UIC / College of Architecture, Design, & the Arts / 2014-2015

DES452 & ART452 / Information Aesthetics
Instructors: Matthew Wizinsky (assistant professor, Graphic Design)
& Jon Chambers (adjunct assistant professor, New Media Arts)
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 1–3:40 pm
Location: UIC Innovation Center
Office Hours: By appointment

Civic Innovation Lab: An interdisciplinary research studio utilizing Human-Centered and Speculative Design methodologies to research and generate new concepts in civic innovation for the city of Chicago. Multidisciplinary student teams will consider the city as a resource (data & research) and lab (exploration & prototyping) for translating data into fully activated projects or proposals for civic services or critical social interventions. The course will operate like an extended workshop or incubator with faculty serving as mediators along with off-site work and plenty of guest experts as lecturers, workshop-leaders, and visiting critics.

Students teams from diverse disciplines will work collaboratively in a team-based effort through TWO SEMESTERS of the course.

Problem Statement: Imagine the city of Chicago different than it is today—formed, represented, or manipulated by data. Consider the methods and media by which data becomes meaningful as information, opportunity, or critique.

What is Expected from You?
This course is in invitation to research, explore, propose, and then invent experimental data-driven engagements within a specific urban space. Creative and ambitious experiments will be evaluated high, while obvious and easily attained solutions are evaluated low. You will be asked to complete both individual assignments and group assignments as well as a series of exercises to activate the course material. All exercises and assignments must be completed to pass the course. Assignments are only considered as completed when they are available on the class website. Late assignments will reduce the grade proportionally. Final projects must be uploaded to the class website by the posted deadline.

You will be engaged in team-based research and creative work. Active contribution during class is required—both within your teams and within the broader class. You are expected to be resourceful to your peer students, share resources, be generous with ideas, and seek help when needed. The class website is available to you for questions, comments, and feedback amongst your peers and the faculty.

Grades will be assigned to individuals based on faculty assessment of both group project performance and individual performance and participation. The faculty shall follow several principles in the grading:

1. Process will be emphasized, rather than outcome. While everyone delights in inspiring results (and usually give them high marks), the primary goal is that students learn how to approach the research-based creative process, and learn how to work well in teams.

2. The faculty care about the quality of your work on the project, the way in which you work within a multi-disciplinary group, and your team presentations.

3. The faculty hope that all team members have meaningful tasks and that all students deliver on these tasks for the team. This is harder than it sounds.

70% of your grade will be determined by group performance, allocated as follows:
Project work and documentation: 40%
Presentations to the course faculty & outside guests: 30%

30% of the grade is for individual performance, allocated as follows:
Team Peer Evaluation: 15%
Class Participation and Individual Assignments: 15%

Attendance is mandatory and required to gain the required skills for successful completion of the course. Two unexcused absences may result in a reduction of the final grade by ½ letter grade, three unexcused absences by 1 letter grade. Four or more unexcused absences will be grounds for failing the course. Absences are only considered as excused if the professor is notified before the class meeting (accompanied by appropriate documentation as requested). Late arrivals are very disruptive for other participants—especially when working in teams. Being late to class two times will count as one unexcused absence. There will be a sign-up sheet for each class meeting. It is the student’s responsibility sign in for each class; this is the basis for your attendance record.

Course Conduct & Etiquette
Project-based courses such as this one rely heavily on interpersonal communication. Unless a conference call is being made in association with your research during a studio breakout session, cell phone use is not permitted, including texting. Use of computers will be a necessary part of our programming workshops. However, during group presentations or guest lectures, your FULL attention is required. Your laptops are to be CLOSED with your attention given wholly to the presenter. Professionalism is expected when interacting with faculty, guest or student presenters.

Prohibited activities during class time include use of cell phones for talking or texting, surfing the web or social media for unrelated purposes (no facebook, no tweeting!), private conversations amongst students, rude or insulting language or behavior, and any other form of distraction from the tasks at hand. Eating in the class room is prohibited. Drinks are allowed in covered containers only.

The course will deal with difficult, divisive, and potentially emotional subject matter. Disagreement is expected, but disrespect will not be tolerated. There will be a “zero tolerance” policy on any behavior deemed disrespectful or inappropriate. Lack of courteous behavior, including use of cell phones or computers when inappropriate, will be reflected in your grade.

Your team-based project work will often take place out of the classroom and put you in contact with other people in the city. Your actions are a reflection on this course, its faculty, and this institution. It is imperative that you conduct yourself with the utmost civility and respectability at all times. You not only represent yourself and UIC, but you are setting standards and possibilities for future courses to come.

We have a lot of exciting work to do, and our time together is valuable.
Let’s make the most of it.

Students will need to use their own laptop computers and the required software in class and for completion of course assignments. If you don’t already, make sure to get a USB jump drive or external hard-drive. ALL hard drives (internal and external) eventually fail, so file safety cannot be guaranteed on ANY computer. Always back up your files. Loss or damage of data or files is NOT an acceptable explanation for late or missing assignments. Files saved on the desktop of any UIC lab computers will not be available after logging out; you must copy to your own storage device.

Your files are your responsibility!

Required Software
Processing 2.0+ (free download at

Students must also have access to the internet and UIC email accounts to use the class blog for posting assignments and feedback. Please make sure you can access the internet from our classroom as soon as possible to avoid any delays. For questions on internet access or similar problems, please refer to the UIC ACCC site.

Recommended Resources
There are no books required for this course. See the Resources page for a list of reading materials and online tutorials.

General Info
UIC’s statement about disability services
UIC Student Disciplinary Policy
UIC Registrar’s list of registration and records policies