An introduction to visual computing in motion

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Curves and Waves is a cross-over course, a first survey of computational scientific animation which enjoys the convergence of aesthetics and epistemology that results from setting the experimental film practices of the last thirty years next to the scientific visualization work of the last fifteen. It will avoid areas of computer animation developed out of entertainment traditions. And it is not intended to be a technical introduction, but rather an introduction to some of the ideas excited by the intersection of art and science.

Although the course is an introduction to scientific visualization work, it will emphasize aspects of that work that are not necessarily the aspects most important to scientists. A few of the tapes shown will have been chosen to make technological points, but most are chosen because they are beautiful. The result is a very rich ensemble of work that is principled, inventive, compelling and evocative -- work that provides very sophisticated forms of visual experience and meaning. Lecture and reference material are designed to mark certain visual elements and principles, and to provide working vocabulary to people who have been working intuitively with those elements and principles.

At its deepest level the course is about the relation of mathematics and vision, i.e. about the relation between experience and formal systems. I am taking the notion of structure (with its related mathematical notions of function, model, and mapping/transformation) as mediating this relation, and the teaching challenge of the course will be to handle structural ideas in ways that don't frighten students who are in arts courses (also) because they think they can't handle math.

course text: Visualization: the Second Computer Revolution, Friedhoff and Benzon

course organization:

1. 5 session-hours of scientific background

The course will offer general understanding of key concepts from mathematics, computer science, computer graphics, physics, and other application areas. There will be a wide range in students' background knowledge, so references include both easy (Computer Graphics World) and more difficult material.

2. 3 session-hours of cognitive background

This material toward a cognitive aesthetics of film is based on recent work in connectionist neurophilosophy and is likely to be completely new to students. It will set up concepts needed to ground the rest of the course in an awareness that pleasure and knowledge, both taken as structured states of an experienced brain, are neither materially nor conceptually distinct.

3. the rest of the semester

- would be given to particular methodologies and applications as described in sections III. and IV.