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MMEDIA 3S03 Sound And Image (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. David Han


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 8:30-9:30am

Course Objectives:

MMEDIA 3S03 is a hands-on production course that will explore the complex interplay between sound, moving image, and the formation of meaning in the context of contemporary media art and creative computation. The focus is on artistic and communicative forms in which the relationship between aural and visual stimuli is explored and expanded through computation.

The course will introduce a broad range of interdisciplinary approaches to audio-visual studio production, and students will work through a series of projects emphasizing engagement with compelling ideas and themes, as well as the development of highly-experimental, unique, and engaging aesthetic sensibilities.

Studio production will be complemented by a series of lectures, workshops, viewing/listening sessions, readings, and discussions aimed at developing theoretical/historical grounding, critical response skills, as well as language appropriate for audio-visual response and analysis. Students will also gain practical skills programming using the Max media development environment.

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • understand and engage with contemporary movements in media art and creative computation
  • demonstrate and apply an understanding of how meaning is generated through the organization and manipulation of sound and image over time
  • communicate ideas through nuanced aesthetic gestures and complex audio-visual language
  • develop creative projects using a range of media production tools
  • manipulate data using the Max media development environment
  • achieve effective synthesis between ideas, intent, and technical execution
  • actively engage in critical dialogue with peers, and integrate feedback to further develop and refine ideas and creative work

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

  • Headphones (studio grade over-the-ear style - not earbuds)
  • Portable hard drive (at least 160 GB capacity recommended)
  • All readings and supplementary material will be available on Avenue to Learn in PDF format
  • OPTIONAL: Max license (

Method of Assessment:

Unless otherwise stated, classes will be held in the TSH 203 classroom and/or TSH202 Multimedia wing. For more detailed information, consult the Course Schedule below.

Although time will be allotted for in-class project work, students will also be required to dedicate a minimum of 9 hours/week developing techniques and strategies introduced in the course, conducting independent research, completing assigned projects, and preparing for discussions and presentations.

Students taking this course will be expected to arrive on-time at the start of each class, and be sufficiently prepared to work on projects and participate in class activities. Attendance is essential in a dedicated studio course. Unexcused absence(s) will have a negative impact on project and final grades. See the "ASSIGNMENTS & LATE PENALTIES" section for details.

Students are expected to demonstrate an attitude of respectful criticality and active engagement at all times, and contribute to a collegial and productive learning environment. Student participation will be based on performance during peer critique/presentation and formal screening/reading response sessions. It is recommended that students read the Evaluation Criteria guidelines posted on Avenue to Learn for more details on criteria and expectations.

The use of cellphones, text messaging, and/or social media sites during class time will not be tolerated.

Final grades will be determined through the assessment of studio work, as well as the quality of student contributions to discussion and presentation/feedback sessions. The breakdown is as follows:

10%     Side Quests (highest 10 out of 15 or more possible quests during semester, 10 x 1%)
15%     Assignment 1: Sound - Due Jan. 23
20%     Assignment 2: Image - Due Feb. 13
35%     Final Project (Proposal - Due Mar. 6, Work-in-Progress - Due Mar. 20, Final Project - Due Apr. 3, Reflection Paper - Due.Apr. 10)
20%     Professionalism and Active Participation

Each assigned project will include a description (posted on A2L) outlining overall objectives, specific considerations, submission requirements/formats and deadlines. Student work will be evaluated in terms of:

  • Technical proficiency
  • Conceptual focus and rigour
  • Synthesis and presentation
  • Work ethic and personal investment
  • Time management, productivity, and project refinement (both independent and in-class) as evidenced throughout studio production schedule

Successful projects will clearly demonstrate effort and attention to the three key stages of studio production:

  • Research and planning
  • Experimentation, development and creative problem-solving
  • Refinement and resolution

For more information on the assessment of project work, refer to the Evaluation Criteria guidelines posted on Avenue to Learn.

All assignments should be submitted through Avenue to Learn unless otherwise indicated by the assignment description posted on Avenue to Learn or by the course director in writing.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignments are designed as frameworks for creative investigation, and will incorporate the techniques and content learned and discussed in class. Students are encouraged to personalize, explore, and expand on the expressive and communicative potential of these skill sets. Detailed descriptions of all assignments will be uploaded to Avenue to Learn.

A penalty of 5% per day will be deducted from assignments submitted late, or those not presented in the required format. Assignments will not be accepted after seven days without official documentation (see the MSAF section for details), and will receive a grade of zero. Studio work will be considered late and incomplete if not accompanied by required written work (i.e. project proposals, etc). Late studio and/or written work will not receive detailed verbal/written feedback from instructor and/or peers. Extensions for late work, or accommodations for missed tests or tutorials, will be granted only upon the recommendation of a student's home faculty: please take such requests directly to your home faculty's office.

Each absence (or early exit) from a scheduled critique session will result in a letter-grade penalty on the overall Participation and Professionalism assessment. Absentees from critique sessions will not receive detailed written feedback from the instructor.

Recommendations/appeals for extensions will not be accepted on or after project due dates, and must be received no later than 48 hours before the deadline.

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

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 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 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:

The outline below is for orientation purposes only, and is subject to change. Please consult the full and definitive syllabus posted on Avenue to Learn for any potential updates.

Week 1 - Sound 1 -  Wed., Jan. 9

  • Lecture: Course introduction orientation/Key concepts
  • Tutorial: Icebreaker/Digital Audio - recording
  • Reading: Yolande Harris, "Soundscapes: On Sound, Environment and Sonic Consciousness" & Betsey Biggs, "Like It Was A Movie: Cinematic Listening as Public Art"
  • Assignment 1: Sound - Due. Wed., Jan. 23

Week 2 - Sound 2 - Wed., Jan. 16

  • Discussion: Yolande Harris & Betsey Biggs
  • Lecture: Sound Art
  • Tutorial: Digital Audio - editing
  • Reading: Salome Voegelin, "Listening", from Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art

Week 3 - Sound 3 - Wed., Jan. 23

  • Discussion: Salome Voegelin
  • Crits: Sound Assignment
  • Tutorial: Digital Images - Production (mise en scene)
  • Reading: Scott Macleod, "Blood in the Gutter", from Understanding Comics &  Wassily Kandinsky, "Basic Plane", from Point and Line to Plane
  • Assignment 2: Image - Due Wed., Feb. 13

Week 4 - Image 1 - Wed., Jan. 30

  • Discussion: Scott Macleod & Wassily Kandinsky
  • Lecture:
    • Screening: Arthur Lipsett, Very Nice, Very Nice, 1961 (7 min.)
  • Tutorial: Digital Images - Post-production 1 (collage)
  • Reading: Roland Barthes, excerpt from Camera Lucida (pgs. 25-60)

Week 5 - Image 2 - Wed., Feb. 6

  • Discussion: Roland Barthes
  • Lecture: Images and Meaning
  • Tutorial: Digital Images - Post-production 2 (editing)
  • Reading: Caroline Bassett, "Is This Not A Screen?: Notes on the Mobile Phone and Cinema", from Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, The Arts & The Humanities

Week 6 - Image 3 - Wed., Feb. 13

  • Discussion: Caroline Bassett
  • Lecture: Images and Time and Space
  • Crits: Image Assignment
  • Reading: Mitchell Whitelaw, "Synesthesia and Cross Modality in Contemporary Audiovisuals"
  • Assignment: Transmodality (Proposals due Mar. 6, Work-in-progress due Mar. 20, Final project due Apr. 3, Project reports due Apr. 10)

Mid-term Recess - Feb. 18 to 24

  • Max tutorials (introductory tutorials)

Week 7 - Transmodality 1 - Wed., Feb. 27

  • Discussion: Mitchell Whitelaw
  • Lecture: Data sonification/Data visualization
  • Tutorial: Max basics
  • Reading: Paul Hertz, "Synesthetic Art: An Imaginary Number?"

Week 8 - Transmodality 2 - Wed., Mar. 6

  • Discussion: Paul Hertz
  • Proposal presentation: Transmodality
  • Tutorial: Max - MSP & Audio
  • Reading: Christiane Paul, “The Database as System and Cultural Form: Anatomies of Cultural Narratives”

Week 9 - Transmodality 3 - Wed., Mar. 13

  • Discussion: Christiane Paul
  • Lecture: The Database Aesthetic
  • Tutorial: Max - Jitter & Video
  • Reading: Bill Viola, “Will there be condominiums in data space?” from The New Media Reader

Week 10 - Transmodality 4 - Wed., Mar. 20

  • Discussion: Bill Viola
  • Feedback: Work-in-progress presentations
  • Tutorial: Max - Jitter, Open GL & 3D
  • Reading: Margaret Morse, “The body, the Image, and the Space-in-Between” from Illuminating Video

Week 11 - Transmodality 5 - Wed., Mar. 27

  • Discussion: Margaret Morse
  • Lecture: Data as Space
  • Work Period

Week 12 - Wed., Apr. 3

  • Crits: Final Project Presentations