Sample Courses

The following list of courses represent some of the range of what is offered by our Core Faculty. For the latest course listings see the Graduate Bulletin and semester listings from the affiliated Departments and Programs (CMAC, VMS, LIT, ISS). 

Proseminar (required of all incoming PhD Students)

The Proseminar is a team-taught course that will serve as an introductory overview of scholarship at the nexus of theory and practice. In its initial offering, the course will be taught by two core faculty (one from the theory side; one with a focus on practice) and is a requirement for all incoming CMAC students. Subsequently, the course will be taught by teams of core faculty on a rotating basis. The course may include visiting lectures by other core and affiliated faculty, on an ad hoc basis.  (Upon review after two years, the steering committee will evaluate how the “team” approach has worked, and will consider other options,including a single instructor course with a suite of visiting lecturers drawn from the program’s faculty.)

The Proseminar will include theoretical readings in computational media theory, design, and critique, and will focus on how these readings inform and provide critical context for practice-based modes of learning and production. The Proseminar will cover various areas of computational media theory and culture, including media archaeology, data and visualization, computation and culture, database and narrative, and data-mining and big data.  The aim in each case will be to explore how theoretical approaches to media can both guide and challenge practical work in media design.

The Proseminar will include an orientation to the range of opportunities available in the Media Labs and other computationally-based projects around campus.  In this modality, the Proseminar will serve as an introductory overview of the various Media Labs in which CMAC students may carry out work in fulfillment of the practicum requirement (see below).  The Proseminar will be open to all Duke graduate students on a space-available basis.  In addition to students from the MA in Computational Media as well as certificate students in CMAC, we anticipate participation from students in the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts and AMI and from the growing cohort of students across the Humanities with interests in media.

Practicum Experiences

One of the key distinctions of this program lies in the practicum experiences that it provides and in the substantial computational, socially engaged, and media practice-based dimensions it adds to theoretical and critical coursework that it offers. The programmatic mission of  Computational Media, Arts & Cultures is to combine interdisciplinary theory and practice through new forms of scholarly research and production, culminating in a trans-disciplinary dissertation project. Each practicum experience should yield a tangible product. The goals of the practicum experiences are as follows:

  • To gain exposure to the various ways in which computational media, arts and culture intersect with existing faculty research within the program and across campus
  • To apply and deepen computational media technical skills learned through courses, workshops, tutorials, and self-study to a specific existing or emerging project
  • To develop project management, mentoring, and collaboration skills by participating in a group project
  • To formulate and sharpen individual questions and paths of inquiry within a larger interdisciplinary framework

These experiences will be customized to the individual student, and might emphasize more research, more hands-on production, outreach etc. based on student interests and project needs. Some students may participate in only one practicum experience, while others might participate in several (four or more). Beyond the specific skills gained through participation on lab projects, we anticipate these experiences will provide another meaningful way for CMAC students to develop relationships with graduate students with shared interests in other programs. Please use the Graduate Independent Study Form, under the courses menu, to sign up for practicum experiences.

We anticipate most practicum experiences will involve either active engagement in an interdisciplinary Lab, or an ongoing research project in Bass Connections, FHI, etc. A practicum experience might also involve partnership with an external entity such as a local history group, a tech startup, a museum, or a social justice organization. The dissertation project may well follow upon one or more of these experiences.

Some of the existing Labs in Smith are listed below, with the computational media tools and methods they use noted:

Labs Technical Areas Explored
Duke Art, Law and Markets (DALMI) Lab Database Design, Visual and Quantitative Data Analysis
Digital Archeology (Dig@Lab) 3D Modeling, Virtual Reality, Interactive Exhibitions
Emergence Lab Generative Art and Music, Interface Design, Haptics, Installation Art; Digital Architecture
ISS Lab Web Design, Mobile Applications, Augmented Reality, Virtual Worlds; 3D Printing
S-1 Lab Biosensors, Physical Computing, Speculative Interaction Design
Visualization and Interactive Systems Lab Data Mining, Network Analysis, Game Development
Wired! Lab for Digital Art History and Visual Culture 3D modeling, Photogrammetry, Digital Mapping, Museum Exhibitions
Digital Humanities (FHI and Libraries) Digital Publishing, Digital Archives, Text Analysis, Historical GIS, Social Media, Data Visualization

Our mutual understanding of digital media affordances will only expand as we develop advanced research within and across our fields of inquiry.

Practicum Experiences will include participation in regular Lab or Project meetings, active work on an ongoing project, and a tangible product at the end of the semester. The Lab or Project Director and affiliated personnel will supervise them. These experiences should be viewed as a mentored, project-based learning opportunity for the graduate students, where computational media approaches to historical, theoretical and/or artistic questions are explored through active engagement in digital production and research. They also provide opportunities for graduate students in the program to meet and work closely with other graduate students involved in the Labs and other interdisciplinary projects.

Practicum Experiences and opportunities will be developed in consultation with Lab Directors, ISS, FHI, the Library, Bass Connections and the Visualization and Interactive Systems group members.   The faculty leading the Labs or research projects would supervise them.

Selected Graduate Seminars

Professor Maurizio Forte

Museums And Virtual Museums In The 3rd Millennium

This course is an introductory overview of the modern definition of museum in relation to the development of new digital narratives and applications for cultural heritage such as the case of virtual museums. The transformation of museums in more dynamic, flexible and open institutions is a challenge of this century and, more importantly, this trend generates new job positions and different professional profiles at the level of cultural resource management, museum communication and technological research. The contemporary museums face actually new inter­disciplinary challenges in between tradition/conservation and innovation, whereas different ways of communication are required by a very demanding variety of visitors. The digital applications are progressively transforming the museums in dynamic interactive spaces and models, whereas the information process is the core rather than their collections and artifacts. This situation raises new and very advanced forms of communication that have still to be investigated. The first part of the course addresses multidisciplinary questions on the theoretical overview of museums and their social impact in the 3rd millennium. The second part of the course will be focused on museums and digital technologies. More specifically, how digital technologies are transforming mission, physiognomy and communication of museums.

Professor Mark Hansen

Space, Place, Movement, Media

This course will explore the changing meaning and materiality of space and place in the context of the computational revolution.  Focusing on media art and social media practices, we will explore various technological transformations of space (ubiquitous computing, locative media, RFID tagging, wireless networks, surveillance, etc.) in relation to now classic theorizations (Lefevbre, Soja, Harvey, Lynch, Jameson, etc.) and also to philosophical explorations of movement (from Aristotle, via Bergson, to the phenomenology of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Jan Patocka).  In our effort to theorize the transformation of spatial experience in our world today, we will attend to the correlation of space with place, as well as its historically momentous correlation with time.

Phenomenology and Media. ALP, CZ, CCI, STS, R

Course will focus on phenomenology both as a philosophical movement and as a resource for contemporary media theory. Attention will center on the classical phase of phenomenology (from Husserl to Merleau-Ponty), on more recent developments in phenomenology and post-phenomenology (Levinas, Derrida, Fink, Barbaras), and on correlations between phenomenology and media theory (Ihde, Stiegler, Flusser). Key topics will include: reduction, experience, time-consciousness, sensation, world manifestation, differance, reversibility, de-presencing, worldliness, readiness-to-hand and thrownness. Instructor: Hansen. CL- Art History 630S, Information Science and Information Studies 630S, Visual and Media Studies 630S, Arts of the Moving Image 631S.

Marxism and Media

In light of recent tactical alliances between corporate giants of the digital economy (Google and Facebook) and promoters of an open internet, it has never been more clear that media operate within the space of global capital and that their impact cannot be analyzed in isolation from the complex circuits that tie them to corporate interests.  This course will focus on the relation between capital and media from Marx to today with the dual aim of exploring how media functions within capital and how it can provide possibilities for subjectivation that cut against capital’s efforts to capture subjective time.  We will explore contemporary forms of recording, data-mining and predictive analytics with an eye to how they create new forms of value and new experiences of alienation. Particular attention will be paid to post-Autonomist work by (mainly) Italian authors and its actual and potential interface with contemporary media practice and the digital economy.

Professor N. Katherine Hayles

Comparative Media Studies. STS, ALP

Explores the impact of media forms on content, style, form, dissemination, & reception of literary & theoretical texts. Assumes media forms are materially instantiated & investigates their specificities as important factors in their cultural work. Puts different media forms into dialogue, including print, digital, sonic, kinematic & visual texts, & analyzes them within a theoretically informed comparative context. Focuses on twentieth & twenty-first century theories, literatures, & texts, esp. those participating in media upheavals subject to rapid transformations. Purview incl. transmedia narratives, where different versions of connected narratives appear in multiple media forms.

Professor Mark Olson

New Media, Memory, and the Visual Archive. ALP, STS

Explores impact of new media on the nature of archives as technologies of cultural memory and knowledge production. Sustained engagement with major theorists of the archive through the optics of “media specificity” and the analytical resources of visual studies. Themes include: storage capacity of media; database as cultural form; body as archive; new media and the documentation of “everyday life”; memory, counter-memory, and the politics of the archive; archival materiality and digital epheme­rality. Primary focus on visual artifacts (image, moving image) with consideration of the role of other sensory modalities in the construction of individual, institutional and collective memory. One course. C-L: Information Science and Information Studies 565S, Policy Journalism and Media

Physical Computing. QS, STS

Seminar in the algorithmic art & aesthetics of the “computational,” rather than the “clockwork universe,” “artificial life & cul­ture” and both natural and technological “evolutionary computation.” Emphasis on the medial physicality of both the underlying processes and the finished work. A cri­tique of art inspired by the complexity of the natural world, art which dynamical­ly instantiates those dynamics in works liberated from the conventional keyboard, mouse and display. Hands-on development of projects using “industrial strength” C/C++ for Windows, analog-to-digital converters and a variety of sensors and actuators in both a computer classroom and a lab workshop. No prerequisites. Instructor: Olson. One course.

Professor Scott Lindroth

Maps and Flows: Sonification and Auditory Display

Sonification entails representing multidimensional numerical data as sound.   While visualization of numerical data has been an area of research in science and visual arts departments, sonification has been less widely used, even though sound and music are ideal vehicles for representing multidimensional (i.e., polyphonic) data that changes over time.  We will explore practical musical strategies for mapping numerical data onto sound, as well as cultivate music that is enhanced by the poetic, expressive, anec­dotal, and perhaps political nature of the data.  Data sets include global climate measurements, Google n-grams, Twitter feeds, and motion data captured by web cameras.  This graduate course assumes familiarity with interactive music software tools such as MAX-MSP, SuperCollider, PD, or ChucK.

Interactive Music

This course focuses on the design of interactive motion-to-music systems, using web cameras and the Kinect camera with image pro­cessing to control the synthesis and performance of real time digital music. Course projects can include musical compositions as well as audio/media instal­lations. Students should be familiar with software tools such as MAX-MSP, SuperCollider, ChucK, or PD to do the class work.

Professor Bill Seaman

Insight Engine

The Insight Engine is a tool to empower insight production, distributed interdisciplinary team-based research, and to potentially enable bisociational processes as discussed by Arthur Koestler in The Act of Creation. The initial goal of the project is to create an interactive system to enable intelligent juxtaposition of relevant texts and media elements via focused interaction, dynamic computational functionality, and intellectual “seeding” of the system. The work is an interactive learning system that facilitates a unique new form of online research. The class will extend current research (the project was funded by DIBS for year 1) through the potential design and creation of additional functionalities, to augment the system.  The class will focus on individual and group-based projects including interface design, visualizations, simulations, code authorship (where appropriate), the exploration of virtual worlds, and/or specific datasets to later be nested at a deeper level in the system, or work in conjunction with the system. One focus of the class will be on the development of additional functionalities both in theory, and where possible, in practice (the development of new code). New forms of physical interface and human / computer interaction approaches will also be explored. Students will work in teams and/or on individual aspects of the project.

The Body as Electrochemical Computer – Toward a New Computational and Aesthetic Paradigm

This course will present differing disciplinary perspectives working toward articulating new understandings of the body. These observations will in turn be used to elucidate a new computational and aesthetic paradigm. Discussions/lectures will be drawn from the Arts, Humanities, Biology, Cognitive Science, Psychology, Robotics, Physics, Ethics, Artificial Intelligence, Anthropology, and other research areas. The course will present and critique current models of the brain/mind/body/environment from multiple scientific perspectives. Concurrently students will develop aesthetic, scientific and/or conceptual art approaches to the content both alone and/or in groups. The class will also include invited lectures related to disciplinary / interdisciplinary / trans-disciplinary topic areas, and the generation of highly focused working groups. These groups will work toward articulating bridging languages to enable researchers to talk across disciplinary domains concerning particular research problems that are developed as part of the class. In particular, approaches to the development of a biologically inspired electrochemical computer will be discussed and explored. A multi-modal database will be created to share knowledge across disciplines [and document research generated in the class]. The database will form a repository for new forms of imaging, textual production and data collection and will also be discussed and employed as a research tool via meta-tags and relational combinatorics. Students will be required to participate in ongoing discussion, as well as to develop particular aspects of research both individually and in groups. Each student will write a major research paper as a course requirement.

Professor John Supko 

Generative Media Authorship. (current title; could change for future semesters)

A graduate seminar designed & co-taught with Prof. Bill Seaman, Generative Media Authorship explores the implications of computer-based & sys­tems theory-related processes on the creation of media, including (but not limited to) sound, image & text.  Just a few of the topics to be discussed include:  the parameterization of everything, the modularization of every­thing, substitution sets, data filtering, cybernetics, cellular automata, finite & infinite games, interface design, generative images & text, media ecologies.

Max/MSP Seminar

A seminar in which students learn the widely-used object-based audio & visual programming language Max/MSP. Students will learn to code in Max through a series of creative projects informed by their own interests & practices as artists. Max/MSP provides artists not only with the tools to create content but also a limitless array of possibilities for designing systems that deploy their content.  Artists from a wide range of backgrounds use Max today:  from visual & installation artists to sound artists & composers.  Max/MSP has become a powerful expressive tool for any artist interested in the intersection of technology & art.

Professor Victoria Szabo

Digital Humanities: Theory and Practice. ALP, STS

Digital humanities theory and criticism. New modes of knowledge production in the digital era for humanists. Authoring and critiquing born digital projects as part of a theoretical, critical, and historical understanding of a special topic or theme in the humanities. Hands-on use of digital media hardware and software in combination with theoretical and critical readings for content analysis of text, images, audio, video and to create digital archives, databases, websites, environments, maps, and simulations. Independent digital projects + critical papers as final deliverables. Instructor: Szabo. One course. C-L: Visual and Media Studies 356S

Digital Places and Spaces: Mirror, Hybrid, and Virtual Worlds. ALP, SS, STS

History, theory, criticism, practice of creating digital places and spaces with maps, virtual worlds, and games. Links to “old,” analog media. Virtual environment and world-building and historical narrative, museum, mapping, and architectural practices. Project-based seminar course w/ critical readings, historical and contem­porary examples, world-building. Class exhibitions, critiques, and ongoing virtual showcase. Projects might include: web and multimedia, GPS and handheld data and media capture, 2D & 3D mapping, screen-based sims and game-engine based develop­ment, sensors and biometrics, and multimodal, haptic interfaces. Instructor: Szabo. One course. C-L: Visual and Media Studies 568S

Mapping Culture: Geographies of Space, Mind, and Power. STS, ALP, CZ

History and practice of mapping as cultural practice and technique of world-building and historical and cultural representation. Emphasis on interplay of cartographic imagination, lived experience, historical and narrative power. Readings in mapping history, critical cartography, pyscho-geography, art maps, cognitive mapping, network maps, and spatial theory as well as contemporary approaches and critiques to maps, culture, politics. Exploration of map-based visualizations as narrative/argumentative devices. Hands-on work with geographical information systems, digital mapping tools, data viz, and digital storytelling systems. Theory/practice seminar culminating in a final research project.

Professor Hans J. Van Miegroet

Art & Markets

Analytical study of the emergence of art markets as well as interactions between market behavior(s) and visual/media production. Database research of large aggregates of sales data, price formation, including linear and hedonic regression analyses of preferences over time. Economic roots of market behavior and art auctions, auction technologies, including e-auction. In addition, the seminar also covers new techniques to measure art consumption, past and present. Horizontal exploration of cultural production and local art markets, and their emergence throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Criteria for valuation of imagery or what makes art as a commodity desirable or fashionable and the role of art dealers as cross-cultural negotiants. Consent of instructor required. Instructor: Van Miegroet. C-L: ECON 321S; ARTHIST508S


Fundamentals of Web-Based Multimedia Communications. R, ALP, QS

Multimedia information systems, including presentation media, hypermedia, graphics, animation, sound, video, and integrated authoring techniques; underlying technologies that make them possible. Practice in the design innovation, programming, and assessment of web-based digital multimedia information systems. Intended for students in non-technical disciplines. Engineering or Computer Science students should take Engineering 206 or Computer Science 290. Instructor: Lucic Szabo

Visual Cultures of Medicine. ALP, STS

Exploration of the visual culture(s) of medicine. The changing role of diagnostic visuality and medical imaging from various philosophical and historical perspectives. The connections between medical ways of seeing and other modes of visuality, photography, cinema, television, computer graphics. The circulation of medical images and images of medicine in popular culture as well as in professional medical cultures. Instructor: Olson. One course. C-L: Information Science and Information Studies 279S

Alternate Reality Games. ALP, STS

Focus on Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) in theory and practice. ARG genre of interactive narrative. Real world as a game platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions. Direct interaction with characters in the game, plot-based challenges and puzzles, collaborative analysis of story and coordinated real-life and online activities. New media theory and history. Study of the most successful recent ARGs, exploration of alternate reality game design, collaborative construction of our own ARG. Individual and group projects, essays, and presentations. Lenoir. One course.

Wired! New Representational Technologies. ALP, CZ, STS

Research and study in material culture and the visual arts expressed by using new visual tech­no­logies to record and communicate complex sets of visual and physical data from urban and/or archaeological sites. Introduces techniques for the presentation and interpretation of visual material through a series of interpretative and recon­struc­tive technologies, including the development of web-pages (HTML/Dreamweaver), Photoshop, Illustrator, Google Sketch-up, Google Maps, and Flash. To develop techniques of interpretation and representation. Consent of instructor required. Instructor: Bruzelius and team. One course. C-L: ARTHIST 551LS / CMAC XXX

Virtual Worlds

The course is intended to provide an introduction to the theory and practice of three-dimensional virtual environments (VEs). Through in-class discussions of related literature, students will develop a critical understanding of the complex design issues involved in the development of complex interaction techniques for advanced three-dimensional visualization systems. Such critical understanding will empower students to propose and develop effective virtual worlds. During a semester-long project, students will be encouraged to exercise creativity while following a user-centered design process. Instructor: Regis Kopper. One course.

Technology and New Media: Academic Practice. STS, SS

How information technology and new media transform knowledge production in academic practice through hands-on work. Critique of emergent digital culture as it impacts higher education; assessing impact of integrating such tools into scholarly work and pedagogical practice. Modular instruction with guest specialists assisting with information technology tools and media authorship theory. Topics may include: web development, information visualization, time-based media, databases, ani­mations, virtual worlds and others. Theoretical readings; hands-on collaboration; ongoing application to individual student projects. Knowledge of basic web development, personal computer access recommended. Instructor: Szabo. One course.

Data Transformations

Creating mediated representations of data calls up many theoretical, practical, and ethical issues.  This course approaches the representation and dissemination of data through a review and analysis of common processes of transformation.  Data collection itself is a process of transforming real-world phenomena to constructed systems of measurement, a process that calls into question our ways of knowing what we know.  Digital transformations that “clean”, “process”, or “wrangle” data (e.g., discretization, interpolation, disambiguation) make data sets more suitable for the systems of analysis we have at our disposal, and those analyses have similarly mediated outputs (e.g., significance tests, visualizations, documentation).  This course will use projects, discussions, and papers to help students develop facility in practical transformation processes, as well as the critical application and interpretation of those transformations.  Instructor: Angela Zoss. One course. Offered once a year.