DESMA28: Interactivity


Monday and Wednesday 9-11:50am
UCLA Broad Art Center 4220

Professor: Lauren McCarthy (
(office hours: Wednesdays 5-6p, Broad 3246)

TA: Hye Min Cho (
(office hours: Thursdays 12:30-1:30pm, Conditional Studio -- room directly across from bathrooms on the third floor)


This course has two goals. (1) To provide an introduction to writing code within the context of the visual arts. Writing code involves learning a different way of thinking and making. (2) To interrogate the concept of 'interactivity' and consider how this applies to art, design, and code. Through this exploration you may gain a deeper understanding of how users, viewers, and people experience your work. The ideas and skills taught in this course set a foundation for future Design Media Arts courses about the internet (161), game design (157), and media arts (159A, 171).


Grading. Grades will be determined according to the following breakdown:
  • Project 1 10%
  • Project 2 10%
  • Project 3 10%
  • Project 4 10%
  • Project 5 10%
  • Final project 25%
  • Final project documentation 10%
  • Participation 15%

Outstanding or exceptional work will receive As, good work will receive Bs, sufficient work that does nothing more than meet requirements will receive Cs.

Projects. Projects are due at the start of class on the date assigned via the project spreadsheet. Projects may be turned in up to one week late for a one letter grade deduction off the project grade. Work that is more than one week late will not be accepted. If you are absent, you are still expected to turn in projects online by the deadline. Extra time will not be given for work lost due to save issues, editor or browser errors, computer crash, etc. You should regularly click File > Download to save a copies of your work in progress as zip files. It would also be wise to make a backup of these online or on an external harddrive or USB stick in case your computer is lost.

Media. Each project will be accompanied by a collection of readings, videos, and other media to look at. You are expected to read/watch/consume each item listed. Doing so will make this class much easier and more enjoyable. If it is clear you are not doing this work, your project grades will lower. All of the assigned readings from the course will be from Getting Started with p5.js or located online, you will need to purchase this textbook.

Participation. Participation is critical to passing and enjoying this class. Do the work, share your thoughts, ask questions, prepare for meetings, offer feedback during critiques. This class is meant to be a safe space in which you feel encouraged and supported in learning and taking creative risks. This means being aware and considerate of different backgrounds, perspectives, and identities. Respect each other and this space we are building together. Don’t assume, ask. Remain open, be willing to take responsibility, apologize, and learn. Help each other in this. If there are concerns please let me or Hye Min know as soon as possible.

Attendance.You get one unexcused absence, no questions asked. Each unexcused absence after that will result in one full letter grade deduction. Three unexcused absences will result in a failed grade in the class. If there is an emergency and you must miss class, email Hye Min before class. Absences will not be excused after the fact except in extreme circumstances. Illness requires a doctor’s note. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will be marked tardy. Three tardies results in one unexcused absence. Your attendance can be viewed here, any disputes should be discussed with the TA within two weeks.

Commitment to Diversity and Safer Spaces

We understand the classroom as a space for practicing freedom; where one may challenge psychic, social, and cultural borders and create meaningful artistic expressions. To do so we must acknowledge and embrace the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. This means that we will use preferred pronouns, respect self-identifications, and be mindful of special needs. Disagreement is encouraged and supported, however our differences affect our conceptualization and experience of reality, and it is extremely important to remember that certain gender, race, sex, and class identities are more privileged while others are undermined and marginalized. Consequently, this makes some people feel more protected or vulnerable during debates and discussions. A collaborative effort between the students, TA, and instructor is needed to create a supportive learning environment. While everyone should feel free to experiment creatively and conceptually, if a class member points out that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, avoid being defensive; instead approach the discussion as a valuable opportunity for us to grow and learn from one another. Alternatively if you feel that something said in discussion or included in a piece of work is harmful, you are encouraged to speak with the instructor or TA. (tx voidLab!)

Disability Services

UCLA strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on a disability, please let me know as soon as possible. It is necessary for you to register with the UCLA Center for Accessible Education so that we can establish reasonable accommodations. After registration, make arrangements with me to discuss how to implement these accommodations.


WEEK 1 M 1/7 Introduction
Assign Project 1
W 1/9 Studio
WEEK 2 M 1/14 DUE: Project 1
Assign Project 2
W 1/16 Studio
Sa 1/19 Processing Community Day at DMA
WEEK 3 M 1/21 MLK Day: no class
W 1/23 DUE: Project 2
Assign Project 3
WEEK 4 M 1/28 Studio
W 1/30 DUE: Project 3
Assign Project 4
WEEK 5 M 2/4 Studio
W 2/6 Studio
WEEK 6 M 2/11 DUE: Project 4
Assign Project 5
Tu 2/12 Astra Taylor film: "What is Democracy?", 6pm EDA
W 2/13 Studio
F 2/15 Optional DUE: Gif for lenticular print
WEEK 7 M 2/18 Presidents Day: no class
Tu 2/19 Astra Taylor, 6pm EDA
W 2/20 DUE: Project 5
Assign Final Project
WEEK 8 M 2/25 DUE: Final Project sketches
Individual meetings / Studio
W 2/27 Studio
WEEK 9 M 3/4 Studio
W 3/6 Studio
WEEK 10 M 3/11 DUE: Final Project
W 3/13 p5.js behind the scenes / Wrap-up
F 3/15 DUE: Final Project documentation


Projects are due at the start of class on the date assigned via the project spreadsheet. Projects may be turned in up to one week late for a one letter grade deduction off the project grade. Work that is more than one week late will not be accepted. If you are absent, you are still expected to turn in projects online by the deadline.

Project 1: Still life (DUE 1/14)

Project 2: Mask (DUE 1/23)

Project 3: One Loop Story (DUE 1/30)

Project 4: Tool (DUE 2/11)

Project 5: Influence (DUE 2/20)


Getting Started with p5.js:
  • 7/Media

Read and watch all of the media in time for class on Wednesday. Type and run the programs as you read the text.


Attend the Astra Taylor "What is Democracy?" film screening on 2/12, or her talk on 2/19. Both are at 6pm in the EDA.

Take screencaptures or photos of at least 5-10 pieces of media you come across that's intended to influence you. Use this media to create an interactive collage that takes on new meaning. You might photoshop or edit the images prior to loading, or digitally manipulate them in code. Consider adding text to recontextualize the images. What role does the interactivity play in shifting meaning?

Turn in your project via the projects spreadsheet by 9am on 2/20. Come prepared to share in class.

Final Project (DUE 3/11)

Final Project Documentation (DUE 3/15)




Class Notes & Examples

Week 1 Week 2 Week 4 Week 5


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