Monday, August 27, 2018

Class Syllabus Fall 2018

CLASS : Arts 4370 Interaction Design, M/W 1 pm– 3:50 pm in FAC 110
INSTRUCTOR : Chris Ireland,
OFFICE HOURS : Fine Arts 165, Office Hours: Mon 11am-1pm


Arts 4370 is an advanced course in digital media with an emphasis on programming and interactive technologies and aesthetics in contemporary art/design. Students will gain proficiency in interaction design software to program computers and interface with various input devices such as custom built objects, smart phones, motion tracking devices, and various kinds of wired/wireless sensors. Projects can talk the form of generative art, motion graphics, sculpture, and interactive sound art pieces. There will be demos on technique as well as lectures and presentations about contemporary digital media art and design, some of whom are working on the most groundbreaking projects of the last few years.

We’ll be doing most of the work in this class in Max/MSP, a visual programming language for working with real-time media:
In addition, we’ll be looking at other creative coding environments, notably P5.js (, Processing (, and Cinder (

o   Investigate the ways in which interactive digital technologies have impacted the production of art and design
o   become familiar with basic programing frameworks of interactive multimedia, such as Processing, Max/MSP, Arduino, and others.
o   address formal, technical and conceptual issues, including use of keywords such as interactivity, interface, performance, participation, visualization, etc.
o   become more familiar with new and emerging developments in areas of interest to you in digital media, and discuss these developments in class presentations.


There is no textbook, however readings will be assigned in class through handouts or online texts.  Many of the tutorials will be online in some form. 


1. You need access to the Max programming environment. You can get it in a few ways.
·       It is installed on all of the studio computers in FA110. You should expect to spend a lot of time in the lab if you access it this way, but it's free and if a lot of you are in the lab then you can rely on each other as you learn.
·       You can purchase a 12-month student license for $59 from Cycling74 to install on your own computer.
·       You can purchase a full (non-expiring) license at academic discount for $250 from Cycling74 to install on your own computer.

2. You need an Arduino microcontroller and a kit of basic electronic parts and sensors. 

·       Here is one from Sparkfun

·       Here is the Sparkfun kit  at Robotshop

·       Here is one from Adafruit

3. You will need to purchase project-specific materials depending on what your projects are. This might include raw materials (wood, metal, latex, paint, etc.), hardware (mechanical parts, nuts and bolts, etc.), electronic components, and other materials. We will talk about repurposing and hardware hacking to reduce waste and our costs.

4. Digital Storage. You need to be able to store your work on something. 


Assignments will range from basic tutorials to more open-ended conceptual projects. Through hands-on exercises, students will explore basic electronic techniques to manipulate digital images, sound, and physical forms in real time live environments. Class projects explore the potential of interactive media to inform, communicate, entertain, challenge, surprise, or offend. And perhaps most importantly, for this communication to be successful we will discuss new and inventive ways to engage the user. I don’t expect any of your to have much experience in coding outside of the required Web/Computer Science classes in the Digital Media Studies program, so this class will serve as an introduction to some while a chance to play with more advanced tool.  Emphasis on the word play….have fun while learning to think differently. 

Students will be graded according to how well their projects reflect an understanding and a willingness to experiment with the techniques, issues and practices covered in class. You will also be graded on your participation and willingness to contribute to the classroom environment.   This class works best when everyone helps one another in the spirit of experimentation. 


1.         Projects (50%): Each student will complete a series of intro projects in class and total of 3-4 extended projects. These projects are due at the beginning of the class critique. They must also be in the format specified on the project description on the class blog. Incorrect or late projects will be assigned a point loss at the discretion of the instructor. In some cases it will be best to work in groups.

Students are expected to participate in class critiques of major projects, both completed and in progress. As the term evolves, we will orient towards weekly progress critiques.
Talking about your work and the work of others is a crucial aspect of design.

2.         Participation (30%): This just basically means if you are in class and are also engaged in the material.  It doesn’t mean that you are a master of it all, good participation means asking questions and finding answers and also being patient to see the project through.  We will work in groups at times, so helping your group and being a team member is important as well. 

3.         Research Presentations (20%): At the beginning of the semester you will be assigned to do one 15 minute class presentation about an artist who is doing what you think is groundbreaking work in digital media. You are allowed to show videos/music/powerpoints as long as you describe a basic understanding of how the artist does the work he/she does and why it personally interests you.


Mandatory at all class sessions. More than any other class I teach, this class moves fast and it is extremely difficult to catch up unless you take responsibility and look up anything you missed. Class content is often based off what was covered the week prior. The instructor will NOT be available to personally re-teach a class if you are absent. More than three absences (excused or unexcused, they are all the same) lower your final grade 1 grade down each absence.

Come prepared for work in class or you will receive an absence. Looking at on the internet at unrelated material during a class discussion or tutorial will give you an absent mark, no questions asked. Since most class material is covered at the beginning of class, being notably tardy also counts as an absence. I can be very understanding about absenses when it comes to special circumstances and life events, all I ask is you handle it professionally and inform me beforehand via email or during office hours.

Absences on project due days: students may be tempted to skip class on critique/due date days because they are too embarrassed to come to class without a finished project. I believe in this case the absence itself is much, much more objectionable and disreputable then the state of your unfinished project. 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 have any concerns that need to be addressed quickly by the instructor and you cannot find me in person, please email me at I have my phone on me most of the time during the day and will receive the message and will respond as soon as I can. On some occasions, I will need to send you course-related information outside of class. Announcements to the whole class will appear on the blog, and if it is a particularly important message I will also send it out via email.  During the first week of class I will ask you to send me the  email address that you check most daily


Students are responsible for the frequent and methodical back-up of their class work over the course of the semester. Data loss—from a lost, fried and/or stolen hard drive, or satanic software - cannot be used as an excuse for late or missing work. Students are responsible for the re-creation of any required files that go lost or missing. Back up your work weekly.

Students are not permitted to use the internet or any electronic devices during lectures or student presentations. Cell Phones must be turned off unless instructed otherwise.
Headphones must be used with sound projects. if you want to surf the internet or talk on the phone you should do us all a favor and stay home.


Schedule Subject to Change, any changes and all detailed info will be posted on the class blog.

Week 1            Mon 8/28 Introductions,
Wed 8/30 What is Interactive art and why MaxMSP?, no tech interaction assignment

Week 2            Mon 9/4 Max Tutorials
                        Wed 9/6 Max Tutorials/synthesizer building

Week 3             Mon 9/11 Max Tutorials
                        Wed 9/13 Max Tutorials

Week 4             Mon 9/18 Create story prototypes (project 1)
                        Wed 9/20 Review story prototypes

Week 5             Mon 9/25 Auditory processing/serial communication, assignment 1
                        Wed 9/27 Tactile processing, intro to sensors, arduino

Week 6             Mon 10/2 Arduino workshop, assignment 2
                        Wed 10/4 SPE CONFERENCE

Week 7             Mon 10/9 Motors, Lights, and other outputs, assignment 3
                        Wed 10/11 group work time

Week 8             Mon 10/16 group work time, assignment 4
                        Wed 10/18 CHRIS OUT OF TOWN

Week 9             Mon 10/23 Present gesture machine prototypes, basic project 1 due
                        Wed 10/25 anolog outputs, assignment 5

Week 10          Mon 10/30 image processing
                        Wed 11/1 working with libraries and extensions

Week 11          Mon 11/6 Intro Final Project
                        Wed 11/8 Generative Art/proposals due

Week 12          Mon 11/13 Work Final Projects
                        Wed 11/15 Work Final Projects

Week 13          Mon 11/20 Work Final Projects
                        Wed 11/22 THANKSGIVING

Week 14          Mon 11/27 Work Final Projects
                        Wed 11/29 Work Final Projects

Week 15          Mon 12/3 Last day 12/5 Present Final Projects


Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s materials or ideas as one’s own), or doing work for another person who will receive academic credit are all impermissible. Turning in work made before this class, or from other classes, is also a violation of academic honesty. Disciplinary action may be taken beyond the Department of Fine Arts.

The above paragraph is the school policy for academic integrity.  I have a few statements to make about it, that concern what we do in this class specifically…

Programming often involves copying from other sources. Your projects will be built on top of code written by others in the open-source community. The programs we use in class were built in the same open source community. “Open Source” is a development model that promotes free access to a products design or blueprint so that it may be redistributed and improved upon by other users. Within this community, it is ethical (and encouraged) to build on the work of others, with attribution. The simple act of copying or reuse, in this context, does not constitute plagiarism, although failing to cite oneΚΌs sources does.

For each project, you must clearly credit the original sources of any borrowed elements, whether they are text-based (as in written work), visual (as with photographs or other visual elements), or technical (as with software-based tools or program code incorporated into your own).


It is the policy of Tarleton State University to comply with the Americans with Disabilities  Act (  and other applicable laws. If you are a student with a disability seeking accommodations for this course, please contact the Center for Access and Academic Testing, at 254.968.9400 The office is located in Math 201. More information can be found at or in the University Catalog.