August 8, 2019

Media Arts + Practice Research Courses for Fall 2019: 'Worldbuilding' and 'Space and Experience'

The Division of Media Arts + Practice will offer two sections of IML 575: Media Arts Research Lab during the Fall 2019 semester. All USC students are welcome to enroll.


IML 575: World Building, Narrative Design and Design Visualization
Section 37473 | No D-clearance required
Tuesdays and Thursdays | 9:00-11:50am | RZC 120
Taught by Professor Alex McDowell

More than ever we can feel the threat and tension at our borders; enclosing or repelling populations, politics, cities, states, countries, individuals, worlds. When is this tension beneficial and when destructive? The class will search for the metaphors that allow us to express the dislocation at the edges, through storytelling, narrative design, disruptive systems, and the power of fiction.

Within this world the class will build a microcosm - a ‘Street Corner’ - that reflects the structure, systems, behavior and rules that govern this world, projected into a near future altered by informed speculation and disruptive events. A systemic gathering of knowledge within the constraints of any world will supports power of fictional storytelling using elements of narrative design and systems theory. We will explore the possibilities of trans-disciplinary and disruptive collaboration within the framework of a networked and immersive world.

We have folded fundamental elements of world building to evolve into a narrative interrogation of Boundaries, Barriers and Borders - increasingly part of the daily conversation thanks to the global return to nationalism and supremacy, but also fundamental to Skid Row, the Peace Wall in Belfast. the ‘Wall’, the rise of the City State in the US, and the connection of City to the Human Cell and its membrane. This will be set against the fictional narrative of Mie?ville’s The City & the City* and other references. The class will focus on developing fiction narratives from the world they evolve and its unique rules.


IML 575: Space and Experience
Section 37474
Wednesdays | 1:00-3:50pm | SCI L105
Taught by Professor Sergei Gepshtein

For D-clearance please email Professor Sergei Gepshtein at with the following information: a short summary of your academic background, existing technical skills, and what you hope to gain from taking the course.

What is space? According to the physicist, there is only one space that contains every object in the Universe. And yet, how you experience the space around you is not the same as the space of the physicist. Then again, the notions of space in spatial professions: architecture and filmmaking, urban planning and theater direction, game design and choreography, are different from each other and from the space of physics and the space of your experience.

We will look at each of these concepts of space and explore the relationship between them. We will discover that they form a spectrum stretching from objective spaces of physics and neuroscience, to experiential spaces of psychology and phenomenology, to instrumental spaces of human languages and the spatial professions, and finally to imaginary spaces of literature and poetics. To understand these concepts, and how each of them creates a world, we will learn about a number of tools used in various sciences, focusing on psychology, psychophysics, and neuroscience.

The course has two parts. In the first part, we will study spatial concepts as they are described in particular fields (such as physics and neuroscience, filmmaking and architecture). In the second part, we will study links between these concepts and ask what it means to move within the spectrum of spaces.

Although we will learn about science in the course, the class does not have any prerequisites. Students from a broad range of disciplines are welcome: they will form teams to carry out hands-on projects. Members of each team will contribute to the project according to their skills and interests.



Contact Information

Name: Sonia Seetharaman
Phone: 213.821.5860