Syllabus Fall 2022

Time: Tuesday and Thursday – 01:25PM 04:15PM
Location: CFA 317 (Windows lab) – CFA 307 
Instructor: Paolo Pedercini – paolop andrew… 
Office: CFA 419A – 4th Floor 
Office hours: By appointment 

Electronic Media Studio (60-210): Introduction to Interactivity/Digital Media is an introduction to practices, artists, and tools from a variety of contemporary fields including interactive media, internet and post-internet art, machine learning, hacktivism.
In this course students develop the skills and confidence to produce digital artworks, discuss their work in relation to the tradition of new media art, and critically engage with emerging technologies.

UNITS

Each unit centers around a series of related assignments, a set of key artists and artworks, and some key questions.
Class activities include interactive lectures, technical demonstrations, brainstorming session, in-class exercises, self-directed work sessions, and critiques.
Day to day schedule (subject to change).

Internet ready-made

What is the role of an artist in relation to the ubiquitous and democratized creativity of the internet? What separates a “content creator” from a “fine artist” when the tools and platforms they use are the same? What is the status of found objects in the digital realm?

Assignment: do a deep research into a subculture, subgenre, practice, or type of artifact you found on the internet. Collect a series of digital “objects” that you consider valuable but underappreciated from an aesthetic, political, historical, or anthropological standpoint. Curate them into an exhibition, choosing the most appropriate format – eg: book, zine, social media account, physical exhibition, slide presentation, standalone website, video.

Virtual Objects, Virtual Spaces

How can we use video game technologies for expressive purposes? What becomes of object-making, architecture, and installation art, when we move to the virtual realm? How can we tell stories through immersive environments?  

Assignment 1: Create a virtual sculpture first by combining 3D models from a limited collection and then from models found online. Look for mundane object with baggage, history and built-in symbolism.
Assignment 2: Create an expressive environment you can explore in first person.
It can be a virtual monument or a narrative space.

Platform-specific intervention / Speculative Technology


What is performance in a disembodied environment like the Internet? How do online communities and protocols affect their users’ behaviors? How can artists work critically within commercial platforms?

What’s the point of making art amidst climate crisis and social unrest? How can artists participate in the discourse around technology despite their lack of power and capital? Can artists help envision better futures and more socially conscious technologies?

You have two options:

Assignment A – Platform-specific intervention: Research a virtual space, platform, or online community. Study customs, avatars, social scripts, tropes, formats, and vernaculars. Make something unexpected and meaningful happen or misuse the platform in an artful way. Document it and present it in the most appropriate way.

Assignment B – Speculative Technology: analyze a problematic algorithm, technology, or techno-social apparatus. Devise a possible response to it. It can be a speculative object, a prank, a parody, an imaginary institution, a gesture that makes the invisible visible, an act of creative sabotage, a provocative project proposal…
The response doesn’t have to be a fully implemented solution, but it has to be theoretically feasible or at least credible.
Present the project in the form of a short talk or a video.

Artificial creativity

Is machine learning going to replace visual artists? What are the ethical dilemmas raised by AI tools? Can neural networks enhance your creative process?

Assignment: starting from the output of a machine learning system, add a “human touch” and produce a unique physical artwork – eg: painting, print, sculpture, art book, etc.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

In this course you will:

  • Familiarize with a wide range of contemporary artists that use digital media and the internet as core component of their practice.
  • Be introduced to 3D modeling and real-time 3D pipelines.
  • Learn the foundations of coding for visual applications.
  • Learn concepts and strategies that will allow you to take advanced classes in Electronic and Time-based art.
  • Acquire practical and conceptual tools that can enrich your non-digital art practice.
  • Research topics beyond the field of fine arts.
  • Make art that is not just about yourself.

MATERIAL REQUIREMENTS

Internet: You are expected to do about 50% of the work outside of class time, and there is a chance that the some sessions will happen online due to COVID outbreaks so you will need a functioning computer at your residence. You don’t need a powerful computer but a reliable internet connection is necessary. CMU can provide a limited number of loaner laptops.

External Hard Drive: In this class you will be working with big files that can’t be stored on the lab computers or in the cloud. Having an external hard drive (NOT a USB key) will be essential to backing up your work and transporting it from home to school.
LACIE is a reliable manufacturer and produces rugged portable hard drives.
The minimum specifications are: USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 2, 7200rpm or SSD, 1TB of capacity.
Make sure it works with your personal computer and on the computer labs. If you work on mac and win and it’s empty, format it to exFat (it will erase the contents) other formatting modes may not allow access from both systems.

Software: All the software needed in this class is free or provided by CMU.

POLICIES

*Plagiarism and “collaborations”: in the digital world the concept of plagiarism is somewhat elusive. We are working with open source tools and libraries, remixing and building upon the work of a multitude of people. You are encouraged and expected to tap into resources available online, copy-paste and tweak code you may not fully understand. However it is categorically forbidden to outsource work to people outside the course (e.g. your friend from CS) or plagiarize assignments and exercises from your classmates. 

* Attendance: three or more unexcused absences result in the drop of a letter grade. 

* Absences: you are responsible for what happens in class whether you’re here or not. Organize with your classmates to get class information and material that you have missed. Most of the lecture and technical demo material will be on this website.

* Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.

* Net addiction: Phones and computers cannot be used during lectures, critiques and discussions. A 5% grade reduction will result from being found using them. During the lab hours you will be allowed to network as long as your behavior is not disruptive. 

*Assignments: late assignments are only accepted with permission of instructor. You lose 10% of your points per day late up to a max of 7 days late. 

*Tardiness: 1st tardy = free. Less than 10 minutes late = 1% grade reduction. Over 20 minutes late = absence (unless justified).

*Office hours: office hours are by appointment but there will be at least two brief mandatory one-to-one meetings for feedback and a general check-in.

GRADING

Qualitative feedback during in-class critiques is the most important form of evaluation and you will get plenty of it, but we live in a quantified society so grades need to happen.

Your grade is going to be determined by your fellow students.
We are going to have a class discussion about the meaning of grades and design a custom peer grading system.

Grade composition:

Internet ready-made: 15%
Virtual Sculpture: 10%
Immersive Environment: 15%
Audio-visual Application: 10%
Platform-specific intervention / Speculative Technology: 15%
Artificial creativity: 15%
Attendance and class participation 20%

INCLUSIVITY STATEMENT

It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present activities that accommodate and value a diversity of gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. I will gladly honor your request to address you by your preferred name and gender pronoun. I commit to make individual arrangements to address disabilities or religious needs (e.g. religious events in conflict with class meetings). Please advise me of these preferences and needs early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my plans and records. Debate and free exchange of ideas is encouraged but I will not tolerate harassment, i.e. a pattern of behavior directed against a particular individual with the intent of humiliating or intimidating.

CONTENT WARNINGS

Being in an art school, you should expect to be exposed to content that challenges your moral, ethical, and aesthetic values. In case of extremely graphic content I will warn the class in advance. If you have a history of PTSD please let me know privately if there are types of content that are known to act as trauma triggers for you.

STRESS CULTURE

Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful. If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.