DMA 171: Topics In Interactivity And Games: Empathy And Memory - Fall 2017

Instructor: Luke Fischbeck
Teaching Assistant: Eli Joteva
Office hours Tues 1-2 or by appointment in Broad 3224


For this studio-based class, we will be working alongside UCLA Center For the Art of Performance's CODA project to create new media artworks using data sourced from performance—including video, images, audience surveys and biometrics (heart rate, EEG signals, etc.), to explore how audiences engage with, and are affected by, interactivity and performance. CODA, an experimental collaboration between the Center for the Art of Performance and UCLA Psychology department’s Consciousness & Metacognition Lab, brings together performers, design media technologists, curators, archivists and educators who research body and brain function pertaining to memory, creativity and empathy. Everyone in this class will gain experience working with data and code—projects may have multiple outcomes including, but not limited to: interaction, animation, audio, video, simulation, etc. The goal of these projects will be to build access points for exploring the core questions outlined by the CODA project: What role do artists and creators play in the development of empathy and memory? What is happening to audiences in terms of our connections across cultures? Is digital media replacing communal experience or reshaping it? How can created content provoke empathy and inspire nuanced understanding among individuals and communities? Can empathy be quantified?

Each week we will conduct in-class labs looking at aspects of the CODA project in specific, and the intersection of artistic and scientific epistemologies in general. What is artistic research, and how does it relate to scientific research? How do artists and scientists use similar source material and methods to achieve different ends? What is made possible by synthesizing the two approaches? How does each approach make use of concepts like experiment, observation, modelling, interpretation, or narrative? I’m going to propose that one basic difference is that artistic research incorporates a focus on subjectivity or intersubjectivity in its approach. We can discuss to what extent this is true or a useful distinction, and I hope we can uncover more interesting differences (and similarities) as well. Following on this proposal, how do we become subjectively engaged with objective data, and vice versa, how does subjective (ephemeral) awareness become objective fact?

Course Goals:

A practical understanding of how design functions in the context of experimental research, and how research functions in creative processes.


First Project - 20%
Second Project - 20%
Third Project - 30%
“Looking at Research” Presentation - 10%
Participation*** - 20%

***Ask questions, offer feedback, make suggestions, provide comparative examples, help other students, share your own specific skillsets or access to resources with others.

Attendance is crucial. If you need to miss class, please let me or Eli know beforehand—each unexcused absence will drop your final grade down a full letter!


In-class labs + Weekly Readings (10/3—11/30):

We will examine aspects and techniques related to the overall themes of the course through quick practical exercises that we do during class time in small groups, and then present to the class—looking at bias, memory, empathy, using biosensors, artistic research, or gathering and displaying empirical data, for example. This work is not graded, but rather meant to be an opportunity to try out new ways of thinking or doing. Lab topics will be announced in advance, and I’ll be assigning a book chapter, essay, or online materials to give you critical tools for approaching the specific problem at hand. Please come prepared to participate in discussion / ask questions / locate the lab activity and readings in the broader context of what you are interested in.

Looking at research (11/7—11/16):

For each group, choose a scientific paper to present in class. Place the research in context, identify the problem, hypothesis, methods / models being used, discuss how data was acquired, analyzed, and presented, as well as the findings, conclusions, and recommendations made by the researchers. Suggested papers are here - if you’d prefer, you are welcome to choose from outside this group of suggestions, just let me know in advance.

First Project (due 10/10 or 10/12):

Quantify an existing qualitative dataset. Create a new, secondary dataset that you analyze, interpret, and display numerically. Source material may include experimental research data that you either source or gather yourself. For example: testimonies, observational studies, case studies, narrative accounts, surveys, etc. We’ll practice some techniques for how to do this in beforehand, such as coding, recursive abstraction, and content analysis.

Second Project (due 10/24 or 10/26):

Qualify an existing quantitative dataset. Find narrative and point-of-view in a dataset, and bring it to life. Locate and annotate the failures, gaps, and power structures inherent in the original data collection process. Return the data to real world, direct, embodied experience for a specific subject (user, viewer, audience, reader, participant etc). As with the first project, you can source primary data from a number of freely available datasets and API’s, or you can devise a method for gathering the data yourself.

Third Project (group project) (due 12/5 or 12/7):

Explode the story of an experiment. As a group, design an artwork that integrates a research problem into presentational form. Possible modes include, but are not limited to: data visualization / sonification, AR/VR environment / simulation, live performance, interactive software, installation, sculpture, robot, AI... whatever you are interested in trying out! Address the context, history, and conceptual framework of the experiment’s design, as well as the experimental method by which data is collected and analyzed. As an artwork, your project should provide access to the experience of both the experiment’s subject and object. We should have access to data from the CODA project, and you are welcome and encouraged to use this experiment for your project. As an alternative, you may consider using another experiment as a basis for this project, either one that you find as published research (with available datasets), or an experiment that you design yourselves.

Final (Public) Presentation (12/12):

We’ll take over the EDA for one day (tuesday of exam week) to set up your group projects for the public to interact with and explore. We’ll discuss possibilities for this more as we get closer….