CIS/COM S 751: 
Media Research and Critical Design

Instructor Phoebe Sengers Textbook list
Assignments and grading
Readings and course schedule
Credits 4
Times and 
T 6:30-7:45pm
F 1:25-2:40pm
TBA (Rhodes 484 on Friday, Sept 6)
Contact x4-5396
Office 131 Rockefeller (Mon)
301 College Ave (Tues-Fri)

This course gives an overview of the growing interdisciplinary field between computer science and media art, computer-related design, and cultural studies, in which computation is seen as a medium through which cultural issues can be and are expressed.  The technical focus of the course will be in two of the major areas where this work is happening: artificial agents (including agent architecture, life-like computer characters, and narrative intelligence) and non-desktop computing (including tangible media, ubiquitous or pervasive computing, and new technologies for the home).  We will interweave discussion of technical issues with critical tools that develop these technologies such as critical technical practice, art as research, conceptual design, and innovative user-centered design.

This course is open to students of a wide variety of backgrounds; some ability to read technical papers is, however, a must.  In case of doubt please contact the course instructor.


Philip E. Agre.  Computation and Human Experience.  Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997.
Gaver, William, Ben Hooker, and Anthony Dunne.  The Presence Project.  Royal College of Art, 2001.
All other readings are available by electronic reserve, on-line, or will be handed out in class.

Assignments and Grading:

The course will have the following assignments: Grading:

Readings and Course Schedule:

In order to support a broad set of student interests and communication among them, the readings are organized according to a Chinese Menu system. Each week, there are a set of core readings that are required for all.  In addition, students do readings from either Selection A (more technical readings) or Selection B (more conceptual readings).  Students must sign up for either Selection A or Selection B by Wednesday of the week before (those who have not signed up by then will be assigned a selection at the whim of the instructor).  In Wednesday's class, the readers of each selection will have 10 minutes to discuss the selection amongst themselves and then present the highlights of these articles to the other students. You may not sign up for the same selection all semester; i.e., you must sign up for Selection A at least once and for Selection B at least once.

Note: this is a draft syllabus.  These readings are subject to adaptation over the course of the semester.
Week Topic Readings
Week 1 Introduction to Course
Core Readings Agre: Computation and Human Experience (1-26)
Weiser and Brown: The Coming Age of Calm Technology
Davis and Travers: A Brief Overview of the Narrative Intelligence Reading Group
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings
Sep 2 Sep 6
Week 2 Agents / 
Critical Technical Practices
Core Readings Agre: Computation and Human Experience (27-178)
Wilson: Art and Science as Cultural Acts
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings Agre/Chapman: What are plans for?
Agre: Writing and Representation
Agre: The Soul Gained and Lost: Artificial Intelligence as a Philosophical Project. 
Sep 10 Sep 13
Week 3 Agents / Critical Technical Practices
Core Readings Agre: Computation and Human Experience (178-315)
Selection A Brooks: Intelligence Without Reason
Selection B Wise: Intelligent Agency
Related Readings Brooks: A Robust Layered Control System for a Mobile Robot
Wilson: Robotics and Kinetics
Wilson: Robots
Wilson: AI
Sep 17 Sep 20
Week 4 Agents as Art /
Believable Agents
Core Readings Penny: Agents as Artworks
Bates: The Role of Emotion in Believable Agents
Mateas: Expressive AI
Selection A Bates and Loyall: Real-Time Control of Animated Broad Agents
Elliott and Brzezinski: Autonomous Agents as Synthetic Characters
Selection B Wardrip-Fruin and Moss: The Impermanence Agent
Related Readings Penny et al: Traces
Mateas: An Oz-Centric Review of Interactive Drama and Believable Agents (up to and including "Why study believable agents?")
Lester and Stone: Increasing Believability in Animated Pedagogical Agents
Blumberg: Action-Selection in Amsterdam: Lessons from Ethology
Wilson: Elaboration on the Approach of Art as Research
Wilson: Artificial Intelligence Research as Art
class cancelled on Sept 24 - instead on Oct 1 class cancelled on Sept 27 - instead on a date to be announced in Week 5
Week 5 Introduction to Ubiquitous
Core Readings Weiser: The Computer for the 21st Century
Mann: Humanistic Computing
Penny: Virtual Reality as the End of the Enlightenment Project
Abowd and Mynatt: Charting Past, Present and Future Research in Ubiquitous Computing
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings Brumitt et al: EasyLiving: Technologies for Intelligent Environments
Thackera: Design Challenge of Pervasive Computing
Mann et al: Living as Cyborgs
(See week 4 for Oct 1) Oct 4
Week 6 Tangible Media and Mixed Reality
Core Readings Ishii and Ullmer: Tangible Bits
Dourish: Getting In Touch
Crampton-Smith: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.
Selection A Starner et al: Augmented Reality through Wearable Computing
Fitzmaurice et al: Bricks
Selection B Wilson: Motion, Gesture, Touch, Gaze, Manipulation, and Activated Objects
Related Readings Ishii: Bottles as a Minimal Interface to Access Digital Information
Jeremijenko: Living in Mixed Realities
Sepulveda: Digital Shelters
Oct 8
Due: Paper 1 (Agents)
Oct 11
Week 7 Critical Design 
Core Readings  Dunne and Raby: Design Noir (excerpts)
Crampton-Smith and Tabor: The Role of the Artist-Designer
Dunne: Hertzian Tales (Para-Functionality)
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings Hallnas and Redstrom: Slow Technology
Fall break Oct 18:
Week 8 Critical Design
Core Readings Gaver: Presence Project
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings Gaver and Dunne: Projected Realities
Gaver, Dunne, Pacenti: Cultural Probes
Oct 22
Class moved to Oct 21, 10:30-12:00
Oct 25 - Class cancelled
Week 9 Critical Design / Planning for Final Project
Core Readings
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings
Oct 29
(Continue Gaver)
Nov 1
Due: Plans for final class project
Week 10 Critical Design /
Domestic Technology
Core Readings Dunne: Hertzian Tales (Psychosocial Narratives)
Dunne: Hertzian Tales (Hertzian Tales and Sublime Gadgets)
Kaye and Bell: Designing Technology for Domestic Spaces
Selection A Kaye et al: PC Dinners, Mr. Java, and Counter Intelligence
Selection B Dunne and Raby: Placebo Project (excerpts from Design Noir)
Related Readings
Nov 5 Nov 8
Week 11 Domestic Technology
Core Readings O'Brien and Rodden: Interactive Systems in Domestic Environments
Blythe and Monk.  Notes towards an Ethnography of Domestic Technology
Selection A Hindus et al: Casablanca: Designing Social Communication Devices for the Home
Selection B Gaver and Martin: Alternatives
Related Readings Jeremijenko: Dialogue with a Monologue
Gaver and Dunne: The Pillow
Jeremijenko: Dumb Energy Meter
Nov 12 Nov 15
Due: Paper 2
Week 12 Narrative Intelligence
Core Readings Mateas and Sengers: Narrative Intelligence
Strohecker et al: Tired of Giving In (pages 1-16)
Davenport and Murtaugh: Automatist Storyteller Systems and the Shifting Sands of Story
Selection A Mateas et al: Generation of Ideologically-Biased Historical Documentaries
Selection B Domike et al: The Recombinant History Apparatus Presents Terminal Time
Related Readings Mateas: An Oz-Centric Review of Interactive Drama and Believable Agents (from "Interactive Story" to end)
Bruner: The Narrative Construction of Reality
Schiffer: Rise and Fall of Black Velvet Flag
Nov 19 Nov 22
Week 13 Narrative Intelligence
Core Readings Sack: Stories and Social Networks
Hook et al: Evaluating Users' Experience of a Character-Enhanced Information Space
Dautenhahn: Stories of Lemurs and Robots
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings Bers: We Are What We Tell
Sack: Actor-Role Analysis
Nov 26 Thanksgiving
Week 14 Final Projects/ Wrap-up
Core Readings Ehn: Manifesto for a Digital Bauhaus
Selection A
Selection B
Related Readings
Dec 3
Due: Final project presentations ("crits")
Dec 6
Dec 16
Due: Final project papers