CPSC 656: Computers and New Media

Spring Semester, 2010
Time and place: T/Th 5:30 - 6:45 pm, HRBB 204
Instructor: Dr. Frank Shipman
Office hours: HRBB 404, to be determined, or by appointment


There are students from technical and non-technical disciplines in this course. Projects and assignments are designed such that each student can show off their own skills. Programming and software development is part of the group projects so it is recommended that students from outside of computer science join project teams with students from computer science.

List of students in class

Course description

This class investigates potential and realized impact of computers in the design of media. Examples of questions to be considered are: (1) How does storytelling change when the reader can take links? (2) What about when the "reader" plays the role of a character in the story? and more generally: (3) What characteristics of computational media are appropriate for what types of communication and stories?

Thus, some of the topics we will cover include (1) effect of computers on reading and belief of information, (2) computer's impact on the author, reader, and the interaction between them, (3) computers and argumentation, and (4) interactive genres of literature.

These topics will be discussed at both a conceptual and tool level. By the end of the course, you will be able to look at an existing system or design a new system with an understanding of the impact it may have on communication and storytelling.


Students should have a basic knowledge of computing and the humanities, and either the ability to program complex systems or able to learn new software tools on their own. Ask instructor if you have any questions.

Reading materials

Reading schedule (Discussants)

This course will focus around discussions of the readings. We will read one book and assorted papers taken from a variety of conferences and journals concerning human-computer interaction, hypertext, media studies, and computers and the humanities.

Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, by Janet Murray, book

Selected papers:

The following links require access to the ACM Digital Library. Access to ACM Digital Library is available from on-campus computers.

ALICE chatterbot chatterbot video


  Short assignments	20%
  Class participation	20%
  Team project		35%
  Term paper            25%

Short assignments

List of assignments.

There will be a number of assignments due in class. These assignments may require use of specific software outside of class time and will take the form of short essays, written answers to questions, and design documents. All material turned in should be printed using a computer printer or typed except when noted otherwise.

Homework late policy:
10% is deducted from your grade for every school day late up to a maximum of one week after the original due date.

In case it is needed for an assignment, here is the link to download the Visual Knowledge Builder (VKB).

Class participation

Most class periods will include a discussion of reading materials. One student will be selected to present a brief overview of the material for each class and another student (or two) will be assigned to have discussion questions ready and lead discussion. All students are expected to have done the readings and be able to participate in discussions. Keep up with the readings so there will be no pop quizzes!


Students will form two- to four-person teams and define a semester project or select one from a list of existing ideas. There will be three preliminary progress reports for the projects emphasizing particular phases of the interface design process:
(1) identifying a topic, determining cognitive and social issues, and determining an approach,
(2) creating an initial system design and mock-up, and
(3) instantiating the design in a prototype implementation.

The final project report (8-12 pages in ACM Format) will also require the design of an evaluation procedure for refining the resulting interface. The in-class presentations of project progress will be about 10 minutes long and the final presentation on the project will be approximately 20 minutes long and include all members of the team.

Project grades will be determined by both the instructor's review of the project and student's description of their and other member's work.

Programming for projects:
done in language and operating system of your choice on machines to which you have access.

Term paper

Each student will select a topic on which to write a 10-15 page term paper. These papers are to describe the current state of practice and research with references to the current literature. Topics need to be approved by the instructor. Students should be careful to properly use quotation and citation for information from all sources.

General Note on Assignments

Important: All reports are to be printed on a word processor or typed (no handwritten assignments will be accepted). All writing should be the work of the student -- any text taken from other sources needs to be quoted and referenced. It is expected that students will correct grammar and spelling -- these are grounds to deduct from your grade. (i.e. Use a spelling checker and reread what you write before turning it in.)