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Course Syllabus

Course Information

ATEC 6331.001: Aesthetics of Interactive Arts
Tuesday 4.00-6.45 pm, Conference Room

Professor Contact Information

Dr. Mihai Nadin
ATEC Building, Office 1.808
(972) 883-2832
Office Hours: by appointment

Course Pre-requisites, Co-requisites, and/or Other Restrictions
This is a required graduate class. If an undergraduate student wishes to take it, ATEC approval is

Course Description

Aesthetics is present in everything we do. It is the underlying “logic of senses,” and as such it is
expressed in the ways in which we perceive the world. It also guides in the making of new
aesthetic entities (in particular interactive arts, a very fast expanding field of aesthetic relevance).

Students in this class will practice aesthetics as it relates to their educational focus. The outcome
of this class is expressed in:

a) Knowledge of aesthetics as it shaped, and continues to shape, human activity

b) Aesthetic skills expressed in aesthetic value judgments and aesthetic innovation in the
age of interactive media and computational design

c.) Aesthetic competence corresponding to the fast dynamics of digital expression

The class will engage students in reading and reporting on foundational texts, in particular,
informational aesthetics. Students will also explore the aesthetics of innovation and aesthetic
experiment. Guest lecturers will cover the “hot” topics of current developments (interactivity,
immersion, virtuality, etc.). New media is of particular interest to our explorations. You, the
students in the class, are asked to practice aesthetics. Students are encouraged to post class-work
on the website conceived for this class. Given the many choices open to students in ATEC, the
class will also serve as an open forum for defining the students’ focus in the program.

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Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

The outcome of this graduate class can be compared to the outcome of a class in mathematics for
future scientists and engineers. Indeed, they will not become mathematicians, but should
be able to apply the powerful means of mathematics to the problems they will solve as
scientists or engineers. Mathematics is foundational for them; aesthetics is foundational
for you, whether you will work in emerging media, games, design, digital arts.
In our class, aesthetics is seen as the “mathematics” of art and design. More precisely, it provides
a foundation for understanding the characteristics of interactive arts, for experimenting,
for advancing innovation. For being creative. Concretely, students will explore:
a) Knowledge of aesthetics, as it shaped, and it continues to shape, human activity in
general, and in particular the emerging interactive forms of aesthetic expression
b) Aesthetic skills, expressed in aesthetic value judgments and aesthetic innovation in the
age of interactive media and computational design.
c) Aesthetic judgment as an expression of aesthetic knowledge-based evaluation.

Required Textbooks and Materials

Mihai Nadin, The Civilization of Illiteracy, Book IV, Chapter 1 (Language and the
Visual), Chapter 8 (Art(ifacts) and Aesthetic Processes), Chapter 10 (The Sense of
Design), and Book V, Chapter 1 (The Interactive Future: Individual, Community and
Society in the Age of the Web). Additionally: The chapters “Language and the Visual”
(pp. 321-352); “Science and Philosophy” (especially pp. 511-524); “The Sense of
Design” (pp. 590-611); and “A Sense of the Future” (pp. 729-767) will be discussed in
class. This book is available in its entirety on several Websites ( or on
Google Books). A limited number of copies will be available at the University Bookstore,
at a discounted price for students. The UTD library owns also the book.

Mihai Nadin, Anticipation—The End Is Where We Start From. Basel: Muller Verlag,
2003. It will be made available in the University Bookstore at a discounted price for
students. The UTD library has the book.

Mercedes Vilanova and Frederic Chorda, A Mind at Work, Synchron Publishers, 2003,
pp. 7-32 and 167-197. The book is available in the UTD library. Plus: you can access it

Mihai Nadin, Science and Beauty: Aesthetic structuring of Knowledge, Leonardo, 24/1,
1991. The article will be made available to students.

Mihai Nadin, Emergent Aesthetics. Aesthetic Issues in Computer Arts, Leonardo, Special
Issue: Computer Art in Context, August 1989. The article will be made available to

Malcolm Gladwell, The formula. What if you built a machine to predict hit movies? In
The New Yorker, 10/16, 2006. The article will be made available to students. It is also
posted on the website of The New Yorker.

Gaut, Berys Nigel and Lopes, Dominic, The Routledge companion to aesthetics
[electronic resource], NetLibrary, 2005. Available as eBook at the McDermott Library of

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computer art. To be provided online or print-out.

Suggested Course Materials

Storage (regardless of the procedure): Maintain a digital library of examples (painting,
sculpture, music, literature, computer art, interactive works, etc.) to be shared in
class. Strictly adhere to academic and intellectual property procedures when
quoting a work or when presenting it as an example. Do not present the same work
in two different classes.

Assignments & Academic Calendar

Week 1
Aggregate class profile – a short anonymous test
Introduction to Aesthetics
Assignment 1: Dallas is home to some of the most intriguing architectural
works. Research the buildings conceived by leading architects of our time and
define the aesthetics of one of these buildings. Your submission will consist of a
paper identifying the results of your research (who, what, when, where, critical
commentaries, etc.) and of a visual presentation of the example you chose. This
visual presentation (video, or photos, or drawings) will also specifically define
the aesthetics of the architecture.
Assignment due: Week 5

Assignment 2: Read Art(ifacts) and Aesthetic Processes in The Civilization of
Illiteracy (pp. 534-571, Book IV, chapter 8). Write a 1-page synthesis on “What I
understood from what I read?” To this one page add 5 examples that illustrate the
ideas in this chapter and your understanding of aesthetic processes..
Assignment due: Week 2

Week 2:
Aesthetics Method
Submit Assignment 2

Week 3:
Aesthetics of Art—the 21st Century
In preparation for this class, visit the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Choose one work, and document your aesthetic criteria, i.e., why you chose that
particular work. (Remember, criteria is plural; give more than one criterion.)
Document also the aesthetics of the work chosen.
Each student will show in class his or her choice and will explain selection
criteria in the class discussion.

Week 4:
Sampling: interactive arts methods
Read The Civilization of Illiteracy (pp. 193-199, in particular the Sampling
section). The class will focus on

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This is an online music video project mixed from samples of YouTube videos.
Time magazine called it one of the 50 best inventions of 2009.
Students will discuss in class the various aspects of originality in a context of
reciprocal influence and new understandings of intellectual property.

After viewing ThruYOU, open source advocate Lawrence Lessig praised the
project as a pioneer of a new, less regulated form of media, saying:
"If you come to the Net armed with the idea that the old system of copyright is
going to work just fine here, this more than anything is going to get you to
recognize: you need some new ideas…”
What do you learn from the experience of a global platform?
Reminder: Assignment 1 due next week.

Week 5:
Aesthetics in the age of computation. Interactive media.
Class presentation of Assignment 1. Each student has 5 minutes.

Assignment 3: Read “Language and the Visual” in The Civilization of Illiteracy,
pp. 321-345 (Book IV, Chapter 1). Write a 1-page synthesis on: “What did you
understand from what you read?” To this 1 page add 5 examples that illustrate
the ideas in this chapter.
Assignment due: Week 6

Week 6:
Anticipation and aesthetics. Creativity

Your final project for this semester is Anticipation and Creativity.
Just to suggest a possible approach, look at:
Consult also:

To create means to make possible something that did not exist before. The class
will discuss the foundations for understanding creativity as the most
important aesthetic characteristic of your future activity.
Each student will work on a creative multimedia project to document the various
aspects of creativity. It can be a video (which is already multimedial), a game; it
can be an interactive installation, etc. It CANNOT be a PowerPoint! You decide
based upon your own competence. If several students, with different skills, would
like to carry out the project as a group, this is acceptable. Of course, each
contribution will have to be well defined.

Assignment 4: Script and production plan for your multimedia final project..
Read Nadin, Anticipation – The end is where we start from.
Deadline for Assignment 4: Week 10

Each student will meet with the professor on an individual basis (Schedule to
accommodate individual time limitations)
Plan your final project. Prepare a timeline. Don’t procrastinate!

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Week 7:
Is aesthetics deterministic?

Assignment 5: Can you imagine a machine that will generate aesthetic artifacts?
Based upon the purpose you define for your aesthetic machine, prepare a
presentation to the class of how such a machine would work and what kind of
artifacts it would eventually produce. You can use digital means (such as
modeling, software, animation, interactive diagrams). Or you can use traditional
means (clay, wood, or paper models). The project and your current competence
dictate the medium you will use. However, you will have to justify your choice
of medium and explain how the machine you conceived works.
Within 4 weeks (class on Week 12), “make” an aesthetic machine: a program, a
device, or an illustration. Show the input variables, the machine state, the output.
Make a professional presentation of your machine.

Presentation in class: Week 12

Reading: Malcolm Gladwell, “The formula. What if you built a machine to
predict hit movies?” In The New Yorker, 10/16, 2006.

Week 8:
Aesthetics of games, virtual reality, visualization.

The class will discuss the aesthetics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and of its
various interpretations: e.g., Jimmy Hendrix, José Feliciano, Marvin Gaye, etc.

Week 9:
How do we evaluate the aesthetics of interactive arts?

Week 10
Class presentation of scripts/storyline for your multimedia project on anticipation
and creativity. Open forum on questions of interest to the class pertinent to the
aesthetics of interactive arts.

Assignment 6: Submit 4 different images to This is
an online system that rates images by aesthetic quality.
In parallel, have your images rated by your colleagues, family members, friends.
Present your findings in the next class (Week 11). Each student has 7 minutes
for the presentation.

Week 11:
Assignment 6 due:

1. Present your findings regarding the rating of images
a) Define the subject: How do they do it? What is the intention? How good
are they?
b) Define the difference between the performance of the website and that of
living subjects.

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c) Define criteria for evaluation (NB: criteria is plural; make sure you have
more than one criterion).

Week 12:
Information aesthetics

Present your aesthetic machine

Assignment 7: Read “Science and Beauty” in Mind at Work, pp. 177-188. Write
a 1-page summary of the ideas. Present your own examples of how the ideas
from the text would have to be formulated in OUR days.
Assignment due: Week 13.

Week 13:
Aesthetics in context.
Assignment 7 due.

Week 14:
What do we learn from the aesthetics of other cultures? Aesthetics in the
context of the global economy.
Each student will contribute examples from his/her own culture.

Week 15:
Class presentation of Anticipation and Originality video. By this day, your
videos have to be posted on YouTube!

Evaluate your own project. Evaluate the work of your colleagues.
This being a graduate class, with a strong emphasis on research, you will practice
peer-review of your classmates work. Keep in mind: The greatest cruelty is
misguided compassion.

Grading Policy

During the Semester, reading, independent research, acquisition of software skills and class
participation – in the form of short presentations and discussions – will be evaluated. All students
in the class have access to the submissions of their colleagues. You have the opportunity to learn
from others. You have also the opportunity to interact with others. The final project, supposed to
be the expression of your semester-long research and independent work – will make up 50% of
your grade. The remaining 50% will be accumulated through class attendance, class participation,
and weekly assignments. The following is a breakdown of the grades:
Attendance 10%
Class Participation 25%
Individual Assignments 30%

Final Project & Presentation 35%
The evaluation of each student by the class is an expression of the graduate level work
expected from all students.

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Course & Instructor Policies

All work must be presented in on time to the class. Class attendance is very important. Make
sure you are on time and ready to learn! Research drives the entire work.

Field Trip Policies

Some assignments require that you visit some Dallas locations on your own Please take such
visits seriously since they will serve as a basis for your work.

Student Conduct & Discipline

The University of Texas System and The University of Texas at Dallas have rules and regulations
for the orderly and efficient conduct of their business. It is the responsibility of each student and
each student organization to be knowledgeable about the rules and regulations which govern
student conduct and activities. General information on student conduct and discipline is contained
in the UTD publication, A to Z Guide, which is provided to all registered students each academic

The University of Texas at Dallas administers student discipline within the procedures of
recognized and established due process. Procedures are defined and described in the Rules and
Regulations, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System, Part 1, Chapter VI, Section 3, and
in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities of the university’s Handbook of Operating
Procedures. Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the
Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist students in interpreting the rules and
regulations (SU 1.602, 972/883-6391).

A student at the university neither loses the rights nor escapes the responsibilities of citizenship.
He or she is expected to obey federal, state, and local laws as well as the Regents’ Rules,
university regulations, and administrative rules. Students are subject to discipline for violating the
standards of conduct whether such conduct takes place on or off campus, or whether civil or
criminal penalties are also imposed for such conduct.

Academic Integrity

The faculty expects from its students a high level of responsibility and academic honesty. Because
the value of an academic degree depends upon the absolute integrity of the work done by the
student for that degree, it is imperative that a student demonstrate a high standard of individual
honor in his or her scholastic work.

Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, statements, acts or omissions related to
applications for enrollment or the award of a degree, and/or the submission as one’s own work or
material that is not one’s own. As a general rule, scholastic dishonesty involves one of the
following acts: cheating, plagiarism, collusion and/or falsifying academic records. Students
suspected of academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Plagiarism, especially from the web, from portions of papers for other classes, and from any other
source is unacceptable and will be dealt with under the university’s policy on plagiarism (see
general catalog for details). This course will use the resources of, which searches the
web for possible plagiarism and is over 90% effective.

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Email Use

The University of Texas at Dallas recognizes the value and efficiency of communication between
faculty/staff and students through electronic mail. At the same time, email raises some issues
concerning security and the identity of each individual in an email exchange. The university
encourages all official student email correspondence be sent only to a student’s U.T. Dallas email
address and that faculty and staff consider email from students official only if it originates from a
UTD student account. This allows the university to maintain a high degree of confidence in the
identity of all individual corresponding and the security of the transmitted information. UTD
furnishes each student with a free email account that is to be used in all communication with
university personnel. The Department of Information Resources at U.T. Dallas provides a method
for students to have their U.T. Dallas mail forwarded to other accounts.

Withdrawal from Class

The administration of this institution has set deadlines for withdrawal of any college-level courses.
These dates and times are published in that semester's course catalog. Administration procedures
must be followed. It is the student's responsibility to handle withdrawal requirements from any
class. In other words, I cannot drop or withdraw any student. You must do the proper paperwork
to ensure that you will not receive a final grade of "F" in a course if you choose not to attend the
class once you are enrolled.

Student Grievance Procedures

Procedures for student grievances are found in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities,
of the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures.

In attempting to resolve any student grievance regarding grades, evaluations, or other fulfillments
of academic responsibility, it is the obligation of the student first to make a serious effort to
resolve the matter with the instructor, supervisor, administrator, or committee with whom the
grievance originates (hereafter called “the respondent”). Individual faculty members retain
primary responsibility for assigning grades and evaluations. If the matter cannot be resolved at
that level, the grievance must be submitted in writing to the respondent with a copy of the
respondent’s School Dean. If the matter is not resolved by the written response provided by the
respondent, the student may submit a written appeal to the School Dean. If the grievance is not
resolved by the School Dean’s decision, the student may make a written appeal to the Dean of
Graduate or Undergraduate Education, and the deal will appoint and convene an Academic
Appeals Panel. The decision of the Academic Appeals Panel is final. The results of the academic
appeals process will be distributed to all involved parties.

Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of
Students, where staff members are available to assist students in interpreting the rules and

Incomplete Grade Policy

As per university policy, incomplete grades will be granted only for work unavoidably missed at
the semester’s end and only if 70% of the course work has been completed. An incomplete grade
must be resolved within eight (8) weeks from the first day of the subsequent long semester. If the
required work to complete the course and to remove the incomplete grade is not submitted by the
specified deadline, the incomplete grade is changed automatically to a grade of F.

Disability Services

The goal of Disability Services is to provide students with disabilities educational opportunities
equal to those of their non-disabled peers. Disability Services is located in room 1.610 in the

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Student Union. Office hours are Monday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday and
Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The contact information for the Office of Disability Services is:
The University of Texas at Dallas, SU 22
800 West Campbell Road
Richardson, Texas 75080-3021
(972) 883-2098 (voice or TTY)

Essentially, the law requires that colleges and universities make those reasonable adjustments
necessary to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. For example, it may be necessary
to remove classroom prohibitions against tape recorders or animals (in the case of dog guides) for
students who are blind. Occasionally an assignment requirement may be substituted (for example,
a research paper versus an oral presentation for a student who is hearing impaired). Classes
enrolled students with mobility impairments may have to be rescheduled in accessible facilities.
The college or university may need to provide special services such as registration, note-taking, or
mobility assistance.

It is the student’s responsibility to notify his or her professors of the need for such an
accommodation. Disability Services provides students with letters to present to faculty members
to verify that the student has a disability and needs accommodations. Individuals requiring special
accommodation should contact the professor after class or during office hours.

Religious Holy Days

The University of Texas at Dallas will excuse a student from class or other required activities for
the travel to and observance of a religious holy day for a religion whose places of worship are
exempt from property tax under Section 11.20, Tax Code, Texas Code Annotated.

The student is encouraged to notify the instructor or activity sponsor as soon as possible regarding
the absence, preferably in advance of the assignment. The student, so excused, will be allowed to
take the exam or complete the assignment within a reasonable time after the absence: a period
equal to the length of the absence, up to a maximum of one week. A student who notifies the
instructor and completes any missed exam or assignment may not be penalized for the absence. A
student who fails to complete the exam or assignment within the prescribed period may receive a
failing grade for that exam or assignment.

If a student or an instructor disagrees about the nature of the absence [i.e., for the purpose of
observing a religious holy day] or if there is similar disagreement about whether the student has
been given a reasonable time to complete any missed assignments or examinations, either the
student or the instructor may request a ruling from the chief executive officer of the institution, or
his or her designee. The chief executive officer or designee must take into account the legislative
intent of TEC 51.911(b), and the student and instructor will abide by the decision of the chief
executive officer or designee.

Off-Campus Instruction and Course Activities

Off-campus, out-of-state, and foreign instruction and activities are subject to state law and
University policies and procedures regarding travel and risk-related activities. Information
regarding these rules and regulations may be found at the website address given below.
Additional information is available from the office of the school dean.
( Affairs/Travel_Risk_Activities.htm)

These descriptions and timelines are subject to change as the class requires.

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