Georgetown University
Graduate School of Art and Sciences
Communication, Culture & Technology Program

Professor Martin Irvine
CCTP-820: Leading by Design: Principles of Technical and Social Systems
Fall 2020: Online [being revised]

Course Description: Why "Leading by Design"?

This course is for all students who want to participate as thought leaders in any career path by learning systems design thinking. Design and systems thinking reveals how universal principle of design are implemented in all our computational and networked technologies, and how they work in all the uses in every social or organizational context (including public policy, software applications and interface design, education, business, and art). To become thought leaders with our colleagues, we need to change our position from being merely consumers or users of “black-boxed” technologies to becoming participants in important real-world decision-making about using existing technologies or developing new applications. For decades, when companies and organizations had IT systems decisions to make, it was always just “let the techies figure it out.” We now know this is no longer a viable approach for any organization. You will learn why we all have a major ownership stake in design principles, how they are implemented in tech products, why computing devices, platforms, and services seem “blackboxed” and closed from understanding, and how you can use design knowledge to participate at higher levels in any career path you pursue.

What’s missing in almost every discipline devoted to operational and instrumental development of technologies is the unifying cross-disciplinary knowledge of design principles; that is, keeping in view the underlying universal design principles that enable any computer system (small or large) or software application to work as designed systems that are combinable with other systems. With the methods and multidisciplinary knowledge-base provided in this course, all students -- especially those who think they are “non-techie” -- will be able understand our current “complex system” technologies in a whole new way. Students will learn how to use this knowledge for “de-blackboxing” systems and products whose design principles are artificially closed off and inaccessible to “consumers” and “users.” To open up the unifying design principles, we will focus on the “why,” “what,” and “how” questions, and not as much on the “how to” questions (e.g., not on learning a specific programming language or app).

Combining Design Thinking and Design Doing

Students will work toward learning the key design concepts that will enable them to contribute to design ideas and propose alternatives to the technologies and relationships in our complex socio-technical worlds. "Design Thinking" and design principles work in two connected ways (as in the graphic above). The more you learn about the design principles implemented in all our computer systems (small or large) and everything digital, the more you will also be able to participate in applying this knowledge in practice.

As a CCT Core Methods course, the course will enable students to build up their own integrative, interdisciplinary method by combining the methods and knowledge from inter-related fields: systems theory (complexity, networks, modularity), design thinking, computational thinking, semiotic thinking, and recent cognitive science approaches to technology, artefacts, and interfaces. Students will learn the multi-layered extensible design principles behind everything from computation, digital media, and the Internet to the architecture of mobile devices, interactive real-time apps, and Cloud computing. By learning how questions, concepts, and research agendas are formed across several disciplines, students will learn how to develop new conceptual tools of analysis that are needed for the complex, multi-domain problems that we investigate in CCT, and will be prepared for leader roles in any future career context.

Course Learning Objectives and Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will understand the key design principles being implemented in our core technologies, where they come from, how and why design principles have consequences, and how to apply this knowledge to new real-world contexts. Students will understand how learning technologies through unifying design principles empowers us for more direct participation in questions about “technology” in any social or organizational context. Students will be able to “lead by design,” and no longer accept being merely consumers and users of technologies.

Objectives from applying our interdisciplinary methods and knowledge base:

By the end of the course, students will have acquired:

(1) the ability to explain the “why” and “how” of computer systems, software, digital media, and networked information with the unifying concepts in universal design principles (example: how and why computer systems, software, and networks are based on modular, multi-level design principles, and why this matters);

(2) the ability to apply systems and design thinking for understanding the design principles of technologies as technical-social systems (example: why are the forces that we can’t see -- e.g., standards, universal design principles, policy and regulation, intellectual property regimes, and histories of cumulative combinations of prior technologies -- the most powerful for enabling what we can see in any complex, modular technology like an iPhone); and

(3) the ability to apply combinatorial design principles for imagining and developing new innovations and applications (example: how what you will learn will enable you to understand what is needed to design a new app if you aren’t the coder, but will be able to lead the design).

This will be an online course for Fall 2020.

For a full description of Georgetown Policies, Student Expectations, and Student Support Services: consult and download the pdf syllabus document (online).

The course will be conducted as a seminar and requires each student’s direct participation in the learning objectives in each week’s class discussions. The course has a dedicated website designed by the professor with a detailed syllabus and links to weekly readings and assignments. Each syllabus unit is designed as a building block in the interdisciplinary learning path of the seminar, and students will write weekly short essays in a Wordpress site that reflect on and apply the main concepts and approaches in each week’s unit. Students will also work in teams and groups on collaborative in-class projects and group presentations prepared before class meetings.

Students will participate in the course by using a suite of Web-based online learning platforms and e-text resources:

(1) A custom-designed Website created by the professor for the syllabus, links to readings, and weekly assignments:
(2) An e-text course library and access to shared Google Docs: most readings (and research resources) will be available in pdf format in a shared Google Drive folder prepared by the professor. Students will also create and contribute to shared, annotatable Google Docs for certain assignments and dialogue (both during synchronous online class-time, and working on group projects outside of class-times).
(3) A course discussion forum in WordPress for weekly writing assignments.
(4) Zoom video conferencing for synchronous class meetings, group discussion, and virtual office hours.
(5) Additional learning tools in Canvas, Georgetown’s course management system. To learn more about Canvas, see the Canvas Guide for Students.

For more information about computer requirements: consult and download the pdf syllabus document (online).

Grades will be based on:

(1) Weekly short writing assignments (posted in the course WordPress site) and participation in class discussions (50%). Weekly short essays must be posted at least 6 hours before each class day so that students will have time to read each other's work before class for a better informed discussion in class.

(2) A final research project written as a rich media essay or a creative application of concepts developed in the seminar (50%). Due date: Dec. 12.

(Final projects will be posted on the course Wordpress site, which will become a publicly accessible web publication with a referenceable URL for student use in resumes, job applications, or further graduate research) .

Professor's Virtual Office Hours
Tues. 11-12 and Thurs. 4-5, and by appointment. If needed, I will modify the virtual office hours schedule based on students’ schedules and remote location times.

Professor's Contact Email:

Books and Resources

This course will be based on an extensive online library of book chapters and articles in PDF format in a shared Google Drive folder (access only for enrolled students with GU ID). Most readings in each week's unit will be to pdf text links in the shared folder, or to other online resources in the GU Library.

Required Books:

  • W. Brian Arthur, The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. New York, NY: Free Press, 2009.
  • Peter J. Denning and Craig H. Martell. Great Principles of Computing. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2015. 
  • Luciano Floridi, Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN: 0745645720 
  • Lev Manovich, Software Takes Command: Extending the Language of New Media. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. 
  • Janet H. Murray, Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.

Recommended Books: Technical Background

  • Ron White and Timothy Downs. How Computers Work. 10th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Que Publishing, 2015.

Course Online Library (GU student login required) and University Resources

A Note on Readings in the Course

  • I have written several introductions to the course units so that students will have a framework for understanding the interdisciplinary sources of ideas and methods for each topic. These introductions are drafts of chapters of a book that I am writing for students, and are based on my 25 years of research and teaching. Please give me your honest feedback on what works and what doesn't, what needs more clarification or more examples. There are no textbooks for the "big picture" interdisciplinary approach that we we do in CCT, so we have to make our own.

Professor Irvine's Introductory Video Series: Key Concepts in Technology

  • I produced these videos for an earlier course, CCTP-798, Key Concepts in Technology. The basic background in these videos is relevant for topics in this course, and for your general learning in CCT. (They are short, mostly ~ 6-10 mins each. Note: the Week numbers don't correspond to the weeks in this course.)
  • Key Concepts YouTube Playlist (I will link some in specific weeks of the syllabus).
Learning Objectives and Topics:
  • Technology is too important to be left to technologists.
  • There is no magic
    • --Irvine's Laws, 1 and 2

Leading by Design? Why / What / How

An orientation to the approaches in the course, focusing on understanding computational, media, and communication technologies through their design principles, implementation of functions, and social-technical systems and networks.

Defining kinds of technologies, and differentiating the cognitive and symbolic technologies (media, information, and communication technologies) from general and instrumental technologies. Learning the methods for exposing and refuting technological determinist assumptions and how to develop descriptions and analyses for a more complete view of media technologies as implementations of human cognitive abilities and agency.

Moving from Being a User & Consumer of Technology to a Thought Leader in Your Field

Students will begin learning how to develop conceptual tools for understanding technology that can be mobilized for "de-blackboxing" (opening a technology through its system of interdependent social-technical components, histories of development, and distributed agency), and universal principles that can be extended to their own designs.

Major topics, concepts, and themes through the course:

  • Technologies as architectures for ongoing combinations of implementable design concepts or abstract models (from tools and writing to complex machines, computation, and software-based media).
  • Modular design principles and the logic of combinatoriality and hybridization.
  • Media and computational technologies as combinatorial symbolic artefacts.
  • De-blackboxing technologies that are received as closed totalities in consumer or business products: why "transparency" makes all technologies opaque for ordinary users.
  • All dimensions of mediation and interface: social, technical, cultural, political, economic
  • The mediating functions of computers, software, pan-digital platforms: media, mediations, and computer devices as a metamedium
  • The continuum of technical implementations and cognitive externalizations: from language and symbolic capabilities to writing, the cumulative histories of media forms, and computer code.
  • The analog-digital-analog continuum: contemporary experience of embedded and externalized media and computational technologies.
  • Understanding major design concepts in computation, software, and digital networks so that you can participate in important debates about the future and betters uses of technology.

Busting Myths

  • Technological Determinism: Progressivist and other determinist futures for technology
  • Utopian and Dystopian projections of technology

Personal Introduction: View my video introduction

Course Introduction: Requirements and Expectations

Using Research Tools for this Course (and beyond)

Orientation to Key Concepts: Design Thinking and Principles of Design

For further study:
Introduction to the Main Concepts and Interdisciplinary Methods (Google Slides)

Cases for Class Discussion:
applying design thinking to de-blackboxing the modular, combinatorial of apps and services

  • What is "Uber" as a designed system?
    = a design for a service that combines existing technologies and services and affordances of "native" device features; most of the hidden layers behind the app have nothing to do with Uber: what can't we see that's more powerful than what we can see?
  • What goes into the design of a mobile device (smart phones and "tablets" with wireless connectivity) and a software app designed for a specific OS?:
    • Thinking about systems and subsystems
    • What is the effect of the "black box" design?
    • How can we tell works from features "in device" and from "remote" networked computational sources from servers, data processes, and transactions?

Learning Objectives:

What can be studied is always a relationship or an infinite regress of relationships. Never a ‘thing.’ -- Gregory Bateson

Introducing Key Concepts and Terms

This is a brief overview of some of the key terms and concepts we will use in the course. You will learn the specialized meanings of the terms and how to use these concepts over the first half of the course.

  • The "Systems View" -- Thinking about Design with Systems and Relations (Arthur, Norman). Systems theory includes the concept of subsystem (composing and decomposing a complex system into subsystems that interconnect or interoperate). Any complex design like an airplane, a computational device, or a digital media system is possible to implement by breaking the whole system down into subsystems (or modules) that can be managed semi-autonomously from the whole complex system.
  • Modularity and Levels: Modules and Combinations (Combinatorial Design and Cumulative Combinations (Arthur)
  • Architecture(s): in designs for technical systems, an "architecture" is the "master plan" or overall operational design that links all the subsystems, modules, and levels of a system. A common term in computer system design, software, and network design (as in "Internet architecture").
  • Affordances and Constraints (in design and materials) (Norman, design theory)
  • Principles of Scale and Extensibility (throughout course)
  • Cognitive Artefacts and Cognitive Technology (Norman, others in future weeks)


  • Martin Irvine, Introduction to Design Thinking: Systems and Architectures
    • Introductory essay to course. Read first. Print out for reference if possible.
  • Brian Arthur, The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. Excerpts from chapters 1, 2, 4.
    • Arthur is a famous complexity theorist at the Santa Fe Institute. A really perceptive book about how complexity is handled in technologies from a "macro" level viewpoint. Note the way that Arthur approaches complex systems, modularity, and design as a generative "language" for new combinations.
  • William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. Universal Principles of Design. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2010. Excerpts.
    • Well-illustrated compendium of design concepts. Skim the excerpts on major principles for an overview this week; we will cover many topics presented here in coming weeks.
  • Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2002. Excerpts from Preface and Chap. 1.
    • This is a popular non-technical introduction to design principles encountered in many kinds of everyday manufactured things from a leading thinker in the cognitive approach to design and HCI (Human Computer Interaction). Norman follows human-centered principles and provides methods for thinking about how concepts and functions can be implemented and "mapped onto" manufactured things.
    • Norman is a leading guru of "user-centered" design philosophy and has a background in both cognitive science and computer science. His career spans many university and private sector positions; he is now a fellow with IDEO, a leading design firm in Cambridge, MA and Silicon Valley.
  • Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2010. Excerpts.
    • This is written for a general audience and is a quick read. Focus on his explanations of systems, affordances/signifiers, mental models, and modularity for this week. Key concepts for the whole course.


  • Begin reading: Peter J. Denning and Craig H. Martell. Great Principles of Computing. Preface and introduction.
    • This book is excellent for explaining computing by key concepts and principles (also our method for explaining design in this course). If you have time, begin reading it this week and continue through the course. Some chapters will be assigned later, but you can benefit from this book for background for all your courses in CCT.

Link to shared Google Doc for class notes and discussion.

Weekly Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)

  • Read the general instructions for posting your weekly writing assignment. We are using this platform differently from the way Canvas works (you get more freedom, and the ability to do more serious and creative writing).
  • Your first weekly writing "post" can be informal, and a way to organize some thoughts about the main concepts in this week's readings.
  • Thinking with one or two design concepts from this week's reading, can you describe some design principles that were implemented in one of our everyday devices or PC software? A PC "window" for a software application? A mobile device "app"? A "smart" appliance? Even though our devices come to us as consumer black-boxed products, can you begin a step in de-blackboxing to discover what made the product possible as an implemented design? Can you detect some design principles that had to be implemented "inside" the black box that account for what we see and do? How can we use understanding design principles to go beyond a closed, specific corporate branded product to understanding the "universal design principles" that had to be employed.

Learning Objectives and Main Topics:

Learning the major concepts and principles of modularity for understanding the design and implementation of media, communication, computation, and information technologies. Modularity is one the most important design principles of technologies and all aspects of the human built environment.

Video Introduction


Link to shared Google Doc for class notes and discussion.

Weekly Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use this framework for your reading and thinking this week, and respond in your own way to apply the concepts:

  • For an ongoing case study, we will use the Apple iPhone (or other smart phone/mobile device that you may own) for applying the key design concepts. We will work toward de-blackboxing the system design and uncover how functions and features are implemented (in components, modules, and connections to larger Internet systems). This week, we take some first steps in discovering the iPhone's design principles (shared with all other tech).
  • How do modular design principles and systems thinking help you to understand the design principles for combining some of the functions designed for smart phones or any PC or device with a graphical user interface (GUI)?
  • Use the case of a software application (app) that you use, and find out everything you can about how the software works and "communicates" with other modules, both on your device and distributed across the network. Consider how the concept of the "interface" takes us beyond what we can see to all the invisible (unobservable) functions, services, interactions, and transactions in a whole interdependent system. What has to be designed to work together across a larger system to produce what seems like the unified action of an app its interface?

Learning Objectives and Topics:

Why do we need to differentiate kinds and categories of technologies when learning design principles?

We are studying a very specific category of designed technologies -- cognitive-symbolic technologies. This category includes all forms of media systems, computing systems (large or small), and all that we include in the concepts of communication, information, and data. All these kinds of technologies are designed to serve and implement one or more of our sign and symbol systems -- e.g., language, writing systems, abstract symbolic systems (mathematics, sciences), images and visual representation genres, music, and combinations of these systems (film, video, multimedia). These are all technologies of, and for, meaning, expression, and understanding. We can call them semiotic technologies in the term defined by C. S. Peirce (semiotics = the study of sign and symbol systems and their media of implementation); that is, technologies that provide the material media and distribute the learned codes (interpretive patterns) that a society understands in all forms of expression and representation. Computational systems are our most advanced form of combined semiotic technologies (so far), and they are based on long histories of both abstract and physical implementations in material media.

While many design principles are universal or general -- that is, they are used or apply to all kinds of human-produced things -- semiotic or cognitive-symbolic technologies need to be studied in a way specific to this kind or category of designed system. This introduction to the study of cognitive artefacts and semiotic technologies provides an orientation to the interdisciplinary research and theory traditions that provide foundational thinking about the design principles behind our “technologies of meaning.”

Although we can only do top-level overview here, you will see how our orientation to technology in this course is supported by the study of human cognition and technical mediation in many intersecting disciplines and sciences--including linguistics, semiotics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, computer science, and cognitive science more broadly. Having some background familiarity with this important developing knowledge base allows us to ask better informed questions about the functions, purposes, and motivations of the design principles for computational technologies and mediated communication systems.

Symbolic Cognition, Sign Systems, Mediation > Cognitive Artefacts
> Cognitive Technologies

Synthesizing views, we can say that the human symbolic faculty has generated a continuum of functions from language and abstract symbolic thought to designs for machines, media technologies, and computation:


Video Introduction:


  • Martin Irvine, "Introduction to Cognitive Artefacts for Design Thinking" (seminar unit intro).
  • Kate Wong, “The Morning of the Modern Mind: Symbolic Culture.” Scientific American 292, no. 6 (June 2005): 86-95.
    [All the deep, historical evidence indicates that we are the "symbolic species," which is revealed in the language capacity, human cognitive capabilities (perception, thinking, reasoning), and use of many kinds of symbol systems and symbolic artefacts. The symbolic capacity is what enables our capability for abstract thought, communication, writing systems, mathematics, music, image systems, and the many forms of material media that have served our sign and symbol systems. We are just at one point in a long continuum. Computing and digital media are based on all of our symbolic capabilities, including the design and physical implementation of designs that serve symbolic thought, expression, representation, and communication.]
  • Michael Cole, On Cognitive Artifacts, From Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. Connected excerpts.
    [A good summary of the cognitive psychology background that provided important concepts and assumptions in Human-Computer Interaction/Interface design theory as it developed from the 1960s-2000s.]
  • Donald A. Norman, "Cognitive Artifacts." In Designing Interaction, edited by John M. Carroll, 17-38. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Read pp. 17-23.
    [Norman's research and conceptual models are in a lineage with Douglas Engelbart ("Augmenting Human Intellect"), inventor of the mouse and GUI, whose work we will study in a following week.]
  • Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2008) (Excerpt).
    [Excerpts from the Forward by David Chalmers, pp. ix-xi; xiv-xvi (attend especially to the comments in the last 3 pages of the Forward); Introduction and Chapter 1.3: "Material Symbols" (especially the concept of "cognitive scaffolding"). This selection sums up Clark's research over the last 20 years, and contributes to the interdisciplinary community of research developed in other articles in the Bibliography.]

Presentations (in-class and study on your own):

  • "Cognition, Symbols, Meaning, Technologies" (Part 1)
    • Background overview of concepts; study on your own, we will discuss some topics in class.
    • Why are computing systems and digital media different categories of technologies? How do the design principles correspond to our symbolic-cognitive capabilities and prior histories for materially mediating them?

Weekly Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • Describe two or three of our everyday "cognitive artefacts" that function as a means for "collective symbolic cognition" in our common uses of technologies and media (including all our inherited media technologies before computers). Notice how these kinds of artefacts represent longer, cumulative histories of designs for the purpose of supporting one or more of our symbolic systems (e.g., language, writing, images, graphics, math and scientific notation, information visualizations, sound and music). For example, what do you discover when you re-describe books (+ ebooks) and libraries (+ online library functions), or software and digital media interfaces, as embodying designs for cognitive-symbolic artefacts? Notice how we "off-load" and delegate cognitive functions (thought, expression, memory, imagination) to these special kind of artefacts. (Looking ahead: the design of the Internet and Web combine the whole history of human symbolic and cognitive activity -- from the earliest use of symbolic forms to computer code and vast arrays of digital memory to store it all.)
  • How does the view of computational and media technologies as "cognitive technologies" or "symbolic-cognitive artefacts" provide a better understanding of these technologies and their specific design principles, rather than simply considering them as generic "machines" or "manufactured products"?

Learning Objectives and Main Topics:

Learning the key concepts in the study of media technologies as interdependent components of social-technical systems. This week's learning goals are (1) learning how to identify unhelpful and contradictory terms and arguments and media and technology (often circulating in popular discourse) and (2) learning the key concepts and approaches that will help clarify useful ways of thinking about media, media technologies, and the social-technical relations that make up our media and technology systems.

This week we will draw on some of the most useful interdisciplinary approaches to understanding "technology," "media," and "culture/society" from related systems thinking approaches. The knowledge base formed through all the related fields and research paradigms is huge and difficult to navigate; the related fields include media and communication studies, information sciences (technical and sociological), semiotics (meaning systems), science and technology studies (STS), and all the intersecting fields in engineering and computer science.

Key Terms and Concepts:

  • Medium/media: social-technical implementations of sign systems for communication and meaning functions maintained by the uses of media in a larger cultural, economic, and political system.
  • Mediation: the functions of a medium (e.g., book/text/print, image technologies, mass media industries, computer devices for digital media) in which communication and information in specific material technologies also form an "interface" for social, cultural, and political relations beyond the "content" transmitted.
  • Interface: the physical-material contact point for technical mediation with users (social-cognitive agents) of media.
  • Technical Mediation (in Latour's terms) as the means of distributing agency in a social-technical network.
  • Media System as the interdependent social configuration of technologies and institutions:
    • Social-political institutions in the political economy: policy, regulation, standards, intellectual property regimes
    • Industry and business ecosystems
  • Sociotechnical artefact: the redefinition of technologies as nodes in a social system.
  • Communication vs. Transmission (in Debray's terms: proximity and distance in space/time):
    differentiating media technologies and their functions for (near) synchronous communication within a cultural group (e.g., telephone, email, TV, radio, Web data searches) vs. technologies for transmission of meaning and cultural identity over long time spans (e.g., written artefacts, books, art and architecture, recorded media, computer memory storage, and institutions for memory [museums, archives, schools, governments, law, religions, library systems]).

Video Introduction:


  • Martin Irvine, "Understanding Media, Mediation, and Sociotechnical Systems: Developing a De-Blackboxing Method" [Conceptual and theoretical overview.]
  • Regis Debray, "What is Mediology?", from Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.
    • This short article reads like a manifesto for CCT! (Focus on his "theses" at the end of the essay.) Debray briefly summarizes the "mediological" approach and explains why the notion of a division between "technology" and "culture" is no longer acceptable. The old dichotomy or dualism can be removed by reinterpreting society as a system of co-mediation, where media technologies together with social institutions "create" culture. His conclusion is that "technology" is culture.
  • Pieter Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel, Maarten Franssen, and Wybo Houkes. A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2011. Excerpts from chapters 1 and 5.
    • You can survey this background quickly to become familiar with the key terms and concepts as a baseline for accepted interdisciplinary views. We will continue to question the received assumptions about "technology and society," and we will introduce better terms and concepts for design thinking about computing and media.
    • The shortcomings of this otherwise excellent summary of views is that the authors do not differentiate general technologies from cognitive-symbolic technologies (and the designs for media to support symbolic activity). We will continue to make this distinction.
  • Bruno Latour, "On Technical Mediation," as re-edited with title, "A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans -- Following Daedalus's Labyrinth," in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 174-217. (Original version: "On Technical Mediation." Common Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 29-64. But read the re-edited version.) 
    • Focus on pp.176-190. This is a difficult but famous essay that outlines Latour's approach to "delegated" or "distributed agency" in technologies in their social uses. What do you think of his "person with a gun" and "who flies the plane" examples?
    • Latour's terminology will be difficult to follow if you're not familiar with this school of thought, but we won't get bogged down in specific terms. Do your best to follow, and we will discuss in class. The take-away points are his overall re-orientation to studying social-technical relations as networks of distributed agency with multiple kinds of agents.
    • This excerpt includes Latour's "Glossary" of terms and Bibliography. This forms a crash course in how the "Actor-Network Theory" works in the "sociology of technology" schools of thought. You can decide for yourself how much is valid and useful, and what needs to be critiqued and supplemented with other ideas and approaches.

Optional and Supplementary (for Further Research)

  • Werner Rammert, "Where the Action Is: Distributed Agency Between Humans, Machines, and Programs," 2008. Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR).
    • Focus on pp. 10-18. This is an accessible overview of the theories of distributed agency that help us re-model media and technologies as socially embedded rather than independent "causes" of social "effects".

In-Class: Applying De-Blackboxing Methods and Hacking the iPhone (presentation)

Weekly Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • Working with your own way of combining the ideas and approaches of this week and the past two weeks, explain to someone who still thinks with the "technology vs. society/culture" dualism that we need to cancel that way of thinking and think differently for understanding contemporary media and computing technologies so that we can participate in design decisions.
  • Consider a digital interface (e.g., a Web browser and its "windows"; the "tiled" iPhone/iPad display; or a specific software interface) in as many dimensions of mediation as you can describe.

Learning Objectives and Main Topics:

This week is an introduction to some key concepts that we will use in the study of the design principles behind our digital representational displays (including graphical interaction interfaces and corresponding software layers) in PCs, tablets, and smartphones, i.e., everything that uses a pixel-grid for a graphically-rendered screen.

Following our conceptual modeling methods, we will begin at the “macro” level of universal design principles that hold over many kinds of things, and then focus on principles more specific to cognitive-semiotic artefacts in the various forms of technical and physical implementation. We will then extrapolate from these principles to study how they are implemented in our computational technologies with design methods for representing, formatting, and transmitting symbolic media in digital form.

Although the “use” features of everyday artefacts are all by design, we rarely think about them consciously. Design (in any domain) is about making the underlying principles conscious, intentional, and implementable. An important starting point for becoming aware of design principles is to understand how we work with affordances, constraints, and interfaces.


Background and Reference:

  • Interaction Design Foundation, The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd. Ed.
    [Useful open-source reference. Don Norman is one of the advisors. You can come back to this reference throughout the course.]

Weekly Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • Describe and analyze as many of the affordances and interfaces as you can of the book as an artefact design. Why and how are "book affordances" and interface functions transferred to digital media displays in different devices? Consider the human form factor (use on a human scale, serves functions and constraints of hands, eyes, distance limits of optimal vision).
  • Thinking with Janet Murray's use of key design concepts, can you see how screen and interface design work in new ways? Could you describe your experience with screen organized information and the affordances of this kind of computer interface in richer and more detailed ways than you could before?
  • What are the affordances and constraints in an app interface, from initiating the app from an icon (or other action-intention link) to how the software takes over the whole screen of a smart phone or tablet device? Can you see what the design principles are and why they are choices and not simply necessary properties of software and pixel-grid screens? How much of the design is for using affordances for our human capacity for symbolic expression, and how much is for controlling the attention of a user?

Learning Objectives and Main Topics

  • Learning the major terms, concepts, and technical applications for information theory as defined and used in electronics, computation, and digital media for signals and digital-electronic states.
  • Learning how and why the engineering definition of information in our electronic and digital context is essential for the way all information and media technologies work (based on discrete states represented by bits, units of binary values, transmitted in time to different physical locations in space).
  • Learning why these technical implementations for signals are necessarily “semantic-agnostic” (not-knowing or unaware of meaning-correlations), but must presuppose motivated meanings by senders and receivers of messages and any kind encoded information. Without human meaning intentions there would be no sending and receiving of messages encoded in signals!
  • Learning why the engineering transmission model (sender-signal-receiver) is not applicable or sufficient for describing the communication of meaning, values, and intentions that we encode in sign/symbol units.

Key Terms and Concepts:

  • Information defined as units of probability and differentiation (differentiability) from other possibilities.
  • The Transmission Model of Communication and Information.
  • The dominant conceptual metaphors (and their consequences):
    conduit (“channel”), container (and “content”), source, destination.
  • The “bit” (binary unit) as minimal encoding/encodable/encoded unit (2 possible values in base 2 number system with one of two values represented = 1 bit of information), and how/why binary code units map onto electrical circuits and electronic states (a value can be represented in an electronic state).
  • Discrete (digital/binary) vs. Continuous (analog) signals or information sources.

Video Introduction

Readings: Information Theory and Computing

  • Martin Irvine, Introduction to the Technical Theory of Information as Designer Electronics (read first)
  • Luciano Floridi, Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010. Read Chapters 1-4. Excerpts.
    [For background on the main traditions of information theory, mainly separate from cognitive and semantic issues.]
  • Information Theory: Video Lessons (Kahn Academy). Excellent short videos. Study as many as you have time for in preparing for this week, and at your own pace. You can always return and study more of the lessons later.
    • Begin with the introduction, then lessons in the "Modern Information Theory" series.
    • "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" will take you through Claude Shannon's famous formalization of "information" in bits, which map perfectly to calculations we can do in base 2 math and Boolean logic.
  • Peter Denning and Tim Bell, "The Information Paradox." From American Scientist, 100, Nov-Dec. 2012.
    • An expanded version of this essay is in Denning and Martell, Great Principles of Computing. Chapter 3: Information. You can read the book chapter instead of the earlier article.
    • Computer science leaders address the question: Modern information theory is about "pre-semantic" signal transmission, and reliable signals transmission techniques are not about meanings or what motivated a communication. Can computation include the question of meanings? Yes, computation is motivated by meaning.

Optional: Further Background

  • James Gleick, Excerpts from The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. (New York, NY: Pantheon, 2011). Excerpts from Introduction and Chap. 7.
    [Accessible background on the history of information theory. Whole book recommended.]

In Class Demo: Samuel Morse and Telegraph Code

  • Live demo of telegraph key and sounder with 19th century equipment.
  • Morse saw that he could use electromagnetic switches connected by wires to use on/off states of current for a "system of signs" -- Morse code, our first electrical information code system.
  • Introduction to Morse and Code (background and dossier of sources) (Irvine)

Presentation (study on your own and for class discussion:

Weekly Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • Describe the main features of the signal transmission theory of information and why the signal-code-transmission model is not a description of meaning (the semantic, social, and cultural significance of encoded signals)? Why is the information theory model essential for everything electronic and digital, but insufficient for extending to models for meaning systems (our sign and symbol systems)?
  • Think through a case study on your own: How do we know what a text message, an email message, social media post, or digital image means after being successfully transmitted and received as information that we can perceive and interpret? What do senders and receivers know about the transmitted data signals that isn't a physical property of the signals?
Learning Objective and Key Ideas:

Learning the key concepts of "computational & design thinking" as they are applied in programming for communicating with the whole computer system. In taking the system design view, students will learn how the basic ideas for computation are "translated" into the design principles for code in programming languages.

Major topics include:

  • Understanding how "Computational Thinking" and "Computational Doing" are specialized applications of Design Thinking and Design Doing (key principles and applications). We maintain the "systems" view of computer systems as human-designed artefacts implemented by means of complex systems design principles, and de-blackbox the inaccessible "machines" view.
    • "Computational thinking" DOES NOT mean "thinking like a computer." It means thinking like a designer of computer applications for the kind of system that contemporary computer systems are (digital, binary, symbolic state transition artefacts).
  • Extending your design thinking for the function of levels, layers, and modules in the system “architecture”: You will be able to learn how and why programming “code” (the written text of a software program) and “running” software (the program in binary form assigned to the memory and processors of a specific computer system) call on the many levels and layers of a computer system.
  • Hands-on experience with programming code. Learning goals:
    • In online "Programming Foundations" lessons, you will learn some of the procedural fundamentals of programming, using the Python language as a teaching language. You will also learn why and how "coding" allows us to “communicate” with a computer system by initiating physical actions and creating interactions. The lessons will focus more on "how to," but you will also want to learn why any version of programming code must be designed in certain ways.
    • The design key for understanding programming is understanding how everything in computing is based on creating direct physical correspondences to the symbolic level of "code" that we program with human logic, mathematics, and symbols for data types that a program is designed to "process."
    • An executable program, "translated" into binary "machine code," when loaded into a systems memory also gets "translated" through many system levels and layers to produce the results that we perceive, interpret, and use over and over again in many steps and contexts.

Video Introduction:


  • Jeannette Wing, "Computational Thinking." Communications of the ACM 49, no. 3 (March 2006): 33–35. [Short essay on the topic. Wing launched a wide discussion in CS circles and education for this approach to introducing computing principles.]
  • David Evans, Introduction to Computing: Explorations in Language, Logic, and Machines. 2011 edition. (The Professor's Open Access site for updates:
    • As background for the online tutorial lessons, read chapters 1-3 (Computing, Language, Programming). Download the book: you can always return to other chapters for reference and self-study.

Main Assignment: Hands-On Learning for an Introduction to Programming

  • in-Learning: Programming Foundations: Fundamentals
    • Sign in to this online course with your GU ID.
    • Short video lessons that introduce programming concepts with Python as the learning language, mainly using coding programs and interfaces for the Mac platform.
    • You can follow the basic concepts in units 3, 4, and 5 without installing your own IDE program ("Integrated Developer Environment," a program to write programs), but you can install one and try it out for yourself.
    • Go as far as you can up to unit 5 this week, and take notes on what you learned and questions you have about programming concepts.

Presentation (In-class): Computational Thinking and Designing Symbolic Systems

Demo of Using Two Orders of Symbols for Representations and Actions (in JavaScript) (Irvine)

Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • Connecting your background on topics in the course so far, and your reading about computational thinking and programming (the Evans book), describe some discoveries that you made by working through the in-Learning lessons. Were any key concepts clearer? What aspects of "code" can you describe now about programming and software after having a little more background?
  • This may be your first look inside the black box of programming code (from our design perspective), and it's natural to have many questions. Just describe what you did learn, and some major points we can work on and explain in class.

Learning Objective and Main Topics:

  • Understanding the important design steps in the history of modern computing systems that enabled the transition of computers as big "number crunching" calculating machines (of the 1940s-1960s) to the model of computer systems as more general "symbol processors."
  • Learning the design principles for modern computing systems that enabled the development of interfaces for human interaction with programmable processes.
  • Learning the origins of the design concepts behind the technical architectures in all our devices that support the graphical and interactive interfaces that we now take for granted.

This week we will focus on the design concepts that emerged with new ways of thinking about computer systems in the 1960s to the 1980s. (We will follow up the design concepts and technical implementations of the 1980s to the present.) We will consider the long-term implications of Doug Engelbart's program for “augmenting human intellect” with systems for handling many symbolic representations simultaneously and linked together in/on a "display." up to the late 1970s and early 1980s so that we can pause and consider the concepts and unfulfilled “histories” of computing system designs that preceded our contemporary era of productized “Metamedia”.

Key Concepts and terms:

  • Design principles for developing computer systems as "symbol systems" or "symbolic information systems," not simply calculators and "number crunchers."
  • Interface and Interface Design (for human interaction with, and control of, software representations and outputs), and concepts developed in the beginnings of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) as a field within computer science and engineering
  • Graphical User Interface (GUI) for screen interfaces
  • Metamedium / Metamedia: computer systems as medium for representing, processing, and transforming other media (whole human symbolic system in different forms of media)

Introductory Video:


  • Martin Irvine, Introduction to Symbolic-Cognitive Interfaces for Computer Systems: History of Design Principles (essay). Read Parts 1-2 for this week.
    [I've synthesized a lot of background history for the design concepts we use for "interfaces." Includes a research bibliography if you want to follow up on any of these topics.]
  • Lev Manovich, From Software Takes Command (2012): excerpts on the background ideas for "hypertext" (Ted Nelson) and for Allan Kay's "Dynabook" Metamedium design concept, which extended what Kay learned in Engelbart's lab.
  • Bill Moggridge, ed., Designing Interactions. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007. Excerpts from Chapters 1 and 2: The Designs for the "Desktop Computer" and the first PCs. Read pp. 17-68 (from Chap. 1) for this week.
    [This book is well-illustrated, and is based on interviews with the main designers of the interfaces and interaction principles that we use every day. Includes interviews with, and background about, Doug Engelbart and the design team at Xerox PARC with Allan Kay (Stu Card and Larry Tessler).]

Historical and Conceptual Backgrounds for Computer Interface Designs

  • Collection of Original Primary Source Documents on Interface Design (in pdf).
    You do not need to read these texts fully, but review them for their historical significance and as they are referenced in the readings for this week.
    Graduate students should have access to the primary texts in their original form.
  • Contents of the Collection of Documents (descriptions are in the pdf file):
    • Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," Atlantic, July, 1945.
    • Ivan Sutherland, "Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System" (1963)
    • Douglas Engelbart, "Augmenting Human Intellect" (project from 1960s-1970s)
    • Alan Kay, Xerox PARC, and the Dynabook/ Metamedium Concept for a "Personal Computer" (1970s-80s)

Video Documentary: Demo of Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad, Lincoln Labs, MIT (c.1963)

In-class Presentation: Computing Systems: Interface Design View

Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • Referencing 2 or more of the readings for this week, describe some of the conceptual design steps that enabled computers to develop beyond being big, fast, calculating machines ("number crunchers")? Think through/with these questions: Earlier "calculating machine" computers were designed for technically trained specialists in scientific, military, government, and business communities. What enabled "computing" to be reconceived and redesigned as broader "general purpose" information processing for many other symbol systems that included "interfaces" for non-technical and non-specialist users? In terms of combinatorial design principles, can you identify one or two supporting system technologies that were being developed in the early phase (1960s-70s) and then "recruited" (merged into) the new design (screens? memory? software? interactive devices?)?
  • The "first wave" of design concepts in the 1960s-80s that enabled "computers" to become more general symbol processors were also strongly motivated by what we now call "user-centered" design for using and interpreting multiple symbolic forms. Can you identify any unfulfilled or uncompleted design ideas in the important first steps of interface design that could be reclaimed and implemented in our current systems? Could we do different designs and have them succeed (both technically and socially)?
Learning Objectives:

This week is a continuation of the key concepts for interface design with the important principles of interaction design.

Students will learn how to describe the design principles of interactive computing and the graphical interfaces designed to support interaction (in the computational sense). Since so much of our computing interactions involve graphical screen and pixel-based representation, we will also study the design of digital images and the affordances and constraints of digital images as media objects in all digital environments (PC screens, mobile devices, TVs and streaming media).

Students will also learn some of the fundamental design principles used in the fields of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design, and the extended practice of User Experience (UX) design.

Key terms and concepts (continuing from last week):

  • Interface and Interface Design as part of a new multidisciplinary field, HCI (Human-Computer Interaction, design principles for two-way communication with computer systems), involving people working in computer science, cognitive science, graphical design, and engineering.
  • Interactive/Interaction Computing (the precise technical definition)
  • Metamedium: computational devices with interfaces that enable representing, creating, modifying, and transmitting all forms of digital media (in text, image, photo, video, and audio formats)
  • Digital artefact / digital object

Readings & Video Lessons:

  • Martin Irvine, (New Intro) From Cognitive Interfaces to Interaction Designs with Touch Screens
  • Bill Moggridge, ed., Designing Interactions. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007. Read pp. 71-82 (from Chap. 2) for this week (on developments at Apple and the first Macintosh PC).
  • Crash Course Computer Science Video Lessons: Technical Background
  • Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, et al. Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2016. Excerpts.
    • This is the most widely used introduction to interface design, now in an updated 6th edition (2016) (first edition was in 1986!). If you were to take a course in HCI or UX (User Experience design), this could be your intro textbook.
    • Survey the contents of the excerpts from the Introduction, Chapter 3 (Guidelines and Theories), Chap. 7 (Direct Manipulation) and Chap. 8 (Fluid Navigation).
    • In Chap. 3, review the main guidelines, and Ben's "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design" (pp. 95-97); in Chap. 7, focus on the explanation of "Direct Manipulation".
  • Ben Shneiderman's Eight Golden Rules for Interface Design (on one page).
    • This is a classic list of design principles that are now universally understood and used by everyone in the HCI and UX community

Interface Design "Platforms": Industry Standards for Interface Designs

  • You can do a brief overview of the design specifications now standardized by Google and Apple for the layout, format, and interface/interaction controls required in the user-facing layers for all software "apps" approved for their operating system platforms.
  • Google: Medium
    • Google's description: "Material is an adaptable system of guidelines, components, and tools that support the best practices of user interface design. Backed by open-source code, Material streamlines collaboration between designers and developers, and helps teams quickly build beautiful products."
  • Apple Developer: Human Interface Design Guidelines
    • See design "rules" for all Apple platforms (iOS, Mac PC, TV)

Review: Murray, Inventing the Medium

  • At this point in the course, you can benefit from reviewing an earlier reading in this week's context: Janet Murray, Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. Excerpts from Introduction and Chapter 2.
    • For reference: Murray's Glossary of Terms used in Interface Design (print and save).

Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use this question to focus your reading and thinking this week:

  • Using the background and key concepts from this week and prior weeks, describe the design for interaction in a standard mobile device app. This will be hard at first, because we are so used to everything seeming to work automatically.
  • Specific example for case study: the design principles for touchscreen interfaces (a modular system connecting to other modular systems):
    With your background so far, explain how current touchscreen designs are for a modular system design for symbolic activities that use distributed agency in software and networks (links, multimedia combined from multiple sources, design of presentation layers for user interpretations, etc.).
  • Can you describe how the observable features in an interface are designed for a user to "communicate" intentions, instructions, and directions to the software processes that we can't observe? Can you map out the effects of your actions as chains of "inputs" for the system (for example, touch screen gestures, text in text boxes or input windows, touching icons or menu selections, switches for controlling when we can input speech, screen controls for inserting or transforming an image, "sending" a message or social media post over the Internet, etc.)? You may use examples that exhibit Google's or Apple's interface design standards (links above), if you want to follow how these companies specify design standards for the features of specific devices.

Learning Objectives and Topics:

  • Learning the "Design Philosophy" of the Internet as a distributed (decentralized) system of networks based on open standards for network connections and formatting data that any computer (large or small) can send, receive, and "understand" with a version of the Internet software design for a specific system (like a Mac, PC brand, or any brand of mobile device).
  • Understanding the background history and technical design of the Internet and the "Inter-networking" architecture concept embodied in the open protocols and standards of the Internet.
  • Understanding how the Internet is designed as a decentralized network based on a design for "end-to-end" connections.
  • Understanding the Internet as a paradigm case of "cumulative orchestrated combinatoriality" (Arthur) with intersecting histories of technical-social-political-economic development and interdependencies.
  • Understanding the consequences of the extensible design principles of the Internet and why these principles remain vitally important in the expanding global and international development of all the media, services, and apps that depend on the Internet architecture.

Key Concepts and Terms

  • Network Architecture
  • Protocol and the TCP/IP protocol suite
  • Data Packet
  • Packet Switching, Packet-Switched Network
  • Client / Server
  • Internet address (IP address)
  • Domain Name System (DNS)

Video Introduction

Readings and Video Lessons: Basic Architecture and Design Principles of the Internet

Global Internet: Infrastructures and Global Networks (Presentation)

Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Use these questions to focus your reading and thinking this week, and choose at least one to write about:

  • The Internet and all its subsystems provide one of the most complex systems for thinking about mediations, interdependencies, and agencies. Most people only see functions presented at the interface level--and an interface works by making itself invisible (by design and by our cultural expectations). The complexity of the computer and network architecture are invisible.
  • From the reading this week, could you give a clear answer to the question, "what does it mean to be 'on the Internet'"? How can we resist talking about "the Internet" as a totalized, reified, or uniform "technology" and actively take into account the variety of subsystems, subcomponents, and social institutions that must be orchestrated to work together?
  • For discussion this week, take a case--like an app or digital media type--and investigate the network of socio-technical dependencies, histories of technological development, economic ecosystems, institutions of mediation (standards, policy and regulation, industry groups, patents?), markets and demographics.

Learning Objectives and Topics:

Concluding our study of Internet architecture and design principles with the World Wide Web architecture and the principles behind all websites, Web "pages," and the interactive information principles behind mobile apps (on any small device):

  • Learning how the extensible and scalable design principles of the Internet/Web architecture are continuing to be developed and expanded for any Internet device from large office computers to mobile device "apps" to "smart" TVs.
  • Learning the important background history of information and text/media concepts that led to the design of the Web as a hypermedia system for linking files, media content, and accessing complex networked computer services over the Internet.
  • Why does the whole interactive "app" architecture use the structure of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other interactive programming for interacting with Web servers?
  • What design principles should you learn to understand how anything we do in a Web client (a "browser" like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) or design in an "app" works the way it does (rather than some other way)?
  • How could you participate in a design project in your organization or profession by knowing what's possible to design?

Key terms and concepts

  • Client / server (in Web architecture)
  • Hypertext / hypermedia
  • HTTP: "Hypertext Transport Protocol"
  • URL: "Uniform Resource Locator": the human-readable Web file "address" on a server
  • HTML: "Hypertext Markup Language"
  • Web "browser" or client program
  • App: short for "(software) application"; on a mobile device, PC. or smart TV = an interface with controls to use Internet and Web resources (content) and services (server-side software, transactions). Another example of "client" software for interacting with servers on the network.
  • HTML5: the current HTML cluster of evolving standards, interoperating Web "languages," and data server architecture for using the Web as an all-purpose platform for connecting any IP-enabled device, any OS, any screen size.

Readings & Video Lessons: The World Wide Web: Architecture and Design

Background on World Wide Web History and Mobile Apps:
For Reference and Background for Further Research

Optional (further in the background of the Web)

  • Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimative Destiny of the World Wide Web. New York, NY: Harper Business, 2000. Excerpts.
    [A personal, inside account of the development of the Web by the main designer, (Sir) Tim Berners-Lee [Wikipedia background]. These excerpts open up the concepts behind the design of the Web system that Berners-Lee developed at CERN (the particle physics lab), and take us up to the point where the Web took off with the first browser software. Berners-Lee joined MIT to begin the WWW Consortium in 1994. He was knighted by the English Queen for his work. Personal note: In early 1993, I and friends in GU's IT dept. downloaded the first version of Berners-Lee's Web server software (httpd 1.0), installed it on a small UNIX computer, and hosted Georgetown's first website, The Labyrinth.]

In-class presentation and study on your own:
Web Architecture: Generative/Combinatorial Technology Meets "Appification"

Writing Assignment (link to Wordpress site)
Reflect on the background for the design principles of the Internet and Web, and choose one topic for focusing your thinking this week.

  • (1) Smart phone/mobile apps (including scaled down versions of browser clients like Chrome and Safari) are now often the main interfaces to the Web for many users. Most users don't even know that they are using Web HTTP client/server technologies and hyperlinking for data across many kinds of files and media types, and that the HTML suite with JavaScript is behind the screen formatting and interactive features in every app.
    • Applying our design thinking principles for modular complex systems and combinatorial principles for integrating subsystem technologies, can you describe how the Internet and Web's modular design and all the unobservable or "invisible" behind-the-scenes technologies enable all that we do observe and experience?
    • Can you use our design thinking methods to describe how Web and app interfaces are more than just interfaces to content and specific instances of data and interactions, but, even more powerfully, are interfaces to the larger unobservable socio-technical system and many levels of technical and social-economic dependencies that make what we can observe and do possible?
  • (2) Applying what you have learned from last week and this week, develop a case study that compares and contrasts a full-featured Website and a mobile, small device app. (Choose examples that you don't already know or use all the time.)
    • Consider the open, integrated, multimedia design principles for the Web, Web-linked data connections, real-time interactions, and Web browser software, and the closed "one channel" interface designs for app-connected services, transactions, functions, and/or "content," which are delivered through Web and Internet protocols.
    • What drives "appification" as opposed to developing for content and access with a full-featured, more user-based Web browser on a PC or desktop computer with a large screen? From the socio-technical systems view, consider the economics of tethered apps on the dominant tech companies devices and OS platforms (Apple, Google-Android, MS): are the controlled gateway tethered apps "breaking" or simply "exploiting" the Web, and what consequences do you see in continuing this practice for consumer devices? Do the device app practices reinforce the closed black boxes, and prevent users from being anything but consumers? What would it take to redesign the system?

Discussion of Final Research Projects: Individual Virtual Office Meetings

  • No class this week. Individual virtual meetings with the professor.
  • As you plan your research and writing, consult my Writing to be Read: a guide for the structure and logic of research papers.
    • This guide, developed from many years of teaching writing, takes you through the process of developing a thesis -- also called the research question, the leading principle of an argument, and the hypothesis (in scientific disciplines) to be supported and justified.
    • This is the method for interpreting your research and organizing your thoughts in the way that we present them in the structure of a research paper, article, or academic thesis. Use it, and you will succeed in being read, because this is the form everyone expects.
  • Use Zotero for organizing and formatting your references. Professional practices matter!
  • Plan for posting your essay project in WordPress. Read the General Instructions for Final Projects.

Open Discussion and Presentation of Final project ideas.

Examples of Student Final Projects from Prior Classes of 820:

For posting and finalizing your Final Project: