Communications Lab Syllabus


Spring 2018
Course Website:

SECTION 1: Instructor: Ann Chen (
Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:15pm – 2:30pm; recitation Thursdays, 1:45pm – 3:00pm

SECTION 2: Instructors: Leon Lu ( & Nimrah Syed (
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:45pm – 4:00pm; recitation Thursdays, 3:15pm – 4:30pm

SECTION 3: Instructor: Sarah Fay Krom (
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:15pm – 5:30pm; recitation Thursdays, 4:45pm – 6:00pm

SECTION 4: Instructor: JH Moon (
Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:45pm – 7:00pm; recitation Thursdays, 6:15pm – 7:30pm

Communications Lab Area Head: Roopa Vasudevan (

Ann: Tuesdays, 1pm – 5pm. Room 939. Sign up here.
Leon: Fridays, 12pm – 3pm. Sign up here.
Nimrah: Wednesdays, 11am – 2pm. Sign up here.
Sarah: Tuesdays, 1:30pm – 4:30pm. Sign up here.
Moon: Fridays, 11am – 12pm & 1pm – 3pm. Sign up here.
Roopa: Wednesdays, 10am – 2pm. Sign up here.

Please note that all sections are following the same syllabus, so even if you cannot meet with your own instructor, feel free to sign up with another. If none of the times work for your schedule, please email your instructor for an appointment.

Communications Lab Fellows:
Jiwon Shin (
David Santiano (
Jack B. Du (

Comm Lab Group Study Sessions:
Tuesday, 5 – 6:30pm
Thursday, 7:45 – 9pm
IMA Lab Lab (room 823)


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. Students will learn the principles of digital imaging, recording and editing video and audio, and the basics of fundamental web languages HTML, CSS and JavaScript, in order 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.

Course Objectives

  • Become comfortable with the basics of web development
  • Become familiar with digital content creation (specifically image manipulation, audio, and video), specifically surrounding its usage on the web
  • Examine the contexts in which this media exists in society, both historically and in current practice



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) Internet art project

You will be expected to create a web-based project for all of these assignments, and submit them online.

There are reading and viewing assignments throughout the semester. You will be required to write a short response to each reading and post it to the class blog. These responses should contain thoughtful reflections on the reading and its relevance to the material covered in class. Blog posts will be graded on reading comprehension, as well as quality of writing and critical thought.

You will also be required to post detailed documentation for each project on the blog, detailing your process and linking to documentation of the work. These posts will be expected to contain a description of the project and a working link; a description of the process of making the project and collaborating with your peers; and an evaluation of whether or not the project was successful and met yuor initial goals. Even if you work collaboratively, every student MUST post his/her own response.

Software: While it will not be explicitly covered in the course, the Adobe Creative Cloud suite is available in the 24-hour computer labs located in the Academic Building. Additionally, all the software is available as a fully-functional free trial from the Adobe website. Instructional workshops and tutorials for the software applications relevant to the course (Photoshop, Premiere, Audacity) will be held outside of class by the course fellows.

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 (February 2 or 5, 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
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”, 1941
Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”, The Atlantic, 1945
Tim Berners-Lee, “Long Live the Web”, Scientific American, December 2010
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
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 1936
Paul Rand, “Computers, Pencils and Brushes”, Design Form and Chaos, Yale University Press (1993)
Paul Graham, “Hackers and Painters”, May 2003
Rachel Greene, “Web Work: A History of Net Art”, Artforum, May 2000

Kirby Ferguson’s TED Talk: “Embrace the Remix”
Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk: “The Danger of a Single Story”



70% – Projects
10% – Basic HTML & CSS website
15% – Interactive Comic
15% – Audio Project
15% – Video Project
15% – Internet Art Project

20% – Blog posts
10% – Responses to readings and viewings
10% – Project documentation

10% – Attendance & Participation

Grading Scale
A: Excellent performance showing a thorough knowledge and understanding of the topics of the course; all work includes clear, logical explanations, insight, and original thought and reasoning.

B: Good performance with general knowledge and understanding of the topics; all work includes general analysis and coherent explanations showing some independent reasoning, reading and research.

C: Satisfactory performance with some broad explanation and reasoning; the work will typically demonstrate an understanding of the course on a basic level.

D: Passable performance showing a general and superficial understanding of the course’s topics; work lacks satisfactory insight, analysis or reasoned explanations.

F: Unsatisfactory performance in all assessed criteria.


Attendance & 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 your instructor know in advance in order to figure out how you can make up what you missed in class. Not doing so will result in an unexcused absence; 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. Recitations count toward total attendance, and will reflect in your unexcused absences as well.

Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions and to contribute to each class session. During group project presentations, each student in the group must speak about the work in some capacity.

Laptops are permitted in class to take notes and to follow along during demonstrations. During class discussions and student presentations, there will be a strict lids-down policy enforced. All other devices are not to be used, and checking social media during class is prohibited.

No student may record any classroom activity for a personal use without express written consent from the instructor. If you have a disability such that you need to record or tape classroom activities, you should contact the instructor to request an appropriate accommodation.


Academic Integrity

Students are expected to read and understand the university’s policy on academic integrity as laid out in the Undergraduate Bulletin. Plagiarism and cheating will be penalized. If you have any questions or doubts about plagiarism, please do not hesitate to come to any instructor’s office hours.



Week 1
January 22: Introduction to the Class

    • Introduction to the course & syllabus
    • Logistics of submitting assignments & class blog demo
    • Assignment Read E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”, as well as Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths”. Post a response to the readings 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 the next class session. We will be using them during the session.

January 24: 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”, as well as Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”. Post a response to the readings on 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. This means NO changing fonts, NO changing colors, and NO fiddling with page layout.) Upload your site to the NAS, and post a link to the class blog before the next session.

January 25: Recitation

    • In class time to build HTML pages.

Week 2
January 29: Digital Imaging

January 31: CSS

    • Introduction to CSS syntax
    • Selectors and how they work with HTML
    • Class vs. ID
    • Using the <div> and <span> tags for organization and for CSS

February 1: Style

    • Web design fundamentals
    • Color schemes and palettes
    • Typography
    • Layout & the CSS box model
    • In-class CSS design exercise
    • Assignment Take your webpage that you built for this week… 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. Due Wednesday, February 7
    • Assignment Finish CSS design exercise if you were not able to in class.
    • Assignment Read Understanding Comics, chapters 1-4. Post a response to the class blog.

Week 3
February 5: Sequential Imaging

    • Share digital images
    • 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 March 5)
    • 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 recitation this week, 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.

February 7: 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 recitation 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 DOM and BOM mini-project (to be completed during recitation)

February 8: Recitation

    • In class JavaScript exercise: Events and the DOM/BOM

Week 4
February 12: JavaScript Fundamentals: Variables

    • Present comic project ideas
    • View source and using the console
    • How to deal with 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.

February 14: JavaScript Fundamentals: Choice & Logic

    • Conditionals: If Statements, If/Else If/Else, Boolean Variables
    • 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. Your goal is to be 80-90% done with your visual assets by the end of this week, and to begin getting your work into the browser. Please post an update of where you are, and screenshots of whatever you have in the browser, by the next class.
    • Assignment Variables & conditionals mini-project (to be completed during recitation)


February 22: Recitation

    • In class JavaScript exercise: Variables & Conditionals

Week 5
February 26: JavaScript Fundamentals: Iteration & Repetition 1

    • Arrays & Lists
    • Adding elements and removing elements to a list
    • Loops: while & for
    • Project Continue on interactive comic project.

February 28: JavaScript Fundamentals: Iteration & Repetition 2

    • Using loops to iterate through an array
    • Functions: Arguments, return types and callbacks
    • 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.

March 1: Recitation

    • In class work time on comic projects.

Week 6
March 5: 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. These can either be sources you record yourselves, or pre-recorded samples. 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 March 19)

March 7: Recording & Sampling Audio

March 8: Recitation

    • Review policies on equipment checkout
    • Demonstration: Field recorders
    • Demonstration: Resources for audio gathering

Week 7
March 12: Audio & JavaScript

    • Discuss reading
    • HTML5 Audio
    • Interactive music box demo
    • Project Continue work on sound piece.

March 14: Audio & JavaScript

    • Examples TK
    • Project Finish sound piece. Upload the page to the NAS, and send your instructor a link before class. (Due Monday March 19)
    • 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.

March 15: Recitation

    • In class work time on audio projects.

Week 8
March 19: Narrative

    • Present & critique audio projects
    • Review of basic narrative structure
    • Story vs. plot
    • Discussion of viewing assignment
    • Project In teams of 3 or 4, create a short form video designed *specifically* for experiencing on the web. This means that standard video playback on its own will not be acceptable. Total amount of video content included should be approximately 3-5 minutes at minumum. (Due Thursday April 12)
    • 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.

March 21: Video, the Storyboard & 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.

March 22: Recitation

    • In class work time on storyboards.

Week 9
March 26: Production

    • 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. Your next milestone is to bring a rough cut to class on April 9.

March 28: Interactive Video

March 29: HTML5 Video Demos

    • Demo: HTML5 Video
    • Demo: Playing prerecorded video in the browser
    • Demo: Creating your own controls with JavaScript
    • Demo: The currentTime variable
    • Demo: Switching out source videos based on user interaction
    • Demo: Pop up windows and video

April 2: Recitation

    • In class time to work on videos
    • Project Continue working on your video project. Bring a rough cut to class for review next session.


Week 10
April 9: Rough Cut Review

    • Review rough cuts
    • Project Continue working on your video project.

April 11: Recitation

    • In class 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.

April 12: Video Project Presentations

Week 11
April 16: Internet Art

    • Discussion of Internet Art as a medium
    • Examples of standalone web projects made with JavaScript
    • Intro to JavaScript animation with p5.js
    • 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 May 9)

April 18: JavaScript Animation: p5.js

    • More 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.

April 19:Recitation

    • In class work time on Net Art projects.

Week 12
April 23: JavaScript Animation: p5.js

    • Intro to 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!) next class.

April 25: p5.js: Sound & DOM

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

April 26:Recitation

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

Week 13
April 30: NO CLASS (China Labor Day Holiday)

May 2:Recitation

    • In class work time on Net Art projects.
    • Project Continue work on web project. Bring a working prototype to class next session for user testing.

May 3: Speed User Testing

Week 14
May 7: Recitation

    • In class work time on Net Art projects.
    • Project: Finish your Net Art project and documentation. Although presentations will be split between May 9 and 10, everyone *MUST* submit their project to the NAS before class begins on May 9.

May 9 & 10: Final Presentations

May 11: IMA SHOW


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NYU is committed to providing equal educational opportunity and participation for students with disabilities. It is NYU Shanghai’s policy that no student with a qualified disability be excluded from participating in any NYU Shanghai program or activity, denied the benefits of any NYU Shanghai program or activity, or otherwise subjected to discrimination with regard to any NYU Shanghai program or activity.

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