Spring 2022, CMAC/ISS/VMS 290-S

Category: Assignments

Noelle Garrick Final Project: Arrhythmia

As I started my final project, I finally felt a sense of solidification with the concepts described in class. In particular, one of the first articles we ever read by Garnet Hertz described critical media as an intersection between the cerebral nature of critical thinking and the tangibility that arises from production. They asserted that “critical making” could challenge both of these disciplines in the sense that the products made did not have to have explicit practical and convenient function and therefore could challenge the conventional qualifications about what should be considered a product. From the beginning, I know I wanted to design something that was interactive and visual, but with the intention of being cathartic or relatable in some way. It didn’t need to be a strong solution to any particular problem. The tools provided pushed me towards abstraction and emotionality, trying to create a representation of an experience I shared with other people. In this way, it was communicative.

Mindy Seu in “The Poetry of Tools” makes the simple assertion that “tools shape the way we behave.” They are extensions of us and are products that allow us to interact with other products. Learning this new tool over the course of the semester, I can assert that it greatly influenced the way I approached creating. It challenged me in many ways and the outputs often changed my trajectory or inspired different paths. My final product could also be considered a rudimentary tool. It is an audio reactive interface that intends to provide some momentary interest by encouraging unconventional behavior and investigation. 

Ultimately, I desired to be intentional and artistic with my design. We discussed technology’s great power to reflect and modify us for better or worse, and in particular how this can happen through an “embodied self.” Our identity within the digital scape has bearing on our attitudes and perspectives. I aimed to imbue enough explicitly human traits to sympathize and yet enough of an abstract sense of “tech” to have a significant impact.

My project is essentially an audio reactive visual. I designed a 3D model heart that is textured by the webcam so the user is divided and reflected all around it.

Sounds produced by the user are translated into a numerical input which affect the model and background, making the heart expand. This is intended to be a representation of strong emotions effect on the body, not necessarily negative. Often, when I am extremely stressed or overwhelmed, there is a surreal sense of disbelief. I am hyper aware of the meaning I am assigning to things and how these calculations are causing me mental and emotional distress. This is represented through the material of the model being a reflection. It is intended to represent self-awareness, self-agency, and yet a sense of fragmentation under the cause of the pressure. The video in the background is the same as the one faded with the webcam footage. This is a similar logic of choice in the sense that individuals become of there environments in a myriad of ways and also have an effect upon their surroundings. I wanted there to be a slight lack of boundary between where the model stopped and the background began. It felt like a good way of displaying a vulnerability of the subject, as if they were becoming the surroundings and losing grounded-ness. I chose a human heart as the model for a few reasons. I was debating between that or a brain, since those are both widely and instantly recognizable body parts that are associated with the stress response. I settled on a heart because I thought it had a better balance of mental and physical connotations and because the pulsation reaction from the audio translated better to this organ. In addition to movement, the model changes color with the expansions. This almost looked like moments before an explosion, and this likewise went with my theme. Thus, I leaned into it.

As a student, I only had true context for what I imagine are the main concerns and emotions of other students. Even so, I think my thesis ties in to broader emotions shared by most of the world, and therefore I don’t consider my audience to be exclusive to this group.

I think my project fits well within the critical making sphere. It was process oriented with intentional decisions designed to call attention to an aspect of society. In this way, it falls under Hertz’s interpretation. One thing I would disagree with however, is the notion that expression should trump technical refinement. As we discussed in class, our world increasingly operates within these digital scapes. As such, a strong level of technical refinement is necessary for effective communication and expression. In this example, I had to get over certain hurdles within Max MSP in order to construct my idea and there wasn’t a way around that. Additionally, I believe strongly that tools and systems should be repurposed and rarely dismantled. The ways in which tech has changed us are opportunities for discussion about the nature of people as creators of an experience. When I designed my project, it was impossible for me to conceptualize it in a way that did not involve technology. It is such a socially ingrained tool. 

One thing I found ironic was the way in which, in an effort to create a unique expression of a particular emotion I had to try and generalize it. I was thinking of it in terms of my peers and how the work would be received, what associations would make sense, etc. In this way, I can’t tell if I made the project for myself or others. If I recall correctly, in class we discussed how critical making is rooted in activism and therefore goes beyond the individual artist. I think I feel some sense of satisfaction and connection to something grater through the process of making art about an issue I feel passionately about. At the same time, because of the nature of tools as extensions of us influencing behavior, its hard not to wonder how my expression would have changed if the medium was different.

Final Project

Over the course of the semester, you have made progress towards developing a conceptual and material outline for your final project, which you will realize as a final installation and/or computer based interactive artwork to be shared and discussed in our final critique. Building on the proposal and patch you developed for midterm critique, you are expected to integrate feedback from your instructors and peers in the final project, as well as explain any critical, technical and aesthetic choices you’ve made along the way. 
The final project will be graded on the following components: 
Final Project, presented at final critique on 4/29, 9AM — 12PM:
You will be graded on the following criteria: 
  • have you followed course requirements in terms of using Max/MSP and/or other software/applications/programming languages in realizing your project? 
  • does it work? does it function the way you intended and if not, did you take steps to realize the project in a different way? does it demonstrate your proficiency with the materials and software? 
  • aesthetic elements. does it formally communicate the message you intended to the viewer? 
  • criticality. does it integrate and convey elements of your conceptual and theoretical critique? 
  • participation in group critique. You will present your work to the class (expect to speak for 10 minutes or so), and will also offer feedback to your peers in conversation. 
A written critical reflection on your final project. This reflection will include: 
  • a discussion of your critical inquiry (what topics and questions were you interested in critically exploring in this project? How do these themes relate to conversations we’ve had throughout the semester? Be specific in identifying key concepts from texts covered in class that shaped your topic and critique. You should cite at least 2-3 texts from the semester.)
  • a description of your actual project.  (this should include a description of what you sought out to do, and how this changed throughout the process of its development. You should mention any inspirations you drew upon. You should answer questions such as: What is the critical intervention you are trying to communicate and how do your aesthetic and technical choices work to do so? Who is your intended audience and what do you hope they take away from engaging your work?)
  • finally, how does this project explore your idea of critical making, as we’ve worked throughout the semester to understand what critical making means today. Does your project challenge any of the traditional understandings of critical making we’ve discussed? Does it offer a new lens on what critical making is and what it can do? Be sure to cite specific ideas, texts, and authors covered in class. 
  • 3-4 images from your final project process. these could be anything from your initial sketches, to in process screenshots, to material that you gathered from the internet, to screenshots/ photos of your final work. 
This reflection will take the form of a blog post, to be shared on our class website. It will be due at final critique. It should be no less than 1000 words, but can be more if you’d like. 
Finally, you should document your project in whatever way seems most appropriate when it is finished. Anyone is welcome to join our final critique. 

Peer critique guidelines

Due 3/23

Make a post on the student blog titled “[Your Name] Midterm”. Then, scan this video for the place in the video when your presentation started, and add that time stamp to your post. A recording of Professor Karriem’s in-class explanation of this assignment can be found at the beginning of this video

After you’ve made your post, write a one to two paragraph response offering critical feedback, ideas and resources to three of your peers. This can be conceptual, aesthetic, technical or comparative.

Alistair’s assignments: Ameya, Cathy, Cynthia
Ameya’s assignments: Alistair, Cathy, Cynthia
Cathy’s assignments: Alistair, Ameya, Cynthia
Cynthia’s assignments: Alistair, Ameya, Cathy
Isabella’s assignments: Molly, Noelle, Pierre
Molly’s assignments: Isabella, Noelle, Pierre
Noelle’s assignments: Isabella, Molly, Pierre
Pierre’s assignments: Isabella, Molly, Noelle
Stephane’s assignments: Molly, Isabella, Cynthia
Ooha’s assignments: Cathy, Ameya, Alistair
Yoo Bin’s assignments: Zoe, Pierre, Noelle
Zoe’s assignments: Yoo Bin, Molly, Isabella

In preparation for Wednesday’s group critique, you could consider the following ways to talk about your work, and use these as loose guidelines for responding to the work of your peers.


Art criticism is about responding to, interpreting, and making critical judgements about works of art as a way to help make sense of the work, and also to help the maker of the work understand how their work is being received and how it might be reworked or expanded upon to more clearly communicate an intended message. 

Keep in mind that critical feedback is supposed to be helpful! The goal is to get you to talk about your work, to understand how others are interpreting it, and to ask questions of your peers so that you can make informed choices about how to develop your work. As you are responding to your peers work, extend beyond using “I like x,” to describing why you like certain aspects, what your interpretation of them is, what message it is that they convey to you. 
When critiquing each others work you could use the following lines of engagement as guidelines: 
  • Description: formal analysis, answers the question of “what do you see? hear?,” describes the aesthetic elements of the work (ie textures, colors, relationship between forms) 
  • Analysis: what do the formal features suggest? why did the artist use them? what ideas do they convey? what seems important in the work? how do the formal elements convey a message, mood, or idea? what is your reaction to certain elements? or the work as a whole? 
  • Interpretation: why did the artist create this work and what is its “meaning”? can you describe what the work is “about” without the artist’s explanation? does your interpretation differ from what the artist described? why? 
  • Judgement: What criteria do you use to judge the work? what is your judgement as to its quality? what aspects are working well? which can be improved? how might they be improved? if it is your work, what would you do differently? 

Midterm Assignment

For your midterm assignment, you will work towards developing a project proposal that will become your guiding plan towards realizing your final project at the end of the semester. Think of this proposal as prescriptive, in the sense that you will be asked to identify themes, ideas, materials, and forms you would like to explore, but also experimental, in the sense that your project may change as you develop it further, and workshop it through in-class and one-on-one critiques. It is a chance to “prototype” your final project. 


It is divided into multiple checkpoints. 

Due 2/14: Proposal and Project Sketch

A one to two-page (double-spaced, 12-point font, PDF) description of what it is you’re trying to achieve, including:
    • What you plan to make and why
    • Audience: What critical intervention you’re hoping the project will make, or what conversations it contributes to
    • Concepts & Materials: ideas and techniques you hope to explore during the making process
    • Three example media artworks that you’re drawing inspiration from, and why they speak to you. Draw from the class resource page, or anywhere else. Here is a list of artists included in Form and Code (Reas and McWilliams).
    • A preliminary map, flow or sketch, using some simple graphic icons or shapes: is the project sequential, non-linear or branching? Is it experiential? What kinds of interactions are you imagining? What is the project’s relationship to time? (use any format, for example, Sketchup, Google Drawings, hand sketching)


Instead of attempting to make the sketch look like a finished product, it is preferable to use that effort to try more layout variations and concepts: even ones that may be radically different from where you started. Quantity over quality. The point of the exercise is to be able generate them quickly and select the ones that work best for your purpose or aesthetic sensibility. 


Throughout the process, be mindful of the reasons the project is compelling to you. Struggles in planning often translate to struggles in implementation, so do what you can to think the ideas through to their conceptual and technical conclusions. This isn’t to say implementation struggles are a negative. Many times an idea can only go so far in planning and needs real iteration cycles to come to its full expression. The idea is to maintain a sense of the kinds of results would be interesting and compelling for you.

Due 2/21 2/23: Design Iteration and group critiques

Take your midterm proposal and start thinking about the real images, text, fonts, colors, sounds you are going to work with in Max/MSP. Work with actual content from your project archive: its important to move beyond abstract techniques and “get to the heart of the matter” at an early stage. However, you’ll have a brief deliverable that is consistent for everyone. This will be a prototype Max patch that you will show in class. It does not need to be functional or fully developed but should include some visual and/or sound elements, and you should be able to talk about how you hope to develop the patch. This is a chance for critical feedback and guidance on how to realize your project. 

Due 3/2: Midterm Project and in-class critique 

The midterm project is not limited to, but itself HAS to use the following:
  • Realtime Audio and/or video playback speed manipulation
  • Interactive user input
  • A fixed data source, or real-time data stream of some kind

Due 3/16: Written Peer Critiques

Everyone will give three brief written critiques post-midterm,-at least one page each (but no more than two), double-spaced, 12-point font. Each member of the groups of three will give two in-group and one out-of group, while the group of two will give one in-group and two out-of group. We’ll use a random generator to decide the out-of-group crits.
In your written critiques, you must address and comment on the following with regards to the three projects you are responsible for evaluating:
  • Aesthetics: what are your personal, embodied impressions, as a reader of the project, considering what you know about the project and the person making it, and what they are trying to communicate and/or accomplish? 
  • Audience: Given the project’s stated audience, what are you noticing it does well to reach that audience, how do you suppose it might impact that audience? 
  • Technique: Open the Max patch. Imagine you’re collaborating with the author. Is the technique clear? Can you understand what is being executed by looking at it? Are there comments that explain the intent of certain aspects? Do  variable and function names make sense in the context of their use? Are there techniques that surprise you, or that you didn’t know about being used? 
Additional Resources: 

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

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.


Assignment 1: Building a Project Archive and Journal

Assignment 1: Building a Project Archive and Journal

Start curating an archive of sampled digital materials (audio, video, photos, animations, text), alongside a journal of inspirations and ideas. The purpose of the activity is to start thinking about your artistic concerns, as well as specific materials you might work with. At the next class meeting, you’ll share the materials in your archive, how you’ve organized it, and a bit about why you’ve selected certain files and what ideas they represent for you. You may or may not choose to use these specific materials in assignments and projects moving forward, but the expectation is that you’re updating this archive throughout the course so that you have a ready source of materials that are interesting to you once we start introducing production techniques. Think of this journal and project archive as the conceptual and material basis for the works you’ll produce throughout the semester. 

You will use Duke Box to organize your archive, assignments, and final project this semester. We will demonstrate in class how these folders should be organized.

Here is a demo folder



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