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14 APRIL 2012

Syllabus for Information Aesthetics at UIC School of Art and Design

"This studio course investigates the database as cultural form (Manovich, 2001), in the context of data visualization, digital fabrication, and computational aesthetics. Traditionally viewed as a tool for scientific reasoning and data exploration, information visualization has emerged as an artistic practice, propelled by the democratization of data sources and the advancement of computer graphics. The massive amount of data collected and disseminated online constitutes the basis for this course. Participants will be introduced to the basic skills for developing creative projects in two–, three–, and four dimensions, such as indexes, graphs, prints, digitally fabricated objects and maps. Students will also become familiar with the a basic vocabulary to co–create and collaborate with professionals in future contexts.

The course focuses on current standards for web development and mobile applications, including HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, PHP, MySQL, and Processing(.js). Fundamentals in XHTML, Cascading Style Sheets, and programming are beneficial, but not required. Throughout the course, students are asked to utilize the class blog to collect and share resources, collaboratively collecting interesting data sources towards a final project. A series of presentations, screenings, readings, and discussions will expose students to creative projects and artworks in the context of information visualization. Each student selects a research topic followed by an in–class research presentation (see schedule). Participants will also present their work during class critiques and interdisciplinary workshops to receive qualitative feedback from the instructor(s) and the class."

(Daniel Sauter, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Art and Design, Fall 2011)

Fig.1 Matt Wizinsky (2011). "Chicago unDensity", University of Illinois at Chicago.



2011 • cascading style sheets • Chicago • Chicago unDensity • class blog • class critiques • collaboration • collaboratively collecting • College of Architecture and the Arts • communication design educationcomputational aestheticscomputer graphics • course curriculum • creative projectsCSSCSS3cultural formscurriculum designdata • data exploration • data visualisationdatabase as cultural form • democratisation of data sources • design studiodigital fabrication • digitally fabricated objects • HTML5 • Illinois • information aestheticsinformation graphicsinformation visualisationinteractive tool • interdisciplinary workshops • jQueryLev Manovichmapmobile applicationsMySQLPHPProcessing (software)programming • qualitative feedback • research topicSchool of Art and Designstudio coursestudio programmesyllabus • tools for scientific reasoning • UIC • University of Illinois • University of Illinois at Chicago • visual vocabularyvisualisationweb developmentXHTML


Simon Perkins

Revisiting Craft 2: Tools of Craftsmanship

"To McCullough, computer animation, geometric modeling, spatial databases–in general, all forms of media production or design–can be said to be 'crafted' when creators 'use limited software capacities resourcefully, imaginatively, and in compensation for the inadequacies of prepackaged, hard–coded operations' (21).... Again, as Sennett suggests, we 'assert our own individuality' against the prepackaged, predetermined processes and limitations of the tools we're using. Craftsmanship, says aesthetic historian David Pye, is 'workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment [sic], dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works' (45).

'Workmanship engages us with both functional and aesthetic qualities. It conveys a specific relation between form and content, such that the form realizes the content, in a manner that is enriched by the idiosyncrasies of the medium' (McCullough p.203). '[E]ach medium,' McCullough says, 'is distinguished by particular vocabulary, constructions, and modifiers, and these together establish within it a limited but rich set of possibilities' (McCullough p.230). Similarly, each methodology, or each research resource, has its own particular vocabulary, constructions, modifiers, obligations, and limitations. We need to choose our tools with these potentially enriching, and just as potentially debilitating, idiosyncrasies in mind. Do we need advanced software, or will iMovie suffice? Do we need to record an focus group in video–or will the presence of the camera compromise my rapport with my interviewee? Will an audio recording be more appropriate? Do we need to conduct primary interviews if others have already documented extensive interviews with these same subjects? Do we need to conduct extensive, long–term field–work–or can we accomplish everything in a short, well–planned research trip? How do I match my problem or project to the most appropriate tool?"

(Shannon Mattern, Words in Space)

Malcolm McCullough, Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996).




aesthetic qualitiesaestheticsapparatusartistic practicecomputer animation • constructions • craftedcraftsmanshipcraftworkcreative practicecritical theorycultural technology • David Pye • design methodology • design possibilities • design vocabulary • dexterity • experimentationform and contentform realises content • functional qualities • geometric modelling • hard-coded operations • imaginative • iMovie • insightjudgement • limitations • maker • Malcolm McCullough • media productionmedium • modifiers • pre-packaged • research • resourcefulness • Richard Sennett • software capacities • spatial databases • techniquetheory buildingtool • tools of craftsmanship • truth to materialsvisual vocabularyvocabulary • workmanship


Simon Perkins
29 JULY 2005

Information Architecture and Interaction Design Visual Vocabulary

"Diagrams are an essential tool for communicating information architecture and interaction design in Web development teams. ... A visual vocabulary is a set of symbols used to describe something (usually a system, structure, or process). When describing information architecture, the diagram should emphasise conceptual structure and organisation of content. Note that conceptual structure is not the same as navigational structure. The objective of the information architecture diagram is not to provide a full–blown navigational specification; this level of detail is best kept in other documents, where it is less likely to confuse and distract.When describing interaction design, the diagram should emphasise how the user flows through defined tasks, and what the discrete steps are within these tasks. As with navigation, details of interface should not appear in the diagram –– if you find yourself drawing buttons and fields, you're probably loading the diagram down with excess detail."
(Jesse James Garrett)



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