Cybiotic Interaction

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Syllabus - LMC 3710

Fall 2013

Cybiotic Interaction

LMC 3710 Section N1 – Principles of Interaction Design

Special Focus: Physical Computing and the Living World

Instructor – Andrew Quitmeyer

Andrew Quitmeyer

Office: Skiles 326 and desk outside TSRB 318b

Office Hours:

T+TH 1:30-2:30 in Skiles and W 2-4 in TSRB
Class Meets: TR 12:05PM – 1:30PM

Location: Skiles 318

Course Website:

[Syllabus Adapted from Paul Clifton’s Summer 2013 Section]

Cybiotic Interaction

LMC 3710 Section N1 – Principles of Interaction Design

Special Focus: Physical Computing and the Living World

Fall 2013

Course Description

The world is a large tangled web of interactions between creatures and their environments. Human interactions comprise a very small portion of these interactions. Due to our own solipsistic nature, however, we tend to ignore large parts of our everyday living world. We will seek to use the new abilities of Digital Media to build connections to other living entities.

This project based course will explore the tools and techniques of interaction design. We will focus on systems with interactive feedback between digital and biological behaviors. These unique, “cybiotic” interfaces provide a rich resource for inspiring novel interfaces that are necessarily robust and situated in their environment.

No previous electronics knowledge is required.

We will cover user-centered and performance-based design techniques, wireframing, performative prototyping, materials crafting, and the Arduino as a prototyping platform. We will create cybiotic interfaces, which couple sensing/input with actions/output between digital and living systems. The creation of these Non-Human biological interfaces exposes us to interaction design which takes place in novel environments, considers atypical sensors, and functions in unusual scales of time and space.

Students will learn the tools and philosophies of interaction design through material critical engagement in developing and critiquing their own prototypes.

Student Responsibilities

  • Openness – Give a solid effort to learning and experiencing new ideas and environments.

  • Clarification – Ask for clarification of any misunderstood words, phrases, or techniques.

  • Question – Challenge any information that is presented to you.

  • Respect – Respect all other students and living creatures involved with the class.

Learning Outcomes

Students will develop the following skills and knowledge by completing this course:

Literature, Media, Communication

  • Read, analyze, and interpret digital and biological media, but also scientific and technical documents.

  • Apply social, political, and philosophical theories to creative and scientific texts.

  • Clearly and effectively communicate design concepts and the decisions that led to them.

Computational Media

  • Understand and apply affordances of computation for creative digital expression.

  • Create digital artifacts aware of context and history.

  • Develop skills for analysis and critique of future digital designs.

  • Work in groups to accomplish a shared goal.


  • Foster deeper relationships with non-human life.

  • Personally perform the necessary background research about digital and biological behaviors and other related work for crafting one’s design.

  • Prototype, using multiple techniques, design concepts as a mode of communication and evaluation.

Required Texts

All required readings will be freely provided by the instructor. Instead, the students will be responsible for paying for much of their own prototyping materials (See Below).

Required Materials

Due to recent grants, we are able to provide valuable prototyping tools such as soldering stations, but students will still be required to supply their own consumable materials for prototyping. Students should expect to spend around $100-$200 on supplies for their projects.


  • Dedicated Journal + Indelible Pen []

    • Preferably Acid-Free, high-quality paper for sketching and note-taking

  • Prototyping Box / Vivarium (Personally Provided by Instructor)

  • Electronics Breadboard

  • Arduino Uno + USB Cable []

  • ATTiny Programmer []


Our class has a dedicated website for reference and documentation. You can login here:

username: student



Each assignment will clearly describe the requirements and the grading factors. Grading factors will correspond to the following set of expectations for each grade level:

  • A –Work goes above and beyond all of the requirements of the assignment and is exceptional in all categories

  • B – Completes all the requirements of the assignment and is very strong in multiple categories

  • C – Completes the minimally passing requirements of the assignment

  • D – Barely passing

  • F – Failure

Assignments and Points



  • Minimum 1 handwritten page.

  • Can include diagrams and drawings

  • 2 times per week.

  • Use supplied research questions as guidelines


  • Over the semester, turn 4 of your journal entries into larger blog posts on the class website

Reflective Exercises

  • Throughout the semester we will assign multi-modal reflective exercises

  • Often we may follow a “critical making” approach, where you reflect through the creation of an artifact


  • Go into an environment

  • Find something living

  • Experiment and Play with it

  • Script a Simple set of actions to do with it

  • Enact your script

  • Document Everything


  • At the end of the semester , craft a formal essay documenting and describing the digital, material, biological, and philosophical factors you considered in your design.

Field Trips

I will try to arrange 5 field trips that take place outside the classroom throughout the semester. You should try to attend as many as possible, though we will understand schedule conflicts means that not everyone will be able to make it to all trips. You will be required to join at least one field trip during the semester, and extra credit can be earned by joining others. A day off regular class has even been built into the schedule to make up for this. We will cover topics such as:

  • Weatherproofing equipment

  • Outdoor Power needs

  • Ecology

  • Ethology

  • Insect Capture

  • Insect Rearing

  • Prototyping


Lightning Bugs – As an introductory electronics and programming workshop environment, all students will build their own wearable firefly costumes. We will bring these into the field to play a game with each other, and also try to attract real fireflies.

Stupid Pet Trick – Students in groups create a simple project that uses one input and one output in conjunction with a living creature.

Cybiotic Experience – Create a performative work with interacting digital, biotic, (and potentially human) components at a site specific to your choosing. We will present many ideas and other projects for inspiration over the semester.

A1: Journal – 10%

A2: Website – 5%

A3: Reflective Exercises – 10%

A4: Essay – 5%

Field Trips – 5% + (possible extra credit)

P1: Lightning Bugs – 5%

P2: Stupid Pet Tricks

  • P1a: Concept Sketches and Critiques – 2 %

  • P1b: Performance Prototyping – 3 %

  • P1c: Final Protoype and Presentation – 10 %

P3: Cybiotic Experience

  • P2a: Concept Sketches and Critique – 5 %

  • P2b: Low-fi Performance Prototypes and Eval – 5 %

  • P2c: Interim Presentation and Critique – 5 %

  • P2d: Final Object and Presentation – 15 %

Participation – 15%


Attendance is mandatory. Fifteen percent of you final grade is determined by class participation, which includes attendance, contribution to class discussions and critiques, and adherence to the cell phone and computer use policy of this class. Attendance and participation in class will help you both learn the material and articulate and refine you own ideas as we proceed through the semester.

You are allowed 2 unexcused absences. Each unexcused absence after your 2nd will result in the deduction of 10 points from your final grade (reducing an entire grade letter). After six unexcused absences, I reserve the right to assign you an ‘F’ in the class. Please inform me as soon as possible, preferably through email, if you plan to be absent for any excusable reason. Be prepared to provide documentation of your absence, and make up for any missed coursework or assignments.


We will move fast in this class. Participating will demand your full attention.

Computer Usage Policy
Computers should only be used during designated in class work sessions. Laptops may be used for note taking, however web surfing/IM/etc. will result in penalties to your participation grade.

Cell Phone Policy
During class please turn your cell phones off. All the way off. Don’t check them every five minutes to see if you got a new email. Cell phones repeatedly ringing in class will result in penalties to your participation grade.

Drop Day

You can drop the course by August 23rd and not receive a W on your transcript. You can drop the course up to October 11th and receive a W on your transcript.

Disability and Special Needs

Students with disabilities and special needs must register with the ADAPTS. I will make every effort to accommodate any learning needs a student might have, but it is your responsibility to register with ADAPTS and to meet with me in the first 2 weeks of class.

Honor Code and Plagiarism

Creativity cannot exist without a synthesis of information from many external sources. Particularly as you are learning and programming you will necessarily rely on the work of others. One day, others will rely on the work you perform. To keep the culture

Plagiarizing is defined by Webster’s as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another's production) without crediting the source.” If caught plagiarizing, you will be dealt with according to the GT Academic Honor Code.

You are allowed and encouraged to discuss all coursework with other students, as long as you develop and present your own design solutions. You are also allowed and encouraged to ask me questions, although you should try to think about the design problems before asking.

*If you use pre-existing code, you must explicitly acknowledge this in any and all in-class presentations and in your final assignment, and you must provide citation (via comment) in the code. For a thorough discussion of the official policies and procedures regarding plagiarism please view

Debate, Diversity, and Respect

In this class, we will present and discuss a diversity of perspectives. Although you may not always agree with others’ perspectives, you are required to be respectful of others’ values and beliefs. Repeated inappropriate or abusive comments and/or behavior will be cause for disciplinary action. If you feel that your perspectives are being ignored or slighted, or you in anyway feel uncomfortable in the classroom, please contact me immediately.

Course Schedule

What follows is an outline for the course. As the course progresses, we will adjust this outline and corresponding dates. When changes occur, I will inform you and try to keep the schedule as up to date as possible.

Note: Class periods will be designed to incorporate critical reflection and material engagement in parallel. Thus, we will often not have “lab days,” “discussion days” or “lecture days,” but instead I will try to lead sessions of hybrid building and analysis in class. This also means that attendance is still required during “open lab” days, as we will be discussing theory while building.





HW Due


Aug 20


Present (P) - Quick Course Introduction: -Interaction, Biological Art, Cybiotics.

Make (M) – Magnetic Ants

Discuss (D)-Journals, Hands-on Demos, Purchases

Bring - something living for show and tell. Interaction brainstorming performances.

Aug 22


Present: What is Interaction Design? Bio-Art?

Intro to Arduino: Electricity, Blink

P1 -Start Fireflies Class Project

-Purchase Journal

-Purchase Arduini

-Install Arduino and Processing


Aug 27


P1- Finish and Discuss Fireflies-

Present: Performance and Design

Read – Buxton 127-141

Read – Quitmeyer “Inspirations”

Read – Tinbergen

Read – Murray 51-80

Aug 29


Present: Bio-Performances

Tools of Interaction Design: Sketching, Prototyping

Bio-Performance 1 documentation

Team Skills Form

Read – Warfel 1-42


Sep 3


Intro to Arduino: Analog Sensors, Actors,


Read – Make: Electronics Ch. 1

Sep 5


Prototyping Lab Orientation Session.

Class meets in the Lobby of TSRB.

Bio-Performance 2 documentation

P1a: Concept Sketches


Sep 10


--Instructor Gone -- UbiComp—

Guest Instructor - Open Lab for P2

Serial Communication

Read – “Talk to me Exhibits”

Sep 12


--Instructor Gone -- UbiComp—


Read – “Animals as Navigators”


Sep 17


Tools of Interaction Design: Performances, Scenarios, Storyboards, Wireframes (paper prototype)(flow chart), Personas/Users

In class exercise: Digital Abstraction of Animal Behavior

Read – Quitmeyer, “MYT”

Sep 19


Presentation: Tropisms | Urban Agriculture

In class exercise: Nurturing Natural Sensors

Read - Kunetsov

Bio-Performance 3 documentation


Sep 24


In class exercise: Invert an Animal Behavior

Sep 26


-P2 Final Presentations-

In class exercise: Concept Generation

P2b: Final Presentation


Oct 1


Tools of Interaction Design: Wireframes, Flowcharts, …

In class exercise: Wireframe a Farming App

P3 - Assigned

Reading TBD

Oct 3


Tangible and Embodied Interaction; Physical Computing

In class exercise: Physical Description of Digital Actions

Read – Iishi and Ulmer: “Tangible Bits”


Oct 8


Presentation: Soft Circuits

In Class Exercise: Stretch Sensors

Oct 10


-P3a Critiques-

P3a: Concept Sketches, Personas


Oct 15



Oct 17


Tools of Interaction Design: User Centered and Participatory Design

In class exercise: User Observations and Interviews

Read – Dourish ch. 4 pp.99-126


Oct 22


Field Trip: Collecting Creatures

Bio-Performance 4 documentation

Oct 24


Presentation: Computer Vision

Read: TBD


Oct 29


In class exercise: Student creature swapping

Read: TBD

Oct 31


-P3b Presentations-

P3b: Low fi prototypes and user evaluations


Nov 5


Special Guest Presentation

Read: TBD

Nov 7


Student Journal Swapping


Nov 12


Presentation: Digital Naturalism

Open Studio

Read: Charlotte Sleigh, Richard Sennett

Nov 14


-P3c: Critiques-

Open Studio

P3c: Interim Presentation


Nov 19


Presentation: Digital Naturalism

In class exercise: TBD

Read: TBD

Nov 21


Presentation: Modeling Advanced Digital and Biological Behaviors

In class exercise: design physical simulation

Read: Greg Turk


Nov 26


Reflective Exercise: Public Sharing Project Documentation – Instructables, Wikipedia

Open Studio

Nov 28


---NO CLASS --- Thanksgiving ----


Dec 3


-P3 final presentations-

Dead Week

P3: Final Presentation

Dec 5


-P3 final presentations-

Dead Week

P3: Final Presentation


Dec 12



A4: Essay(Due by 5:00pm)

Dec 16


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