Visual Thinking/Visual Computing


Limited enrollment and selection mechanism

There is a 20-student cap on this course. Acceptance will depend on your registration status, attendance on the first day, and a questionnaire that we will hand out on that day. Student from all backgrounds are welcome; the course is interdisciplinary by nature, and diversity will make the discussions that much richer.

The course is not for CS credit and requires no programming. (Students interested in CS credit may be able to arrange for this with additional programming assignments.)

Location and Times

  • Lubrano Conference Room (CIT
  • J hour (Tues., Th. 1-2:20)



• Neil Mehta, 2006

I was born in Massachusetts but I grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore. I'm double concentrating in Computer Science and Psychology, but I've also taken classes in the MCM department. My hobbies include playing with 3ds Max and Photoshop.

  • Amanda Cheung, 2005

I am a Visual Arts and Art History concentrator. Although originally a painter, I am currently focusing on graphic design for both print and the web. I have experience in fine arts, website design, identity design, digital video, and installation.

• reach both TAs at once by mailing
•TA hours and location: TBD


Class time will consist of combinations of lecture, discussion, and in-class exercises and projects time. No class except the first one will be all lecture. Some of the in-class projects will be done with traditional materials (such as paper and pencil) and other will require computers. The class will use the MS Lab (CIT Room 167) for computing projects.

The course is divided into three section: A Human Dimension section which takes a humanities approach, beginning with an overview of the history of visual communication and the changing significance of visual literacy. We then look at different visual research methodologies (ways of interpreting images), including semiotic theory. The emphasis shifts in the Technical Dimension to more technical/scientific aspects of visual digital literacy, incorporating data from cognitive and vision science. We integrate the humanities and technical concepts through hands-on drawing and design exercises. With this background, we introduce basic concepts in the computer science aspects of computer graphics and consider its impact on modern thinking and communication. In the final section, Synthesis and Application, the focus of the class will be on applications of visual digital literacy from the fine arts to academic research; work on final projects will also begin during this time.

Assignments and Grading

Grades will be given based on class participation, including evidence of completion of required reading, in-class and take-home projects, and a final project (there is no final exam). Final grades will be mostly a multiplication of these main factors--so if you don't participate in class at all, for instance, you won't pass the course.

We will take background into account: if you are a CS major, we will assess your CS participation more strictly; if you are a visual art concentrator, we will expect more of your drawings and visual art skills than if you had never taken an art course, etc.

Given the experimental nature of the class and the mix of backgrounds, we strongly encourage students to take the class pass/fail.

This is a new and experimental course, but not a gut. You will have to devote time and energy to this course to pass it, no matter what your background is.

The syllabus has links to assignments and projects.

Note: Some assignments will require familiarity with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (or similar programs). Tutorial sessions will be offered at the start of the semester, courtesy of the CIS PASS program. Our TAs can augment this program as necessary.

The MOTD (Message Of The Day)

The MOTD page will feature time-sensitive course announcements. Because this class is running for the first time, there will be changes to the syllabus and coursework during the semester. These changes will be listed on the MOTD, so it is imperative that you check it regularly. You will be expected to be familiar with its contents.

The blog

CS classes usually feature a Usenet newsgroup for use as a forum for students and TAs. We have decided to use the blog model instead in order to take advantage of HTML's rich support for graphics and formatting. Feel free to use this blog to raise issues and ask class questions. If you come across links that you think are relevant to the course, go ahead and share them with everyone.

It is not necessarily expected of you to participate, as the important class announcements will be cross-posted to the MOTD, but you will be missing out on a lot of fun. The course puts a heavy emphasis on discussion and communication; the blog is there for you to continue exploring interesting ideas beyond the limits of class meeting times.