Walking through Undercurrents — the Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) exhibit — feels a lot like traversing a maze. The artists’ expansive pieces are tucked into different rooms of the building and along hallways, spread out like cities on a map.

Undercurrents will offer the public a peek into art projects by DANM graduate students who push the definition of digital arts. While the different exhibit pieces might not have a unifying theme, they all explore the intersection between art and technology, using the two mediums to call attention to contemporary issues.

The annual exhibition, held May 1-4 in the Digital Arts Research Center, showcases work from the 11 graduate student artists.

“Digital Arts and New Media is not just a single medium, it’s many things,” said gallery director Shelby Graham, who curated this year’s exhibit. “The ideas are really dense, so the challenge is that the students are working on complicated issues, projects and technical needs. They’re not sure how all those three things are going to come together.”

The DANM Master of Fine Arts program is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of digital media, drawing on art, humanities, computer science and social sciences to examine the way technology impacts contemporary culture and art. Students this year used technology in a number of ways to express their concerns about social issues.

For example, conceptual artist Harris David Harris uses video to look at social issues through a critical lens. His first piece, “Bound — What If All My Friends Were Dying? What If All My Friends Were Dead?” is a series of framed video portraits with a stylistic nod to the aesthetics of queer communities of the 1980s.

“Bound” takes a deeper look into the way contemporary culture appropriates visual culture of the 1980s, often without the knowledge of the AIDS epidemic that was inexorably tied to those communities. What began as a critique of the ways many of Harris’ peers were unconsciously reenacting history evolved into viewing repetition as a form of claiming agency over one’s life by disregarding the past.

The cohort of 11 artists demonstrates the value of technology as a means through which to comment on pressing social issues through art. Issues like conservation, representation in mass media, ecological awareness and gentrification are at the core of their work.

“These socially-concerned students express their concern about the environment through digitally interactive histories, watershed studies and community activities,” Graham said in a press release.

For fellow artist Jonathan Menendez, digital media is a way of using technology to create communities that serve as a vehicle of social empowerment. His tea lounge, a dimly lit room with a cozy set up, will be a place for queer people of color to gather and discuss issues that may not be a part of the dominant narrative. Ten varieties of tea will be offered, all representing issues of importance to queer people of color, like community, spirituality and health.

The gatherings at the lounge will be centered around a mobile app Menendez launched for a website — myqulture.com — which he co-founded in 2009. The site is a network of 52 bloggers, whose posts cover topics ranging from sex work to immigration reform.

The tea lounge and the app are about creating meaningful spaces that foster connections in the digital world, Menendez said.

Phil Ly, on the other hand, opted to use digital media as an entrance into the gaming world with his project “The Interrogation.” The premise is participants are an Iranian immigrant who moved to the United States for graduate school and who has been flagged for ecoterrorism. A comment on racial profiling and the nature of our decisions, the exhibit forces participants to figure out how to best navigate the interrogation while not being viewed as a terrorist.

While the gaming industry tends to shy away from controversial topics, Ly said the DANM program gave him an opportunity to explore content critiquing establishments. He views gaming as the defining medium of the future and thus a necessary venue to discuss race, representation and empathy.

“There’s an absence of diversity in games and there seems to be an absence of identity. This is symbolically telling minorities that they’re not a part of the overall discourse, that their experiences are sub-experiences,” Ly said. “I was hoping I could start telling stories of the ‘others.’ These experiences do matter — they need to be told and they’re a part of America’s discourse.”

A critical lens like the one Ly adopts, along with a willingness to embrace the unexpected, is essential for all artists in the DANM program.

“New media is a set of behaviors,” Graham said. “In the early 2000s, that’s how this was set out. This is not like other art. Sometimes it doesn’t work, or the Internet goes down or generators need to be used. That’s what’s great — it’s not static.”