Course Title & Number: Senior Thesis 498-01
Professor: Mark Thompson
Office Address: Art and Multimedia 312
Email Address: email@example.com
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 9:30-12:30 or by appointment
Class Meets: Mondays, 9:30 – 12:20
Room: Art and Multimedia 206
This course is the first in a two-semester sequence — followed by IMM 499 in the spring — allowing you to pursue an ambitious and innovative project that spans both semesters. In general, this first semester (498) is an opportunity for thorough research, exploration and experimentation. You’ll end the semester with a formal, thorough proposal for your thesis project — an idea inspired and supported by your research into the history of your chosen field, current innovative work in the field, as well as the individuals and groups who have helped to pioneer the field. The final semester in the sequence (499) is focused on building a project that embodies the research from the first semester, as well as developing creative discipline and project management skills, and finally promoting your work through an online portfolio and end-of-the-semester public showcase.
- Develop a thorough understanding of the history of their chosen area of development, including major innovations, pioneers and leaders in the field, and influences from other areas of technology and culture.
- Gain an understanding of innovation — the conditions that lead to new and better ideas, the processes by which those ideas often develop, and approaches to innovation as practiced by some of the pioneering figures in media and technology.
- Forecast the future of their chosen area of development, based on the history of the area and an analysis of recent trends.
- Propose and advocate for a project that breaks new ground in their area and also serves as a crowning project in their college portfolio.
- Design and implement proofs-of-concept to test various creative and technical strategies for successfully developing their project in the second semester of the sequence, and revising their project proposal to reflect the results of these tests.
Both semesters require written documentation of and reflection on your work. The fall semester (IMM 498) is designated “writing-intensive” and therefore requires a significant amount of formal writing applied to your research and the initial development of your project. You’ll receive written feedback on your formal writing assignments, including the history/state/future/leaders of the field research, and your initial and final project proposals. Your grade on those assignments will depend on elements such as grammar, spelling, clarity, organization, evidence to support your position and a tone of voice appropriate for your audience. Please refer to these guidelines. We’ll also discuss these issues in class related to each assignment. Throughout the semester — from your initial research through to your final formal project proposal — you’ll be expected to revise and refine the language you use to describe your field and your project, based on your hands-on experiences as well as feedback from your classmates and me.
This semester is an opportunity to research an area of interactive multimedia that interests you and to start devising a project that demonstrates that research. You aren’t expected to have a completed, polished project at the end of the semester, but rather a clear idea of what your project will be — an idea backed up by solid research and appropriate proofs-of-concept — that will pave the way for the execution of your project in the second semester of the sequence. This course demands that you extend your own boundaries as well as the boundaries of the field in which you choose to work. Although you’re about to graduate from the Interactive Multimedia program, your final project doesn’t need to be interactive, although interactivity frequently presents opportunities for real innovation. At the very least your research must consider the potential for interactivity in your work, even if you ultimately argue against it. Regardless of interactivity, your research and the resulting project should somehow break new ground in terms of its form and/or its execution. If it’s an animated movie, just for example, it shouldn’t look like any other movie that might come out of an intro animation class — it needs to stand out, either in its visual style and/or in the techniques you use to create it. At the end of the spring semester, in fact, you’ll be encouraged to enter your project into some kind of contest or juried show, so keep in mind that your piece should stand out from all the other entries. Again, if your project were an animation, creating such a piece would require you to research the history of animation and the various styles and techniques employed by the masters of the medium. You will also be exhibiting your project as part of an IMM show at the end of the spring semester. Not only should your project push the limits in terms of content and execution, it should push your own limits as well. If you think you already know everything about the area in which you’ve chosen to work, then choose something else. Choose an area in which you’re not completely comfortable; you have time to get comfortable.
This is a research project and as such requires rigorous exploration of similar projects that have come before yours. There are no textbooks appropriate for the entire class because every project is different. You are expected, however, to seek out and cite a range of sources in the course of your research. Google is only a start. Whether you buy them or request them from the library, you should read the relevant books and articles and become an authority in your area of interest. You’re encouraged to draw on the expertise of other IMM and TCNJ faculty.
The following required readings address creativity and innovation in general, and therefore provide a historical, creative and commercial context to the development of your project idea. A portion of each class meeting will be devoted to discussing the ideas in the readings. Be prepared to discuss the relevance of those ideas to your own experience and creative process.
The Steven Johnson books are available in local bookstores or online. Other readings, including selections from Manifesto: A Century of Isms, will be provided digitally in class.
- Johnson, Steven. The Innovators Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next. Penguin, 2011.
- Johnson, Steven, ed. Where Good Ideas Come From. Penguin, 2010.
- Caws, Mary Ann, ed. Manifesto: A Century of Isms. University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
Class Google Community:
The class Google Community is our virtual classroom… conference room… water cooler… coffee shop. It’s the online counterpart to the face-to-face presentations, discussion and collaboration that takes place during our weekly class meetings. It’s also your virtual notebook or sketchpad or filing box. You’ll post many of your assignments to the community, share your thoughts and insights, and build up a network of ideas for the whole class to plug into.
Weekly Assignments – 17 pts
During the first half of the semester — until Fall Break on October 13 — you’ll complete a set of assignments every week:
Daily Drift – 3 pts
Every day, write at least 300 words of stream-of-conscious something in a Google Drive document just to clear out the mental clutter get your creative wheels turning. Review Julia Cameron’s morning pages to get the general idea. But as Cameron herself points out, there are no rules… other than just doing it. Share your Daily Drift Google Doc with me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should make every effort to make entries every day, but four entries per week will earn full credit.
Weekly Wandering – 3 pts
Borrowing from Julia Cameron’s idea of an artist date, take a few hours out of every week to break free from your normal routine and, literally, change your scenery. Go on a hike or hop on a train. Go to a museum or gallery or a show. Go somewhere new and keep your mind open for inspiration, keeping in mind that you might trip over inspiration where you least expect it. Document your outing in whatever way is useful to you — notes,
sketches, photos, videos, audio recordings, etc. Post everything as a single Google Community post before class each week, and assign it to the “Weekly Wanderings” category.
Reflection – 4 pts
Toward the end of the week, look back on everything you’ve created, gathered and pondered — probably quite a jumble — and do your best to make sense of it all in an articulate, well-organized essay. Definitive conclusions are great, but this is also the place to record your open questions. Look for the connections in between your own ideas and observations, and also look for possible connections with the work of your classmates. Post your entry — at least 300 words — to the Google Community before class each week, and assign it to the “Reflection” category.
To Review – 2 pts
Use a Google Drive document to keep a running list of books, articles, movies, apps, games — anything related to your area of interest — that you plan to review as you develop your research. Add at least three items to your list every week, and include links so your classmates can check them out, too. You might want to publish each item to the Google Community as it occurs to you, or store them up in a single, document throughout the week, until you’re ready to share that week’s complete list as apost to the Google Community. Assign your posts to the “To Review” category.
Notes – 3 pts
Where the “To Review” list is your input, this is your output. Write down notes, ideas, questions, inspirations or anything else related to the items you read, watch or otherwise experience each week. Capture your thoughts in a Google Drive document, share it and post it to the Google Community before class each week, with clear formatting to indicate the different sources. Assign it to the “Notes” category.
Classmate Feedback – 2 pts
Each week, post at least two constructive comments in response to something a classmate has posted on the Class Google Community. “Constructive” means your classmate can somehow act on your information — investigating a resource, contacting a person, trying a tool, reconsidering a design decision, clarifying something ambiguous, etc.
One-Time Assignments – 84 pts total
In addition to the recurring weekly assignments described above, you’ll complete a series of unique assignments throughout the semester:
Future Bio – 1 point
Write the text for the “About Me” page of your professional web site… three years from now. Write it in the present tense, as if you’re actually writing it in 2017. Your bio should reflect your true ambitions and be crafted to appeal to potential professional contacts. Describe your professional activities and interests. Where do you work? What do you do? What particular projects have you worked on that best show off your specific skills, and what are those skills? Did you work anywhere before this? Go to graduate school? Feel free to include personal details if appropriate. Create your bio as a Google Drive document, share it and post it on the Class Google Community before we meet for class on September 8. Assign your post to the “Future Bios” category.
LinkedIn Profile – 1 point
Before class on September 8, create a personal profile on LinkedIn. (If you already have a profile, update it.) Add your IMM professors as contacts, and join the “Interactive Multimedia at The College of New Jersey” group.
Personal Manifesto – 2 points
Drawing on our class discussion, and taking inspiration from previous works including but not limited to those listed below, create your own manifesto that embodies your personal beliefs, philosophies and ideologies. Review Mary Ann Caw’s thoughts on the manifesto as listed in the required reading. As Caw points out, this document is “crafted to convince and convert” and also to “write something into existence.” There are no rules — just be bold, and have fun with it. Create your manifesto in Google Drive (in whatever form it takes), share it and post a link to the class Google Community before we meet for class on September 15. Assign your post to the “Personal Manifestos” category.
Portfolio Map – 2 points
Create a map of all the IMM-related work you’ve created over the past several years. Start broad — include projects for class, projects outside of class, projects before TCNJ. Keep your future bio in mind — if you consider yourself a writer then include your writing, not just media projects. Arrange the projects on your map to indicate their relationship to each other — maybe some of them were part of a larger project and should be grouped together, maybe several projects are in the same medium, or showcase similar skills — whatever arrangement makes sense to you. In addition to grouping projects spatially, use other visual cues to indicate further relationships — all your Processing projects might be inside a diamond shape, for instance, or all your projects that deal with a particular theme might be blue. Save this inclusive version of your map — save a copy if you’re working on a computer, or take a photo or make a scan or a photocopy if you’re working by hand — then start to narrow things down. Remember that in a personal portfolio you only want to show your strongest work — quality over quantity. If a project is sloppy or amateurish, delete it from your map. Are there incomplete or rough projects that could be effective if you can finish them or clean them up? Leave them, but clearly identify them on your map. Keep your future bio and your manifesto in mind… to become that person, what particular skill or skills should you showcase in your portfolio? Make sure your remaining projects show off those skills. Finally, reflect on what’s missing from your portfolio. Are there open questions or unexplored hunches? Is there a particular skill or medium you’d like to highlight, but aren’t able to with your existing projects? This may suggest an area for you to investigate in your capstone project. Post links to both your inclusive and more focused maps as a single post on the Class Google Community before class on September 15. Assign your post to the “Portfolio Map” category.
History of the Field – 3 points for presentation; 3 for write-up
Research the history of the area in which you’d like to develop a project. How did we get to where we are today, to the state-of-the-art? What previous technologies and what advances in other fields fed into the development of your field? What sort of predictions were made about your field, from people within or without? Did those predictions pan out? (Vannevar Bush described something very similar to the World Wide Web in 1948, for example. And Star Trek TNG had touchscreen tablets that look and function almost identically to an iPad.) Who were some of the pioneers in your field? Illustrate this history in the form of a spatial “map” along the lines of your portfolio map from last week, as well as what we’ve been doing on the white board in class. Use the map to show — at a glance — the relationships between ideas/tools/people. It may make sense to use more than one version of the map to demonstrate the evolution of ideas in the field over time.
Members of Team Blinky will present their research — including their concept map — to the class on September 22. Use web sites, videos, images or any other media that will help describe your discoveries. Refer to these additional guidelines for an effective presentation.
Everyone in the class — regardless of team — must write up his or her research as a Google Doc, shared & posted to the class Google Community as a link to the “History of the Field” category before class on September 29. If you presented your research and ideas to the class, be sure to incorporate and/or respond to any feedback you received from your classmates during your presentation. Attach your concept map image to the written blog post. You’ll later refer to this text as you develop your formal project proposal, and revise it based on your proofs-of-concept and feedback from your classmates and me. You’ll be graded not only on the thoroughness of your research, but on how effectively you present your ideas in writing. Use headings or other formatting to lend clarity and organization to your blog post, and keep these guidelines in mind. Your post should be at least 700 words.
State of the Field – 3 points for presentation; 3 for write-up
Research three important projects that have recently been developed in the field in which you plan to work. Get a firm grasp on the who, what, when, where, why and how of each project. Illustrate this information as well as any technical, personal, historical or conceptual relationships between the projects in the form of a concept map.
Members of Team Inky will present their research — including their concept map — to the class on September 29, using web sites, videos, images or any other media that will help describe the work. Also describe how each project has influenced your own ideas about what to do (or not to do) for your own project this year. Has this initial research given you an idea of what hasn’t already been done in this area? Might that be a direction you want to pursue? Refer to these additional guidelines for an effective presentation.
Everyone in the class — regardless of team — must write up his or her research more formally, incorporating or responding to any feedback from classmates, if appropriate. Post your writing to as a single post before class on October 6. Attach your concept map to the post, and assign your post to the “State of the Field” category. This text will inform your upcoming formal project proposal. You’ll be graded not only on the thoroughness of your research, but on how effectively you present your ideas in writing. Use headings or other formatting to lend clarity and organization to your blog post, and keep these additional guidelines in mind. Your post should be at least 700 words.
Leaders in the Field – 3 points for presentation; 3 for write-up
Identify three of the leading practitioners in your chosen field. Research their background… what personal, academic and professional path led to their success? Research their approach to work… where do they get inspiration? What is their daily routine? Finally, research how they present their work… in what venues or through what channels? Are they members of particular professional organizations? What sort of awards or recognition have they received? If your chosen practitioners are on Twitter and/or Google+, follow them. If they have a blog, subscribe to it. If they have some other kind of web site, bookmark it. Tell the class how you keep up with these people and their work.
Members of Team Blinky will present their research on October 6. Use web sites, videos, images or any other media to help describe the people and their work. Refer to these additional guidelines for an effective presentation. Everyone must write up his or her research as a Google Doc, share it and post a link on the class Google Community in the “Leaders in the Field” category, before class on October 13. This text will inform your upcoming formal project proposal. You’ll be graded not only on the thoroughness of your research, but on how effectively you present your ideas in writing. Use headings or other formatting to lend clarity and organization to your blog post, and keep these guidelines in mind. Your post should be at least 700 words.
Future of the Field – 3 points for presentation; 3 for write-up
Think again of the future you, working in your chosen field. What changes do you expect that field to see in the next three years? Think in terms of the “adjacent possible” as described by Steven Johnson — what doors can be opened now, and what rooms might those doors lead to? Present a hypothetical but realistic innovation in your field that will impact the sort of work your future you is doing. For example, if you considered yourself an interface designer three years ago, you could have realistically predicted that multi-touch tablets would have a considerable impact on your work today, even though you didn’t know the details of the hardware or software. Your prediction should be grounded in observation of recent trends as well as the expectations of current experts in the field.
Members of Team Inky will present their ideas on October 13. Use web sites, videos, images or any other media to help support your vision of the future. Refer to these additional guidelines for an effective presentation.
Everyone in the class — regardless of team — must write things up their ideas about the future on the blog, incorporating or responding to the feedback of classmates, if appropriate. Post your ideas to the class Google Community before class on October 20, and assign your post to the “Future of the Field” category. This text will inform your upcoming formal project proposal. You’ll be graded not only on the thoroughness of your research, but on how effectively you present your ideas in writing. Use headings or other formatting to lend clarity and organization to your document, and keep these guidelines in mind. Your document should be at least 300 words.
Initial Project Proposal – 10 points for presentation; 10 for write-up
Describe your initial ideas for your capstone project. You’re not expected to have every detail worked out, and it’s expected that your idea will evolve as you do additional research and experiment with technical implementation. Nevertheless, your writing and your presentation should endeavor to answer some of the following questions:
- What’s your idea?
- What inspired your idea?
- Who’s your target audience and how does your project address their specific needs and requirements?
- How is your idea an improvement over existing work in the area? How does it break new ground?
- What’s your creative strategy? What factors will determine the project’s look and feel?
- What’s your technical strategy? What software and hardware do you think you’ll need to complete the project?
- What specific skills and experience do you bring to this project?
- What additional skills and knowledge will you need to acquire in order to execute the project? How do you plan to acquire those skills? Identify specific sources (books, journals, etc.) for additional research.
- How can you accomplish this by April?
Furthermore, describe three proofs-of-concept that you’ll develop during the rest of the semester… three small tests or demonstrations to prove the viability of your ideas. If your ultimate goal is to create a game that uses motion input from a camera, for instance, one test might demonstrate that you can get Processing or HTML5 to process simple camera input, while another test demonstrates the on-screen gameplay with conventional keyboard and mouse control. The idea is to isolate particular aspects of your idea and prove that they work as planned. Ultimately, you’ll integrate these techniques into your larger project.
Finally, describe how you might present your project-in-progress at the IMM “Winter Laboratory” show on Friday, December 5th.
Members of Team Blinky will present their proposals on November 3. Team Inky will present on November 10. Refer to these additional guidelines for an effective presentation.
Everyone must formally write up his or her proposal as a single document, posted to the “Initial Project Proposal” category on the class Google Community, before class on November 10. Incorporate or respond to some of the feedback you received during your class presentation. You’ll be graded not only on the thoroughness of your research, but on how effectively you present your ideas in writing. Use headings or other formatting to lend clarity and organization to your document, embed appropriate images or other media to support your text, and keep these guidelines in mind. Your document should be at least 1,000 words.
Prototypes – 3 points each
In the final stretch of the semester, you’ll have three in-class working sessions to develop your three prototypes and demonstrate/discuss/test them with your classmates and your professor. Your third prototype will be the subject of a user testing session in class on November 21.
Following each working session, describe the outcome in a document posted to the “Prototypes” category of the class Google Community.
- Did things go as planned?
- What problems did you encounter and were you able to fix them?
- What lessons will you apply to your larger project?
Your document should be at least 200 words.
- Work session for Prototype 1
- Results of Prototype 1 posted to Google Community
- Work session for Prototype 2
- Results of Prototype 2 posted to Google Community
- Work session for Winter Show posters
Final Project Proposal – 15 points
This semester, you had the opportunity to identify a broad area in which you’d like to develop a project, and to examine the work of others in that area. You presented your initial project ideas to your classmates and received constructive feedback. You also tried your hand at implementing parts of your project and adjusted your plans accordingly. While this semester was about exploration, next semester is about execution, and it starts with your formal written project proposal. Your proposal should describe in detail exactly what form your project will take at the end of April, and what specifically you’re going to do to get it there. Your proposal should stand on its own and be clear to a non-technical audience. In that regard you’ll be covering some of the same ground you did in your previous writing and presentations (the inspiration for your project, similar projects, target audience, etc.) but your written proposal should eliminate any of the ambiguity (the maybes and probablys and hopefullys) from your initial proposal earlier in the semester.
Approach your proposal as if you were applying for a grant, trying to line up investors or convince your boss that the project is a worthwhile use of your time. To that end, your proposal must be thorough, compelling and convincing. You won’t sell anyone on your ideas and your skills if your proposal is confusing, sloppy or incomplete. Your proposal should be at least 1,200 words (more likely more than 1,500) and include images, URLs or any other media that will help support your idea. Keep these guidelines in mind. Post your proposal to the community as an attached document (MS Word or comparable) on Friday, December 12, before we meet for final presentations on December 15, and assign your post to the “Final Project Proposal” category.
Your proposal should address the following questions:
- What’s your idea?
- What inspired your idea?
- Who’s your target audience and how does your project address their specific needs and requirements?
- Based on your research, what evidence do you see of demand for / interest in a project like yours?
- What similar projects are out there already? What artists/designers/developers are working in an area similar to your own?
- How is your idea an improvement? How does it break new ground?
- What’s your creative strategy?
- What factors will determine the project’s look and feel?
- How are these choices appropriate to your target audience?
- How is your approach similar or different from the aesthetic approach of others in your field, and why?
- From your research and/or testing, what evidence do you have to support the effectiveness of your approach?
- What’s your technical strategy?
- What software and hardware will you need to complete the project?
- Why these tools and not others?
- How is your technical approach similar or different from the approach of others in the field, and why?
- From your research and/or testing, what evidence do you have that your approach will be successful?
- Which of these tools do you already have access to? If you don’t have access to a necessary tool or resource, how and when do you plan to acquire it?
- What specific skills and experience do you bring to this project?
- What additional skills and knowledge will you need to acquire in order to execute the project?
- How do you plan to acquire those skills in time to develop the necessary components of your project?
- How do you plan to exhibit your project to the public in the senior project showcase on April 26? Include sketches, diagrams or other mockups. Be specific and detailed about necessary hardware and software.
Also make recommendations about the ideal presentation for your project, considering elements such as location in the AIMM building, furniture, lighting, sound, security, amount of space and any other important concern. How can you accomplish this next semester? Work backwards from the show in April to create a detailed development schedule that generally reflects the “rule of thirds” for project management — the first third planning, the second third implementation, and the final third testing. Which parts of the project have to be completed when? Be as precise as possible with your tasks and deadlines to alert yourself of any possible problems. Additionally, block out specific work time during each week of the spring semester to devote to the development of your project.
Final Project Proposal Presentation – 10 points
Use your written proposal as the basis for a polished, formal presentation to the class during our designated finals meeting time. Include slides, web sites and other supporting media. Your presentation should clearly address the same questions as your written proposal, but don’t read directly from your proposal or just cut-and-paste your proposal onto slides. In keeping with these guidelines, you’ll be graded on the information you present as well as the strength of your presentation, which should be well-rehearsed, confident and concise. This is an opportunity to develop the “elevator pitch” for your project, as described in FastCompany magazine. You do have more than one minute for your presentation, however — in this case five minutes, but no more. You should also use slides, sites, images or other supporting media. (In fact, people are starting to incorporate media into their actual elevator pitches, since they can now have images, videos, slides and other media on their smart phones.)
Class Participation – 4 points
We’ll take advantage of the fact we’re all in one room together every week by offering constructive criticism and advice to those presenting on one subject or another. You’re expected to regularly volunteer relevant comments and/or ask relevant questions during class discussion, whether we’re talking about your classmates’ presentations, projects or readings. At times your feedback will be more appropriate in writing — if you’d like to point the person to a particular URL for instance— in which case you’re expected to make regular, relevant comments on your classmate’s blog posts, comments that allow him or her to act on your information — referring to a resource you mentioned, contacting a person, trying a tool, reconsidering a design decision, etc.
Your final course grade will be determined by the following scale:
- A 93-100
- A- 90-92.9
- B+ 87-89.9
- B 83-86.9
- B- 80-82.9
- C+ 77-79.9
- C 73-76.9
- C- 70-72.9
- D+ 67-69.9
- D 60-66.9
- F below 60
Sept 2: First Day of Class
Introductions & Course Overview
Oct 13: Fall Break
Dec 15: Final Prototype Presentations