Spring 2022, CMAC/ISS/VMS 290-S

Month: January 2022

Assignment 4: What is critical making today?

Assignment 4: What is critical making today? 

Hanson Robotics Will Mass Produce Humanoid Robot, Sophia
Sophia the Hanson Robotics Robot


In our class discussions on critical making and new media so far, we have talked about a number of concepts from key texts. We’ve debated how these concepts do or do not help us develop a definition of critical making that would speak to our current day technological and social lives. For instance, do ideas of tactical media explored during the heyday of Web 1.0 have any purchase today, when some would argue that we are entering a new digital paradigm all together? What types of issues and problems feel important in digital culture today, and what types of practices might we use to explore and critique them?


For assignment 4, you will write a blog post that explores this question, using concepts we’ve discussed in class. You will choose one topic or theme that you feel is relevant to contemporary digital culture. Some ideas might be, platforms, social media, the environment, media infrastructures, big data, artificial intelligence/ machine learning, cryptocurrencies, virtual reality, access, smart IoT– or anything else you can think of. You will chose one image or artifact that deals with this topic (this could be anything from a social media post, to a news story, an artwork, a specific technology).


In no less than 500 words, please reflect on the following questions: Is your chosen object an example of critical making? Talk about why or why not. If so, why is this the case, and how does critical making function here? If not, how does this object contradict our definition of critical making? How does this object cause us to rethink what critical making means in 2022?


You should use terms from our class discussions. To name a few of the concepts we’ve covered thus far: new versus “old” media, the medium and the message, technological neutrality, critical design, speculative design, control society, tactical media, electronic civil disobedience. You should include an image in your blog post, and post it under the “student blog” section of the course website. After posting, you will be asked to comment in response to two of your peers. 


Blog Post Due: 2/7
Comments Due: 2/9

Unit 3: Artist List

Computation, interactivity, and the senses

Eduardo Kac (biography)

Kac, GFP Bunny

Artist List:

Choose one work from your selected artist to present on:

  • Eduardo Kac
  • Jeffrey Shaw
  • David Rokeby
  • Alexei Shulgin
  • Manfred Mohr
  • JODI
  • Penelope Umbrico
  • Andrew Benson

Assignment 3: Mixing Audio and Video samples in Max 

The purpose of this assignment is to gain initial familiarity with Max/MSP/Jitter by experimentation and working through the tutorials. Review the tutorials below, and using materials from your project archive, create a simple audio/visual composition. It doesn’t have to resemble what you may imagine for your project. At this stage, the expectation is that, you’ll modify parameters manually (i.e. by clicking/dragging with the mouse)— we’ll develop a good familiarity with how to change the parameters of Max object boxes manually using message and number boxes before getting into automated and interactive methods. 

Assignment parameters: 

Use at least two video clips—they may or may not have their own soundtrack. Referencing the tutorials above, modify at least two of the following parameters: 

  • Video playback speed & direction
  • Video start, end & loop points (if looping)
  • Video brightness / tint / color level modification
  • Zoom / rotation
  • Relative mix between two or more videos
  • Video blend modes

Use at least two audio recordings—separate from any audio contained in the video files. Referencing the tutorials above, modify at least two of the following parameters:

  • Audio playback speed & direction
  • Audio start, end & loop points (if looping)
  • Relative mix between two or more audio files
  • Audio relative mix between left & right channels

Once ready, use Zoom to make a screen recording (cloud), demonstrating your experiment—remember to turn computer audio on. Make a recording no longer than 5 minutes, including the following:

  • Show how the patch works
  • Explain how you’d develop the patch further with more time, or any connections to themes related to your archive that developed for you
  • Explain any difficulties you may have had with Max so far. 

Once the screen recording is complete, put a link to it in your Box folder. 

Tutorials & Reference Files

Max/MSP Tutorials: In Max, go to Help > Reference

  • Max Basic Tutorials 1—5
  • Jitter Tutorials 1—8
  • MSP Sampling Tutorials 1—7

It will be helpful to reference the help patches for the following Max objects as you work through the tutorials and as you make your own patch:

  • Video (Jitter): [jit.movie] [jit.matrix] [jit.world] [jit.window] [jit.brcosa] [jit.xfade]
  • Audio (MSP): [sfplay~] [buffer~] [play~] [groove~] [ezdac~] [ezadc~] [gain~] [+~]
  • Control (Max): Number box, messages box, toggles, “bang”, [metro]


Assignment 2: Sound and Video Recording

Assignment 2: Sound and Video Recording

Using any sound and/or video recording device available to you (for example, a smartphone, DSLR, pocket recorder, etc.), make at least five recordings of at least 30 seconds each, and no more than two minutes per recording. Some ideas: Your recordings can capture indoor or outdoor settings (i.e. nature or cityscapes), crowds of people, machines in motion, or even scripted / choreographed action, interviews or short films. Perhaps the recordings you make will relate to the ideas and files you’ve been collecting in your project folder and journal. Add your recordings to your project folder, and be prepared to share and discuss them in our next class meeting. 


Editing software:

You have access to Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition for audio and video editing. Be sure to edit your clips down to the sonically, visually and conceptually interesting parts. Note that if you’re using a smartphone, it might be easiest to trim your clips there.


Unit 2: Artist List

Critical making and new media art

Critical Art Ensemble 
Electronic Disturbance Theater, “Transborder Immigrant Tool”
Ekene Ijeoma, “Wage Islands”
Natalie Jeremijenko, “Bureau of Inverse Technology”
Mendi & Keith Obadike, “black net.art auction”
Eva and Franco Mattes, “Befnoed”
Ken Goldberg, “Telegarden”

Unit 1: Artist List

What are media? What is the medium?

James Turrell, Circular Glass

James Turrell, Circular Glass

James Turrell
Nam Jun Paik, “Electronic Superhighway”
Ryoji Ikeda, “Spectra”
Alvin Lucier, “I Am Sitting In A Room”
Hans Tammen
Luke Dubois
John Whitney, “Catalog”
The Vasulkas

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