EMAR 391-009: Smart Environments - Spring 2022

Description Code Schedule Grading Policies References



This course provides an introduction to smart environments across multiple scales and contexts. From smart devices (speakers, voice assistants, cameras), to room-scale environments (including responsive audio-visual environments), to smart buildings, smart cities (autonomous vehicles, micro-mobility, public transport), and even smart networks and grids. Throughout, students will explore new technical possibilities for smart environments, will be challenged to think critically about ethical concerns in implementing smart environments, and will be asked to create and interact with functional smart environment systems. We will explore emerging technologies such as sensors, smart devices, robotics, and pervasive computing to create smart environments.


Course objectives

A student who successfully completes this course will:

Prequisites: Major in Emerging Media Arts and EMAR161 Computational Media Studio II, or permission of instructor.




(Subject to Change-Always check back for most up to date information)

Week Topic
1a Hello. Syllabus and Policies
1b Introduction: Smart Environments Across Scales
- Topics: “Smart”; Situated, Embedded Computing; Scales of Smart; History and Approaches;
- Reading: [TK]
- Exercise: field research; defining smart environments; smart environments in the wild;
2 Devices 1: Assistants
- Topics: voice as interaction modality; speech recognition; speech synthesis; conversational agents;
- Readings: Jeremijenko, “If Things Can Talk, What Do They Say? If We Can Talk to Things, What Do We Say?”, Electronic Book Review 2012;
- Exercise: interview a voice assistant
3 Smart Assistant Studio
- Work time
- Critique
4 Sensing 1: Annotating Space
- Topics: IoT; Sensors; Annotating space.
- Reading: Georges Perec, “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris” (excerpts)
- Exercise [TK]
- Assign Project 1: Smart Devices
5 Sensing 2: Observers
- Topics: video processing; motion detection; object detection; things that see.
- Readings: Timo Arnall, “Robot Readable World”
- Exercise [TK]
- DUE Project 1
6 Sensing 3: Responsive Space
- Topics: IoT actuators; lighting; feedback;
- Reading: Mark Weiser “Open House”
- Exercise: [TK]
7 Situated Computing
- Topics: spatial computing; spimes; machine cohabitation; robots;
- Reading: Bruce Sterling, “Shaping Things”
- Exercise [TK]
- Assign Project 2: Distributed Sensing
8 Sensors Project Studio
- DUE Project 2 Proposal
- Work Time
9 Media 1: Video Walls
- Topics: CAVEs, “Video Walls”, networked AV telecommunication
- Reading: Ray Bradbury “The Veldt”.
- Exercise [TK]
10 Media 2: Immersive A/V
- Topics: room scale projection; spatial audio;
- Exercise [TK]
- DUE Project 2
11 Media 3: Ambient
- Topics: passive/ambient interactions; eInk; ambient orb;
- Reading: Mark Weiser and John Seeley Brown, “Designing Calm Technology”
- Exercise [TK]
12 Zoom Out 1: Smart Cities
- Topics: Sidewalk labs, smart cities
- Reading: Goodman, Ellen P., and Julia Powles. “Urbanism under google: Lessons from sidewalk Toronto.”
- Assign Final Project
13 Zoom Out 2: National / Planetary
- Topics: Globalism, Economies, Planetary scale computing
- Reading: Bratton, “The Stack” (excerpts)
- Exercise [TK]
DUE Final Project Proposal
14 Final Project Studio 1
- Final project work time
- Workshop projects
- Guest critics
15 Final Project Studio 2
- Final project work time
- Workshopping Final Presentations
16 Exhibition/Showcase Open Studios (Final Project, Talk, Documentation due)


Graded activities

*Work will be evaluated on the quality of concept, the degree of experimentation (both aesthetic and technical), and final realization (again, aesthetic and technical). Prompts and rubrics will be provided with more specific details regarding each assignment and breakdowns

Description of Assignments and Exams

Weekly Exercises We will have regular, weekly assignments employing the tools and techniques covered in class. These will be short activities with clearly stated creative prompts and technical requirements. Exercises will be submitted with source code, documentation, and reflective statement to class website. Projects will be graded on satisfactory completion with additional credit for creative, technical, expressive extension beyond requirements.

Projects We will have two projects during the semester (at 15% each), covering Smart Devices and Distributed Sensing. When assigned, students will submit a proposal/concept for their project to receive instructor feedback, and then work to complete the project. Projects will be presented and critiqued in class and code, hardware, and documentation will be submitted for grading.

Final Project, Documentation, and Presentation At the end of the semester, you will propose and create a self-directed Smart Environments project engaging a subject of your choice, using tools and techniques from class. You may either A) revisit a subject or idea that excited you from earlier in the semester or B) explore a topic of interest that we have not covered in class. The format, workflow, and submission of this project will follow the process of the earlier projects. In week 16 we will have a showcase for these projects, including a short talk and exhibition of the resulting work. Projects will additionally be added to an online virtual gallery of Smart Environments projects.

Participation We will have a number of avenues for course participation, graded on completion. These include regular course readings and responses, finding and sharing resources relevant to course topics on class discussion platforms, and providing peer feedback on classmates’ work.

Late work policy

An assignment may receive an F if a student does not participate in every phase of the development of the project and meet all deadlines for preliminary materials (proposals, drafts, etc.). Failure to submit any of the graded course assignments is grounds for failure in the course. If a final draft or project, plus required addenda, is not submitted in class on the date due, it will be considered late and will lose one letter grade for each day or part of a day past due (A to B, etc.). Assignments are due in hard copy and or via email/link (online assignment). You must submit your assignments directly to the instructor. Any late submissions must be approved by your faculty instructor well in advance of the due date.

Grading Scale

A+ = 97-100 | A = 93-97 | A- = 90-93
B+ = 87-90 | B = 83-87 | B- = 80-83
C+ = 77-80 | C = 73-77 | C- = 70-73
D+ = 67-70 | D = 63-67 | D- = 60-63
F = below 60%

Here is a description of the kind of participation in the course that would earn you an A, B, C, etc. Your instructor may use pluses and minuses to reflect your participation more fairly, but this is a general description for each letter grade.

A – Excellent
Excellent participation is marked by near-perfect attendance and rigorous preparation for class. You respond to questions and activities with enthusiasm and insight and you listen and respond thoughtfully to your peers. You submit rough drafts on time, and these drafts demonstrate a thorough engagement with the assignment. You respond creatively to the feedback you receive (from both your peers and instructors) on drafts, making significant changes to your writing between the first and final drafts that demonstrate ownership of your own writing process. Finally, you are an active contributor to the peer- review and collaborative writing/making processes.

B – Good
Good participation is marked by near-perfect attendance and thorough preparation for discussion section. You respond to questions with specificity and make active contributions to creating a safe space for the exchange of ideas. You submit rough drafts on time, and these drafts demonstrate thorough engagement with the assignment. You respond effectively to the feedback you receive (from both your peers and instructor) on drafts, making changes to your work between the first and final drafts. You are a regular and reliable contributor to the peer-review and collaborative writing/making processes.

C – Satisfactory
Satisfactory participation is marked by regular attendance and preparation for class. You respond to questions when prompted and participate in classroom activities, though you may sometimes be distracted. You are present, with few absences, and have done some of the reading some of the time. You submit drafts on time and make some efforts toward revision between the first and final drafts of an assignment. You are involved in peer-review activities, but you offer minimal feedback and you may not always contribute fully to the collaborative writing/making process.

D – Unsatisfactory
Unsatisfactory participation is marked by multiple absences from section and a consistent lack of preparation. You may regularly be distracted by materials/technology not directly related to class. You submit late or incomplete work and revise minimally or only at a surface level between drafts. You are absent for peer-review activities, offer unproductive feedback, or do not work cooperatively in collaborative environments.

Failing participation is marked by excessive absences, a habitual lack of preparation, and failure to engage in the drafting, revision, and collaborative writing/making processes.


UNL Course Policies and Resources. Students are responsible for knowing the university policies and resources found on this page (https://go.unl.edu/coursepolicies):


On-time attendance is required as well as work inside and outside of section. Please notify your instructor in advance if you must be absent for illness or family emergency. Any absences must be cleared with the instructor, or justified with written documentation (e.g. letter from team, etc.). We do not differentiate between mental and physical health and in either case please be in communication for when you need to take a day off. After a student misses a week’s worth of classes each subsequent missed class will result in the reduction of the final grade by a full letter grade (i.e., A to B, B- to C-) Excessive tardiness or leaving early will also impact your grade and will follow the same rubric.

Please also note the JCSTF attendance policy: