Tuesdays 1:30 - 5:30

Discussion and Project Studio

In this course we study the design of responsive environments: spaces augmented by computational media, mechatronics, and elements of animated, architecture in the built environment that respond to inhabitant activity.

We survey technologically mediated spaces, ranging from Situationist and other early modern experiments in public spaces, and theories of everyday life (Alexander, Gins and Arakawa, Hendricks, Goffman, Geetz, Lefebvre, Bachelard). In particular, we survey computationally augmented environments, so-called virtual reality and augmented reality systems. We will read articles from areas of current research in augmented reality, human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, and sensor networks. Particular applications appear in movement arts, performance, architecture, and urban design.

The technical focus is contemporary interventions using computational media, sensors, active materials, and responsive environments, including work ranging from Krueger to the present.

Students will have an opportunity to build responsive installations using physical computing and realtime media synthesis.


A prerequisite for this course is some technical facility with programming real-time systems, mechatronics or an interactive or realtime media authoring system (Max/MSP/Jitter), or working familiarity with materials: paper, print-making, metals, fabrics, etc. Students without such background may contact the instructor.


This class will be run as a combination of a theory seminar in which students will discuss their responses to the readings or artifacts and as a studio in which students will build and critique prototypes of responsive media environments.

Students will construct responses as short written texts, and as in-class presentations. The term project will be a working prototype of responsive media artifact or environment, to be designed and built in small teams.

You"ll be evaluated on the basis of your seminar participation and on your group project.



The WIKI contains readings, show and tell notes, and student projects.


Construction Resources

Sensors, Electronics and Physical Computing

Data from the physical world can come from a variety of sensors that detect bend, acceleration, incident light, sound and pressure. Conversely, we can use computational logic to move and otherwise physically change an environment.

For applications using sensors and effectors, Tom Igoe at ITP and Dan O'Sullivan at ITP have written a very good handbooks about physical computing :


http://fargo.itp.tsoa.nyu.edu/%7Edano/physical/physical.html .

The TML has some common tools and a few parts, including a BX-24 board which is commonly used for mapping between sensors or actuators and a Macintosh or PC serial port. We have software extensions for Max and Director to read serial data.

Jameco Electronics is a good source of electronics hardware.

A more sophisticated platform for wireless sensor experiments is the TinyOS mote developed at UC Berkeley. http://webs.cs.berkeley.edu/tos/


Realtime Media Authoring Software

MAX is a realtime control programming environment originally designed to coordinate MIDI-based instruments. It now has become a standard authoring and control system for interactive aural and visual environments, and as such is a convenient vehicle for experiments with time-based media in physical environments. References include http://www.synthesisters.com/download/MaxGettingStarted.pdf and http://www.synthesisters.com/download/MaxReference.pdf.

MSP is an extension of MAX to perform digital signal processing on data at audio rates. NATO is an extension of MAX that performs realtime video and some OpenGL 3D graphics transformations. MAX, MSP and NATO run under Macintosh OS.

PD is a more limited public domain analogue of MAX, written for UNIX and offhandedly for Windows. It's good as a training system if you can't get access to Max, but

jitter is an array-processing system that transforms video under MAX in realtime.

Other media authoring environments such as Director are fine as long as the source can be read and execuated by peers and instructor.


Physical Materials

As for physical media, we will rely on what tools and material are appropriate to the projects, and can be found ready to hand or can be easily manipulated on-site. Students will typically find their own materials.

We will also rely on expertise from related departments in affiliated schools.

For industrial fabrics and metal materials.



Class Mail list


Sostre de Flors, Casa Girbal, Girona, by 10x15 Col•lectiu; Jaume Blancafort | Ingrid Valero, 1997.
  TA Harry Smoak <harry@encs.concordia.ca> • http://topologicalmedialab.net