Games, Interactive Art, and New Genres

Games, Interactive Art, and New Genres span offerings in visual arts, film and media, and computer science to foster technical and digital literacy in the arts. Designed for experimentation, this initiative helps students establish digital proficiency while supporting the exploration of a wide range of new media forms and technologies. Courses of study might include visual programming, artificial intelligence, gaming, robotics, experimental animation, computer arts, experimental media design, data visualization, real-time interactivity, digital signal processing, cross-platform media environments, and mobile media development. Students are encouraged to coordinate these project-based investigations of the digital throughout their studies in the humanities, including literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, theatre, and writing.

2017-2018 Courses

Queer New Media

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Until recently, “queer media” called to mind bar rags or community newsletters. With the proliferation of computer-mediated communication—including cell phones, fax machines, satellite television, and the Internet—queer communities around the world have seen the proliferation of multimedia conglomerates very much modeled on their mainstream counterparts (Gamson 2003). Not only that, as location-aware dating applications such as Tinder and Grindr provide novel opportunities for queers to socialize outside of gay spaces, Web 2.0 has resulted in the increased centrality of user-generated content, including DIY porn that is pro-sex, collaborative, and explicitly queer (McGlotten 2012). Finally, social networking and entertainment sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook offer possibilities, in previously unimaginable ways, for grassroots organizing and political struggle for social justice. Yet, even as the connectivity of the Internet has reinvigorated hopes for radical queer politics, democracy, and global community, it has also fed into fears about damage to face-to-face interactions and community. For instance, “No Fats, No Fems, No Asians” is now a ubiquitous phrase on gay hook-up apps where white, muscular, masculinity is most prized. At the same time, Big Data gathered from our Google searches and Facebook likes is threatening to become a regular part of diffuse and opaque campaigns of social engineering that involve guessing, among other things, one’s sexual orientation for marketing purposes. Clearly then, a more precise understanding of both the real and novel effects of queer new media is needed. Eschewing the largely speculative writing on sexuality and new media, this course will investigate how social media affect how queer users interact in online spaces as particular raced, classed, and gendered beings and how these interactions shape their understandings of themselves and the world. It will also explore how these communication technologies are situated in larger structures of political economy and how they have the potential to remediate mass mobilization and political action. Potential readings include Corinne Lysandra Mason’s “Tinder and humanitarian hook-ups: the erotics of social media racism” (2016), Catherine Connell’s “Fashionable Resistance: Queer ‘Fa(t)shion’ Blogging as Counterdiscourse” (2013), Dominique Pierre Batiste’s “‘0 Feet Away: The Queer Cartography of French Gay Men’s Geo-social Media Use” (2013), Shaka McGlotten’s Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (2013), and Lindsey O’Connor’s “‘Weird’ Sex: Identity, Censorship, and China’s Women Sex Bloggers” (2014). For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the basics of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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Discrete Mathematics: A Bridge to Advanced Mathematics

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Some prior study of calculus is highly recommended.

Your voice will produce a mostly continuous sound signal when you read this sentence out loud. As it appears on the page, however, the previous sentence is composed of 79 distinct characters, including letters and a punctuation mark. Measuring patterns—whether continuous or discrete—is the raison d'être of mathematics, and different branches of mathematics have developed to address the two sorts of patterns. Thus, a course in calculus treats motion and other continuously changing functions. In contrast, discrete mathematics addresses problems of counting, order, computation, and logic. We will explore these topics and their implications for mathematical philosophy and computer science. The form of this seminar will be that of a (mathematical) writing workshop. We will work collaboratively to identify and reproduce the key formal elements of mathematical exposition and proof as they appear in both mathematical literature and each other's writing. This seminar is designed for students interested in advanced mathematical study and highly recommended for students with an interest in computer science, law, logic, or philosophy.

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Mathematical Modeling I: Multivariable Calculus

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: successful completion of Calculus II or the equivalent (a score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC Advanced Placement exam).

It is difficult to overstate the importance of mathematics for the sciences. Twentieth century polymath John von Neumann even declared that the “sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which…describes observed phenomena.” This two-semester sequence will introduce students to the basic mathematical ingredients that constitute models in the natural and social sciences. This first course in the sequence will concentrate on extending the concepts and tools developed in single-variable calculus to work with multiple variables. Multivariable calculus is a natural setting for studying physical phenomena in two or three spatial dimensions. We begin with the notion of a vector, a useful device that combines quantity and direction, and proceed to vector functions, their derivatives (gradient, divergence, and curl), and their integrals (line integrals, surface integrals, and volume integrals). The inverse relationship between derivative and integral appearing in single-variable calculus takes on new meaning and depth in the multivariable context, and a goal of the course is to articulate this through the theorems of Green, Gauss, and Stokes. These results will be of particular interest to students pursuing physics, engineering, or economics, where they are widely applicable. Students will gain experience developing mathematical models through conference work, which will culminate in an in-depth application of seminar ideas to a mathematical model in the natural, formal, or social sciences, based on student interest.

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Mathematical Modeling II: Differential Equations and Linear Algebra

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Mathematical Modeling I or the equivalent (college-level course in multivariable calculus).

At the center of many mathematical models, one often finds a differential equation. Newton’s laws of motion, the logistic model for population growth, and the Black-Scholes model in finance are all examples of models defined by a differential equation; that is, an equation in terms of an unknown function and its derivatives. Most differential equations are unsolvable; however, there is much to learn from the tractable examples, including first-order equations and second order linear equations. Since derivatives are themselves linear approximations, an important approach to differential equations involves the algebra of linear transformations, or linear algebra. Building on the study of vectors begun in Mathematical Modeling I, linear algebra will occupy a central role in the course, with topics that include linear independence, Gaussian elimination, eigenvectors, and eigenvalues. Students will gain experience developing mathematical models through conference work, which will culminate in an in-depth application of seminar ideas to a mathematical model in the natural, formal, or social sciences, based on student interest.

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3D Modeling

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course introduces students to the process of constructing digital objects and environments in the virtual space of the computer. Emphasis will be on a strong grasp of form, space, and composition. Fundamentals of hard-edge and organic surface modeling will be thoroughly exercised, while further exploration of the digital tools will cover shading and texturing, lighting, and rendering with the virtual camera. Over the course of the semester, students will be challenged to create increasingly complex objects, environments, and imagery. Through readings and discussion, students will also be encouraged to consider the conceptual ramifications of working in computer space. Contemporary examples of computer-generated imagery in art, film, and media—juxtaposed with historical views on visual illusion from art and philosophy—will form a broader context in which to examine the medium.

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Art From Code

Open , Seminar—Fall

A “live coding,” practice-based introduction to visual arts programming, including color, shape, transformations, and motion, this course is designed for artists with little or no prior programming experience. We'll meet twice weekly to code together live, working on short, in-class exercises within a larger analysis of the social, cultural, and historical nature of programming cultures. All students will be required to keep a sketchbook and participate in installation. Artists include Reas, Davis, Riley, MacDonald, and others. Taught in Javascript, HTML5, and Processing.

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Digital Tools for Artists

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course provides fundamental instruction in art installation. Students will learn the basics of digital imaging, interaction, spatial design, and video mapping while working toward proficiency with the tools of installation art. We will meet twice weekly, once for a skills workshop and again for a guided work session. Artists surveyed include Albers, Klimt, Kusama, Menard, Mock, Nakamura, Holzer, and others. Taught in Photoshop, After Effects, VPT, and Max/MSP Jitter.

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Game Studio: Nonlinear and Interactive Narrative

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Fall

As more stories are delivered on interactive devices, our idea of narrative keeps changing. This course explores the strategies of nonlinear, multilinear, modular, and interactive forms of design, while analyzing several examples of the nonlinear story design found in games, electronic literature, and interactive art. Students will develop the critical tools to create and analyze interactive projects. All students will keep a sketchbook, participate in game night, develop one nonlinear or interactive narrative, and write one five-page design document. Artists include Leishman, Gysin, Eco, Calvino, Mateas, and others. Taught in Unity 2D/C#, with Pyskel, Tiled, and GarageBand.

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Game Studio: Radical Game Design

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Spring

From Hopscotch to MolleIndustria, game designers have used play as a means of imprinting culture and subverting power. Games are small and viral. They emerge and disappear. They grip the online world obsessively or blend seamlessly into the underground. Above all, games are easily dismissed by authority, making them an ideal means of spreading social and political dissonance. This class surveys radical game design as practiced by artists like MoilleIndustria, Anne Marie Schleiner, Natalie Bookchin, Donna Leishman, Eddo Stern, Ian MacLarty, and others. We will also consider the historical roots of radical design, which finds its beginnings in Dada, Surrealist, Fluxus, and Situationist games, and play methods explored by artists like George Brecht, John Cage, and William Burroughs. Taught in Unity 2D/C#, with Pyskel, Tiled, and GarageBand.

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Introduction to Digital Imaging

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course covers contemporary digital practice, with an emphasis on Photoshop skills and imaging techniques from scanning to printing. Proper digital workflow is the focus, while working through the basics of image manipulation tools, color correction, and retouching. The skills covered will build a solid basis for further exploration of photography, fine-art printing, and more radical digital experiments. The broader classroom discussion emphasizes computer-generated and -manipulated imagery as a new paradigm in contemporary art, photography, and culture in general. Students are encouraged to explore the potential of digital tools in the context of their personal work—visual arts-related or otherwise—stressing open-ended visual possibilities, as well as technical and conceptual rigor.

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New Genres: Cultural HiJack

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Fall

Is art the new politics? Cultural HiJack examines the work of artists attempting to subvert, critique, and overthrow the dominant paradigm though street art, anti-advertising, meme wars, flash mobs, instant theatre, guerilla projection, and spatial intervention. Artists surveyed include Guerrilla Girls, RTMark, Rosler, Holzer, Marchessault, Banksy, Fairey, Acconci, and Franco and Eva Mattes, along with readings from Dery, Klein, Debord, Gramsci, Lacy, and others. Working either individually or in small groups, students will collaborate on campaigns of détournement, designing and implementing inventions of their own through alternative and hybrid forms.

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New Genres: Interactive Art

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Art from Code or Digital Tools for Artists.

This course focuses on the cutting-edge technologies behind interactive art and dynamic installation. Students will work in a programming environment called Max/MSP/Jitter to create installations that dynamically generate on-screen visuals, spectacle, and noise while combining multiple types of media to create an overall theme. Topics include an introduction to Max, basic patching, control logic, external/live video input, reactive visuals, color/object tracking, openCV in Jitter, sensors, and the glitch aesthetic. Artists surveyed are Ikeda, Rokeby, Benson, Liddell, TeamLAB, and others. Taught in MAX/MSP Jitter with LEAP, Kinect, sensors, and cameras.

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