Learning Outcomes

This is a studio course in software arts. The lectures, assignments, and other activities in this course are organized around the central themes of computation-driven visualization, generativity, and interactivity. The course uses a flipped classroom structure, and peer instruction, to maximize the value of classtime.

After completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate a critical, technical and contextual understanding of computer programming as a means of art and/or design practice.

Projects and Deliverables

Students should have access to a laptop computer for their work. A digital camera is a helpful accessory for documenting one’s work.

After two intended-to-be-fun introductory upkit intensives (“gauntlets”), there will be three major projects this semester: two guided explorations and one self-directed capstone project:

  • Upkit Intensive I. Due January 23.
  • Upkit Intensive II. Due at the beginning of class on February 11.
  • Visualization. A visualization, due at the beginning of class on Tuesday March 4.
  • Interaction. A real-time system, due March 20.  Gotta rethink this scheduling.
  • Self-Directed Capstone Project. Due April 29, then presented in public.

Note: These projects may have intermediate deadlines (such as for preliminary sketches, research presentations, etcetera). Detailed information about these projects, including their various deadlines, can be found on the Assignments pages.

Your projects will consist of original software and complete documentation. “Complete documentation” refers to a blog Post on this course web site that includes the following:

  • A 200-300 word writeup which discusses your project: conceptually, technically, and critically.
  • At least one image of your project (e.g. photo or screenshot)
  • If appropriate, a diagram explaining how your project operates
  • If appropriate, a video of your project, preferably with narration
  • For web-executable projects (e.g. D3, ProcessingJS, Flash), an embedded project.
  • If your project includes circuitry, a Fritzing or other circuit diagram
  • A link to your project’s source code on Github

In addition to the five principal projects, you will also be expected to:

  • …Attend all class sessions.
  • …Write 8-10 (approximately weekly) brief “Looking Outwards” blog posts.
  • …Contribute helpful comments, especially during critiques.
  • Bring “morning snack” twice in the semester, per the Snack schedule.
  • …Participate in the IACD Final Exhibition in early May (date TBD).

A special note for graduate students: Master’s and doctoral students have been enrolled in 12-unit graduate sections, which meet at the same time as the 10-unit undergraduate sections. For the “extra two units”, graduate students are expected to submit a formal write-up of their final project in the form of a 2-4 page short paper, preferably in the CHI short paper or extended abstract format.

Other Obligations. Occasionally I will ask you to bring something in for the next session. For example, you may be asked to bring in a piece of string, or your digital camera, or the URL of something interesting. Remembering to do these small things will help the class run more smoothly.


I care most of all about your competence, your ambition, your bravery, your curiosity, your evident care, your critical faculty, your civic spirit, and your moral compass. These things are not quantitatively measurable.

I take for granted that you will fulfill all of those obligations which are quantitatively measurable: your attendance; your timely submission of complete projects that meet all assignment criteria; and your fulfillment of other duties as required. Your attention to these basic expectations is often, but not always, correlated with the things I truly care about. If I’m disappointed in your qualitative work, your quantitatively-measurable work had better be in order.

Getting widely blogged on the Internet is not the ultimate reason why we do what we do, but it certainly never hurts. Although YouTube view counts and “getting blogged” are not necessarily a measure of “true quality” (whatever that is), these are probably the most straightforward and responsive indicators we have that your project merits external recognition.

Thus: Your work will be evaluated on its uniqueness, its impact, and its magic*. Semester grades are based on the quality, ambition, and evident care you place in your work, and on the value you contribute to the classroom environment: your comments, productive feedback, active participation, assistance to others and overall citizenship during class sessions.

Project feedback will be primarily qualitative, but numeric scores will also be given for all projects. Appropriate documentation of your assignments must be uploaded to our website before the beginning of class on its due date. Projects submitted after their due date generally forfeit their opportunity to be critiqued.

Our class ranges from freshmen to doctoral students. Expectations are adjusted accordingly. Undergraduates: learn as much as you can from the graduate students. Grad students: keep on your toes; these youngsters are sharp.

Our grading system uses a total of 100 ‘points’ for the semester and shall operate as follows:

  • 2 points | Project 0
  • 8 points | Eight ‘Looking Outwards’ Assignments
  • 10 points | Project 1 (Upkit Intensive)
  • 35 points | Two Small Projects (accorded 20+15 points, ordered per your preference)
    • Project 2 (Visualization)
    • Project 3 (Interaction)
  • 25 points | Project 4 (Self-Directed Capstone Project)
  • 20 points | Support, Citizenship and Civic Participation

Civics and Attendance

This class is structured around “peer learning“. Thus, your physical presence and civic participation in the class are extremely important.

Your behavior as a responsible member of the new-media arts community is also very important — as evidenced, for example, by the proper citation of your sources. See our class academic integrity policy for more information about this.

In the famous words of Woody Allen: 80% of life is just showing up. Every two unexcused absences will lower your final grade by an additional letter. If you’re ill, or if you know you will have a planned/professional absence, please let me know before the beginning of that class session: I can be very understanding and accommodating about necessary absences, family circumstances and medical issues when you inform me beforehand in a professional manner. I can be contacted here. Text messages or Twitter (@golan) are both good ways to reach me.

A special word about unexcused absences on critique days: Sometimes, students who haven’t completed their projects skip class on critique days, because they are too embarrassed to come to class empty-handed. This type of absence is particularly self-destructive, and is the most objectionable and ignominious. Your attendance and participation on critique days is essential, even if your project is incomplete, because these sessions help you understand our class standards, expectations and criteria for good work. Even if your own project is unfinished, you can still contribute productively to the class discussion.

If you are absent from class during a critique, it would really be best if I don’t encounter you later that day in the hallway, chatting away with your friends. I take your attendance seriously, and your attendance during critiques most seriously of all.