Noticing 2013

Class Description

Artists, designers, inventors and scientist all want to see things that are new—often that no person has ever seen before. Yet our brains are designed to direct our attention to a thin stream of operational tasks. We screen out the shoes of the person across the subway and the leaves on the trees above our heads. We don’t pay much attention to the interplay of shadows or consciously hear the soft squeaking of distant doors. In conversations we rarely attend to what goes unsaid, though vital information lurks in the omissions. The seeds of a brilliant work might lie in detecting a simple gesture. We only need to notice it.

Of course the work we do isn’t really for shoe or shadows, nor for screens, spaces or devices. The work we do is for people. We need to notice and understand human beings most of all.  This class is a workshop that teaches techniques and tools for noticing—seeing, hearing and comprehending what might otherwise pass us by. In a short series of classes we’ll explore the observation process in an array of domains, from cognitive psychology to ethnography and drawing to data collection. Projects will include user studies, experimental research, observational exercises and other techniques for reaching that moment we all crave: when something unexpected and terrific bursts forward into consciousness. Because noticing requires context, this course will focus on a specific venue and its human inhabitants, in this case a creative workspace and the people who work there. It will culminate in a final project proposal inspired by what you see and honed with the help of the observational techniques learned in class. Students will leave with their eyes wide open to the inspirations and complexity that surround us all and their minds full of techniques for learning more.



Syllabus (check regularly for updates)


Exercises, etc.

Student Work

Student work documentation (to be posted by students as the class progresses)

Class Discussion List

Discussion list for announcements and group chat


Lecture slides are generally posted after class


Certain readings for class will be available online

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