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.

This course hopes to help you:

• develop a critical understanding of emerging making technologies and their role within the current cultural and social context

• establish proficiency with the fundamental concepts, methods, and practices of brainstorming, physical modeling, laser cutting, 3D printing, electronic prototyping, and hands-on making across a range of materials

• learn effective strategies for interviewing people

• improve your ability to make expressive, physical, and interactive objects and experiences

• develop communication and presentation skills through the process of studio critique

Attendance and Participation

Contributing generously to class discussions and activities consists of coming to class with questions and reflections about the readings, participating thoughtfully in class discussion, engaging with your peers' ideas and contributions, and making every effort to be present and active during work sessions both in and out of class. We must stress that this is a project-based course that requires considerable out-of-class commitment, and that the success of each group’s project will depend on each member adding to each project as best as they can from their own skillsets and abilities. Peer evaluations following each critique will help determine each member’s final grade. Keep in mind that grades even within a group can differ depending on the efforts made (or not made, as it happens!) by each of a group’s individual members. Please be respectful to your peers by not enrolling in Critical Practices if you don’t believe you’ll be able to commit at least three to six hours per week outside of course meeting times to develop each provocation.

On the more technical side of things: you are permitted two unexcused absences. With three unexcused absences, your final grade will begin to decline to the effect of 3% per day. Excused absences do not affect your grade, however it is your responsibility to email the instructors at least an hour before the missed class in order to request that your absence be excused. Needless to say, since the development of your ideas, abilities, and projects will depend on your being exposed to the material covered during lectures and discussed during class, time spent away from the classroom, excused or not, will necessarily lower the quality of the work you produce. Do your best to be present and active every day.


Our grading breakdown will be as follows:



Field Activites will be graded on a “√, √-, √+” basis, where:

√+ = 95 (A)
√/√+ = 90 (A-)
√ = 85 (B)
√- =75 (C)
NC = no credit (55, or “F”)

Required Readings and Software

Required readings will all be posted on bCourses in the “files” section, and many of the readings will also be accessible through links embedded directly in the syllabus on the bCourses homepage. You will also need the following software to participate fully in the course. All software can be acquired for free through Berkeley’s software department, found below, or the software provider’s website under a student license.

Adobe Illustrator (essential for assignments involving the laser cutter); software can be found here:

Fusion 360 (student edition is free; can be found at:

Cura (1.5.0 for 3D printing)

Other useful (but not required) software:

Adobe Photoshop – indispensable for all-around image-editing

Adobe InDesign – commonly used for posters, brochures, pamphlets, and other text-based presentation materials


Instructors follow accommodation and services guidelines provided by the Disabled Students Program. Find information on the Disabled Students Program online at Please bring proper documentation from the DSP office as soon as possible in order to request accommodations or services.Instructors are also sensitive to serious health concerns. Take advantage of Tang Center Resources, including Counseling and Psychological Services. Call (510) 642-2000 to make a medical appointment; call (510) 642-9494 to make a counseling appointment. Find more information on Student Health Services online at Speak to an instructor privately if you have a health concern that requires accommodation.

Academic Dishonesty

Keep in mind that any ideas, graphics, language, or objects you use in your own course presentations, projects, or written responses that were originally developed by other organizations or individuals must be accompanied by the appropriate acknowledgments and citations, and that to neglect this part of the creative process not only reduces the power and effectiveness of your own work, but constitutes serious ethical and academic violations. If you have any confusion about what academic misconduct looks like, please see the UC website on the subject ( or speak with either Jill or Adam about the specific situation.