Instructors: Rebecca Uliasz & Quran Karriem
MW 12:00-1:15pm
Smith Warehouse Bay 12, A228
Office Hours: By Appointment 
Course website:

American Artist, Mother of All DemosAmerican Artist, Mother of All Demos, 2018

Course Description: This is a course for critically engaging with technology through making and theory. Starting from Marshall McLuhen’s seminal analysis of the ways media configure the human sensorium, we will build on sound and moving image to explore the ways computation today operates on levels above or beyond human perception. We will draw from new media art, politics, and media theory to engage with technology by focusing on computation as media, medium, and material for artistic production and critique. Through readings, in-class projects, and semester-long critical making projects, we will engage with the history and practice of critical making with a focus on the production of generative new media projects using the software program Max/MSP. Beginning with an overview of media theoretical concepts like mediation, representation, image, embodiment and information the course will focus on discourses relevant to new media practice today, including algorithms, race,  platforms, and artificial intelligence . The aim of this course is to develop a critical technical practice that takes seriously the politics embedded within our contemporary media systems by focusing on the ways computation is interwoven into everyday experience. 

The practical aspects of the course will focus on the visual programming and patching environment, Max/MSP, and its influence on the development of media performance, computer music and live image generation techniques from the early 1990s up until today. Through Max, we will engage with image and sound generation techniques, connectivity to external devices using MIDI, OSC, Bluetooth and WiFi protocols, and integration with machine learning and computer vision packages through Node.js. 

Students are not expected to have technical background, but some programming and/or art-making experience is helpful. Students are expected to be comfortable carrying out self-directed artistic assignments, including engaging in self-directed technical skill acquisition outside the classroom as needed. Students will engage in in-class discussions and in-process critiques, building over the course of the semester towards a final project.

Course Requirements in brief

    • Attendance at all lectures and critiques (in-person hopefully, and on Zoom need be)
    • Participation in the course discussions, group critiques, and course demos
    • Access to a personal computer and Max/MSP license
    • Weekly Course Assignments over the course of the semester–assigned on Wednesdays during class time and due the following Monday
    • In-class artist presentations over the course of the semester. Choosing from the list of artists/ artworks, you will give a 5 minute presentation at the beginning of class on the Wednesday slot you sign up for
    • 1 midterm assignment includes final project proposal and prototype, due during midterm critique (3/2)
    • 1 final end-of-semester project to be worked towards over the course of the semester, could include (but not limited to) media installation, performance, moving image, sound, generated text, IoT, using Max/MSP. The works will be exhibited in Smith Warehouse at the end of the semester, and due during final critique (TBA)

Course Policies in detail 

Attendance and Participation

Attendance and participation are required. We hope to be able to proceed with in person learning, but will remain flexible in accordance with the university policy. We understand that in our current times, you may have unexpected events or needs arise that conflict with our scheduled class sessions.  Please familiarize yourself with Duke’s policies on Class Attendance and Missed Work. If you need to miss class for a valid reason, please notify us in advance.  You will be expected to catch up with any missed class sessions, assignments, and reading material.

Late assignments and incompletes

If there are circumstances that may lead to a late assignment, students must contact us before the assignment is due and submit to us in writing (via email) the circumstances preventing submission. A face-to-face meeting may also be required. The student will be informed in writing (via email) about the Instructor’s decision. Assignments turned in after the due date will receive a 10% grade penalty for the first day late and 5% grade penalty for each subsequent day, up to a maximum of 25% grade reduction for the assignment. A course grade of “Incomplete” may be granted under select circumstances. Students seeking an Incomplete must formally request it (in writing, via email), and provide supportive documentation.

Respectful dialogue

Open dialogue is at the crux of any advanced seminar, and we encourage each of you to join the discussion. Because we bring with us different life experiences, and have diverse ideological and theoretical perspectives it is expected that there will be a variety of viewpoints expressed. It is imperative that we engage in a respectful dialogue even when we disagree and hold different positions. Please remember that any personal information revealed during class discussion is confidential and should be confined to the seminar group. As a member of this course you must hold yourself and your peers to the highest standards of civil engagement and discourse. While we may find ourselves disagreeing, we must do so with respect, a commitment to hearing what others have to say, and a willingness to think and rethink our own positions.

Grade Distribution

Participation: 15% of course grade

Class participation is essential to your success in this course; participation goes beyond merely showing up but also includes active engagement in group discussions and critiques. Come to each class prepared: read the assigned texts closely, annotating your questions and critiques; reflect daily on the media cultures that surround you, and consider how the concepts, themes, and methods of the class help you think critically about them; and engage your classmates in rigorous discussion and debate, in-class and elsewhere.

Artist/ Art Work Presentations , at least twice during the semester (or more) in a Lecture session (see schedule) you will choose one artist or artwork from the provided list, which you will present to the class in 5 minutes.  You should do some background research on the artist or artwork: who made it? in what context? how does it relate to other themes we’ve discussed in class? Please remember to caption and credit any media you present (creator, title, year, etc). Your media should be in a slideshow format for screen-share via Zoom.

Group Critiques will occur during class time as specified by the course schedule. You will be expected to come prepared with your own work, including questions for your peers regarding ideas, inspirations, or challenges you faced in the process of making it. You should expect to give constructive feedback and suggestions to your peers regarding their work.

Assignments: 25% of course grade

Weekly assignments, including the completion of Max/MSP demos and other short assignments as noted in the schedule.

Midterm Assignment + Written Peer Critiques: 25% of course grade

Due during group critique in class on 3/2

Final Project + Written Peer Critiques: 35% of course grade


Duke Community Standard:

Duke University is a community dedicated to scholarship, leadership, and service and to the principles of honesty, fairness, respect, and accountability. Citizens of this community commit to reflect upon and uphold these principles in all academic and nonacademic endeavors, and to protect and promote a culture of integrity.

Academic integrity. Students are expected to approach their course work and interactions with other students in a manner that is consistent with Duke University guidelines for academic integrity. Violations of the Duke academic integrity policy may result in a failing grade for the particular assignment, a failing grade for the entire course, and repeated violations of this code may result in suspension or expulsion from the university.  Please review the Duke Academic Integrity Policy, and review guidelines concerning plagiarism (see &

ADA Statement: Students with disabilities who believe they may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact the Student Disability Access Office at (919) 668-1267 as soon as possible to better ensure that such accommodations can be implemented in a timely fashion.

Assistance with Zoom or Sakai: For technical help with Sakai or Zoom, contact the Duke OIT Service Desk at You can also access the self-service help documentation for Zoom here and for Sakai here. The ARC (Academic Resource Center) has a student-friendly learning online guide and Zoom instructions here 

Mental Health and Wellness: If your mental health concerns and/or stressful events negatively affect your daily emotional state, academic performance, or ability to participate in your daily activities, many resources are available to you, including ones listed below. Duke Student Government has worked with DukeReach and student advocates to create the Fall 2020 “Two-Click Support” Form, and Duke Reach has expanded its drop in hours as well.

  • DukeReach. Provides comprehensive outreach services to identify and support students in managing all aspects of wellbeing. If you have concerns about a student’s behavior or health visit the website for resources and assistance.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). CAPS services include individual, group, and couples counseling services, health coaching, psychiatric services, and workshops and discussions. (919) 660-1000
  • Blue Devils Care. A convenient and cost-effective way for Duke students to receive 24/7 mental health support through TalkNow.

Attendance Policy Related to COVID Symptoms, Exposure, or Infection: 

To help ensure your well-being and the well-being of those around you, please do not come to class if you have symptoms related to COVID-19, have had a known exposure to COVID-19, or have tested positive for COVID-19. If any of these situations apply to you, follow university guidance related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and current health and safety protocols. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, please contact student health at 919-681-9355 and take care of yourself. If at any point you are quarantined due to COVID-19 symptoms, known exposure, or a positive diagnosis—or have another health concern that impacts your ability to participate in-person—please reach out to the teaching team about your circumstances. Health issues will not invoke negative academic consequences. Rather, we all want to work together to keep each other safe and to continue our learning in safe and healthy ways.