Uncreative Design

Syllabus

Uncreative Design
GRAPH-3287-01
09/11/2013-12/13/2013
Wednesday 11:20PM – 04:20PM
Design Center, Room 209
cvalla@risd.edu
office hours : Thursday 9-12 and by appointment

DESCRIPTION

“In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Heubler wrote, ‘The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.’” So opens Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing, published in 2011. Following Goldsmith’s lead, this class will explore various strategies in art, writing and political activism that will lead us to an uncreative design. We will make use of copying, repetition, appropriation, detournement and bricolage in a series of studio experiments. Though the class will be focused on ways of (not)making, class participation and discussions of assigned readings will also play a major role in guiding studio work, and in evaluating student projects. There are no prerequisites, though students should be willing to take major risks and have a very open approach to different modes of working.

Creativity, intuition, improvisation, composed, hand-made, unique, original, subjective, genius, authored. These are all to be avoided in this class. Rather what we create will be uncreative, systematic, scripted, chance based, calculated, mass produced, digital, appropriated, objective and copied. The role of contemporary producers is no longer be to create new things, but to channel, frame, re-assemble and contextualize existing things – from creative production towards an ‘uncreative’ production. Uncreative Design explores how new meaning is produced by collecting, archiving, captioning, erasing, parsing. There are many examples of this work and theory in other disciplines, including writing, art, new media, music, film and video.

OBJECTIVES

  • students become acquainted with contemporary theories of remix, appropriation, authorship and production
  • students begin to conceptualize their own roles as designers in relation to these theories and practices
  • students experiment with appropriation, remixing, decontextualization and other forms of ‘uncreative’ design as generators of meaning

PREREQUISITES

  • there are no requirements for this class except a very open attitude
  • we will frequently be discussion digital technologies. You do not have to understand all of these technologies, but you should be prepared to play around with and respond to them
  • you should be very self-directed; most projects will take the form of provocations rather than fully articulated design briefs

REQUIREMENTS

  • a laptop
  • access to a camera (smart-phone cameras qualify)
  • a copy of Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing

ASSIGNMENTS

For the first two thirds of the semester you will be assigned a project every week. These are to be treated as experiments: you should take risks and try out new ideas. More often than not, these projects will take the form of a provocation rather than a design brief. In particular, the final medium will rarely be specified. As we will see throughout this class, because we are working with pre-existing content, the choice of final medium becomes an important locus for meaning, and one that I will be asking you to deal with.

FINAL UNCREATIVE DESIGN

At the end of the course, I will ask you to produce an uncreative design artifact, or one that responds to the idea of uncreative design. This can take many forms: a manifesto, a web-site, a video, a poster, and installation, a book. The only rule is that you are not allowed to produce original content for this artifact. We will discuss this as the semester progresses, but I highly encourage you to keep copies of all the notes we share in class, everything you read, write and make in class. Your final can make use of all of this material as content.

I will also ask you to write a short statement. This statement will accompany your final project. I ask that you take a position for or against an ‘uncreative’ methodology. I also ask that your project statement explain your own methodology.

READINGS

Every week I will assign readings that we will discuss in class. In order to prepare for class discussions, you will respond to the readings in writing. You will write down thoughts, references, and ideas you have about the readings. These are not writing assignments – think of them as very clear note-taking that you will share with the class.

You will also email me 3 questions about the reading prior to class. These should be questions for the class, but they can also be questions for me. These questions will form the basis for our discussions.

GRADING

The success of this class is entirely based on your participation and willingness to discuss and work with your colleagues. This class explores some interesting new territory, but it will also require a great deal of participation from you. My role will be (in the words of Goldsmith again) “part party host, part traffic cop, full-time enabler.” Therefore, 75% of your grade is dependent on your participation (in both discussing readings and fellow student work) and experiments. Successful experiments will not necessarily be the best designed, but will be the ones that took the most risks. Failure, especially when it is spectacular failure, is a great way to learn, and a great tool for discussion. The final 25% of your grade will be based on your final uncreative design artifact.

  • Participation / Reading Questions 40%
  • Assignment 1-7 35%
  • Final Project 25%

GRADING CRITERIA

  • F – frequently late and/or absent. insufficient participation. little to no understanding of the reading and concepts. little to no effort in the assignments.
  • D – occasional lateness and more than one unexcused absence. basic understanding of reading and concepts. met basic requirements fro assignments.
  • C – occasional lateness. demonstrated an reading and concepts. failed to take risks. work holds together. makes only obligatory contributions to discussions
  • B – always present. work in on time. demonstrated a solid understanding of reading and concepts. was able to articulate thoughts on the reading. work has good form and content, and took some risks. able to make interesting contributions to the class
  • A – always present. work in on time. demonstrated a solid understanding of reading and concepts. was able to seek out new coding principles and technologies. work has excellent form and content, and took major risks. always makes interesting contributions to the class, and frequently led class discussions