Course Syllabus

Ryerson University, School of Image Arts, New Media Program

Syllabus – Fall 2011

MPM 17A: Research for Experience Design

Course Director: Dr. Alexandra Bal
Office: RCC 321
416-979-5000, ext. 6880;

Office hours by appointment made at least 24 hrs in advance via email.

Mondays: 12:00 to 13:00
Wednesdays: 12:00 to 13:00

Calendar Description: MPM   17A – 011   Research for Experience Design-A

This foundational research studio will build upon strategies presented in Introduction to Computing for Experience Design. Students will develop and hone the intellectual and learning skills needed to develop professional level abilities in the areas of critical thinking, proposal writing, project production, and the development of a public presentation strategy. To this end, students will be exposed to a variety of research, design and creative processes. Through conceptually and historically grounded production exercises, students will engage in reflective practices. Working individually and in small groups, students will be encouraged to evolve their own artistic thematic and formal concerns through guided production.

Lecture/ Studio: 3 hours.

Course Objectives: In the context of new media practices this course aims to facilitate the following:

  • Creative research skills
  • Web use and production skills
  • Public presentation skills
  • Collaborative practices
  • Introduction to research tools
  • An understanding of experience design in the context of emerging new media practices

My goals for this course is to help you develop the tools necessary to create your own unique practice. The course will therefore facilitate learning processes that will increase your comfort and confidence with new media technology and ground your new media practice in critical reflection, to insure that you become used to recognize assumptions, evaluate arguments, and appraise inferences in your technical and creative research for experience design.

We will conduct three type of research: creative, technological and academic research.  Through problem solving and experiential learning approaches, the course is designed to help you develop and/or enhance three areas of development:  your reflective and creative thinking abilities; your independent learning style; and your study skills. This in order to help you develop the skills and methodologies necessary to develop experience design and a new media practice.

In terms of technological research, we will focus on web-based technologies:

  • Basic HTML (hand coded)  or HTML5 (if you are an advance coder)
  • CSS design
  • Web 2.0 (indexing, social media, virtual worlds)

Through these technologies you will explore the basic design principles inherent to distributed interactive and social experiences production and explore some of the fundamental concepts of networked culture.

In terms of creative research, we will focus on developing a broader context for new media art and design. To this end we will research creative practices in:

  • Web Design
  • Simulation

In terms of academic research, we will explore some of the current thinking related to new media and mixed realities. To this end, we will enhance our literacy related to network culture by exploring:

  • Virtual Worlds
  • Open Source
  • Remix Culture
  • Peer to peer culture

Course Philosophy: As sensors, data and algorithms join lens-based technologies such as cameras to make up the communicator’s toolbox, meaning creation, no longer restrained to the optical frame, involves fluid relationships among and between subjects and objects. If the use of networks influence image making practices, as examined during the fall term, new cultures have also emerged where media has become a social environment and a place of action. Online communities focused on peer-to-peer activities and open source production models have given rise to a virtual network culture that is influencing physical reality.

Mixed realities now blend virtual and physical media spaces where modes of production and distribution focus on network public co-experienced, co-produced and co-distributed mediated experiences.  This network social network culture has its own specific ways of thinking, learning and knowing which is generating specific forms of artistic and cultural practice, communication, interactivity, community and identity. To better understand the network culture(s) and the potential of new media students are invited to participate in exploring network cultures and engage in hybrid practices grounded in social experience and interactivity.

Academic Focus and Scope: Providing a framework for students to expand their thinking about new media in relation to experiential design, this course will focus on research concerned with network culture. Through small productions, oral and mediated presentations students will articulate concerns within a broad social context that are relevant to experiential media.

Teaching Mode: The experiential pedagogical approach is intended to enable students to transform information gathered from a variety of sources into knowledge and to express that knowledge using appropriate media. Classes are structured in ways that respect students as thinking artists engaged in the creation of insightful, meaningful and inventive work. Critical, creative and engaged dialogue is encouraged and expected.

Learning Mode: As active participants in your own educational experience, you are expected to engage creatively in the process of learning, knowledge invention and problem solving on your journey towards becoming new media practitioners.

This course is also designed to help you develop the research and the learning skills required for technical production. In order to insure that you learn, or advance your abilities, to autonomously learn new technologies, the course uses problem-solving approaches to learning.

This term will focus on Internet production skills and on continuing to develop collaborative as well as problem solving learning methodologies and critical thinking skills. The goal is to help you become active learners who possess the learning and research skills (tools and time management) necessary for life long learning and who can apply these skills to projects that explore tools and methodologies in depth.

Assignments are designed to help you develop or enhance the following skills:

  • Production, reflective, problem solving and critical thinking skills.
  • New media presentation skills.

In-class time will include technical exercises, large- and small-group discussions and critiques as well as presentation of concepts and examples.

Out-of-class time will include readings, online blog-based discussions, creation of design projects and documentation of those projects.

This course is designed on the assumption that you will dedicate at least 3 hours of time per week to class-related activities.


Modes of Communication: In addition to weekly meetings students and instructor are expected to contribute to the class blog, at – all assignments and some readings will be posted here. Everyone must activate and use their Ryerson email account for all official correspondence. Make sure all emails send to me come from your Ryerson email account. The class account is – it has links to readings and other relevant links. These links show up in the sidebar of the class blog. Keep an eye on the mpm17 tags, I add material I think is relevant to you there.

Assignment Descriptions and Grade Breakdown:

Production Assignments

1) Formal Essay posted on Blog New Media Artists Research (MLA style) 20%
Playing of the exercise on new media definition we did in class, explore new media history by choosing five artists related to the evolution of aesthetics and of one specific medium. These artists have to be from a different time and cultural context. Write a 5 pages essay that explains your definition of new media and that reflects on how these artists were cultural innovators and that shows how they contributed to the cultural evolution of their time.

Due week 4, Dates: Section 02: Wednesday Sept 28 and Section 01:Monday Oct 10

2) Creative Web professional identity/ Creative website 30%

Create a Ryerson website that will serve as your professional portfolio. The site is to be used to give faculty and students a sense of your creative identity.  Faculty will expect you to post documentation on all creative projects in this website during your four years with us.  The site is to be developed using css and html5 only. In parallel create a blog using WordPress that you will use as a creative and research journal. Both sites have to be linked to each other. A peer will evaluate the site and provide you with feedback.

Due week 8, Dates: Section 02: Wednesday Oct 26 and Section 01:Monday Nov 7

3) (group) New Media in 2050 30%
In groups of no more than four build an online gaming narrative on the theme: New media  cultures in the year 2050.

Due week 12


4) In Class Tech Research (pass/fail) 20%

On going

During the first class create research groups of no more than four students.

As a group of four students, answer the question assigned to you.

1)     Create a multimedia presentation that presents your research and helps other students understand the concepts you are dealing with.

2)     For all questions provide examples to illustrates your points

3)     Present your findings in class.

4)     Post your presentation in the class blog.

5)     Create an entry that includes the week, your section, group number and lists all group members who participated as well as the role each one undertook.

6)     Sites all your sources and include at least 3 different sources.


Suggested Readings:

Evaluation: During the last class students and instructor will have an opportunity to share the highs and lows of the collective learning experience. At the end of each assignment students will be provided with a written assessment as well as a number grade. A letter grade for the course will be posted on Blackboard at the end of the term.

Grades will be assigned in accordance with the Course Performance Designations published in the Ryerson Calendar for 2010-2011.

The Ryerson University course survey will be administered online.

Please note: All academic policies related to the course and the program are available on the Ryerson website.

Course Schedule: