CTC-1000 | Introduction to Computation

BowenCarrie ChaeDorothy Eleanor FengJuliusKeyaLi Mariesa Ollantay RuiTaylorUrsulaXuhanYuxiao 


Computation, Technology, and Culture.

Experimental and Foundation Studies.

Rhode Island School of Design.


Faculty: Nathier Fernández | nferna01@risd.edu

Credits: 3.00

Meetings: Monday/ Tuesday/ Wednesday 1:10pm – 6:10pm.

Location: TBA

Zoom: ​​https://risd.zoom.us/j/8529640792 |ID:852 964 0792

Discord: TBA

Office hours appointments (Zoom only)


Course Description:

– Introduction to computation – focuses on computational techniques, methods, and ideas in the context of art and design. Studio projects first centre on the design of algorithms then shift to involve computer programming and scripting. Critical attention is given to code as a body of crafted text with significant aesthetic, philosophical, and social dimensions, as well as the tension, conflict, and potential possible when computation generates, informs or interacts with drawings, materials, forms, and spaces. Historical and contemporary works of computational art and design will be presented and assigned for analysis. This course is open to students of all majors and is designed for those with little or no experience in programming. In order to conduct work in this course, students will need a laptop computer.

This course fulfils one of two core studio requirements for CTC Concentration.

Course Schedule:

Class schedule with assignments, readings, due dates and resources – Updates and further details will be posted on the course website and announced in class.

Course Goals, Expectations and Outcomes:

Students successfully completing all aspects of this subject will:

  • Understand the fundamental ideas and techniques of writing in computer programming languages toward their utilization in a range of art and design fields. This includes the ability to read and write processes, with an understanding of the interplay between cultural practices and technological meditation; and the ability to abstractly construct and understand algorithms independent from use within a programming language.
  • Preparedness to become Computation, Technology, and Culture concentrators; and for a range of practices where computer language competence is an important factor.
  • Capacity for meaningful collaborations and communication in technology-oriented work that often spans disciplines.
  • Analytical skills in the survey of historical and contemporary works, artefacts, and schools of thought, including the ability to engage in the critical discourse of computational media, technology studies, and software studies.

Course Objectives:

In completing – Introduction to computation – students will be able to:

  • Write source code for making their own works of art and design.
  • Discuss significant historical developments in computational technology and its intersections with the arts.
  • Demonstrate ability in critical discourse surrounding computation, technology and culture through dialogue and artistic production.

Course Organization:

This is a studio course. Weekly [in person] class sessions are five hours. The course is organized around a series of projects. Assignments will be coupled with readings and precedent analysis. Class time will be spent on a combination of collaborative working, critique, lecture and discussion. 

As we are still under a global health crisis, flexibility towards the modality of the class might take place, meaning online meetings on Zoom. I will inform you in advance if this is ever the case.

Assignments – Post class documentation in the form of a blog post 

  • Submit your main blog here – Blog post must have visual, written and code elements – Only once.
  • Submit link for each assignment here before class Weekly.
  • Do the assignments.  My goal is for you to learn and explore new creative practices in a safe environment. Some themes and projects might be challenging – Do not worry if you have unfinished projects, or feel blocked. If this is the case, share your thoughts,  process, challenges and desired outcomes in your blog – Do not submit your assignment late~

Optional: Learning a new language requires practice and patience. Daily coding exercises [23 days] –  Starting on January 11 until February 9 // Submit the link here – Only once.

Readings, Materials, Resources:

Required equipment: To conduct work in this course, students will need a laptop computer running a recent Mac or Windows OS. Students should bring their laptop to class every session – Bring a sketchbook

Programming languages and required software:  Programming will be taught predominantly using the web editor for p5.js, a JavaScript library for creative coding. but will also include software like python and other computational tools. 

Estimated material costs: There is no course fee for this course. However, an estimate of the cost for materials is $250. Expect to apply this amount toward individual project needs. 

Additional materials will be distributed during class meetings, made available electronically, or placed on reserve in the RISD Library.

Course Requirements:

Each student is expected to attend all classes, complete in- and out-of-class assignments, contribute to course websites, and participate in critiques and discussion of readings and example materials. Due to the global health crisis, some new protocols will take place. If you are unable to attend class or complete the assignments, please let me know (by e-mail) before the class begins.

It is essential that students arrive to class promptly on time. This is a fast-paced studio with little opportunity for redundancy. Absences, excused or otherwise, will set a student back and will be difficult to make up. 

Note: More than fifteen minutes late (without excuse), or leaving early (without clearance), will count as an absence.

If you have questions about Wintersession 2022 protocols, please see this link for more information –  https://covid.risd.edu/wintersession-2022-protocol/


Grading to this class will be under a PASS/FAIL system.

Process and product will be evaluated together. Iteration and other strategies for asserting methodological rigour will be essential for student success. Students will be evaluated for their participation (through their work and their verbal engagement) in every studio session. Students are expected to respond to prompts provided in each assignment brief as well as those offered through in-class discussion and critique.  

Final grades are based on your attendance and participation, engagement with course material, contributions to discussions and critique, assignment completion, and a final project. 

Please note that in order to receive credit toward completion of the CTC Concentration anything below a B- will be graded as a fail. More information about RISD grading policies here.

Grading Scale and Calculation:

Course Policies & expectation:

If you are gonna be late for more than fifteen minutes, absent or need to leave early, please send me an e-mail at nferna01@risd.edu before class.

Grounds for permanent dismissal from class:

  • Two or more unexcused absences at any time during the semester.
  • Repeat tardiness.
  • Failure to honour academic policies or codes of conduct.


  • Attendance is mandatory.
  • Prompt (on-time) arrival to class is expected.
  • The only recognized excuses for absences or tardiness are in the case of serious illness, religious observance, or family emergency. In an event where excused absences become excessive (such as due to ongoing illness), you may be required to withdraw from the course. If you must miss a class, notify the faculty as soon as possible.
  • Arriving at class more than fifteen minutes (tardiness) is not acceptable.
  • Should you miss class for any reason, you are responsible for gathering missed materials and getting back on track with the class

Academic policies & codes of conduct:

Participation and projects must abide by the following.

  • RISD Academic Code of Conduct https://policies.risd.edu/student-academic-policies/
  • RISD Policies and Code of Student Conduct http://www.risd.edu/Students/Policies/ 
  • Policies, as detailed in the RISD course announcement http://departments.risd.edu/registrar/web/index.html
  • An installation Site Permit is required for any projects that require the use of non-classroom apace or that could potentially pose a safety risk. A form is available here with further details: http://info.risd.edu/environmental-health-safety/
  • Projects may not pose hazards that threaten or cause physical harm to yourself or others.
  • Projects may not cause damage to studio, shop and lab equipment or school facilities.
  • We will expect and maintain the behaviour in class that establishes and preserves an atmosphere appropriate for teaching and learning.
  • Classes will follow RC social rules. https://www.recurse.com/social-rules

Disability support. 

Disability Support Services (DSS) assists RISD students who have either cognitive (learning) or physical disabilities. If you believe that you have a physical or cognitive disability that may impact your academic standing and requires accommodation, please see this link for more information: http://www.risd.edu/Students/Wellness/Disability_Support/


Statement of academic integrity:

  • Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as though it were your own. This could be words quoted without quotation marks, ideas or images created by someone else, or code without due credit. 

On the use of electronic devices:

  • Laptops will be an essential part of the course and may be used in class during workshops and for taking notes in lectures. Laptops must be closed during class discussions and student presentations. Phone* or tablet use in class is strictly prohibited unless directly related to a presentation of your own work or if you are asked to do so as part of the curriculum – 

*You may use your phone in case of an emergency.

On Title X at RISD:

  • RISD is committed to creating and providing a learning, living and working environment free from gender-based discrimination. Gender-based discrimination, including sexual misconduct, stalking and intimate partner violence, committed by members of our community, guests and visitors will not be tolerated. All members of our community, including guests and visitors, are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of others

Consistent with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, RISD does not discriminate against students, faculty or staff based on sex in any of its programs or activities, including but not limited to educational programs, employment, and admission. Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is a kind of sex discrimination and is prohibited by Title IX and by the College. Please see this link for more information https://titleix.risd.edu/

“The computer with innovative software cannot write a book – an author writes a book”

-Red Burns


This class is based and inspired by the teaching practice of Allison Parish, Golan Levin, Mark Cetilia, Fletcher Bach and Katherine Wu.