Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-11:20am
Location: CFA-318 (College of Fine Arts building, CMU)
Instructor: Rich Pell <rp3h@andrew.cmu.edu>
TA: Zhiwan Cheung <zhiwan.cheung@gmail.com>

Electronic Media Studio II (EMS2) is an introduction to software programming and physical computing within the context of the arts. In this course students develop the skills and confidence to produce interactive artworks using audiovisual, networked and tangible media. Our semester will introduce students to three widely used toolkits for arts-engineering: ProcessingArduino, and Max/MSP/Jitter. This is a studio course. You will be required to spend more time working outside of class than inside; approximately 1.5 hours of outside work for each hour in class. You are encouraged to experiment with the untapped possibilities of the medium. The conceptual strength of your ideas will be weighed on equal footing with the technical execution of them. Both are needed to succeed in this course.


Learning Objectives:

  • To have an understanding of the underlying concepts of digital computing and physical computing and their roles in the arts.
  • To be proficient in creating basic computer programs and electronic devices capable of responding to user interaction.

The course will revolve around the following:

1. . Assignments + Critiques: students will experiment with the medium and share work to be critiqued.

2. Lab: Students will learn the appropriate tools required to produce work in the medium.

Do you have programming experience? Talk to me about this. There are options and possibilities to help you get the most out of this class.


You, your parents or the State are paying a lot for you to be here. Out of respect for those that aren’t being given this opportunity, I require class attendance. The only excused absence from is when you email me at least an hour BEFORE class starts, letting me know you can’t make it. I don’t want to know why, it’s not my business. You are still responsible for completing the assignments by the next class meeting AND getting the next assignment from the other students. Discussion is an important part of this class. You are expected to attend and to participate when here.


Don’t be late. It is not arty to be late, just rude. If you are late to class you will be required to stand in front of the class and deliver a compelling and humorous monologue explaining the lateness. If the class does not consider your story sufficiently entertaining, you will be marked absent. I reserve final judgment for myself. If you are more than 15 minutes late, don’t come.

Turn your cellphone off before you walk through the door. I reserve the right to answer any ringing phones and am pretty good at imitating voices.

No iPods, etc. with headphones will be allowed in class.

Keep your computer closed unless we’re using them, and please pretend the Internet doesn’t exist unless we are using it. Ie: NO Email or IM, txting, etc.

Help to clean up our studio before you leave each session.

Work Load.

During the semester, we will be working on a series of five projects. Some of this stuff will be produced fairly quickly. Some will involve several stages of development. With all of the projects, you will be doing a lot of the work outside of class. In general, you’ll probably need a minimum of six hours per week outside of class for your work in this course.

Evaluation Criteria.

Stated deadlines for projects and assignments must be met. Grades may be lowered on any late work one or more letter grades. Failure to complete any assignment will be rewarded with an E.

Projects can be redone if you are not satisfied with either the result or its evaluation. Revised projects can be turned at any time in the semester.

If you skip a project critique without notifying me in advance, you automatically fail the project.


Your projects will be each given two grades, one for FORM and one for CONCEPT. ‘Form’ is essentially your technical execution. Did the project work? How well was it executed? Did it meet the technical requirements of the assignment. ‘Concept’ is the idea behind the project. Were you attempting something difficult?

Part 1: Programming in Processing

Getting Started Intro & Syllabus. How to use the class blog.
Hello world: the Processing IDE, compiling and publishing. Open processing website.
Assignment: Hello world and blog post.

Drawing machines: From Tinguely to Cory Arcangel. A brief history of computer art.
Elements of programming, Syntax, functions, arguments, states, static drawing, Coordinates, lines, primitives, colors. Variables.
Assignment: Draw a face using at least 10 graphic elements

Pattern Making: Op art, Psychedelic art, repetition, while, for loop, functions.
Assignments: 1) Wallpaper: create a pattern procedurally using iteration (and randomness if you want) and Generate a pdf. 2) Print.

Changing Over Time: transcoding in art, information visualization.
Transformations, loading bitmap images, scale, rotation.
Assignment: Digital Kaleidoscope

Mouse following, responding to changing conditions,  chaos and order.

Events and Time: Information visualization, timed behaviors, milliseconds and a little math.
Assignment: Make your own clock.


Part 2: Physical Computing w/ Arduino

Light and air. You will  be producing expressive sculptures that emit light and sound and gracefully move using simple fans, inspired by the work of Shih Chieh Huang.

1 bit, 2 bits, 4 bits, 8: Make it blink. Art from LEDs.
Assignment: LED bargraph.

Turning other things on and off: Relay switches, transistors and controlling the world.

Computer Not Included: Making ‘free-living’ sculptures.

Digital inputs and outputs: sensors. analog inputs.

Part 3: Working w/ Signals in Max/MSP

Using sensors and complex inputs to control your sculptures and manipulate sound and video using Max/MSP.