Spring 2015 at SUNY Purchase
MAT 3540/4 credits
Tuesday 2.30-6.10

Tega Brain –
Office Hours 11-1pm Thurs
Room: Level 2 Natural Sciences, 2053


We now spend more time with our devices than we do with our friends and loved ones. We sleep next to these little computers and imagine their vibrations in our pockets. Our daily social interactions are increasingly mediated by these machines – their glowing interfaces promising new forms of intimacy and connection. How are these technologies changing how we relate each other? Are they enabling us to build better relationships and understand ourselves in new ways? How are artists, technologists and researchers exploring the possibilities offered by computation for both individual and collective change? This course investigates these questions both from critical, creative and technical perspectives.

Through an exploration of practice and theory, students will enhance their creative and technical skills by developing a series of creative online and offline works. Projects will explore how computational technologies shape and are shaped by our social norms, human desires and behaviours, ranging from conceptual proposals through to the development basic software applications that interact with data and online media platforms.


This course will develop your skills in critical thinking, research and the development of creative work rather than on the technical mastery of one particular computational environment. Technologies like programming languages and online social platforms come and go and it is becoming increasingly important to not only learn quickly in these changing spaces, but to also develop a sound understanding of what it means to live in networks in ways that go beyond the constraints of the tools that are immediately available. In this course we will do this by experimenting with many online software platforms and by learning some basic programming concepts and applying them to Arduino and the Python programming language. We will embrace a hacking approach piecing together our workflow by building on code templates, researching precedent work and fostering intense collaboration. Come eager to experiment, ready to learn from failure and be willing to ask questions – lots of questions.

Assignments: There are a 3 assignments for this course, some are individual and some are to be completed in groups. See the assignments section of this site.

Readings: Reading material will be assigned for most weeks of term. Weeks will be assigned to student pairs who will be responsible for initiating and leading discussions about these readings. For your assigned week you are to read and write a post summarizing the reading material and publishing it to this blog 48 hours before class. The rest of the class is to comment on the post with their reflections before the start of class. The pair will then lead the class discussion in that week, showing relevant examples from artists, makers and other authors that illustrate the ideas in the reading. These examples might be art or design projects, articles, social media posts, news items etc. Blog posts are to be assigned to the category called ‘readings’.

Readings will be made available either as links to documents on the web or via email.

Homework: There will also be homework tasks some weeks of this course. Some of these will be conceptual exercises and some of these will be technical coding exercises. Homework is designed to prepare you for assignment tasks. You are expected to document your homework and assignments on this blog.
All homework is due before the next class.

Course Expectations

Attendance: You are expected to attend all class sessions. Each unexcused absence will deduct 5% from your final grade.
More than three or more unexcused absences = automatic fail.

Be on time to class. If you’re more than fifteen minutes late, or if you leave early (without clearance), it will count as 1/2 absence.

In-class behavior: Laptops must be closed during discussions and while your fellow students are presenting work, Clay Shirky writes on why this is better for everyone here. You’re otherwise welcome to use laptops in class, but only to follow along with the in-class tutorials and to take notes. You are encourages to take notes collectively during lectures and workshops using the class hackpad.

Field Trip: We will be having a field trip as a part of this class to the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology to attend a panel hosted by Joanne McNeil on Special Topics on Social Computing. This will require you to commute to Brooklyn on the afternoon of Week 10. Check updates in the schedule for details.


60% – Assignment 1, 2 and 3 (20% each)

20% – Response to reading (10% – for your week leading reading discussion and 10% for your participation in comments on the readings)

20% – Attendance, homework and participation

Asking for help

I will have office hours from 11am – 1pm every Thursday. My office is in Natural Sciences 2053.

I will not respond to personal emails with code questions, but ask them instead on the class google group! We will answer questions here so that everyone can learn, we also strongly encourage you to answer each other’s questions. Please feel free to write to me with logistical, conceptual, or other questions!

See the HELP! section on the resources page for more tutorials on debugging and asking for help.