performances with the multidisciplinary group H0t Club. He is perhaps best known as the host and curator of WordHack, the monthly language+technology talk series in NYC running every third Thursday since 2014.

he/him · website · twitter · instagram


Herdimas Anggara

Herdimas appropriates the affordances of technology to emulate religious ecstasy and altered states of consciousness through contemporary takes of Indonesian ritual performances in digital and/or physical spaces. He breaks the sense of familiarity of platforms that he occupies in to give them a sense of agency over their preconceived ideologies. He received his MFA from Yale School of Art in 2021.

he/him · website · twitter · instagram


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

Apply Now

Describe a time when you did something with your computer that felt risky. Why did it feel that way? What were you risking? Or alternatively describe a time when your computer was acting in a way you couldn't explain. How did it feel? What did you think was happening?

Applications open until Applications closed on September 9, 2022.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on September 23, 2022. Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 10 classes, it costs $1200 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.