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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. David Ogborn

Email: ogbornd@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 306

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27603


Office Hours: Wednesdays 3:30-5:30 PM (TSH-306)

Course Objectives:

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.  Lectures will explore the history, development and current state of digital media, with special attention to social and cultural issues surrounding the use of technologies.  Demonstrations and “hack ins” will  help students to express themselves effectively with diverse types of media, including digital image, audio, video and interactive technologies.

In support of these learning goals, we will complete three creative projects: a digitally mediated “observation”, an audio, video or animation composition, and an interactive code project. A series of feedback sessions on work in progress during the tutorials will ensure that all students are developing the knowledge and skill to create effective media-based expression and communication. The final exam will cover materials discussed in lectures, tutorials and in a number of required readings (identified on the schedule).

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required materials and texts:

  • It is recommended that students purchase a large USB key (at least 2 GB) or portable hard drive.
  • All required readings will be posted on Avenue To Learn.
  • Students are encouraged to bring a laptop to lectures, if possible, especially during part three

Software: Students will be able to complete all projects using free and open source software that can be installed on home computers or laptops.  The university library and the Faculty of Humanities provide additional facilities with access to selected software, including commercially distributed software.

Method of Assessment:

  • 20% Project 1: Observation/Capture (due Tuesday Feb 3rd, in specific Avenue discussion forum)
  • 20% Project 2: Time/Transformation (due Sunday Mar 8th, in specific Avenue discussion forum)
  • 20% Project 3: Code/Network (due Sunday Apr 5th, in specific Avenue discussion forum)
  • 30% Final Exam (comprehensive of entire course; held during final examination period)
  • 10% Tutorial Participation
  •  (100% Total)

In Project 1: Observation/Capture, students will use some form of Multimedia technology to document something in at least 10 different states.  The intention of the project is to better understand how multimedia technology can be used not only to produce preconceived representations, but rather and also to uncover and expose aspects of the world around us.

In Project 2: Time/Transformation, students will work with non-linear editing software (video or audio) to recompose original footage, with heightened attention to the possibility of transforming time relations within the material.     

In Project 3: Code/Network, students will work with forms of computer programming that are common in the field of multimedia arts and design.  Potential project outcomes include generative or interactive animation, sound compositions/performances, small video games or experimental web sites.

More 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. 

Tutorial Participation:  Attendance at all lectures and tutorials is expected, and is also the best way to prepare for the course’ projects and final exam.  Attendance at the beginning and end of tutorials will be recorded and, together with general observations made by the instructor and teaching assistants, will be used to inform a tutorial participation grade according to the following rubric:

  • 9-10%             Strong evidence of professionalism & participation well beyond requirements
  • 8-8.99%          Evidence of professionalism & participation beyond course requirements
  • 6-7.99%          Minor problems with attendance, lack of professionalism and/or participation
  • below 6%        Major problems with attendance, lack of professionalism and/or participation

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Late policy: All assignments are due on the due date provided. Any submission after that date will mean that the assignment is late. However, assignments will be accepted after the due date for up to one week without any penalty. No assignments will be accepted later than one week. You should do everything in your power to get your assignment in by the due date; the one-week grace period is to allow you to complete your assignments should you have minor medical situations or family issues. Please note that MSAF is for a maximum period of five days, and can only be used for the assignment’s due date, so even if you submit an MSAF, you will not get additional time beyond the one week grace period.

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: Observation/Capture

  • 1. Lecture Wed Jan 7th: Introduction and Overview
  • 2. Lecture Fri Jan 9th: Binary Code and its Consequences
  • 3. Reading:  Marshall McLuhan (1964).  “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis.” chapter 4 in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.”  MIT Press. & Sherry Turkle (2011). “no need to call.” chapter 10 in Alone Together. Basic Books.
  • 4. Tutorial Mon-Tue Jan 12th/13th: discussion of reading
  • 5. Lecture Wed Jan 14th: Qualities of Digital Images
  • 6. Lecture Fri Jan 16th: Qualities of Digital Sound Recordings
  • 7. Reading:  Roland Barthes (1977).  “Rhetoric of the Image.” Image, Music, Text. edited and translated Stephen Heath.  pp. 32-51.  Hill and Wang.
  • 8. Tutorial Mon-Tue Jan 19th/20th: Photoshop and Audacity basics
  • 9. Lecture Wed Jan 21st: Digital Texts and Typography
  • 10. Lecture Fri Jan 23rd: Technological Convergence
  • 11. Reading: Lawrence Lessig (2009). “RW, Revived.” chapter 4 from Remix. Penguin Books.
  • 12. Tutorial Mon-Tue Jan 26th/27th: discussion of reading; feedback for project #1 in progress
  • 13. Lecture Wed Jan 28th: IP, Copyright, Creative Commons
  • 14. Lecture Fri Jan 30th: The Digital Divide
  • 15. Tutorial Mon-Tue Feb 2nd/3rd: feedback for project #1 in progress
  • 16. Project #1 due by end of Tuesday February 3rd (but accepted until end of Tuesday February 10th)

Part Two: Time/Transformation

  • 17. Lecture Wed Feb 4th: Embracing the non-linear
  • 18. Lecture Fri Feb 6th:  Transformations of video
  • 19. Reading: Lev Manovich (2001).  “What is New Media?” chapter 1 from The Language of New Media.  pp. 19-61.  MIT Press.
  • 20. Tutorial Mon-Tue Feb 9th/10th: Non-linear video editing in Blender
  • 21. Lecture Wed Feb 11th: Transformations of sound
  • 22. Lecture Fri Feb 13th: Computer Animation
  • 23. Reading: Henry Jenkins (2008).  “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?” from Convergence Culture. pp. 135-73.  New York University Press.
  • (Reading week Feb 16th – 20th)
  • 24.  Tutorial Mon-Tue Feb 23rd/24th: Modeling/animation basics in Blender
  • 25. Lecture Wed Feb 25th: Principles of design
  • 26. Lecture Fri Feb 27th: Digital Games and Virtual Reality
  • 27. Reading: Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2004).  Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. chapter 14 “Games as Emergent Systems.” pp. 151-71. 
  • 28. Tutorial Mon-Tue Mar 2nd/3rd: feedback for project #2 in progress
  • 29. Lecture Wed Mar 4th: Beyond the frame
  • 30. Project #2 due by end of Sunday March 8th (but accepted until end of Sunday March 15th)

Part Three: Code/Network

  • 31. Lecture Fri Mar 6th: Artistic/Bricolage/Creative Programming
  • 33. Reading:  Alex McLean and Geraint Wiggins (2010).  “Bricolage Programming in the Creative Arts.”  Psychology of Programming Interest Group, 22nd annual workshop, Madrid.
  • 32. Tutorial Mon-Tue Mar 9th/10th: Code Basics
  • 34. Lecture Wed Mar 11th: Generative art strategies
  • 35. Lecture Fri Mar 13th: History of the Internet I (1969-1995)
  • 36. Reading: Alexander R. Galloway (2004).  protocol: how control exists after decentralization. chapter 1 “Physical Media.”  pp.  28-53.  MIT Press.
  • 37. Tutorial Mon-Tue Mar 16th/17th: Generative art strategies
  • 37. Lecture Wed Mar 18th: Digital game structures
  • 38. Lecture Fri Mar 19th: History of the Internet II (1995-2004); The open-source movement
  • 39. Reading: Christopher M. Kelty (2008).  Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software.  chapter 3 “The Movement.” pp. 97-117.  Duke University Press.
  • 40. Tutorial Mon-Tue Mar 23rd/24th: discussion of reading
  • 41. Lecture Wed Mar 25th: net.art, software art, live code
  • 42. Lecture Fri Mar 27th: The Many Meanings of “Hacking”
  • 43. Reading: 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.
  • 44. Tutorial Mon-Tue Mar 30th/31st: feedback for project #3 in progress
  • 45. Lecture Wed Apr 1st: The Digital Humanities
  • (no lecture Fri Apr 3rd  Good Friday holiday)
  • 46. Project 3 due by end of Sunday April 5th (but accepted until end of Sunday April 12th)
  • 47. Tutorial Mon-Tue Apr 6th/7th: exam review
  • 48. Lecture Wed Apr 8th: Lines of flight and exam review 
  • 49. Final examination scheduled during final examination period

Other Course Information:

Format: There will be two one hour lectures each week in CNH/104.  While some slides and videos from the lectures may be available through Avenue, not all materials will be available in this way.  Attendance is very important – this will be true in every phase of your career! Hands-on tutorials will be dedicated to discussion of course content and readings, feedback on project-based work in progress, and technical demonstrations on computer software, and will be held in TSH 206.

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR 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. 2865 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University’s Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

ONLINE ACCESS: In this course we will be using Avenue-to-Learn.  Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.