By Melissa Mitchell After three decades of experimentation in the medium loosely defined as "electronic art," artists who prefer computers to canvas, clay or other conventional tools and materials are breaking the borders and redefining the medium. Works by some of the mavericks of the so-called "second-generation" of electronic art are currently featured in "Art as Signal: Inside the Loop," an exhibition on view Nov. 18 through Jan. 21 at the UI's Krannert Art Museum. Works showcased in the exhibition range from two-dimensional print images and video to interactive installations and art work created for sites on the Internet's World Wide Web. "Unlike their predecessors, 'second generation' artists using computers and other electronic devices are investing their art with a wide range of issues unrelated to process, creating technologically generated work that prioritizes empathetic, human content and contact," curators Kathleen Chmelewski, Nan Goggin and Joseph Squier write in the catalog that accompanies the exhibition. The entire exhibition, including panel discussions and interviews by the artists - conducted by students in Squier's "Artists on the Internet" course - will be documented on a CD Rom, which will be distributed for use by other museums and art educators. The curators - all professors in the UI's School of Art and Design - note that while early experimentation involving computers "made significant contributions to the visual arts," the resulting work was derived "only through concerted efforts between scientists and artists; no mechanisms were in place to facilitate the merger of artistic concept and technological tool." Today's digital imagists have taken the art form to a higher plane, the curators maintain. And, they say, "ultimately what makes the work in 'Art as Signal' is its content, not the technology employed." Out of nearly 300 responses to a call for submissions, works by 18 artists from the United States, France, Germany and Japan were selected for inclusion in the show. Among them: * San Francisco artist Jim Campbell's "Hallucination," which creates a video "mirror that distorts the reality of live images by engulfing the viewer in flames images in image and sound." * European artists Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau's interactive computer installation, "Phototropy," which invites visitors to enter a darkened room, and - using a flashlight - "awaken virtual insects, born in cocoon-like forms." * San Jose State University art professor Joel Slayton's "Telepresent Surveillance," which features three robots - actually video cameras attached to helium balloons - that display "idiosyncratic behavior" and are "capable of autonomous navigation and video transmission." In other words, the robots follow viewers around the gallery and relay interior images of the exhibition to a Web site, allowing cyberviewers the opportunity to "visit" the show. Coinciding with the exhibition is "Electronic Empathy: Encounters With Interactive and Digital Art," a lecture by Margaret Morse at 8 p.m. today at the Beckman Institute auditorium.