Spring 2015 - Graduate Course Description
Nadin, Mihai
Discipline and Number
ATEC 6331 Section 001
T Time 4:00 PM - 6:45 PM
Course Title
Aesthetics of Interactive Arts

Description of Course:

Course Description

Aesthetics is the underlying “logic of senses” guiding human beings in all choices they make (eating, dressing, interacting with others, selecting what they like and what they dislike). As such, it is expressed in the ways in which we perceive the world and the way we change the world. Indeed, aesthetic considerations, implicit or explicit, are guiding all our choices. Within culture, aesthetics provides the means for understanding what it means to like or dislike (fashion, architecture, literature, films, games, art works, other persons, etc.). It also guides in the making of new aesthetic entities, in particular those pertaining to interactive arts, the field in which you will be active. You will become professionals in the largest segment of the economy—aesthetic expression (present in everything we do, making art, designing weapons, shaping the universe of our existence, promoting learning, helping in the communication of scientific discoveries or political decision making, etc.).

The outcome of this class is expressed in:

a) Knowledge of aesthetics as it shaped, and continues to shape, human activity

b) Aesthetic skills expressed in aesthetic value judgments and aesthetic innovation in the age of interactive media and computational design

c.) Aesthetic competence corresponding to the fast dynamics of digital expression

The class will engage students in reading and reporting on foundational texts. There is continuity—tradition-- and there is discontinuity—innovation-- in aesthetic perception and in the practice of aesthetic skills. Students will also explore the aesthetics of innovation and aesthetic experiment against the background of culture.

If and when necessary, guest lecturers will cover the “hot” topics of current developments (interactivity, immersion, virtuality, etc.). Aesthetics is of particular interest to our explorations in the emergence of new media. You, the students in the class, are asked to practice aesthetics. Students are encouraged, and indeed required, to post class-work on the website for this class. Given the many choices open to students in ATEC, the class will also serve as an open forum for defining the students’ focus in the program.

Required Texts:

• Mihai Nadin, The Civilization of Illiteracy, Book IV, Chapter 1 (Language and the Visual), Chapter 8 (Art(ifacts) and Aesthetic Processes), Chapter 10 (The Sense of Design), and Book V, Chapter 1 (The Interactive Future: Individual, Community and Society in the Age of the Web). Additionally: The chapters “Language and the Visual” (pp. 321-352); “Science and Philosophy” (especially pp. 511-524); “The Sense of Design” (pp. 590-611); and “A Sense of the Future” (pp. 729-767) will be discussed in class. This book is available in its entirety on several Websites. A limited number of copies will be available at the University Bookstore, at a discounted price for students. The UTD library has a copy of the book.

• Mihai Nadin, Anticipation—The End Is Where We Start From. Basel: Muller Verlag, 2003. It will be made available in the University Bookstore at a discounted price for students. The UTD library has a copy of the book.

• Mercedes Vilanova and Frederic Chorda, A Mind at Work, Synchron Publishers, 2003, pp. 7-32 and 167-197. The book is available in the UTD library.

• Mihai Nadin, Science and Beauty: Aesthetic Structuring of Knowledge, Leonardo, 24/1, 1991. The article will be made available to students.

• Mihai Nadin, Emergent Aesthetics. Aesthetic Issues in Computer Arts., Leonardo, Special Issue: Computer Art in context, August 1989. The article will be made available to students.

• Malcolm Gladwell, The Formula. What if you built a machine to predict hit movies? In The New Yorker, 10/16, 2006. The article will be made available to students. It is also posted on the website of The New Yorker.

• Gaut, Berys Nigel and Lopes, Dominic, The Routledge companion to aesthetics [electronic resource], NetLibrary, 2005. Available as eBook at the McDermott Library of UTD.

• computer art. To be provided online or print-out.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Week/Class 1
January 13 Register on the class website. Instructions will be made available in class.

Explanation of class content and method. Short introduction to aesthetics

Reading: chapter on history of aesthetics in Gaut, Berys Nigel and Lopes, Dominic, The Routledge companion to aesthetics [electronic resource], NetLibrary, 2005. Available as eBook at the McDermott Library of UTD.

Assignment 1: Define your own aesthetics. Create an interactive presentation of your aesthetics (Flash, Website, PowerPoint, animation—It’s up to you).
Due: January 27 (Week 3)

Week/Class 2
January 20 Aesthetics in the age of computation

Reading: Mihai Nadin, Emergent Aesthetics. Aesthetic Issues in Computer Arts, Leonardo, Special Issue: Computer Art in Context, August 1989.

Assignment 2: Write a report on the assigned reading. Try to define what has changed since 1989. Due February 3 (Week 4)

Week/Class 3
January 27 Presentation of Assignment 1

Is aesthetics deterministic?

Assignment 3: Can you imagine a machine that will generate aesthetic artifacts? Based upon the purpose you define for your aesthetic machine, prepare a presentation to the class of how such a machine will work and what kind of artifacts it will eventually produce. You can use digital means (such as modeling, software, animation, interactive diagrams), or you can use traditional means (clay, wood, or paper models). The project and your current competence dictate the medium you will use; but you will have to justify your choice of medium and explain how the machine you conceived works.
Within 2 weeks, “make” an aesthetic machine: a program, a device, or an illustration. Show the input variables, the machine state, the output. Make a professional presentation of your machine.

Due: February 10 (Week 5)

Week/Class 4
February 3 Presentation in class of Assignment 2

Information aesthetics: Foundation and Principles

Reading: Arie Altena, Lucas van der Velden, Max Bense, Georg Nees, Frieder Nake (to be provided)

Assignment 4: What is information aesthetics? How can it guide you in your work? Due: February 24 (Week 7)

Week/Class 5
February 10

Class dedicated to Assignment 3, the “Aesthetic Machine”
Presentation of your aesthetic machine. Each student will have 15 minutes for the presentation. Each assignment will be graded by the class.

Week/Class 6
February 17
Visit the Nasher Sculpture Center. Your visit will be the basis of your assignment.

Assignment 5: Define the aesthetic characteristics of one of the exhibited works. Due: March 3 (Week 8)

Week/Class 7
February 24
Semester project: Anticipation and Inspiration. “I do anticipation.”

Defining your semester project: Aesthetics at work applied to your own interactive arts focus. How do you define your academic goals? How will your graduate education contribute to your long-term professional goals? What role will aesthetics play? Start defining this major project in class.


Week/Class 8
March 3
Presentation in class of Nasher project (Assignment 4)

Week/Class 9
March 10
Upload and present storyboard for final YouTube

Visit the Dallas Museum of Art. Your visit will be the basis of your next assignment.
Assignment 6: Should museums be only repositories of past aesthetics or should they also stimulate new aesthetic experiences? You can write about this, or you can present ideas for the museum of the future using interactive means.
Due: week 10

March 15-21
Week/Class 10
March 24 Functions of aesthetics

Assignment 5: The aesthetics of your region
Due Class 13 (April 14)

From syllabus you sent: Class presentation of final project proposal (what you intend to do). Define the subject, what the final product will be, evaluation criteria.
Due: week 13 NOTE: See class 12

Week/Class 11
March 31
How do we evaluate the aesthetics of interactive arts? As a future professional, you have to be aware of the evaluation process. You have to develop methods that will allow you to evaluate the aesthetic quality of your work and the work of those you will interact with.

Week/Class 12
April 7
YouTube assignment is due.
Aesthetics in context. The difference between American, German, Japanese, etc. is the result not only of cultural differences, but also of a context: differences in the practical experience.
Assignment: Prepare examples characteristic of your own region and/or country. Due: week 13
Reading: “The Sense of Design” (pp. 590-611); and “A Sense of the Future” (pp. 729-767) in The Civilization of Illiteracy.

Week/Class 13
April 14

Presentation in class: of the aesthetics characteristic of your region and/or country

Week/Class 14
April 21
By this time, all projects should be uploaded on the class Website.
First presentation of YouTube projects (first half)

Week/Class 15
April 28

FINAL Project Presentation (second half of class).

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