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MMEDIA 1A03 Multimedia & Digital Society

Academic Year: Spring/Summer 2017

Term: Spring

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. David Ogborn

Email: ogbornd@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 306

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27603


Office Hours: Mondays 4-5 PM (TSH-306)

Course Objectives:

Course description: This course examines the impact of digital technologies on contemporary life. Lectures, readings, discussions, and multimedia projects will enable students to both reflect upon and participate in today’s digital society. The principal learning goals are to:

  1. map the emergence and shape of Multimedia as a field, in connection with other histories and fields
  2. develop vocabulary to describe elements and features of multimedia projects
  3. plan original multimedia projects in response to specific challenges
  4. become familiar with different types of software for producing multimedia
  5. identify and trouble-shoot problems in different stages of production
  6. deliver and discuss polished Multimedia projects in appropriate, portable formats

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Materials and Texts: All required reading materials are either freely and legally available online (often in the form of open access peer-reviewed journal articles) or are available as electronic resources through the McMaster library. Supplemental readings will also be made available through Avenue to Learn. The course will make heavy use of various pieces of free and open source software (including the GNU Image Manipulation Program, Audacity, Blender and others) that can be installed on home computers or personal laptops. It is strongly recommended that a personal laptop be brought to each class session as we will frequently conduct guided technical exercises and experiments together during these sessions.

Method of Assessment:


10% 8 Reading Reflections and 8 Technical Exercises (16 total @ 0.625% each)

25% Project 1: Web Image Series (due Sunday May 14th in specific Avenue discussion forum)

25% Project 2: Time-Based Media (due Sunday May 28th, in specific Avenue discussion forum)

25% Project 3: Generative Art or Game (due Friday June 16th, in specific Avenue discussion forum)

15% Final Exam (comprehensive of entire course; held during final class meeting time)

(100% Total)

Expected Time Commitment: 104 hours total as per McMaster standard for a 3-credit course (conventional lectures 10 @ 3 hours each = 30 hours; video lectures 3 @ 2 hours each = 6 hours; note: time for completion of technical exercises is included in lecture estimates as it is expected technical exercises will be completed during lectures; required readings and reflections 8 @ 2 hours each = 16 hours; independent work on creative projects 3 @ 15 hours each = 45 hours; preparation for final exam = 5 hours; final examination = 3 hours)

Reading Reflections: Between many of the lecture sessions, students will read a required reading (8 in total) and then answer a small number of reflective, short answer questions in an Avenue to Learn “quiz”. Students are strongly encouraged to use these reflective questions to help better conceptualize and frame their project work for the course. In general, full marks will be awarded for answers that demonstrate a timely engagement with the learning process and course content. These reflective reading quizzes will each have a deadline shortly before the beginning of the next class meeting. After that deadline, it will not be possible to receive any credit for these quizzes, so students are strongly encouraged to complete the readings and associated quiz as far in advance of the deadline as possible.

Technical Exercises: During many of the lecture sessions, students will complete a technical exercise (8 in total) whose purpose is to identify solutions to some but not all of the challenges implicit in the course’ required projects. As with the reading reflections, full marks will be awarded for reasonable efforts to complete the technical exercise. It is expected that students will attend all lectures in order to receive guidance pertinent to these technical exercise (among other reasons). Each technical exercise has a deadline at the end of the same day in which it is discussed in lecture, and it is not possible to submit or receive credits for technical exercises after that deadline.

Projects: Detailed descriptions of the three creative projects will be posted to the course’s Avenue-to-Learn site, together with the rubrics used to determine grades and give constructive feedback. All creative projects are to be handed in electronically through Avenue-To-Learn. You are encouraged to begin working on projects well in advance of their due dates.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late policy: Projects submitted after the due date will be subject to penalty of 5% per day. No assignments will be accepted more than one week (7 days) late. No late reading reflections or technical exercises will be accepted.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Part One: Static Media

1. May 1st Lecture: overview of Multimedia; bits and binary numbers; intellectual property

2. Reading Reflection #1: Lawrence Lessig (2009). “RW, Revived.” chapter 4 from Remix. Penguin Books. Due before class on May 3rd.

3. May 3rd Lecture: pixels and images (bitmap vs. Vector); colour models, encoding, spaces, profiles; the GNU Image Manipulation Program.

4. Technical Exercise #1: GNU Image Manipulation Program. Due by end of May 3rd.

5. Reading Reflection #2: Tara McPherson (2002). “Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web.” Visual Culture Reader 2.0. edited Nicholas Mirzoeff. New York: Routledge. pp. 458-70.

6. May 8th Lecture: text (ASCII, Unicode, fonts); Internet – Web – DNS; HTML

7. Technical Exercise #2: making an HTML web page with a text editor. Due by end of May 8th.

8. Reading Reflection #3: Alexander R. Galloway (2004). protocol: how control exists after decentralization. chapter 1 “Physical Media.” pp. 28-53. MIT Press.

9. May 10th Lecture: CSS; characteristics of sounds and video files; project files vs. deliverable files; help with projects in progress

10. Technical Exercise #3: adding CSS to a web page with a text editor. Due by end of May 10th.

11. Project #1: Web Image Series. Due by end of May 14th.


Part Two: Time-based Media

Note: There are no in-class meetings the week of May 15th to 19th. There is also no class meeting on Monday May 22nd due to the Victoria Day holiday. Instead there are three video lectures (newly created specifically for this class) with related technical exercises and reading reflections to complete.

12. Video Lecture #1 (access through Avenue module “Video Lectures”): sound as phenomenon; non-linear sound editing; parameters/keyframes

13. Technical Exercise #4: sound editing with Audacity. Due by end of May 15th.

14. Video Lecture #2 (access through Avenue module “Video Lectures”): video as phenomenon; non-linear video editing

15. Technical Exercise #5: video editing with Blender. Due by end of May 17th.

16. Reading Reflection #4: Lev Manovich (2001). “What is New Media?” chapter 1 from The Language of New Media. pp. 19-61. MIT Press. Due by end of May 19th.

17. Video Lecture #3 (access through Avenue module “Video Lectures”): 3D animation basics: meshes, textures, armatures, lights, cameras

18. Technical Exercise #6: 3D animation with Blender. Due by end of May 23rd.

19. Reading Reflection #5: N. Katharine Hayles (2006). “Traumas of Code.” Critical Inquiry 33:1. pp. 136-57. Reprinted in Critical Digital Studies: A Reader (2nd edition). ed. Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker. Universit of Toronto Press. pp. 39-58. Due before class on May 24th.

20. May 24th Lecture: corrective and exploratory transformations of time-based media; video beyond the frame and multi-channel audio; help with work in progress on Project #2

21. Project #2: Time-Based Media. Due by end of May 28th.


Part Three: Generative Art/Media

22. May 29th Lecture: properties of generative art/media; Generative animation with Processing; Generative music with SuperCollider

23. Technical Exercise #7: Processing and SuperCollider basics. Due by end of May 29th.

24. Reading Reflection #6: Alex McLean and Geraint Wiggins (2010). “Bricolage Programming in the Creative Arts.” Psychology of Programming Interest Group, 22nd annual workshop, Madrid. Due before class on May 31st.

25. May 31st Lecture: simulation and emergence; games and game engines; the Blender Game Engine

26. Technical Exercise #8: Blender Game Engine. Due by end of May 31st.

27. Reading Reflection #7: Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. chapter 14 “Games as Emergent Systems.” pp. 151-71. Due before class on June 5th.

28. June 5th Lecture: scalability in generative art/media projects

29. Reading Reflection #8: E. Gabriella Coleman (2013). Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking. chapter 3 “The Craft and Craftiness of Hacking.” pp. 93-122. Princeton University Press. Due before class on 7th.

30. June 7th Lecture: interactivity in generative art/media projects

31. June 12th Lecture: interactive exam review; help with final projects in progress

32. June 14th Final Examination scheduled during this last class session

33. Project #3: Generative Art or Game. Due by end of Friday June 16th.

Other Course Information:

Format: The class meets for two three hour lectures each week in BSB-B103. The semester is divided into three units, each of which culminates in an original, individual multimedia project shared with the class. During the first two weeks, we focus on images and web design. The second two week unit deals with time-based media (for example, video and audio recordings). During the final three weeks of the course, our focus shifts to generative media (for example, video games). A final exam completed in the final scheduled class session assesses and reinforces conceptual, technical and terminological gains made during the course.