Exercise: Infusing Art with Technology

A core premise of the course is identifying new soft technology innovations which support art and design. This exercise will practice an art-centric approach to this process. The overall objective is to select an existing art or design project and identify new ways of resolving the core questions using soft technology. Ideally, the technological intervention would resonate with the artistic premises and become a necessary element, rather than an arbitrary change of media.

A useful heuristic process is why-how laddering, a process of abstraction and resolution borrowed from the design community. One can iteratively ask: why did the artist make these choices? This successively abstracts the idea toward root questions. Then new resolutions can be identified by asking how these questions can be answered in other ways.


  1. Locate an artist, artwork, or design project which could inspire new work.

  2. Identify abstracted questions raised by an existing work.

  3. Identify alternative resolutions of those questions involving soft technology.

  4. Locate technical research which supports artistic expressions.


  1. Using both formal and informal resources (e.g. Google), locate documentation of an art or design project of interest which we haven’t yet discussed. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘soft art’. Possible sources broadly include include artist web sites, videos, published papers, review articles, etc.

  2. Analyze the expression and intention of the work. What is the artist seeking to accomplish?

  3. Brainstorm some alternate expressions which explore those intentions using the means and materials of soft technologies. This might include different materials, behavior, kinetic effects, fabrication processes, algorithms, etc.

  4. Locate and read one or more technical research papers which address the technological aspects.

  5. Hypothesize how the specific innovations might be applied in the art context. The key question is: in what ways will the technological expression be artistically meaningful?

  6. Write a short blog post with your results and be prepared to make brief comments in class.


  1. Short blog post.