Posted by: admin on: April 17, 2011

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“We have designed our civilization based on science and technology and at the same time arranged things so that almost no one understands anything at all about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster” — Carl Sagan

Teaching Art, Technology and Science.

On the one hand it seems odd that we would need to implement a course dealing with Art, Science and Technology. Somehow the disciplines have been entangled since their beginnings. Art has always made use of available technologies, technologies often pioneered by science and engineering. Art and science have always been cousins due to their exploratory and experimental nature. Is there a fundamental difference between a scientist and an artist?

On the other hand the 20th century was a time when tremendous leaps were achieved in science and technology, the industrial revolution’s advances created a shift in the entanglement of technology and science with art. By the middle of the century an artist had little to do, culturally, with science and technology. However in the mid 90s we witnessed a progressive closing of this gap. Cheap and accessible computing resources empowered the artists to increasingly use technology to explore and create. New, technology-powered and science-based, art forms emerged: hybrid media, digital media, environmental art, genetic art, interconnected media etc. One could argue that the advances in science and technology were so massive that it was just a matter of time for art to catch up and integrate them.

Thanks to technology, science and art are getting closer again. The aim of this curriculum is to train students in bridging this closing gap through corss-disciplinary studies.

Course Philosophy

This course is designed to offer students introductory level exposure, exploration and learning in the connected and overlapping fields of art, science and technology. In a studiolab environment, the interplay of the following disciplines is articulated and explored through a series of  lectures, readings, theory modules, practical projects and collaborative explorations in the following areas:

  • Audio, Visual and Interactive Arts
  • Programming, Scripting and Automation
  • Physical Computing, Robotics, Networking.

The Programming aspect of the classes is focused on simplified programming through the use of the Processing platform. Similarly the Audio, Visual and Interactive Arts dimension of the course is centered around technology provided by the Pure Data (open-source) and/or MAX/MSP/Jitter (commercial) applications. Finally the Physical Computing section uses Arduino as a platform. Arduino works very well with the other platforms mentionned above which allows the learning to become well rounded and integrated. The simple, open-source, application core is designed to be accessible to students with different background and academic goals while at the same time allowing for connections with all the fields that could be explored. Furthermore the studiolab experience gained using the tools will be applicable in most fields students will engage afterwards.

For the collaborative explorations the course is very open as far as what areas/fields are concerned. The purpose is to prevent mimicking of existing works (a not-so-obvious form of plagiarism). Projects could range from locative art, to socially networked objects to algorithmic ikebana! Although the associations are boundless the individual fields are delimited as follows (for now):

Course Description

The two semester, 30 weeks curriculum takes students through a theoretical, practical and explorative path through the interconnected fields of art, technology and science. It is a cross-disciplinary course that integrates materials and ideas from all disciplines and combination of disciplines. It is commonplace that the same technology can be used for art and science, technology becoming a binding factor and a single vehicle for both research and creation. What is the difference between a studio and a lab? Welcome to the studiolab!

Throughout the course, after an evaluation of students backgrounds and aspirations, there is an alternating rhythm of theory, analysis and practical activities. The first semester is devoted to acquiring a basic understanding of how connections can be made between art and science through technology as well as an historical understanding of the integration of the disciplines. This includes studying existing works and artists who have demonstrated a sense of innovation in crossing boundaries and building bridges between areas that were not previously connected.

The second semester is geared toward guiding students to create their own connections and explorations, the emphasis is less on theory and practical exercises and more on imagination, development, analysis, problem solving and implementation.

Course Structure

The curriculum spans two semester.

During the first semester the foundations of sounds, images and logic are taught both through introductory theory and practical exercises. The approach toward art in sounds and images is from the perspective of science and centered around technological processes. This progresses with practical applications at the convergence of science, art and technology. Students also write two 1500 word essays during each semester in order to practice analysis, develop the language and communication skills that are valuable in interfacing with artists and technologists from various backgrounds.

The classes use [wikipop search=”open-source software”]open-source[/wikipop] materials and software to enable students to experiment and learn from a multitude of formats and approaches and also to stay clear of marketplace constraints and prejudice thus retaining academic integrity. Because today the strongest bridge between science and art is built through computational technology this course has a strong emphasis on processing ideas and the world digitally. There is also a strong physical computing component that brings playfullness, human interaction, and everyday objects into perspective. Everyday art, everyday science, everyday technology.

The course concludes with an art/science fair where students exhibit their last project consisting of a collaborative exploration in the fields or art, science and technology.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the common grounds of art & science through digital and physical technology;
  • Develop a historical and current understanding of the dynamics between art, science and technology;
  • Integrate logical and science-based practice into the creative process (and vice versa);
  • Cultivate awareness of the entanglements of art and science in the social and human context;
  • Gain language and communication skills pertaining to the overlapping areas of art, technology and science;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how cross-disciplinary practice brings positive phenomena to society as a whole;
  • Achieve independence as thinkers, imagineers and doers;
  • Understand the fast moving nature and the impermanence of the connections between disciplines and their forms.

Meta Topics

In addition to the theory and practical aspects of the course an overview of the development and current facets of the relationships between art, science and technology will be presented, including but not limited to:

  • Remixability
  • Impact of technology on media
  • Hybrid media
  • Algorithm as media
  • Evolving form
  • Personalization
  • Social media
  • Cross-fertilization


Accessible from the Fall and Spring tabs on this site.

Textbooks – Semester 1

Textbooks – Semester 2


See also the Resource tab on this site for more to read, watch and listen.

nam june paik (1974)