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State University of New York

Introduction to Computational Arts

State University of New York via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


In this 17-week course we will introduce the fundamentals of computational arts–covering basic programming, simple image processing and elementary sound recording. This class has been taught for seventeen years at Stony Brook University, and is an accessible introduction to combining arts and computing.*

For programming we will be using the free and open source programming language and integrated development environment, Processing. The course will provide the essentials of programming in a visual context, allowing you to visualize, design, and create generative art with Processing.

For visuals we will cover Photoshop CS5 and GIMP, which is a free open-source tool offering the same functionality as Photoshop. Whether you have access to one or the other, you will learn how to create and manipulate digital images, and most importantly, you will become comfortable enough to expand on what you learn here, after the end of our course.

For sound we will teach both Logic and Soundation. Logic is Apple’s DAW or Digital Audio Workstation while Soundation is a free web-based multi-track audio editor. We’ll be teaching the basics of digital audio–including recording, and automating effects.

You will complete both technical assignments and artistic projects, and learn how to participate in an aesthetic critique. We’ll cover the history of sound and art in the Twentieth and 21st Centuries to give context for your artistic endeavors.

Peer review is integral to the success of this class; we will also teach you how to give constructive criticism. By the end of the 15 weeks you should have a strong foundation for how computers work and deal with data, specifically how image and sound are represented by the computer.

Additionally, you will create an online portfolio of digital art projects, and be able to communicate ideas about art.  

Each week you will watch two video series - one on the theory and one on the practice. There will be technical assignments and artistic projects which will be peer reviewed. We’re looking forward to working with you.

*If you are interested in just a part of this course, you may want to consider enrolling in the individual segments in the Spring (Intro to Computational Arts Processing, Visual Arts and Audio.)  These courses will not include the use of eportfolio and will not have a summative capstone. 



Introduction to Computational Arts
Consortium for Digital Arts & Technology (CDACT)
Stony Brook University and Coursera


Dr. Margaret Schedel

Catherine Katsafouros (TA)

Course Description
This multidisciplinary production class serves as an introduction to, and exploration of electronic media in the arts. Lectures will cover concepts and presentations of artists working in various capacities with computers, as well as tutorials on specific software packages.

No prerequisites or prior knowledge needed. Familiarity with computers is helpful but not necessary.

Course Requirements

    • Internet connection
    • Windows or Apple computer
    • Ability to install software on your machine (admin account)
    • Processing software:
    • Visual arts software: You may use either
    • Photoshop:
      or Gimp:
    • Sound software: You may use either
    • Logic:  (Mac ONLY)
      or Soundation
    • Digication e-Portfolio account (links and details will be provided)

Course Learning Outcomes
Learners who successfully complete this course will have learned basic skills in three programs: Processing, Photoshop or Gimp, and Logic or Soundation. Throughout the three primary modules, students will be learn to give critical feedback to their peers about technical and artistic matters through a grounding in the history of technology and the arts. A digital portfolio will showcase your work from this course which culminates in a computational artwork using all three programs. 

Processing Outcomes:

    1. Understand the basics of computers, input and output devices, memory, and disks as demonstrated through quizzes and projects
    2. Navigate file systems in Windows and Mac OS X
    3. Demonstrate creative/conceptual awareness of generative design through peer critique
    4. Install and set-up a digital environment using Processing language.
    5. Generate and manipulate type, image and sound, incorporating principles of color, shape and grids.

Visual Arts Outcomes:

    1. Create, edit, manipulate digital images using the basic functions of visual arts software
    2. Demonstrate creative/conceptual awareness of visual design through peer critique
    3. Produce an artistic image using software

Sound Art Outcomes:

    1. Record, edit, and process digital sound using the basic functions of a Digital Audio Workstation.
    2. Demonstrate creative/conceptual awareness of sound art through peer critique
    3. Produce an effective 1-3 minute sound work with a formal structure

Textbook & Course Materials 

Required Text: No required texts
Optional Texts:
Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing
by Hartmut Bohnacker (Author), Benedikt Gross (Author), Julia Laub (Author), Claudius Lazzeroni (Editor) ISBN-13: 978-1616890773
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Art of the Digital Age
by Bruce Wands
ISBN-13: 978-0500286296
Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Electronic Music (Cambridge Introductions to Music)
by Nick Collins  (Author) , Margaret Schedel  (Author) , Scott Wilson  (Author)
ISBN-13: 978-1107648173
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites
by Jon Duckett
ISBN-13: 978-1118008188
Publisher: Wiley


Assignments and projects are graded through a peer-review process; quizzes are multiple-choice and are graded by the computer. Your work on the assignments, projects and group presentation will be assessed two ways: your individual work to complete the assignment, project or presentation, and your own review of your peers’ work. Peer review counts as the participation component of your own grade, which means for everything you hand in you will also make substantive comments on the assignments which will be graded, and rate others’ comments


Description                Weight                     Participation Component

Quizzes (14)                    15 %                                       0 %

Assignments (12)            20 %                                     20 %  

Project 1 (visual)             20 %                                     25 %

Project 2 (sound)            20 %                                     25 %

Final Project
(visual, sound, programming)     25 %                       25 %


Passing Grade = 75%


After watching each video lecture series, you will take a multiple choice quiz which will count towards your final grade. You can only take these quizzes once. There are also “in-video questions,” and you must answer these questions correctly in order to advance the video, but these questions are NOT graded, you can re-do the “in-video” quiz as many times as you need to.

Assignments are purely technical; each module will include a detailed explanation of how to complete and grade each assignment. There will be 1 assignment (which may have multiple components)  every week that there is no project due.  Each assignment should take you no more than one hour.

Projects are both aesthetic and technical; there will be an explanation of how to grade projects but you must remember that art is subjective. There are only three projects, and together they are worth the majority of your grade. You can expect these projects to take at  least 3-4 hours to complete. (Final project should take 6 hours.)

Group Presentation
In groups of 4-7, you will create a five-minute presentation that the other students can view. You can use any method or technology for loading this that works with your eportfolio site and collaborating. There will be a list of topics to choose from on a movement in twentieth or 21st century art or music.

Disclaimer: “The course schedule, policies, procedures, and assignments in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances, by mutual agreement, and/or to ensure better student learning.”


Week 01-04 Introduction to Computing and Processing
Week 05-09 Introduction to Digital Art and Photoshop/Gimp
Week 10-14: Introduction to Electronic Music and Logic/Soundation
Week 15: Putting it All Together: Programming, Visuals and Sound

Assignments due:

Week 1    Install Programs

Week 2    Processing Assignment 1

Week 3    Processing Assignment 2

Week 4    Processing Assignment 3

Week 5    Image Assignment 1

Week 6    Image Assignment 2

Week 7    Image Assignment 3

Week 8    Image Assignment 4

Week 9    Project 1 (Image)

Week 10   Sound Assignment 1

Week 11   Sound Assignment 2

Week 12   Sound Assignment 3

Week 13   Project 2 (Sound)

Week 14   Portfolio Assignment 1

Week 15   Project 3 (Processing, Sound and Image)

Week 16 & 17 Project completion and peer grading 

Course Questions - FAQ
Have a question about the content of the course? Check the Course FAQs discussion board and if you don’t see the answer to your question there, create a new thread and post your question.  The course instructors will monitor the FAQ discussion board and will respond to questions posted.   

Technical Assistance
Technical problems with Coursera should be reported to the support forums in two ways:

  2. Using the in-context “report a problem” links on the course pages.

Be sure to note: The page where the problem occurred and what problem you had.



You will grade each other’s work, and also grade each other’s comments. There will be instructions on how to grade the assignments, projects, and presentation, and each assignment will come with it's own grading chart (rubric) to follow.



Taught by

Margaret Schedel


5.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

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  • Anonymous
    Such a varied content in this class and a long course, but very interesting. It combined programming (Processing), image manipulation (Photoshop or Gimp) and music creation (Audacity, Logic and Soundation). It was truly a great class, I did learn a lot and also enjoyed it a lot. I had least knowledge of sound and found this most challenging, but there was a good attempt to teach creative aspects and principles. It was hard to upload and share the final project (just submitted), but what a rich experience it has given us all. We even had an option to work together as international groups on a project. Excellent tuition of fundamental creative principles also.

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