Quantitative Aesthetics: Design as Signal

This course is looking at computational approaches to digital media that allow us to analyse and reinterpret our environment as a signal, creating interactive interventions that distort the limits of the sensible. The term aesthetics here has less to do with judgments of beauty and more with its original meaning of the discourse on the “sensible”. Our experience of the cultural social and physical environment is increasingly mediated by digital media that form cascades of filters and surfaces of interaction. In that sense the understanding of the totality of what can be seen, said or heard within these environments [what Jacques Ranciere might call “the distribution of the sensible”] is passing into the realm of signal analysis; a conceptual framework for making sense of and intervening in an environment that exists in a superposition of states that can be analysed and recombined in numerous ways.

The course will introduce techniques for real time and deferred analysis of contextual information, such as sound analysis, computer vision, movement analysis and machine learning. In addition, generative approaches that remix or synthesize new sensory information, such as real time sound synthesis, interactive light projections and installations are also introduced. The course will focus on the application of these techniques rather than the underlying theories. Some basic programming will be helpful but not required and as much as possible software toolkits will be provided to students in a series of workshops to familiarize with the technologies. Students will work in groups and develop a design for an object, interactive installation or virtual experience that is based on the analysis and resampling of a specific site.