Courses-Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology - Carnegie Mellon University


Portal Courses

15-104 Introduction to Computing for Creative Practitioners

10 units (Enrollment cap: 100)
Roger Dannenberg, Jim Roberts
Launching F14

15-104 is an introduction to fundamental computing principles and programming techniques for creative cultural practices, with special consideration to applications in music, design and the visual arts. Intended for students with little to no prior programming experience, the course develops skills and understanding of text-based programming in a procedural style, including idioms of sequencing, selection, iteration, and recursion. Topics include data organization (arrays, files, trees), interfaces and abstraction (modular software design, using sensor data and software libraries), basic algorithms (searching and sorting), and computational principles (randomness, concurrency, complexity). Prerequisites: none.

62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

10 units (Enrollment cap: 100)
Thanassis Rikakis, Frank Melendez
Launching F14

The course is an introduction to basic principles for the creation of digitally mediated content. The course is aimed towards students from science and engineering disciplines who have limited exposure to content analysis and authoring. The course contains three five-week modules. All students complete the critical analysis modules and choose 2 of the other three modules: narrative, visual synthesis, sound synthesis

The Narrative module is designed to expose students to a range of multidisciplinary perspectives on narrative. Narrative has a long and distinguished history and many theoretical schools of thought have evolved to identify what narrative is and its various instantiations in thought, language, poetry and prose writing, the identity of self and character, politics, theatre, art, games, and media and life generally. The first unit of the module, developed by Andreea Ritivoi, provides an overview of the History/Theory of narrative as a portal into the way all the subsequent units discuss narrative. The second unit, developed by David Kaufer, focuses on features of language that are conventionally associated with narrative as established from the scientific study of large corpora of texts. The third unit, developed by Kevin Gonzalez, examines how narrative works in both poetry and prose fiction. The fourth unit, developed by Jennifer Keating-Miller, focuses on life writing as a written form in which individuals rely on narrative as a tool for exploring concepts of self, and self in relation to a community (local, national, etc.). The fifth unit, by Rob Handel, deepens the examination of embodied narrative by focusing on narrative on stage and screen, illustrating how action is character and character is action and the importance of voice for giving a character life. The sixth and final unit, developed by Ralph Vituccio, looks at exploratory narrative, the relationship of narrative, games, and interactivity. This unit looks at video games and narrative structures used within a game world and discusses, among other things, what works and what doesn't.  

The Visual Synthesis module, developed by Larry Shea, introduces students to a variety of tools and perspectives for creating, experiencing and discussing visual objects and artworks. As explored by Marshall McLuhan and others, we live in an increasingly visual culture, where the symbolic logic of imagery trumps the linear logic of words, sentences, and language. Students from Computer Science and Engineering areas will have well-developed algorithmic and logical reasoning capabilities that their studies reinforce and hone. Yet they are also, most likely, lively participants in our vibrant visual culture through entertainment, social media etc. This module aims to raise their awareness of the structure of this visual world to a level on par with their more scientific studies. Through readings, discussions, and hands-on workshops students will explore the fundamentals of the visual image, their basic physicality (optics & perception), semiotically (meanings & associations) and socially (how they are used). The history of abstraction in art will be introduced as a way to explore the complex and dynamic feedback between human perception and visual stimuli. The importance of iteration and the accumulation of "body-knowledge" will be demonstrated through workshop exercises. The coursework and discussion will stress the relative, subjective, and idiosyncratic aspects of visual perception as a way of gaining insight on the exploration, creation and transmission of meaning using visual means.

The Critical Analysis module was developed by Melissa Ragona and Paolo Pedercini. During the last decade of the twentieth century, new technologies have transformed the way we think about the fields of Art and Design. Indeed, in many ways, innovations in technology have brought these two fields back into communication with each other in ways we have not experienced since the 1960s. By examining the use of media (analog and digital) across the areas of sound/music, dance, theater, performance art, gaming, installation, communication and interactive design, this module will traverse multiple theories and histories of mediated practices. With an eye to how changing theories of performativity have influenced how artists/designers think about what it means to "perform," this module, in a sense, will be engaged in both philosophical and aesthetic research about how technology has changed the conventions of performative artistic and design-oriented practice. What was the role of technology in the dematerialization of the object of art? How did the notion of "interactivity" change the face of design practice and product? How have technology's advances changed the participatory practices of art and design audiences from traditional consumption practices? How have ideas about virtual, parallel worlds changed the way artists think about the "performing body?" If technology once acted as a prosthetic device, increasing an artist's sensual and perceptual world, what happens to the role and impact of an artist's/designer's work in the seemingly inert realms of programming or the increasingly autonomous areas of Robotic Intelligence? With these questions in mind, students will be expected to engage in a substantial amount of critical reading, viewing, analytical thinking and original research. Pointed seminar discussions will be central to the success of this study. It will expose students to a variety of theoretical frameworks through which they can begin to think critically about their own methodological choices and direction for their particular research topics (and other upper level work).
On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to think critically across several theoretical paradigms, such as: psychoanalytic, phenomenological, semiotic, Marxist/Critical theory;
  • Employ knowledge of historical models across visual and aural culture: Screen-based technologies (from film and video to cellular forms), Audio/Sound, Performance, Installation, and Critical Design;
  • Demonstrate the ability to formulate a clear, focused thesis statement, with supporting points of argument;
  • Articulate the relationship between Art/Design practice and theory

The Sound Synthesis module, developed by Sarah Pickett and Ben Opie, is designed to be an introduction to various aspects of sound design theory. The course will cover the fundamentals of the physical aspects of sound and then delve into sound capturing, processing, and synthesis. In addition to the technical aspects of sound manipulation, this course will also introduce the student to concepts of sound design relative to the art of storytelling. These principles are relevant to many disciplines, including but not limited to film, multi-media, theater, gaming, web-design & interactive learning paradigms. This course will also explore fundamental principles of music composition as they apply to the area of sound design.

16-223/60-223 Introduction to Physical Computing

10 units (Enrollment cap: 50)
Ali Momeni and Garth Zeglin (co-developed with Susan Finger)
Launching Fall 2014

Physical computing refers to the design and construction of physical systems that use a mix of software and hardware in order to sense and respond to the surrounding world. Such systems include digital+physical toys and gadgets, kinetic sculpture, functional sensing and assessment tools, mobile instruments, interactive wearables, etc. This is a project-based course that deals with all aspects of conceiving, designing and developing projects with physical computing: the application, the artifact, the computer-aided design environment, and the physical prototyping facilities. The class consists of students from different disciplines who collaboratively synthesize and implement several systems in a short period of time. The course is organized around a large set of essential skills that students must gain in order to effectively tackle physical computing problems. It is then deployed through a series of quick group projects that utilize the essential skills and challenge students to not only consider HOW to make things, but also for WHOM we design, WHEN the time is ripe, and WHY the making is worthwhile/necessary.

Upon completion of this course the students will be able to:

  • work in a mixed physical-digital environment and laboratory
  • make effective use of standard hardware and software tools for physical computing
  • approach complex physical computing problems with a systematic overview that integrates iterative research and design steps
  • generate systems specifications from a perceived need
  • partition functionality between hardware and software
  • produce interface specifications for a system composed of numerous subsystems
  • use computer-aided development tools for design, fabrication and testing and debugging
  • evaluate the system in the context of an end user application or experience

18-090 Introduction to Signal Processing for Creative Practice

10 units (Enrollment cap: 50)
Jesse Stiles
Launching Fall 2014

The goal of this course is to introduce core concepts in signal processing that will enable students to develop a working knowledge of Fourier analysis, sampling, filter design, feedback, and related concepts, and be able to make intelligent use of available hardware and software tools.  Assignments and projects will be focused on applications in computer music, contemporary drama, kinetic art, and related areas. Course development by Richard Stern and Tom Sullivan.

Upper-level Courses

48-777 Starter Kit for Participatory Culture

Variable units (Enrollment cap: 15)
Omer Akin
Launching Fall 2014

What is Participatory Culture?

According to a recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life project, more than one-half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced. In many cases, these teens are actively involved in what we are calling participatory cultures. A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, members care about others' opinions of what they have created).

What is This Course All About?

This course is a variable-unit project course (an interdisciplinary design studio) to explore physical solutions to "pods" of physical space to serve the creation of spatial starter kits to encourage the proliferation of Participatory Culture. One of these pods will be located in Oakland. Others may be located in South Side, Lawrenceville, Braddock, or Homewood. The pods will be designed to accommodate:

  • Play – how to create environments to experiment within problem solving environments?
  • Improvisation – how to provide physical contexts within which alternative realities can be simulated?
  • AR / VR technologies – how to create facilities to support real-world simulations?
  • Tool playground – how to expand cognitive capabilities through innovative tools?
  • Focus and conference of ideas – how to invent various size human group support environments, networking, and idea dissemination?
  • Usability support – how to support all of this with administration and staff?
  • Building support – how to support all of this with mechanical, functional, and infrastructure systems?

All work will be done using Rhino and affiliated software on Ultrabook laptops by Intel. The location of the course/studio will become increasingly fuzzy as we develop our work. The ultimate objective of the course/studio is to address the endemic problems of current Participatory Culture such as making apparent the transparent products of social media, virtual entities, participants' minds, affiliations, expressions, collaborations, participation gaps, transparency, and the ethics participating in the "cloud."