CSC106: Introduction to Computing and the Arts

Eitan Mendelowitz
Ford Hall 252
Office Hours:
Mon/Thurs 10:45AM – Noon (please sign up on-line)
Class Time:
TTh 1:00PM–2:50PM
Seelye Hall 411
Jessica Lawrence
TA Session:
M 8-10
Ford Hall 241

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. This course has no prerequisites and does not assume any prior programming or art production experience.


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. 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 be prepared to discuss readings in class.

Labs and Projects

We will have tech labs during class. These will be tutorials on a given programing technique. Educational Technology Services also offers a range of workshops that will be very beneficial if you are new to multimedia technologies.

There will be exercises designed to develop technical skills and a personal aesthetic and a paper/presentation on an artist of your choice. There will be 2 mid-semester projects and a final project which are creative works. All three projects will be discussed in class and posted on the web.

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, 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:

Artist Paper/Presentation:
Mid-Semester Projects:
Final Project:

Late Work: Late assignments will have a full letter grade deducted for each day your assignment is late (except in case of documented illness or personal difficulties).

Collaboration and the Honor Code

While bound by the Honor Code, you are encouraged to seek assistance from classmates, our TA, and the instructor on homework assignments or projects should you have difficulty. They are a great resource which can aid you in completing your work. Appropriate forms of assistance include help with the understanding of concepts, help debugging a program, or help refining ideas/concepts for projects (i.e. brainstorming). That said, the work you turn in must be your own. When turning in your assignment you are required to credit all students from whom you received substantial help.

You may work with a partner on any of the class projects. When working with a partner, projects will be held to a slightly higher standard than projects submitted by individuals. Partnerships must be approved in advance.

Note: This is a 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.