MAT 237
Designing Expressive Technologies

Zoom Link (for first two weeks):

In person location (starting January 18th): Elings Hall Room 2003

Instructor: Jennifer Jacobs (

TA: Anzu Kawazoe (

Lecture Time: Tuesday-Thursday 3:30-4:45 PM

Reading Group Times: 1:00 - 1:45 pm every Wednesday (starting from Jan 19th)

Office Hours: TBA (by appointment only)


Course Registration survey:

Course Description

Computational tools create new opportunities for making things. Domains like computer-aided design, augmented reality, and collaborative robotics provide new opportunities for artists, engineers, designers, and craftspeople. Yet designing expressive computational systems poses many challenges. Technological systems often are brittle, requiring the correctness of low-level elements to function. The abstractions required to build computational systems impose a separation between makers and their materials. Digital technology changes rapidly, making it difficult for people to continuously master emerging tools and interfaces. Even successful creative technologies can disrupt cultures of practice by excluding, disenfranchising, or de-skilling existing communities of makers. Addressing these challenges requires finding ways to integrate rigorous and structured research and development methodologies with observations of real-world creative production, and dialog and collaboration with different kinds of makers.

This course is for Ph.D and Masters students with an interest in researching and designing computational technologies for art, design, manufacturing, or craft. The course will be run as a seminar involving discussion of readings and concepts presented in lecture and exploration of human-computer interaction research methodologies. Course assignments will provide students with the opportunity to refine or develop design principles and evaluation methodologies for new or in-progress research projects relating to course subject matter. We will make an effort to foreground authors, practitioners and invited guest speakers who come from communities that are underrepresented in engineering and computer science.

Course Goals

  • Explore models of human creative production, processes, and learning.

  • Investigate case studies of communities working across art, craft, design, and engineering, and between digital and physical media.

  • Survey design principles for interface, interaction, and computational abstractions drawn from examples of existing technological tools.

  • Develop familiarity with qualitative and quantitative strategies for evaluating expressive technologies drawn from ethnography, participatory design, data science, and in-the-wild research.

  • Engage in critical analysis of existing expressive technologies and a discussion of strategies for inclusive and equitable design practices.

Course Components

Readings and Discussions

Students will be assigned weekly readings on theories of design and making, HCI creativity support technology, interaction design, and learning. Students are expected to complete the readings and engage in group (Zoom) discussions on Wednesdays with their assigned reading groups. Students also must create a google slide with their reflections. Reflections should focus on analysis and response of resonant themes in the reading, or provide comparisons or contrasts between readings. Readings can be found here.

Tips on Reading Papers:

This course has a high reading load. Strategic reading is encouraged! Here's some tips on how to manage this.

How to Read a Realistic Rendering Paper by Morgan McGuire

Staying Afloat: Some Scattered Suggestions on Reading in College by Timothy Burke

Course Activities

On some weeks (excluding weeks that assignments are due) there will be short activity to be completed outside of class that aligns with elements of the concepts presented in class. We will discuss these activities in our reading sections.


A portion of the class will be devoted to small group discussion of readings and concepts from the lecture, and group critique of peer work and presentations. Students are responsible for actively and thoughtfully contributing to these discussions and critiques. Students are also responsible for providing feedback on reading reflections and course assignments by other students.

Course Assignments

In addition to reading reflections and weekly course activities, students will be responsible for completing three smaller in-course assignments and one final project for the quarter. Each assignment and final project must be documented in written form (complete with figures), and submitted on the course website prior to the class on which they are due. Assignments are detailed here. All assignments will be submitted via the google class drive.

Course Structure

The course is divided into bi-weekly class meetings (by zoom) and smaller group discussions (also by zoom).


Class meetings happen Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-4:45 PM Pacific Daylight Time.

The Zoom link for the first two weeks of these meetings is:

Readings should be completed before class and a reading reflection slide should be posted online before class.

Via Zoom: Review two to three student activities (based on time), Lecture

Asynchronous: Instructor / TA support.

Reading Discussion

Reading discussions will cover the readings from Tuesday and the previous Thursday’s class.

Via Zoom groups

Students will each be randomly assigned in advance as a discussion group leader for 1-2 of the reading sections. You may swap your section with a classmate if desired. It is the discretion and responsibility of the session leader to guide the content of the session.

Asynchronous: Comment on 2 classmates’ reading reflection slides post discussion (at minimum).

Online and Remote Instruction

Due to pandemic restrictions, the first two weeks course will be taught entirely online. You are required to attend course in person starting January 18th unless you have obtained explicit permission from the instructor to do otherwise.