Screenshot capture of the Social Studies Conference’s website.

A typical scene in my life…

April 2008… I decide to submit a draft for the Social Studies Conference: Educating Designers in a Connected World to be held at MICA this upcoming October. Deadline for submissions… July 15th. Yup, I got time.

July 14th: 6:00pm… Dammit! It’s been raining all day, internet connection has been down, and I have to submit the abstract! Tic, tock… Tic, toc…


I submitted the abstract on time (see below)(and I even got a happy confirmation e-mail from the conference).

In this three-credit sophomore course, Imaging II: Settings and People (Leading to Activity Scenarios)*, students are introduced to interaction and time-based media by working with three key ideas: settings, people and scenarios. Each of these concepts is addressed through a particular investigation: a “Site Survey (settings);” a “Subject Study (people);” and an “Activity Map (scenarios).”

For the site survey investigation, and to elucidate over this idea of settings, students built annotated panoramas of a repetitive event in their daily lives. To visualize the importance of people within a system, students interviewed members within the design school to collect ethnographic data, and then designed one-minute video clips and European-sized broadsheets. Finally, the semester concluded in understanding scenarios. Students created paper-prototypes, modeled in stop-animation video clips, to show possible interactions in the university (setting), between a user (people) and an interface on a mobile platform.

Throughout the semester, concepts and ideas were taught by exposing students to observation and interpretative methods such as annotated panoramas/tableaus, visual essays, authored journals, video interviews, collaborative ideation techniques, activity maps, paper-prototyping, and stop-animation photography. These “image-making” strategies help students visualize and actualize key aspects (and phases) of all manner of design problems (be they project-definition-driven, project-building, project-making, etc.).

Through these investigations, students can better survey, document and understand sites and subjects as they focus their attention on to new and unique design challenges brought on by contemporary communications systems, such as in branding, services and experiences, and interaction design.

* It was taught during the Spring of 2008 by co-instructors Santiago Piedrafita (full-time faculty member) and myself Alberto Rigau (graduate student).

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