The breakdown of your course grade is as follows:

  • site: 10%
  • Attendance & participation: 15%
  • Midterm: 15%
  • Communication & technology in the wild: 20%
  • Critical making portfolio: 40% site: 10%
  • Website construction and organization: 5%
  • Reflections on two weeks’ readings (2 x 2.5%): 5%

You are required to construct and maintain a portfolio of your course work on All of your assignments (excluding the midterm) will be housed on a private site, in addition to 250-word reflections on readings from two weeks of your choice. The reflections should involve comparing and contrasting that week’s readings and formulating an example from your own experience and/or current events that either illustrate or undermine key concepts from the readings. Links to videos and images are recommended.

Attendance & in-class participation: 15%

Show up to class, come prepared having read each week’s material, and actively and respectfully participate in class discussions and group work.

Midterm: 15%

March 1, with preparation any time between February 7 and February 28.
  • Journal: 5%
  • In-class essay: 10%

This midterm requires some preparation. Within the three weeks leading up to the midterm (March 1), you are to undertake an 6 hour (minimum, continuous), waking  ‘fast’ of screen-based media. Over this period, document your activities, interactions, impressions and ‘coping’ strategies.

For the midterm, come with the journal and be prepared to write a 1000-1500 word essay documenting and reflecting on your screen fast.

If media are, as McLuhan argues, “extensions” of our mental and physical faculties, then we should be aware of the extent to which we rely on them in our everyday lives. Your pen and paper journal should record the following:

  • what you did to prepare, and what you did during the ‘screen fast’;
  • when, and for what reasons, you felt the loss of specific media most acutely;
  • what communication technologies you used during this time.

Your in-class essay should draw from course themes and concepts to describe your experience. Consider the following:

  • did not using technology make you pay more attention to how much your friends / family members / loved ones / colleagues and peers spend on their devices?
  • if media are extensions of our faculties, reflect on this loss of your faculties: whether, how, and from whom or what you felt disconnected;
  • when we lose one faculty, our other faculties become more acute; what did you pay attention to and experience that you don’t normally? How did you interact socially, and with whom?
Communication and technology in the wild: 20%
Due Friday, April 22, by 11:59 PM

Inspired by observations of how visual media use in public spaces, such as Nina Wakeford’s classic research on Internet cafés, and  TL Taylor & Emma Witkowski’s study of a massive video game party, this assignment requires you to visit a public site in which particular visual media are consumed. Some possibilities are below.

Craft a 2000-word (minimum) article, published on your site, in which you address the following questions:

  • How is the history of this medium represented?
  • Describe the ambient noise of the space, the architectural details, signage, lighting; based on these contextual details, how is the medium meant to be consumed?
  • What are the roles of employees / volunteers in this process? How visible is the work (and workers) that go into maintaining and presenting this space?
  • What are the written and unwritten rules for interacting with the medium?
  • What do these conditions tell us about the social / cultural status of the medium?

Make sure to cite at least 8 academic sources, with at least 4 coming from outside the course syllabus. Also make ample use of any unintrusive and legal images and audio-visual recordings you made during your observation and embed these in your essay.

Critical Making Portfolio: 40%

For this final project, students will work in pairs to prototype a critical making project as a means to explore and critique our material relationships with communication technologies and information systems, drawing from one or several units throughout the course. Each working pair will conceptualize, document, and exhibit a digital maker project based on a design and research methodology known as critical making, or what Matt Ratto refers to as material and conceptual practices that place importance on examining societal values inherent to the digital technologies we use. Critical making practices included within the larger “maker movement” that has materialized in recent years include physical computing, electronic prototyping and 3D printing, yet also include expressions of critical media practice in which forms of video game design and audio-video production can unveil our relationships to these technological systems.  

Students will participate in three scheduled workshops (see schedule for details) in the D.H. Hill Library Makerspace Studio that will introduce them to potential avenues for creating maker-based projects and give them hands-on experience with physical computing using the Arduino programming language and various sensors that can read data from an external environment that can make objects “talk” to each other, using 3D scanning and printing to build objects, and creating wearable biomedia that can read data about the body. Examples of final critical making projects might include:

  • Producing a series of 3D printed sculptures that visualize another form of media (i,e. gathering data about a particular film in terms of the length of its scenes, number of specific shots, etc., and abstract that data into a sculptural form).
  • Use Arduino microcontrollers and proximity sensors to produce an emergent soundscape that unfolds through user interaction.
  • Use a Makey Makey microcontroller to reconfigure a non-traditional control peripheral for a video game or musical device.
  • Use conductive fabric and sensors to produce arm sleeves that can measure data about the human body.
  • utilize conductive paint and microcontrollers to produce an interactive painting that makes noise in response to human touch.
  • Design a video game prototype using RPG Maker or Twine
  • Produce a work of critical audio-video production that explores our relationship to and use of specific video recording technologies (smart phones, GoPro).

Of particular importance to this project will be documenting the creative process of making your final project. Each group will utilize the community-based platform Hackster to document and share your progress in creating a maker-based project throughout the semester. Students will be required to post to Hackster four times throughout the semester: an initial project proposal, two progress reports of their project, and a final post showing their finished product. The project proposal will include a write up (500 words) on the theoretical concepts employed, rudimentary planning/timeline for your project, and initial documentation via sketches, diagrams, related examples, etc. of your proposed maker project. Each progress report post will include a 250 word write up on the development of your project, what is working thus far, what technical or logistical issues you are experiencing with your project, and any reflections or insights about how practices of making can reveal relationships between the body and digital media in terms of our experiences, perceptions,use, or consumption of such technologies. Your final project post will be comprised of a 500 word reflection that summarizes your group’s experience with making and what you learned about your relationship to technology through a critical making methodology. Each post to Hackster must also include at least two forms of documentation of your project which can take the form of drawings or schematics, photographs of your prototype under construction,video footage of your project coming to life, or code.

In addition to documentation, each group will be required to meet with the instructor (Eddie Lohmeyer twice throughout the course of the semester to make sure their project is on track and to address any technical roadblocks that might arise. Meetings will take place in the Circuit Studio located in Ricks Hall Annex. ***Because students will more than likely be introduced to technologies and modes of production that they are unfamiliar with, It is highly recommended that groups start on their project early and take full advantage of the resources that are available to you. This means making ample time to work on your project in the D.H. Hill Makerspace studio and receive assistance from the makerspace staff when needed.***

Groups will also collaborate with the instructor to exhibit and present their finished maker project to the public in either a gallery setting, space in one of the NCSU libraries, or another suitable venue at the end of the semester. The curation of this class exhibition–the particular theme of the show, placement, display, and interpretation of works–will be decided collectively among the groups and course instructors. Groups will be required to actively participate in the curation of this class exhibit and will need to procure any materials that will be needed to exhibit their maker project including a wall text (a brief description of their project for the public to read) as well as any additional materials (photographic or video documentation, drawings, schematics,) that groups would like to show with their finished product.

The grade breakdown and schedule for your critical making project (40% of final) is as follows:

Project Documentation via Hackster (15%)

Initial Project Proposal (5%) Due Feb. 16th posted to Hackster (500 words and two forms of documentation)

Progress Report 1 (2.5%) Due March 15th posted to Hackster (250 words and two forms of documentation)

Progress Report 2 (2.5%) Due April 12th posted to Hackster (250 words and two forms of documentation)

Final Project Posting (5%) Due May 3rd posted to Hackster (500 words and two forms of documentation)

Project Meetings (5%)

Groups will meet for approximately 15-30 min with the course instructor twice throughout the semester. Meetings will be scheduled on the following weeks:

Week of March 29th

Week of April 26th (This class period will serve as a drop-in help session)

On these weeks, groups will be responsible for coordinating a time to meet with the instructor.

Final Deliverable Project (20%) Project due on May 3rd

Projects will be turned in on May 3rd in a deliverable form suitable to the context of the digital work. This may be a game file, a printed 3D sculpture, a video documentation of an Arduino invention interacting with a participant.

Exhibition of Student Work (5%) May 5th, 1 pm to 4 pm

As mentioned, students will collaborate with the instructors in exhibiting their final projects in a suitable venue as a way to showcase their projects to the public. The specific venue TBD.