Carnegie Mellon University School of Art


60441, 60741 - Advanced SIS/ETB - IDEATE Media Design:

Urban Intervention: Storytelling with Data in Public Space


Friday 9:30am-12:20pm, Thursday 8pm-9:30pm


Doherty Hall-C200


CMU ArtFab @ Doherty Hall



Instructor (Art, EM2): Ali Momeni (, Associate Professor

Instructor (Robotics): Illah Nourbakhsh

Teaching Assistant (Art): Katie Rose Pipkin


This course introduces students to the histories, repertoire, tools and methodologies for interventions into public space.  Specifically, this course will focus on interventions that are motivated by the needs of a community of stakeholders, and the gathering, visualization, sonification, interpretation and narration of data can.  

During the first half of the course, students will be introduced to a number of hardware tools tools and software platforms for cartographic, demographic and environmental data.  Students will be introduced to and complete exercises with several software platforms for data scraping, visualization and sonification, as well as tools and methodologies for employing large-scale outdoor video projection as a technique for sharing information with a wide range of audiences.  This portion of the course culminates in a presentation by each student that lays out a plan for a final project, to be completed in the latter half of the course.  Specifically, each student will identify a problem to address, identify the stakeholders in this issue, devise a strategy for employing urban intervention with media to address this issue.  Students will be required to carefully assess the feasibility and scope of their proposed project so as to assure a tangible deliverable with positive impact.

During the second half of the course students will iterate through two prototypes of their intervention plan, and finally actualize the intervention during the final two weeks of the course.  

The undergraduate (60441) and graduate (60741) sections of the course meet concurrently and follow the same syllabus and assignments.  In addition to the coursework documented in the syllabus, Graduate level students are expected create a substantial annotated bibliography documenting their research throughout the course of the semester.


Urban Intervention is a complex interdisciplinary practice that requires expertise in a wide range of domains.  In order to maximize each student’s potential for creating meaningful work during the semester, students are strongly encouraged to work collaboratively.  Projects undertaken in teams are therefore entirely within guidelines of the course, to a greater number of participants/contributors yields greater expectations for the ambition and execution of the project.  Collaborative projects must be presented as such during the initial project-proposal-day; discussion of potential roles for each participant should be included in the presentation.


During the course of the semesters students will gain training on various fabrication machines.  Upon completing training, each student will gain access to an online reservation system that allows him/her to book hours on various machines.  Students are required to acquire a key for CMU ArtFab Lab (Doherty C200).


The  primary course objective is to propel the creative agenda of each student by allowing him/her to create a final project that is born of his/her practice. The course is therefore divided into two phases geared towards

  1. Research (weeks 1-7)
  1. Identify problem
  2. Identify stake-holders
  3. Identify and learn about relevant tools and methodologies
  4. Identify intervention strategies
  5. Identify scope: beginning-middle-end
  1. Implementation (weeks 8-15)
  1. Establish contact with stakeholders
  2. Ideate / Refine
  3. Implement
  4. Iterate
  5. Document

For a week-by-week description of activities please see the class calendar.

All assignments are 1) posted on the blog in the form of audio and video documentation, text and linked references; and 2) posted to BlackBoard as a response to a posted assignment; the contents of the BlackBoard response should simply be a hypertext URL to the corresponding blog post.  

All blog posted must adhere strictly to formatting considerations discussed in class and set in provided examples.  Poorly formatted blog posts will be removed and the students will not get credit for the assignment.

Project Proposal: This presentation shall cover the project’s social, political, artistic and technical considerations, and influences, as well as a concrete timeline for accomplishing the task at hand.  Specifically, a project time-line should include three milestones; concret intermediary steps to completing a project by the end of the semester.  There Milestones will serve as individualized assignments for each student for the rest of the semester; they will be evaluated by the student, during in one-on-one meetings with the instructor.   This proposal should be posted as an embedded Google Presentation or Prezi on the blog and should last no longer than 5 minutes; students are encouraged to use auto-advance and timing features to assure strict adherence to the time limit.

Students are encouraged to edit, adjust, expand and reshape their timelines as the semester proceeds, in consultation with the instructor.  Note: Due dates for Milestones as well as a feasible distribution of tasks among the three intermediary steps is NOT subject to change.


Consistent attendance is mandatory.  Students are allowed two unexcused absences; further unexcused absences will lower your grade for the session by one letter for each additional absence.  Attendance will be taken at the beginning of class.  If you arrive later than 15 minutes into the class period, you will be counted as absent.  Every three occurrences of arriving to class more than 15 minutes will count as an absentee.

If you have a class or work schedule issue & anticipate being somewhat late on a regular basis, please see see the instructor during the first week of the semester.


Attendance on critique days is absolutely essential.  Failure to attend will impact both your class participation grade and your project grade.  On critique days, all students are expected to be set-up & ready to participate at the beginning of the class period.



Attendance is mandatory; inadequate attendance will lower your final grade.  Class participation is based on conduct and contribution to class blog, presentations, discussions, and critiques.  

The course will make use of a class blog, as well as the Blackboard system.  Students are expected to share their research findings on the class blog on a regular basis, in the form one or more posting per week. These blog postings contribute to the overall participation portion of the final grade. Students are also expected to post a detailed blog entry for each Milestone in his/her project; these project updates should employ text, pictures, videos as well as other necessary media (e.g. code) to convey the incremental advances made towards the completion of final project.  To assure timely submission of these important incremental assignments, a Blackboard assignment for each Milestone will collect project updates; the assignment submitted to blackboard should simply be link to the corresponding blog posting.  Late assignments will not be accepted.

Grading for this course is based on frequent-low-stakes assessment: Each assignment is graded on a scale of 0-6; of the maximum of six points, two points are dedicated to concept, two points for execution, and two points for documentation and presentation. For each of the criteria of concept, execution, documentation/presentation:

All graded projects require creation of a project, documentation of the project in photo and video format, submission of a blog post to the class website, 8 hours before the start of the class when the assignment is due.

The final project will be graded on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 representing excellence in conception and execution.

The final grade for the course will be calculated based on the following formula:



Class participation

-contribution to class discussions, -contribution to course blog

Research Assignments

-class presentations (3)

-data visualizations (

Attendance:                                 mandatory

Class participation:                         20%

Research Assignments:                 

Final project:                                40%