Computational & Expanded ███ography


Instructor: Golan Levin (contact)
Teaching Assistant: Claire Hentschker (contact)
Office Hours: Wednesday afternoons, 1:30-4:20pm, CFA-111
Office Location: CFA-111 (Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry)

Course Alerts: @golan & @golancourses
Course Web Site:
Course Github:
Course Calendar:

Course Numbers: 60-461/60-761.
Location: CFA-111 (STUDIO), CFA building, CMU
Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30-4:20pm


This is an interdisciplinary course in experimental media practices that arise from using devices to “capture” the world. We will survey state-of-the-art techniques and emerging ideas, in the industry and in academia, to capture, model, and render objects, people, places and events. The course evaluation will be project-based, in which students will capture a wide variety of things, and develop projects around the data they collect. We will cover capture techniques including motion capture, video-based capture, panoramic and hyperspectral imaging, depth sensors, 3D scanners, hand and eye-gaze trackers; classic and contemporary representations of face and body pose and motion; and recent progress in animation, synthesis, classification, and rehabilitation on new forms of displays. Please note that there are usage/materials fees associated with this course.


This is an interdisciplinary course in experimental media practices that arise from using devices to “capture” the world. In particular, we are concerned with how we can understand and build representations of the world using devices that sense beyond the limits of human perception. In this course, we seek:

  • To explore the affordances of exotic, forgotten, and nascent image capture technologies in revealing unseen or alternative realities.
  • To explore the use of computation in expanding our expressive vocabulary for representations of people, objects, environments, and events.
  • To question the practical and epistemological assumptions that underpin the project of capturing representations of reality with devices.

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Recognize and identify the use of expanded capture techniques (such as photogrammetry, motion capture, hyperspectral imaging, binaural audio, stroboscopy, etc.) in popular and experimental media.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the scientific principles and/or engineering foundations underlying such techniques, in revealing phenomena beyond the limits of ordinary human perception.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the poetic and elucidative potentials of such techniques, and their application to the production of expressive and provocative new culture.
  • Command the practical use of one or more such techniques.


Laptop. Students should have access to a personal laptop; OSX, Windows and Linux are all acceptable. However, although nearly all of the toolkits with which we work are free and cross-platform, example projects will generally only be given for OSX. An Android or iOS smartphone may also be helpful for some projects.

Camera. Students should have access to a camera to document their work. This could be a smartphone camera if necessary.

The programming environments used for example projects and sample code are Unity, Processing (Java), and OpenFrameworks (C++). For OpenFrameworks, students should have a suitable IDE installed (such as XCode or Visual Studio). We may also encounter GLSL, Python, and Max/MSP.

Sketchbook. It is wise to plan your projects on paper before writing any code. We recommend the 5″x8.25″ Moleskine dotted notebook, but any sketchbook will do.


There are no specific course prerequisites for this course, but students should already be demonstrably comfortable with the basics of programming, such as for() loops, if() statements, arrays, and objects, as taught in courses like 15-104, 15-110, 15-112, or an equivalent. Students who are inexperienced in coding, should be prepared to fake it.


There are three main assignments due at approximately monthly intervals, and a Capstone project with a proposal, check-in, and public exhibition phase. Additionally, students must make weekly “Looking Outwards” research reports based on Internet research. More details will be found on the Deliverables page.