GMU:Designing Utopias: Theory and Practice

From Medien Wiki

Lecturer(s): Christian Doeller
Credits: 16 SWS
Date: Thursdays 09.30-12.45
Venue: Room 204


This is a tool building seminar. Many of us today believe that we live in a dystopia. Our personal agency and autonomy have been slowly eroding. Many of the tools that were meant to liberate us -- the internet, computers, AI, biotechnology have turned against us. Is it possible to reimagine a future where humans take control of our own narrative or is it lost forever? Do we now learn to live in a dystopia or can we still dare to imagine a Utopia? In this seminar, We will borrow from the toolkit of hackers, designers, artists-collectives, activists and biohackers to learn the tools that they have imagined to create a utopia or fight dystopia. Our final project will critically examine these tools and techniques and attempt to reimagine or rebuild these tools. (original text by Yashas Shetty)


Sensor Tutorials:

Artists / Links:


November 17 – introduction

- utopia in the context of DIY technologies
- utopia and technical sensors as interfaces to environments
- utopia and the maker movement

November 24 – Arduino basics + Sensors

- breadboard connections
- analog / digital converter
- analog / digital input
- light sensor experiments

December 1 – Sensor Tutorials + text discussion

- sensor starter kit presentations
- reading no. 1: Jennifer Gabrys: How to Do Things with Sensors

December 8 – project ideas + text discussion

- presentation of first ideas and experiments
- reading no. 2: Silvia Lindtner, Shaowen Bardzell, Jeffrey Bardzell: Reconstituting the Utopian Vision of Making: HCI After Technosolutionism

December 15 – hands-on (I) + text discussion

- presentation by Selena on Stafford Beer and the Cyber Syn project
- hands-on session

December 22 – Christmas holidays

December 29 – Christmas holidays

January 5 – online consultations (optional)

10:30 - 11:00 – Jemma
11:30 - 12:00 – Mavie

January 12 – updates + presentations

- present the current state of your projects
- presentation by Jemma on Deep Listening

January 19 – presentation + hands-on (II) + private consultations

- present the current state of your projects
- presentation by Martin on Ursula K. Le Guin

January 26 – hands-on (III) + private consultations

- present the current state of your projects
- presentation by Dahye on philosophies of cycles
- Deep Listening Experiment with Jemma

February 2nd – final presentations



  • Getting started with Arduino
  • Connecting and reading different sensors
  • tools to capture real-time sensor data
  • tools to transform the collected data into different phenomena

Art & Thinking:

  • Contemporary (media) art positions that relate to the subject matter
  • Sensors as interfaces between beings and their environments
  • perceptual awareness and sensors as magnifying glasses of everyday processes
  • interactive prototypes and simple tools as interfaces to »the other«
  • Strategies in working with sensor technologies and input/output systems
  • Feedback mechanisms, cybernetic circuits
  • Relations between the physical and the digital


Criteria for passing:

  • document exercises on the wiki, present them for the rest of the class
  • experiment, attend the classes and develop your own prototypes and experiments relating to the topic