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New York University

I received my Masters degree from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program 2007-2009. This is an ever-shifting and growing department that is at times hard to understand. Hopefully these course descriptions shed some light on what I was able to focus on during my time at NYU.


Fall 2007


Applications of Interactive Telecommunications Technology
This introductory class is designed to allow students to engage in a critical dialogue with leaders drawn from the artistic, non-profit and commercial sectors of the new media field, and to learn the value of collaborative projects by undertaking group presentations in response to issues raised by the guest speakers. Interactive media projects and approaches to the design of new media applications are presented weekly; students are thus exposed to both commercial as well as mission-driven applications by the actual designers and creators of these innovative and experimental projects. By way of this process, all first year students, for the first and only time in their ITP experience, are together in one room at one time, and as a community, encounter, and respond to, the challenges posed by the invited guests. The course at once provides an overview of current developments in this emerging field, and asks students to consider many questions about the state of the art. For example, with the new technologies and applications making their way into almost every phase of the economy and rooting themselves in our day to day lives, what can we learn from both the failures and successes? What are the impacts on our society? What is ubiquitous computing, embedded computing, physical computing? How is cyberspace merging with physical space? Class participation, group presentations, and a final paper are required.

Introduction to Computational Media
What can computation add to human communication? Creating computer applications, instead of just using them, will give you a deeper understanding of the essential possibilities of computation. The course focuses on the fundamentals of programming the computer (variables, conditionals, iteration, functions, and objects) and then touches on some more advanced techniques such as text parsing, image processing, networking, computer vision, and serial communication. The Java-based ‘Processing’ programming environment is the primary vehicle for the class, however at the end of the semester, the course offers a peek behind the Processing curtain and directly into Java. The course is designed for computer programming novices. Although experienced coders can waive this class, some programmers use ICM to acclimatize to the ITP approach and for the opportunity play further with their project ideas. Weekly assignments are required throughout semester. The end of the semester is spent developing an idea for a final project and implementing it using computer programming.

Introduction to Physical Computing
This course expands the students’ palette for physical interaction design with computational media. We look away from the limitations of the mouse, keyboard and monitor interface of today’s computers, and start instead with the expressive capabilities of the human body. We consider uses of the computer for more than just information retrieval and processing, and at locations other than the home or the office. The platform for the class is a microcontroller, a single-chip computer that can fit in your hand. The core technical concepts include digital, analog and serial input and output. Core interaction design concepts include user observation, affordances, and converting physical action into digital information. Students have weekly lab exercises to build skills with the microcontroller and related tools, and longer assignments in which they apply the principles from weekly labs in creative applications. Both individual work and group work is required.

Media Change
In this course, we will consider the “evolution” of technology. This consideration will necessitate a problematizing of our definitions of “technology” and “media,” constant reflection on the nature of change, and an engagement with the challenges of media historiography. On the primary level, we will consider the cultural and political forces behind shifts in media, and the impacts that these developments have on our liberties, bodies, relationships, environment, networks, perception, and expression–including but not limited to art practice. We will look at art objects, films, manifestos, and theoretical texts that respond to these changes, and students will ultimately create two art projects that address the questions of media change.

Spring 2008


Designing for Constraints
Whether we design an application for the small touch-pad of a cell phone, a game for an elderly user, or produce art through a self-defined conviction, our work is often driven by constraints – some chosen, others imposed. With digital technologies, one other constraint is our own ability to keep up with the ever-shifting tools that we use. Does this perpetual learning-curve stifle our creative process? Or in contrast, can an abundance of technical know-how cloud a simple vision? The goal of this course is to make work that is fueled by the positive constraints (our audience, our vision) rather then the damaging ones (our lack of ability to know everything about the tools we use). Through weekly assignments, we draw ideas and production techniques from art, game design, music (sound-art), cognitive science and universal-design, towards an understanding of how to carry our initial ideas through a development process, without compromising quality and clarity of vision. For a final assignment students are asked to create a project for a specific target audience, defined by age/gender/race/culture and ability. The goal is to allow oneself a space for exploration while working towards a focused result. Some ideas for projects may include simplifying an application for the growing elderly population (can grandmama really use that fancy Nokia phone?), a software game based solely on audio (ever played doom without a monitor in a dark room?), or an art-piece that clearly conveys your artistic intentions with a digital medium (think of interactive art that’s not utterly frustrating/annoying for gallery goers). In either case, we test our work early and often (starting mid semester), learn to identify problems, and solve them through an iterative design process. When needed, software examples are programmed using Processing. We also use simple p-comp modules to quicken exploration (such as custom keyboard emulators). A fair understanding of ICM and P-comp is required, as you will be asked not to spend the majority of your energy learning new technologies, but rather make best of what you already know. That’s one of the course constraints.

Networked Objects
This course explores the possibilities and challenges of designing alternate physical network interfaces. In physical computing, students learn how to make devices that respond to a wide range of human physical actions. This class builds on that knowledge, covering methods for making interfaces talk to each other. On the physical interface side, students will learn about a variety of network interface devices, including microcontrollers, network radios, and serial-to-Ethernet converters. On the network server side, basic server-side programming techniques in PHP will be introduced. On the desktop computer, basic network techniques in will be covered in Processing. Students should be comfortable programming in at least one language (Processing or PHP preferred), and with the basics of physical computing. Topics of discussion include: networking protocols and network topologies; network time vs. physical time; coping with network unreliability; planning a network of objects (system design); mobile objects; and wireless networks of various sorts. Students undertake a series of short production assignments and final project, and keep an online journal documenting their work and reading. We will also do some reading and discussion of contemporary work in the field.

Media Architecture – Where the Physical and Virtual Meet
At the intersections of the virtual worlds of represented knowledge/experience and the physical world of the built environment is media architecture- an evolving field of expression that combines art, technology and architecture. Artists, architects and technologists, primarily in Europe and Asia are creating seminal artworks with large scale displays, micro processor controlled L.E.D. and fluorescent lighting systems, and ambient responsive environments in large installations and building projects. In Media Architecture, students explore new vehicles for innovative multimedia, the requirements and art forms of large scale display systems, and how to design content, visualizations, and simulations for these systems from real-time data feeds, and narrowcast networks. This is an ideal opportunity for artists to create pieces in this new medium while opening a broader field for their work. Students are expected to create bi-weekly assignments for review, including a team. Final projects are expected with the possibility of displaying them on a large scale system through an agreement with an outside venue.

Urban Computing
Think about cities in terms of their physical components: walls, windows, markets, streets and neighborhoods, for example. At every scale, these are transformed when the air itself carries fantasies, suggestions, directions and lies. Information and misinformation. Now the streets can summon up the world, and to a certain degree, the world can conjure the streets. This is not what urban planners were planning for. This is an experimental class, focused on the consideration of contemporary practices, theory, and student work. The goal is to find a framework for the ways that our work affects and transforms our urban experience – and vice versa – and to consider the urban architectonic as a platform for computation in itself. Ubiquitous computing, Big Games, and mobile social networking are some of the practices that fit comfortably in the room. This seminar requires weekly readings, field reports, and active participation in the class and with New York City. Four assignments are given to apply these principles, appropriate to individual interests and pursuits.

Fall 2008


Show and Tell Studio
There is no shortage of great ideas and projects at ITP. But there is often a shortage of class time to thoroughly develop the concept for a project and to communicate effectively about it in writing or orally in presentations. At some point you are going to have to pitch your projects to people outside ITP and this studio will help you gain the skills you will need. This studio is a complement to a production class — each student brings a project from another class — we take the time, often lacking in class, to learn how to focus an idea into a workable concept, and to practice and experiment with ways to present it. Writing is critical to thinking and design. So the writing you do helps you hone and clarify your concept and lay the basis for a smoother more effective design and development process. We work on the structure of presentations, public speaking techniques; how to write and design engaging and memorable presentations. We also work on written communication, which may include: grant writing, artist’s statements and proposals.

Computers for the Rest of You
This class explores the possibilities of subtle interaction with computers. Conventional computer interface tends to accommodate conscious, explicit, intentional communication. Many unconscious cues and actions that are valued in ordinary human expression are ignored or filtered by computer-mediated interactions. Relinquishing a conscious gatekeeper can be associated with such uncomfortable subjects as subliminal manipulation, subconscious repression, even a loss of free will and the insanity defense! On the other hand going past conscious control can be associated with achieving virtuosity in the arts and athletics, acquiring insight into your personality, and engendering trust in conversation. In this course students build on software and hardware tool kits to create hands-on experiments tapping less conscious parts of your experience. The prototyping exercises include using cell phone as personal sensor logger and then visualizing the results; sensing autonomic nervous responses such as heart rate; and trapping and analyzing language use on your computer. Group work is encouraged. The last part of the semester we concentrate on final projects. ICM and Physical Computing are prerequisites to this course.

Design for One
This course focuses on designing and prototyping for an individual who requires the infamous ‘one-off’ product that does not fit into the everyday design category. Student groups are matched with outside organizations and introduced to a person with a need that serves as the focus of the semester’s project. The students work closely with the organizations and individuals to assess the problem, research possible solutions and build various prototypes for user testing. During the course, students research the social issues related to their design challenge; why does this problem exist, how common is this situation, and how does individual design differ from inclusive or universal design? As projects progress students are asked to generalize their solutions and define how a larger population might use their designs. The goal of the class is to bring student designers together with people in the community who need a specific ‘one-off’ working solution that is used by the individual and documented to share with similar organizations. The class requires introduction to physical computing and introduction to computational media.

Metaforms is a studio course offering a broad range of topics focused on progressive architectural discourse framed by new media. The goal of the class is for each student to produce an architectural form which inhabits an urban public space in New York City. The forms need not be traditional architectural constructs, but new strategies towards defining an architecture that can be expressed through new technologies. Students are encouraged to imagine the impossible and to integrate metaforms into the contemporary city. Science- fiction sites, transportation paths, urban anomalies, invisible boundaries, and temporary autonomous zone are examined and developed as metaform habitats. The semester long project is divided into two parts: expressions and interventions. The first section, expressions, addresses contemporary architectural tendencies that unfold to inhabit the spaces of urban environments. The second part, interventions, activates communication strategies to connect the metaforms to actual public spaces within New York City. The class work culminates in final presentations critiqued by guest reviewers from related fields. No prerequisites or architectural experience is needed, however, previous knowledge of at least one programming language is strongly recommended (processing, max/msp/jitter, maya, flash etc.).

Spring 2009


Mechanisms and Things That Move
This class is designed to equip the student with a basic knowledge of mechanical engineering, materials, and component selection for practical use. Emphasis will be placed on finding and using affordable,everyday components for the hobbyist. Real-world, professional level components and technologies will also be covered in case studies and class examples. From kinetic sculptures to modern architecture, from product design to interactive art, learning how to create sound mechanical interfaces between inputs and outputs to a system helps us interpret and interact with our environments. There is little use in building effective circuitry for physical computing if the mechanism to be controlled is too weak to handle the task set forth for it. Systems can also be optimized and protected from expensive over-engineering with a basic knowledge of mechanics and materials. A breadth of topics will be covered ranging from how to attach couplers and shafts to a motor to converting between rotary and linear motion. Many topics will be presented in the form of competition, challenges, or group installations. Weekly lectures will be supplemented by in class demos and out of class lab work. Both Individual and group work will be required. Prerequisite: Intro to Physical Computing

Social Facts: Motivation
Social Facts centers on two questions. The first is, how do we function in groups? Group effort presents significant coordination problems, problems that have to be overcome even to do anything as simple as getting everyone in the same place at the same time. Getting a group to function as a relatively cohesive unit means getting its members to set aside enough of their autonomy, and to come to regard their membership in the group as important. The second, related question is, why do we function in groups. Group life is often unpleasant – it can be frustrating or boring in the extreme, and yet we often chose group membership over individual action when given the choice, whether on Monday morning or Friday night. What are the motivations that lead people to give up enough autonomy to participate in group action, either extrinsic (seeking fame and fortune) or intrinsic (feelings of accomplishment or appreciation of others.) Readings are drawn from classic sociological literature (Emil Durkheim, Mark Granovetter, Robert Axelrod) and from recent observations about mediated groups (danah boyd, Dan Hill, Clay Shirky); course work involves readings, class discussions, observation of existing groups, and three papers discussing the design of group interaction.

Designing the Human: Persuasive Technology
Persuasive technologies range from Google’s Image Labeler to the Karryfront Screamer Laptop Bag, from Clocky to Facebook’s socially-reinforced news feed updates. This class critically examines the design of these technologies as they play upon specific human emotions and vulnerabilities. In the spirit of transparency and ethical investigation, we explore approaches to subverting, upending and exposing our relation to such technologies. Furthermore, we examine the power of persuasive technologies in creating opportunities for communicating non-human intentions and viewpoints. Readings range from Douglas Adams on Genuine People Personalities, to Frank Herberts “Without Me, You’re Nothing,” Friedrich Juenger’s “The Failure of Technology”, to BJ Fogg, Nass and Rives, and the work in Critical Design by Dunne and Raby, among others. Through class discussion, readings and examples we identify human emotional/social touchpoints: jealousy, seduction, fear, risk, reward, etc. Students conduct their own analyses of a manipulation technique, and of its corresponding persuasive technology application. For the second assignment students develop and present a persuasive technology concept for a non-human object or viewpoint. An example might be Play Coalition’s “PlantBot,” which puts plants in control of their own mobility based on their need for sunlight. For midterm, guest critics provide feedback to students’ presentations of their final project concepts. Final projects are encouraged to be developed in conjunction with other ITP course work, such as networked objects, social media, game design, physical computing, thesis, mobile computing; or a written research analysis.

This course is designed to help students define and execute their final thesis project in a setting that is both collegial and critical. It is structured as a series of critique and presentation sessions in which various aspects of individual projects are discussed: the project concept, the elaboration, the presentation, the process and time-table, the resources needed to accomplish it, and the documentation. Critique sessions are e a combination of internal sessions (i.e., the class only) and reviews by external guest critics. Students are expected to complete a fully articulated thesis project description and related documentation. Final project prototypes are displayed both on the web and in a public showcase either in May or the following semester. Note: The Monday sections (.06 and .08) meet for 12 sessions beginning Monday, January 26.