Introduction to Computing and the Arts

course info
course outline
additional resources
student links


Course Description
This introductory course will explore computation as an artistic medium, with creative approaches to computer programming as the central theme.  Through readings, viewings, group discussion, labs, projects, critiques, and guest artist / researcher presentations, we will examine a range of computational art practices, while developing a solid foundation in basic computer programming approaches and techniques.

* provide a broad overview of computational art practices and research approaches
* introduce influential computational arts concepts, theories, and historical precedents
* develop basic programming skills directly applicable to art making
* engage conceptual, aesthetic, and technical issues through creative projects and critiques

Design / Structure
This course will combine historical overview with critical, theoretical, and technical readings, viewings / guest artist presentations, and ongoing exercises and projects.  We will read influential texts, and discuss these readings in class.  Ongoing dialog and exchange will be facilitated through a class blog and student web sites.  There will also be ongoing tech labs that will contribute to the development of core programming skills, as well as prepare students for individual or collaborative projects.    

Text / Reading
Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists (available at the Smith book store)
Casey Reas and Ben Fry, MIT Press, 2007
In Addition to the required text, the course will also involve selected readings from other sources, including online materials and supplemental materials available through the Smith Libraries.  You are expected to read the materials at least once, and to post comments to the blog prior to our class meeting.

Labs and Projects
We will have tech labs during class.  These will be brief tutorials on a given programming strategy, and will be followed by mini-projects.  Educational Technology Services also offers a range of workshops (look here) that will be very beneficial if you are new to multimedia technologies.  There will also be a  final project that you will plan, design, develop, and present in class.  All projects (three short projects, plus the final project) will be discussed in class, and posted on the web.

In addition to the equipment available in our classroom / lab, a variety of media production equipment is available through the Center for Media Production, located in the basement of the Alumnae Gymnasium.  If you don't already have a portable hard drive, you can check one out free of charge for the semester or as needed through the Center for Media Production.  More info is available here.

Web Presence 
Each student is required to have access to a personal web space for posting materials developed in the class, including project proposals and documentation.  If you don't already have a web space, you can get a free account from Information Technology Services.  Please see the instructions here.

Attendance and Grading
Attendance and active participation are absolutely necessary for this class to function.  Unexcused absences will directly impact your grade, as well as indirectly affecting the quality of your work.

Your grade will reflect both your participation in the class (discussions, reading responses, blog contributions, collaborative efforts) and the energy you put into the labs and projects.  It is sometimes difficult to evaluate projects, since we all bring our own unique background and experience to our work.  This course is open to students with widely different backgrounds, and each of you will explore territory that is new to you.  In this regard, we are most interested to see an active, committed, and energetic engagement in the readings, discussions, labs, and projects.  All assignments are due on time;  This class moves fast, making it very difficult to catch up if you fall behind.  Grading percentages will be as follows:

Attendance and participation (both in class and online) 30%
Programming exercises 20%
Tech labs and mini projects 30%
Final project 20%

Unique Requirements
If you have any unique or special needs, please talk them over with us.  We will make every effort to make this course as accessible as possible.

*note:  This is a new, experimental course in a rapidly changing field.  It is designed to quickly expose you to many different areas of computational art practice and research.  The selected readings and course schedule will probably change somewhat throughout the semester.  Please refer to the online schedule for up to date info, as well as news and special event announcements.