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ITP Data Art - Spring 2015

  • Instructor: Jer Thorp
  • Instructor e-mail:
  • Office Hours: Monday, 3:30pm to 5:30pm. Sign up on google docs
  • Class Logistics: Mon 12:05pm to 3:30pm

Aims of Course

Fascinating and terrifying things are happening the intersection of data and culture. Our lives are being constantly measured, and information about us is being surveilled, stolen, and commodified. Dialogue around this data revolution has been dominated by corporations, governments, and industry - but what about the arts? In this class, we’ll investigate the means by which artists can engage (and are engaging) in the collection, processing, and representation of data. Using a research-focused, prototype-based approach, we’ll build a series of collective and individual projects to interrogate the ‘new data reality’. Students will use Processing, along with a variety of open-source data tools (such as D3.js, Miso, OpenRefine, MapBox & leaflet.js).

Course Themes & Section Projects

This course will be divided into four 3 week 'sections', each focusing on a different aspect of data art:

  1. Data & Aesthetic
  2. Text, Archives And Memory Stores
  3. Data & Publics
  4. Ethics, Humans & Responsibility

Each of these sections will run for three classes. The first of the three classes will involve a survey of work being done in this area, and a 'workshop' teaching one or two important technical points. The second class will involve a discussion around assigned readings and a review of available tools. The third class will feature a guest speaker, and brief (5 minute) presentations of project work (see below).

For each of these sections, you will complete a small project, which will be assigned on the first day of the section and will be due on the last. For each assignment, you have the choice of doing a conceptual project, or a realized one:

  • Conceptual projects should be focused on possiblily without constraint. What would or could you build if you were not restricted by materials, budget, tehnological possibility, or coding skills?

  • Realized projects will be built in the two weeks between assignement and the due date. They will be posted to this repo with source code.

Each student will be required to complete 2 conceptual projects, and two realized projects. It is your choice as to which of the sections you choose for which.

Each projects can be done as an individual project, or in groups of up to 3. Each student will be required to do at least one individual project, and at least one group project.

Expectations and Workload

You can expect to have three assigned readings for each thematic sections. You must complete all readings prior to class, and come ready to participate in discussion. Projects must be posted to this GitHub repo in the appropriate folder, along with source code (where applicable) before the start of class on the third day of each semester.


If we were using a percentage-based grading system, the numbers would look something like this:

Class participation: 30% Semester Projects: 70% Since we’re not using a percentage-based grading system, let me put it another way: if you’re an active contributor to our discussions in class, and you complete your assignments, and you make something ambitious/excellent as a final project, you’ll pass this class. If you don’t, you won’t.

Class Rules

(i) Everyone shows up to class on time. If you’re going to be late, let me know in advance. If you need to miss a class for a real reason, you must also let me know in advance.

(ii) Everyone does the readings. For the most part, they’re short, fun, and useful.

(iii) All assignment work is due at the beginning of class. Everyone gets a free pass for one late assignment. After that, any assignments not ready for the start of class will be counted as incomplete.

(iv) Everyone in the class must attend office hours at least once in first three weeks of class.

(v) We’ll have a series of guest speakers coming into class over the course of the term. I will provide resources to learn about their work prior to their visits – everyone in class must do their homework and be prepared to learn from our guests.

(vi) I am 100% dedicated to a inclusive, harassment-free experience for everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, appearance, or religion. I will not tolerate harassment of class participants in any form.


(i) Gary Shteyngart - Super Sad True Love Story

(ii) James Gleick - The Information


Data & Aesthetic

  1. January 26th - Survey, technical workshop (NYTimes API)
  2. February 2nd - Super secret field trip
  3. February 9th - Discussions on readings & Project presentations

Text, Archives & Meory Stores

  1. February 23rd - Survey, technical workshop (RiTa)
  2. March 2nd - Discussions on readings, other resources
  3. March 9th - Guest Speaker (TBA) & Project presentations

Data & Publics

  1. March 16th - Survey, technical workshop (OpenPaths, Leaflet.js)
  2. March 23rd - Discussions on readings, other resources
  3. March 30th - Guest Speaker (TBA) & Project presentations

Ethics, Humans & Responsibility

  1. April 6th - Survey, technical workshop (TBA)
  2. April 13st - Discussions on readings, other resources
  3. April 20th - Guest Speaker (TBA) & Project presentations