Syllabus: Survey of Interactive Media (CTCS-505)

The tangled relationship between theory and practice presents us with something of a chicken-and-egg problem. On the one hand, we could say that all action emerges out of theory: we observe the world, generate various hypotheses about how things might work, then take action accordingly. But we could say with equal authority that it is action that comes first, for it is only through observing and interpreting the consequences of our actions – that is, through experimentation – that we ever really learn anything. Without action, there is no meaning, for there is nothing to make meaning with.

It is the position of this course that both these perspectives are true. Theory and practice are two sides of the same coin – or, perhaps more accurately, two steps in the same cycle. Enriching one enriches the other. Indeed, the one simply does not exist without the other. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our art and design practice always both informs and is informed by the contexts within which it occurs. The more we can be aware of where our work comes from, where it is heading, and what it does to the world it inhabits, the better designers and wiser artists we will be.

The primary focii of this course are the historical origins and theoretical contexts of interactive media and games. Our main objective is to deepen and broaden our awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and political implications and possibilities inherent to and latent in contemporary interactive media. Of particular interest are questions related to the functioning of narrative, the affordances of play and procedurality, and conceptions of space, time, and bodies. The first third of the course will entail the development of a common language for discussing these matters, using the concept of the situation, defined here as “an opportunity to act,” as a starting point for addressing interactive media from three perspectives: play, narrative, and space. The final two-thirds of the course will build on this foundation through an exploration via student-led discussions of a set of related themes.

CTCS-505-Rev1-2 (.pdf)
CTCS-505-Modules (.pdf)

Syllabus: Introduction to Interactive Entertainment (CTIN-190)

CTIN-190 Title Card
The rapid rise in the power and accessibility of digital technology has made possible myriad new forms of entertainment, artistic expression, and socio-political engagement. Among these new forms, videogames and other kinds of interactive entertainment offer artists and designers unprecedented opportunities to engage not just with audiences, but with players and participants. Drawing on voices from game studies, cultural studies, art history, social psychology, game design practice, and games journalism, this course will explore a range of critical frameworks for understanding and analyzing digital games and related forms of interactive entertainment. To facilitate this exploration, digital works and practices will be contextualized within the broader history of games, interaction design, and play – a history that predates electronic computation by thousands of years and includes diverse cultural practices such as performance art, ritual, and political activism.

CTIN-190-Rev4 (.pdf)

# Aug 27, 2014

“[Education] is not simply a technical business of well-managed information processing, nor even simply a matter of applying ‘learning theories’ to the classroom or using the results of subject-centered ‘achievement testing’. It is a complex pursuit of fitting a culture to the needs of its members and their ways of knowing to the needs of the culture.”

Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education

Metapixels: Life in life

Conway’s Game of Life, implemented in Conway’s Game of Life.

The OTCA metapixel is a 2048 × 2048 period 35328 unit cell that was constructed by Brice Due between the autumn of 2005 and the spring of 2006. It has many advantages over the previous-known unit cells such as the p5760 unit Life cell and deep cell, including the ability to emulate any Life-like cellular automaton and the fact that, when zoomed out, the ON and OFF cells are easy to distinguish (the ON version of the cell is shown to the right and the OFF version of the cell is shown below). (LifeWiki)

See also: More views of the metapixel

# Aug 25, 2014

“If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs. There is a German proverb: “Der Teufel scheisst immer auf den grössten Haufen” [“The Devil always shits on the biggest heap”]. So start heaping and have faith. Every time you make a film you should be prepared to descend into Hell and wrestle it from the claws of the Devil himself. Prepare yourself: there is never a day without a sucker punch. At the same time, be pragmatic and learn how to develop an understanding of when to abandon an idea. Follow your dreams no matter what, but reconsider if they can’t be realized in certain situations. A project can become a cul-de-sac and your life might slip through your fingers in pursuit of something that can never be realized. Know when to walk away.”

Werner Herzog, A Guide for the Perplexed

# Aug 19, 2014

“Brad Burnham, a partner at Union Square Ventures in New York, was one of the few panelists at the recent Share conference to dissent from the airy-fairy rhetoric there. ‘What we’re talking about is the natural tendency of capitalism to consistently find a more efficient way of delivering something,’ he says. ‘It’s information technology lowering transaction costs and revealing assets that can be utilized.’ If only the capitalists who run the companies, as opposed to the ones who finance them, were as clear-headed.”

Noam Scheiber, Silicon Valley Is Ruining Sharing for Everybody

David Byrne’s “Report from LA” (1986)

There are so many movies coming out and David Byrne wants to see them all. His “Report from LA” (1986) somehow banishes easy irony and parody from a frantic recitation of (mostly) imaginary genre film titles, leaving us with something that’s weirdly transcendent.

The television production Two Moon July was a multidisciplinary event that featured experimental video, film, visual art, performance and music in a theatrical framework. More than thirty artists participated in the program, which was produced for the Kitchen by Carlota Schoolman and directed by Tom Bowes. This production reflects a moment when art centers were experimenting with new modes of presenting the arts for television. The participating artists read like a “who’s who” of 1980’s downtown art icons. Short excerpts from video and film works (by artists including Vito Acconci, Dara Birnbaum, Bruce Connor and Bill Viola) are intercut with performances and art installations in the Kitchen’s gallery spaces. Laurie Anderson performs Difficult Listening Hour, speaking through the male voice of her “Soul Doctor” character; Talking Heads’ front man David Byrne is featured in the performance piece Report from L.A.; choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones performs Inspiration to the accompaniment of John and Evan Lurie’s music. Art works by ’80s art stars Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Jonathan Borofsky are integral to the mise en scene, while music by downtown legends Brian Eno, Philip Glass and Arto Lindsay, among others, provides a running soundtrack. (UbuWeb)

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