USC Course Description


This course will never be the same twice. Each time it is taught, we set one or more unique challenges inspired by something that we want to explore because it is urgent and timely, rare and unusual, or difficult and obscure. The class takes advantage of emerging interest in topics of neuroscience, public health, and medicine that merit further exploration from a design perspective. Unexplored themes give the students an opportunity to learn about the process of generating research questions, as well as interventions in real-time through collaboration and experiential design. Each participating student and faculty will bring their expertise and an open mind to contribute what they know how to do and learn something new from others.

This year’s topic is “Transcendent Techologies” and takes place in Crete, Greece in collaboration with the University of Crete. The rapid evolution of technology combined with the constant need for validated interventions in the fields of human health and development requires intimate collaborations between arts, science, and the humanities. The ultimate goal for this course is not the development of new technologies but the investigation of interventions that can reduce unnecessary physical and mental suffering (“ataraxia”). Guided by this philosophical principle rooted in Epicurean philosophy, the course will demonstrate how successful creation, curation, implementation, and evaluation of a “transcendent technology” can provide an experience of high “eudaimonic” value for creators, patients, and health professionals.

The location of Crete, Greece has been chosen due to its vibrant academic and artistic community combined with many opportunities for nature-based and spiritual retreats. Greece has experienced extreme challenges due to austerity measures the past few years and the effects of it are visible everywhere, but so is a sense of renewal and hope. Greece is passing through a critical and unique time in history. The island of Crete is divided into four diverse regions (Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, Lasithi) that have different population challenges and opportunities with a rich cultural and spiritual history. Collaboration with the University of Crete’s medical school and its network of faculty, researchers, technology parks, and health facilities provides access to a diverse population of all ages in both urban and rural settings in close proximity. Crete is the largest island in Greece with a population of approximately 700,000 people and is one of the top tourist destinations in the country.


Students interested in taking the course will need to apply. The course will begin with one week on campus at USC or Skype, followed by a two-week intensive in Crete, Greece in collaboration with the University of Crete’s Medical School and Clinic of Social & Family Medicine (Dir: Dr. C. Lionis), which will include contribution to teaching of modules. Collaborations and site visits with local urban and rural health centers will be established based on student applicant interests and after small teams have been formed. The final week of the class will be devoted to completing final projects and documentation. Plenty of free and unscheduled time is provided for self-exploration and excursions.

A final list of theme-based readings will be provided at the beginning of Summer semester and must be completed before or during the first week of the class.


Information on travel and hotel accommodations is coming soon.

Students will be provided information on health and safety information.  Students will need to provide signed forms for Know Before You Go Informed Consent Form, Medical Treatment Authorization, and Travel Release and need to have health coverage for overseas travel. Additional information will be provided on emergency plans 3 weeks in advance of travel.


CTIN 541: Design for Interactive Media and CTIN 503: Interactive Entertainment, Science, and Healthcare. At least one of the following skills: design, prototyping, programming, interviewing, data collection, data analysis; instructor permission. Open to all graduate students and advanced standing undergraduates.


This course will give students a unique transdisciplinary perspective in a group design practice format focused on pre-selected topics in neuroscience, public health, and medicine. Students will design, develop and evaluate concepts/ideas of interventions using interactive entertainment and transmedia. This course will also introduce emerging technologies, techniques and methods for transdisciplinary innovation. Students will develop skills for collaboration with scientists, health professionals, and industry experts through hands-on design inquiry and practice.


The purpose of this course is to immerse students in transdisciplinary collaboration with teams of artists, designers, scientists, health professionals, and engineers, whose joint mission is to develop and evaluate interventions focused on improving human health and the experience of living. Students will practice creative design skills through a series of focused challenges meant to diversify their analysis and synthesis capabilities. As appropriate for each challenge and team, students may use idea brainstorming, storyboarding, wireframing, rapid prototyping, observation, interviews, focus groups and surveys to design, deploy and evaluate experiences. Depending on the challenge will be opportunities to work on informal and informal evaluations in clinical and community settings. Students will learn when and how and to apply experience, experiential and participatory design practice methods. Students will be exposed to new problems, populations, and settings each time the course is repeated; they will understand the basic mechanics of planning evaluations, data collection and data analysis.


Assigned readings and a resource bibliography will be available via the instructor’s website and USC Google Drive. In addition to readings, resources such as websites, videos, and interactive works will be available. Such works are not considered optional or supplemental, but are extremely critical for experiential design processes.


The following will count toward your grade:

  • 70% group practicum project(s) (presentations and interviews)
  • 15% in-class active participation
  • 15% research journal

The group project will be rated on a combination of factors related to innovation and potential impact, experience design, use of resources, presentation, evaluation strategy, documentation, and collaboration.

Group Practicum Format. The students will tackle one design challenge set by the instructor, with a focus on a specific population, setting, and group of outcomes for each challenge. Experts and stakeholders will visit classes to present research findings, specific issues, and/or case studies, and to participate in critique and presentations. Short workshop on preferred technologies and toolkits may also be offered. Although the course welcomes the design and development of new interactive experiences, adapting existing technologies and experiences for the purpose of meeting the challenge is acceptable for this class. Off-site visits to clinical and community settings may be required during the working group meetings for prototype evaluation and data collection. The class may split into multiple groups if there is adequate skill duplication, at the discretion of the instructor.

Group Practicum Project(s). Project outcomes formats vary a lot depending on the interests and research direction of the class. In general, they consist of pre-production and formative research-type of activities: literature reviews, interviews, observation studies, paper and physical prototyping, gray-boxing of interactive experiences, rough cut documentary, etc. Also see PAST EXPLORATIONS. The class decides which direction to go for producing deliverables as we go along, trying to keep moving without going into production of full-study mode because we typically work on subjects too difficult to tackle in one semester and therefore most activities are exploratory and experimental in nature with documentation as a final goal.

Research Journal. You are required to maintain a paper and/or digital journal of notes that documents what is happening in and outside of class, your reflections on readings, meetings with people, photos, videos, etc. This record does not need to be easily interpreted by others, but is meant to be a memory consolidation and look-up tool for the student. Use whatever means necessary to maintain one. It doesn’t need to be pretty, organized, perfect or use one mode of recording. The instructor will ask for proof and snapshots of it to be submitted or shown to at the end of the semester or other intervals.

Class Participation. This course relies heavily on student participation because decisions and activities are made cooperatively between all the faculty and students. Students are expected to come to class on time and prepared to contribute to reading discussions and provide productive feedback to their classmates during critique sessions.


The spirit of a successful interventionist requires cognitive flexibility, imagination, curiosity, rigor, openness, compassion, honesty, and courage. This class will encounter and discuss topics and themes that encompass the entire spectrum of the human experience, from life to death and everything in between. You may be challenged emotionally by some of the content by design: the class is meant to push you beyond what is typically comfortable. This class is a safe space for discussion and expression, but is not a safe space from growth. There is no potential for transformative experiences if you are not personally pushed a bit past what you can tolerate, from boredom to excitement. You should feel free to express dissent in a civil manner and express your entire range of emotions in a controlled way. If at any point you need to walk away momentarily from the class, you may do so without penalty from the instructor. Do not fight rhetorical or emotional battles you are not prepared to lose in class. We are all here to learn from each other.


The definition of health and happiness varies greatly from individual to individual, family to family, community to community. While considering the design and evaluation of interventions, you will be asked to consider many factors of diversity of the human condition and human experience. This may mean by age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, race, socioeconomic status, location, literacy, ability/disability, health status, access to services, and other variables. While proposing and critiquing your intervention and evaluation, consider how these variables may affect the experience and impact.