Interactivity, UCLA Design Media Arts, Spring 2012

Interactivity (DESMA 28)
Fall 2012
UCLA Department of Design Media Arts

Professor Casey Reas (office hour TBD)
TA Gottfried Haider (office hour TBD)

Monday & Wednesday, 2:00 pm - 4:50 pm
Broad Art Center, 4230


This course is an introduction to computer programming (writing code) within the context of the visual arts. The concepts and skills taught in this course set a foundation for future Design Media Arts courses about the internet, game design, and media arts.


This course aspires to answer a few questions:

How has software affected the visual arts?
What is the potential of software within the visual arts?
As a designer or artist, why would I want (or need) to write software?

Software influences all aspects of contemporary visual culture. Many established artists have integrated software into their process. Many prominent architects and designers not only use software, they commission custom software to help them realize their unique ideas. The creators of every innovative video game and Hollywood animated film write custom software to enhance their work.

While these exciting developments are taking place at the highest levels of their respective professions, integrating them into education is a challenge. For even the most motivated student, the technical boundaries are difficult to overcome and getting beyond them requires tremendous dedication. As a comprehensive first introduction to the potential of software development within a broad range of the arts, this course aspires to encourage the enthusiasm.

In reference to the emerging media of his time, the eminent media theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote: "Today we're beginning to realize that the new media aren't just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression." Writing code is one gateway into these "new and unique powers of expression." Learning to program and to engage the computer more directly with code opens the possibility to create not only tools, but systems, environments, and new modes of expression. It is here that the computer ceases to be a tool and becomes a medium.


There are three projects and a series of six in-class workshops, each with an exercise that will be started in class and finished before the next class begins. Each project is a mix of design and technical challenges.


The grading is based on the projects, workshop exercises, and on the participant's active participation during the class meetings. All work is evaluated on how well it demonstrates an understanding of the material, its originality, and aesthetic qualities. Feedback will be primarily qualitative but numeric scores will also be given for all work. All assignments must be uploaded to the class server before the beginning of class on its due date. Late work will not be accepted. More than two absences without the Instructor or TA's prior approval will lower the participants final grade by one unit (i.e. an A will become an B). With each additional unexcused absence, the grade will drop an additional unit. In addition, participants must attend the three DMA sponsored lectures during this quarter.

The % breakdown follows:
20% Project 1
20% Project 2
20% Project 3
30% Workshop Exercises
10% Participation

Required Reading (Available at the UCLA LuValle Bookstore)

Casey Reas and Ben Fry. Getting Started with Processing. O'Reilly / MAKE, 2010
Casey Reas and Chandler McWilliams. FORM+CODE in Design, Art, and Architecture. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010

Casey Reas and Ben Fry. Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists. MIT Press, 2007