Communications Lab Syllabus


Fall 2016
Course Website:

SECTION 1: Instructor: Eric Hagan (
Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:45am – 11:00am; recitation Thursdays, 9:45am – 11:00am

SECTION 2: Instructor: Owen Roberts (
Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:15am – 12:30pm; recitation Thursdays, 11:15am – 12:30pm

SECTION 3: Instructor: Roopa Vasudevan (
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:15 – 4:30pm; recitation Fridays, 3:15pm – 4:30pm

Professor Hagan: Wednesday and Thursday from 1:00pm-3:00pm, sign up here.
Professor Roberts: Tuesdays 11am-2pm. Room 939.
Professor Vasudevan: Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. Sign up here. If none of those times work, please email for an appointment.


Course Description

In this foundation course, designed to provide students with a framework to effectively communicate through digital means, students will explore the possibilities of digital media by successively producing projects that make use of digital images, audio, video, and the Web. Students learn in a laboratory context of hands-on experimentation, and principles of interpersonal communications, media theory, and human factors will be introduced in readings and investigated through discussion. Adobe Creative Cloud and other relevant software applications will be examined, and the basics of fundamental web languages HTML, CSS and JavaScript will be studied, to establish a diverse digital toolkit. Both traditional and experimental outputs, including online and interactive media platforms, will be explored. Weekly assignments, group, and independent projects, as well as project reports will be assigned in each of the core areas of study.



There are 5 projects / exercises in this course:

1) basic website illustrating HTML and CSS fundamentals
2) interactive comic utilizing JavaScript
3) audio project
4) video project
5) final web-based project

You will be expected to submit all of these assignments online, either by embedding them into a web page, or by creating a web-based project.

There are reading assignments throughout the semester. You will be required to write a short response to each reading and post it to the class blog. You will also be required to post a response to each project on the blog, detailing your process and linking to documentation of the work. Even if you work collaboratively, every student MUST post his/her own response.

Software: The Adobe suite is available in the 24-hour labs located in the Academic Building. Additionally, all the software is available as a fully-functional 30-day free trial from the Adobe website.

In addition, this course will necessitate the use of equipment from the IMA Equipment Room. Policies and procedures for checking out, caring for, and returning equipment will be discussed during IMA Orientation (September 9 or 12, mandatory) as well as in class. Be aware that keeping IMA equipment past return dates or failing to adhere to the policies of the IMA Lab WILL affect your participation grade for this course.

E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops”, 1909
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 1936
Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message”, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1967
Scott McCloud Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, chapters 1-4
Joy Garnet & Susan Meiseles, “On the Rights of the Molotov Man: Appropriation and the Art of Context”, Harper’s Magazine, February 2007
Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism”, Harper’s Magazine, February 2007
Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (excerpt), 2005
Paul Rand, “Computers, Pencils and Brushes”, Design Form and Chaos, Yale University Press (1993)
Paul Graham, “Hackers and Painters”, May 2003
Tim Berners-Lee, “Long Live the Web”, Scientific American, December 2010
Rachel Greene, “Web Work: A History of Net Art”, Artforum, May 2000

Kirby Ferguson’s TED Talk: “Embrace the Remix”
The Salt Institute Dissecting Dead Animal Man
Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk: “The Danger of a Single Story”



10% – Basic website
10% – Interactive comic
10% – Audio Project
10% – Video Project
10% – Web Project
15% – Blog posts: Responses to readings and viewings
15% – Blog posts: Documentation & reflection on projects
20% – Class Participation



Attendance in all classes is mandatory. Unexcused absences and tardiness will affect your grade. If you know you are going to be absent or late, please let me know in advance so we can figure out how you can make up what you missed in class. 2 unexcused absences will lead to a failing grade.

In addition to the lecture sessions, you will also be required to attend a mandatory recitation. The recitation will be used in two ways: to allow time to work on projects, or to work on mini-projects created specifically to reinforce concepts covered in class during the week. If you know you will have to miss a recitation, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Laptops are permitted in class to take notes and to follow along during demonstrations. All other devices are not to be used, and checking social media during class is prohibited.



Week 1
August 29/30: Introduction to Class

    • Introduction to the course & syllabus
    • Logistics of submitting assignments & class blog demo
    • Assignment Read E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”. Post a response to the reading to the blog, and be prepared to discuss in class next session.
    • Assignment Download and install a text editor (Sublime Text, TextWrangler, etc.) and an FTP client (Cyberduck, Fetch) BEFORE class on Thursday. We will be using them during the session.

August 31/September 1: The Internet

    • Discuss reading
    • How does the Internet work?
    • Introduction to HTML
    • File management best practices
    • Uploading your files on to the IMA NAS
    • Assignment Read Tim Berners-Lee’s “Long Live the Web”. Post a response to the class blog.
    • Assignment Build a basic webpage in HTML, using the tags we discussed in class. This can be about anything you want — your favorite book, movie, restaurant, your hometown, your family, etc. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can do some research and use new tags as well. (However, please do NOT use the <style> tag, or any other formatting tags, as we will be covering styling next week. These pages should ONLY contain content.) Upload your site to the NAS, and post a link to the class blog before Tuesday’s session.

Week 2
September 5/6: Digital Imaging

September 7/8: Style

    • Share digital images
    • Introduction to CSS
    • <div>, <span>, classes and IDs
    • Layout & the CSS box model
    • Assignment Take your webpage that you built for Tuesday… and add some style to it. Experiment with color, type, and layout, and feel free to use properties we didn’t discuss in class. Try to use an EXTERNAL stylesheet only; do not put all of the CSS in <style> tags or inline in the document! Upload your page to the NAS, and post a link to the class blog. This time, write a longer post about your process styling the site, what worked, and where you ran into trouble.
    • Assignment Read “Understanding Comics”, chapters 1-4. Post a response to the class blog.

Week 3
September 12/13: Sequential Imaging

    • Discussion of reading
    • Narrative and sequential storytelling
    • Print comics vs. web comics
    • Dinosaur Comics
    • The Oatmeal
    • Alien Loves Predator
    • A Softer World
    • Interactive comics: Never Mind the Bullets
    • Interactive comics: Murat
    • Interactive comics: Nawlz
    • Interactive comics: The Fox Sisters
    • Project In teams of 2, create an interactive online comic. Use JavaScript in order to advance the story in some way. (Due Monday October 10/Tuesday October 11)
    • Assignment Post links to two websites that you think have interesting or innovative user interactions. Explain why you are drawn to them and what makes them unique to you.
    • Assignment Begin work on your comic project. During class on the 19th/20th, you and your partner will be expected to present your story idea, and a brief outline of how you’d like the comic to unfold for your user. Post what you will be presenting to the class blog.

September 14/18: Interactivity // Introduction to JavaScript

    • Show Week 2 websites
    • “Hello World” / What is JavaScript?
    • Introduction to JavaScript syntax
    • Alerts, click events, and embedding JavaScript inside HTML
    • Project Continue work on interactive comic project. During the next class you and your partner will be expected to present your story idea, and a brief outline of how you’d like the comic to unfold for your user. Post what you will be presenting to the class blog.
    • Assignment JavaScript fundamentals mini-project (to be completed during recitation)

Week 4
September 19/20: JavaScript Fundamentals: Variables

    • Present comic project ideas
    • View source and using the console
    • What to do when you find errors in your code
    • Variables
    • Project Continue on interactive comic project. Over the weekend you should begin collecting photo assets, drawing, or otherwise getting the visual elements of your story together.

September 21/22: JavaScript Fundamentals: Choice & Logic

    • Conditionals: If Statements, If/Else If/Else, Boolean Variables
    • JQuery introduction
    • Project Continue on interactive comic project. By this point you should have all of your visual elements together, and can begin to place them on a webpage.
    • Assignment Variables & conditionals mini-project (to be completed during recitation)

Week 5
September 26/27: JavaScript Fundamentals: Iteration & Repetition

    • Loops: while & for
    • Arrays & Lists
    • Adding elements and removing elements
    • Using loops to iterate through an array
    • Project Continue on interactive comic project.

September 28/29: JavaScript Fundamentals: Objects, JQuery Review & Errors

    • Review of functions
    • Objects: when and why to use them?
    • JQuery review & digging deeper into animation
    • How to deal with errors in your code
    • Project Finish interactive comic project. Make sure you have a working link and post it to the class blog before the next session. Don’t forget about the blog post documenting the project, your process, and a post-mortem on whether or not you think it has been successful compared to your initial goals.
    • Assignment Watch Kirby Ferguson’s TED Talk: “Embrace the Remix.” Post a response to the class blog.

Week 6
October 10/11: Introduction to Audio

    • Present online comic projects
    • Discussion of TED Talk
    • Intro to audio recording and sampling
    • Assignment Read “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism” by Jonathan Lethem. Post a response to the class blog.
    • Assignment Read “On the Rights of Molotov Man” by Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas. Post a response to the class blog.
    • Project In your assigned pair/group, create an audio project that is culled together from external sound sources (minimum 1 minute in length). These can either be sources you record yourselves, or pre-recorded samples. This piece can be environmental, musical, create space or mood, or tell a story through sound. You may either choose to use traditional distribution methods (ie, a sound file like WAV or AIFF), or you may create an interactive audio experience on the web. However, *all projects* must be submitted on their own web page. (Due Monday October 24/Tuesday October 25)

October 12/13: Recording & Sampling Audio

Week 7
October 17/18: Manipulating Audio // Audio Editing

    • Discussion of the beginnings of hip-hop and the importance of sampling and audio manipulation to popular music
    • Look at samples used in popular music and how they are edited/manipulated
    • Watch video on the Amen Break and its use in popular music
    • Demo: Using Adobe Audition to edit sound
    • Project Continue work on sound piece.

October 19/20: Manipulating Audio // JavaScript

    • HTML5 Audio
    • Using the p5.js sound library
    • Playing sound files
    • Working with external audio input
    • Generating sound from the browser
    • Project Finish sound piece. Upload the page to the NAS, and send me a link before class. (Due Monday Oct 24th/Tuesday Oct 25th)
    • Assignment Watch Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk: “The Danger of a Single Story”. Post a response to the class blog, and be prepared to discuss in class.

Week 8
October 24/25: Video & the Storyboard

    • Present & critique sound pieces
    • Intro to digital video
    • Review of basic narrative structure
    • Discussion of viewing assignment
    • Project In teams of 3 or 4, create a short form video (3 – 5 minutes in length). This can either take the form of a traditional, rendered video that is just watched by the viewer, or you can be a bit more experimental with your approach and design something specifically for the web. However, *ALL PROJECTS* must be submitted on their own web page. (Due Thursday November 17/Friday November 18)
    • Assignment Post your video project proposal to the class blog. Make sure that your proposal gives us an idea of what the story is, following the basic narrative structure. Be prepared to discuss in class.

October 26/27: Pre-Production

    • Review project ideas
    • History of film and video
    • The art of the storyboard
    • Types of shots
    • Making a shot list
    • Project Put together a storyboard, as well as a shot list and/or outline for your video project with your team. Drawings are encouraged and recommended! Post your storyboard to the class blog, and be prepared to discuss in class.
    • Assignment Read Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. Post a response to the class blog.

Week 9
October 31/November 1: Production

    • Share storyboards
    • The basics of the camera: Canon 6D
    • Casting and location scouting
    • Lighting, sound and composition
    • Making a paper edit and taking notes from the field
    • Project Begin shooting your video. Bring some kind of raw footage to class on Thursday/Friday, because we will be using it in our demo of Premiere.
    • Assignment Download and install Adobe Premiere before class.

November 2/3: In-Class Shoot Time

November 3/4: Post-Production

    • Intro to Adobe Premiere
    • Setting up a project and importing footage
    • Watching your footage down and pulling selects
    • The razor, slip and slide tools
    • Transitions, text, and basic animation
    • Project Continue shooting/editing your video.

Week 10
November 7/8: Interactive Video

November 9/10: More Interactive Video & Pixels

    • Demo: Compositing video library
    • Images and external files
    • Pixels and basic image processing in JavaScript
    • Project: Continue working on your video project. Bring your rough cut to class next session.

Week 11
November 14/15: Polishing Your Project

    • Review rough cuts
    • Pacing, color correction, and audio polishing
    • Codecs and exporting your video
    • In-class work time
    • Project Continue work on video project.

November 16/17: “Recitation”

    • In-class work time to finish video projects
    • Project Finish your video project. Upload the site containing it to the NAS and post your documentation to the blog.

November 17/18: Internet Art

    • Critique video projects
    • Discussion of Internet Art as a medium
    • Examples of standalone web projects made with JavaScript
    • Assignment Read Paul Graham’s “Hackers and Painters”. Post a response to the blog.
    • Assignment Read Paul Rand’s “Computers, Pencils and Brushes”. Post a response to the blog.
    • Project Come up with a proposal for a web-based art project — NO product or portfolio sites please! At minimum, this MUST be a standalone website that you build utilizing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; you are free (and encouraged!) to incorporate video and audio content as well if you see it fit. **You may choose to work individually or in teams of 2 for this project (a note: collaborations are highly recommended).** (Project due Wednesday December 7/Monday December 12)

Week 12
November 21/22: JS Review and Introduction to JS Animation

    • Share final project proposals
    • Review of JavaScript essentials
    • JavaScript animation with p5.js
    • Assignment Read Rachel Greene’s “Web Work: A History of Net Art”. Post a response to the class blog, and be prepared to discuss in class.
    • Project Begin work on your web project. Start small; this could mean collecting assets, writing some simple HTML, or shooting some video. Think about the basic building blocks of what you need.

November 23/29: JavaScript Animation: p5.js

    • More p5.js animation examples
    • Objects & Arrays review
    • Project updates
    • Project Continue work on web project. Keep collecting assets, and begin work on the webpage elements. Be prepared to update the class on your progress (with things to show if possible!) on Tuesday.

Week 13
November 28/December 1: p5.js: Sound & DOM

    • Using the DOM in p5.js
    • p5.js sound library
    • Project Continue work on web project. By this point you should be building for the browser, and assembling all your web-based elements.

November 30/December 6: 3D

    • 3D in p5.js
    • Project Continue work on web project. Bring a working prototype to class next session for user testing.

Week 14
December 5/8: Speed User Testing

December 7/12: Final Presentations

Tuesday December 13: IMA SHOW