Critical Practices is a hands-on, studio design course where students work at the intersection of technological innovation and socially engaged art. Students will integrate a suite of digital fabrication tools with social design methods to create work that engages in cultural critique. Working with innovative technologies and radical, new art practices, this course will explore: hybrid art forms, critical design for community engagement, interventions in public spaces, tactical media and disobedient objects. These new making strategies will reframe our notions of people, places and participation.

While no previous technical knowledge is required to take this course, class projects will involve basic programing, electronic circuity, and digital fabrication design. While tutorials and instruction will be provided, students will be expected to develop basic skills in each of these areas in order to complete the course projects. The course will result in a final public show of student work.

This is a studio class with time devoted to lecture, discussion, practice activities, design worksessions, and critique of student work. This course will consist of two Provocations and a Final Project. There will also be a series of Field Activities and in class sessions that are included in your grade.


Readings will be assigned throughout the semester. Everyone is expected to read the readings. One or two people will be selected for each reading to prepare a class presentation. Each student is expected to engage in class discussions when readings are assigned. This counts towards your class participation grade.


Most classes will begin with a zip.crit. A zip.crit is a rapid crit of an interface, object, design, etc. We will be rotating through the class roster and choosing one person to do a zip.crit each class. That person will select an interface, object, design, instructable, kickstarter, toy, etc. At the beginning of class that person will briefly introduce the object, interface, design to us. The class will collectively critique the artifact.


Work and performance in the course will be evaluated after each Provocation and the Final Project. In addition, the process of exploration is as important as the final product, so it is important that students manage time well and devote time to working on the assignments during the course of a week. If class time is given as a worksession and is not put to good use, students’ grades will be penalized. For assignments done in teams, students will be graded on individual contributions as well as synthesis with the team. Work that is late will be decremented in grade.

Rules of engagement

One of the main learning exercises in this course is the critique. We will be building this skill throughout the semester Each of the assignments will be critiqued in class.

Be there!

Critique days mandatory attendance. If you are not in class or late, we will deduct from your attendance grade. There will be no exceptions.

Attendance of all classes is mandatory. You are allowed two absences for the semester without penalty (except critique days); thereafter you will receive zero credit for the missed studio. To receive an additional excused absence, you must ask in advance, and receive an acknowledgment from the instructor.

Excusable absences include family emergencies, job interviews, and presenting at a conference. It does not include wanting to leave early for long weekend or vacation. To receive credit for attendance, you must arrive on time. No late assignments will be accepted.

Be active!

During the in class critique everyone is expected to be engaged in the discussion. Assignments, timely attendance, and in-class and team participation are a critical part of the grade. Bringing examples from outside of the class is considered to be an assignment and is also important.

Be attentive!

We will intimately engage in a range of electronics and you are encouraged to often use such devices. However, at specific times you will be asked to put away such devices. During those times, no laptops, phones, glass, electronics or other distracting devices are allowed to be used during critique and at other selected parts of class.

Grading criteria

  • participation in assignments
  • good use of class time: attendance, critiques, (NO multitasking)
  • problem selection
  • rigorous design explorations
  • quality of craftsmanship and level of completion
  • quality of the team’s reflection and communication about a design solution and process

For projects done in teams, students will be graded on individual contributions as well as synthesis with the team. Work that is late will be decremented in grade 33% per day.



All students will be waitlisted prior to the start of the course. Enrollment from the waitlist for Critical Practices is based on an application the instructor will distribute prior to the end of the Spring 2016 Semester. Enrollment will not be based on waitlist order but you must be on the waitlist to be admitted to the course. Please put yourself on the waitlist or you will not receive the email informing you to complete the enrollment form. Do not use Phase 1 TeleBearas as your position on the waitlist will not matter.