Sha Xin Wei

Fall 2002

M W 10-11:30 Skiles 349

F 10-11 IDT Lab

Explores the development of the representational power of the computer and the interplay between digital technology and culture. Surveys critical theories of technology and media and computation with an eye toward the notions of expressivity and computation. Covers a range of paradigms, including procedural, functional, lattice/cellular, realtime, and physical computing.


Computation and universal machine, Turing

Language its limits, Wittgenstein

Simulation, Baudrillard

Metaphor and cognitive science, Lakoff

Design, metaphor and phenomenology, Coyne

Anti-system and materiality, Deleuze & Guattari

Embodiment and affect, Massumi

Archeological gesture, Leroi-Gourhan

Calligraphy Games and performance art

Cultural gesture, Sha, Flusser, Ryan (music)

Dance, Forsythe

Architecture, Greg Lynn, Diller and Scofidio, et. al.

Responsive media spaces, TGarden



Programming Paradigms

Data structures and algorithms and computing architecture

  • lists, trees, graphs, grammars
  • databases
  • objects, optional: category theory

Procedural programming

  • DBN, Director Lingo (Hypercard)

Schema-based technologies

  • natural language processing
  • database
  • (XML PHP falls here)

Functional/declarative programming

  • LISP ... Mathematica pattern rewriting

Array programming (vectors, lattices)

  • Matlab, jitter

Programming Practice

  • naming, memory, scope, source control, debugging,...

Realtime media

  • MAX, MSP, NATO, jitter

Physical computing, sensors, actuators, embedded systems

  • sensors, tracking
  • actuators
  • PICs

Architecture/Operating systems/ Programming environments

  • processes
  • applications
  • data archiving, searching....
  • network

Programming Environments (Labs)

  • DreamWeaver
  • Director
  • Max/MSP


Director is a general purpose interactive media application authoring environment. It's the principle programming environment for media rich applications with general interaction logic.

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 and

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. Other media authoring environments such as Director, Flash or mTropolis are fine as long as the source can be read and executed by peers and instructor. 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 without access to studio facilitiies.

jitter is a realtime video processing system that actually can operate on arrays of up to 32 dimensions at video rates. jitter is a library running under MAX.


Provisional Readings

(will be selected mostly from this list)

Christopher Alexander, A Timeless Way of Building, Oxford University Press (1979) ISBN: 0195024028.

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, in Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism), Sheila Faria Glaser (Translator), University of Michigan Press; ISBN: 0472065211; (December 1994) .

Jean Baudrillard, ³Simulacra and Simulations,² from Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184.

Richard Coyne, Ch 5 Representation and Reality, ch 7 The Phenomenology of Virtual Reality, from Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age, From Method to Metaphor, MIT Press 1995.

Cycling74, MAX4 / MSP2 Documentation Set -- User Manuals & Tutorials,

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. Univ of Minnesota Press (1987) ISBN: 0816614024.

Vilém Flusser, Les Gestes, 1999.

Stefano Franchi, Endgames: Game and Play At the End of Philosophy, Stanford 1997.

Roselee Goldberg, Performance: Live Art Since 1960, Harry N Abrams; ISBN: 0810943603; (October 1998) .

Greg Lynn, Animate Form & ³ProbableGeometries.²

Ken Knabb (ed), Situationist International Anthology Edited and translated from the French by Ken Knabb 1981 (2nd printing 1989; 3rd printing 1995).

Rem Koolhaas, Stefano Boeri, Sanford Kwinter, Nadia Tazi, Daniela Fabricius. Mutations: Harvard Project on the City, Actar Editorial (2001) ISBN: 8495273519.

George Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind, University of Chicago Press (Trd); ISBN: 0226468046; Reprint edition (April 1990)

John Maeda, Paola Antonelli , Design By Numbers, hc: 250 pages ; Publisher: MIT Press; ISBN: 0262133547; (May 7, 1999)

Brian Massumi, Movement, Affect, Sensation: Parables for the Virtual, Duke University Press, 2002.

Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Shambhala Publications; ISBN: 0877736421; Revised edition (March 1998).

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics ppk: 224 pages ; Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press; ISBN: 006097625X; Reprint (May 1994)

Joel Ryan, ³Some Remarks on Musical Instrument Design at STEIM ³, Computer Music Review.

Sha Xin Wei, System architectures ³MediaWeaver.² ³ScholarlySpaces.² "Resistance Is Fertile: Gesture and Agency in Responsive Media."

Alan Turing, ³Computing Machinery and Intelligence,² Mind.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, tr. G. E. M. Anscombe, 2nd ed., paperback, Blackwell Publishers (1998).


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