Past Course Explorations

The course in the past unfolded weekly with a mix of planning and improvisation (unlike the more structured CTIN 503 course, which is focused on foundational texts, research and theories). The class is meant to simulate a real-life research environment, sometimes structured, sometimes chaotic. In reality, the class is an experiment in delayed gratification by engaging in hard thinking, doing research and listening to guests. Such is the luxury of being a student and you should relish it. We do as much research, pre-production and prototyping as we can handle. The only real deadline is the end of the class, but creative practice never ends. Some of your best ideas may come into being while commuting or in the shower, or in your sleep. But the seed for all this tends to be sown in the long hours of class. Being present in the class is more than half of the work. Sometimes the class is full of joy or extreme focus, but we may also experience sadness, and even frustration when things seem to hit a wall. There are often passionate arguments. You will not be bored. And this semester, there will be a lot of moving around — a good thing for your brain and our computer-bound lives 🙂

In the Fall of 2015, we explored “Living, Loving, and Dying a Meaningful Life with Others”. The students created card game prototypes for “coming out” on difficult topics, explored social media interventions for survivors of breast cancer, and created virtual environments for the HTC Vive  as “legacy” worlds for them to be remembered. Who were these students? An interactive designer and actor, a film producer and army veteran, an oncology nurse and artist, a clinical psychologist, a public health expert, and an animator and media scholar. We were visited by Andrew Sacher of The Lavender Effect who talked to us about the history of LGBTQ culture in Los Angeles, Pamelyn Close, newly retired director of Director of Adult and Pediatric Palliative Care at USC, Linda Brown who screened her film You See Me, the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology group from USC Norris Cancer Center, and Rhonda Smith from Breast Cancer Partner who was then working for the Susan Komen Foundation.

In the Fall of 2016, we explored virtual reality for Parkinson’s disease and virtual reality for pain management under the theme “Step. Stop. Breathe. Be. Now. Play”. The class was partially supported by the Bridge Arts and Science Alliance which funds student work. Tyler Marks documented the class in a short doc. Half of the class was dedicated to learning and planning virtual reality concepts for gait rehabilitation in Parkinson’s. Some of the roots for this work originates with the Watergait project by Lemi, Gotsis and Lympouridis. In October 2016, Finley, Fisher and Gotsis received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore virtual reality for Parkinson’s and the class was leveraged as a platform for prototyping of ideas. Several faculty guest lectured in the course, including Giselle Petzinger, James Finley, and Beth Fisher on Parkinson’s, locomotion, and neuroplasticity. We even went on  a field trip to Disney’s VR prototyping lab. We were also visited twice by several patients with Parkinson’s who graciously tried a curated set of of VR worlds, as well as some prototypes students made in the class. In parallel, we explored the neurobiology and psychology of pain and how virtual reality may help. Guest lectures included David McKemy and Jeffrey Gold. A number of resources from were also leveraged in the class, which explored ways of putting together a pain anthology relevant to VR researchers. Who was in this class? A philosopher and artist, a gerontologist and philosopher, a computer scientist, an artist and comedian, a lawyer and gerontologist, an animator, a media scholar, and a public policy scholar.

In the Fall of 2017, we explored “Interactivity, Play, Choreography and Neuroplasticity”. We developed concepts toward the design of a playful intervention for children with developmental disorders (Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, etc.). Ideas leveraged a choreographic system based on William Forsythe’s Red Yellow Blue Green movement/vocal system, and students also learned about Alexander, Feldenkreis, and pilates training, as well as William Forsythe’s Improvisation Technologies movement generating systems. Technological (digital games and virtual reality) and non-technological interventions were explored to the extent to which they are suitable for deployment in educational settings (K12). The class collaborated with the Kaufman School of Dance and Prof. Thomas McManus and his students from DANC499. Guests speakers included Vangelis Lympouridis, Patrick Corbin, Jeff Watson, Dawn Stoppiello, and Bobbie Edwards. A Scalar project was produced with the documentation from the class entitled “Rhythm & Dance Games – A K-12 Curriculum Guide for ages 7”.