Other Humans Syllabus 2016


Other Humans


The critical ontology of ourselves… is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.
— Michel Foucault


Professor:  Michael Leighton Beaman

University of Virginia | School of Architecture

Seminar | 3 Credits

SARC 5555

Spring 2017

Campbell: Exhibit C

Wednesdays | 03:30pm - 6:00pm


Any understanding of our built environment is preceded by an understanding of ourselves as the predominant spatial referent. This human antecedent - its physiological definitions, cognitive capacities and social imperatives - is arguably already embedded in any process of creation, structure of experience, or body of knowledge we engage.

And yet, as we consider the roles non-humans play in shaping our built environment, the degree to which humans can say they occupy the a-priori position within a design process is be called into question.

This de-centering of humanity as the sole arbiter of meaning has created the post-humanist milieu that designers now find themselves entangled. How do designers reconcile these two oppositional pressures within design practice? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we shape a built future amid the uncertainty of what it means to be human?

This seminar examines the changing definitions of human and the manifestation of human-technological relations through artifactual, techno-factual, and spatio-factual production. Our primary interest will focus on the spatial implications of research and design practices for  human/nonhuman technological assemblages through an examination of  discourses and practices.  We will explore these two domains (discourse & practice) simultaneously through discussions and course assignments, allowing theory to open-up new possibilities for practice, and practices to create new territory for theory. 

Discourse / Theoria :  

Through readings, film, podcasts, videos, and new media projects, our exploration of theory will delve into both contemporary and historical discourse on post-humanism,  technology, and design which have laid the foundation for this domain of inquiry. Through an analysis of spatial artifacts and cultural practices both impacting and reflexively impacted by design, each frame is explored through its preeminent status in design thinking and discourse. 

Practice / Praxis:  

Our foray into praxis will explore the ways in which we engage, challenge and are complicit in the perpetual intertwining of human-technological relationships.  Through a series of assignments which investigate anthropo-techno-centric systems, spaces, and objects, and how we as designers might intervene into the formation of these relationships. The goal of these assignments is to develop your ability to engage anthropogenic data-driven design and manufacturing processes, integrate conceptual and technical knowledge, and challenge existing relationships between the spatial, technological, and biological aspects of human-ness within our shared environments.  


To successfully complete this course you will be expected to: participate in class reviews, tutorials, presentations and discussions; work effectively and productively, both individually and in groups; and synthesize the information presented in tutorials, lectures, discussions, films, and readings to complete assignments and presentations.



All work and participation is graded using a points systems. Points are determined using 3 criteria, and distributed by the stated percentages and/or points. Points translate to gradse from A - D in  +/- increaments.


60 pts. (60%): Assignments & Final Submissions
40 pts. (40%):  Readings & Class Discussions


Grading will be determined by how well each student performs in the following areas: 

Understanding + Application
The understanding of the course/studio project at hand, combined with an appropriate process of inquiry & development of a consistent and rigorous analysis/design process with clearly articulated ideas.

Craft + Execution
The ability to accurately and precisely craft a digital and physical response to the analysis/design assignment.  This includes the ability to clearly and concisely communicate ideas, and produce well-formed digital and physical: models, diagrams, drawings, and images the project.

Effort+ Participation
The ability to engage in the assignment with fellow students and your instructor & the ability to receive criticism and incorporate this into your project’s development. Your ability to work in groups, meet deadlines, and contribute to studio culture.



A | Excellent:  90 - 100 points  
Project / Course Work surpasses expectations in terms of inventiveness, appropriateness, verbal and visual presentation, conceptual rigor, craft, and personal development. Student pursues concepts and techniques above and beyond what is discussed in class. Project is complete on all levels.
B | Good: 80 - 90 points
Project / Course Work is thorough, well researched, diligently pursued, and successfully completed.  Student pursues ideas and suggestions presented in class and puts in effort to resolve required projects. Project is complete on all levels and demonstrates potential for excellence.
C | Acceptable: 70 - 80 points
Project / Course Work meets the minimum requirements. Suggestions made in class are not pursued with dedication or rigor. Project is incomplete in one or more areas.
D | Poor: 60 - 70 points
Project / Course Work is incomplete. Basic skills, technological competence, verbal clarity, and/or logic of presentation are not level-appropriate. Student does not demonstrate the required design skill and knowledge base. Work is incomplete.


Software & Hardware

This course focuses on the ways in which human-technological assemblages manifest spatial definitions as a matter of practices.  As such you will be expected to engage these practices with the use of various devices, procedures, and media environments. 

Each student is required to have a laptop with the following software installed on the first day of class. Each student must complete any required training associated with the use of laser-cutters, CNC milling, and 3D printing at UVa. You will be expected to use this software and hardware throughout this course. 

Software Requirements:

  • Rhino 5 (latest service release)
  • Grasshopper (latest release)
  • Rhino & Grasshopper Plug-ins (these will be discussed and assigned in class)
  • Phython or Context Interface (these will be discussed and assigned in class)
  • Adobe CS Suite 
  • Google cardboard apps (these will be discussed and assigned in class)
  • Structure Object Scan (these will be discussed and assigned in class)
  • Skanect (these will be discussed and assigned in class)

Hardware & Training Requirements

  • Laser Cutter training 
  • CNC Mill training  
  • 3D printer training 
  • Kuka Robotic Arm*
  • Structure iPad Scanners
  • Kinect Sensors


The following adhere to the University of Virginia & the Architecture School's polices and may impact your grade. Please read carefully.

Students are required to participate in all class activities. Participation includes completing assignments and group presentations, contributing to class discussions, and presenting work. Each student is expected to come to class prepared with questions and comments about assigned readings, films, episodes, or any other assigned content, and completed assignments.  

Students who are 15 minutes late to class will be marked late. 3 late days = 1 unexcused absence. 2 unexcused absences will result in a lowering of one letter grade, and an additional letter grade for each unexcused absence thereafter. Regardless of tardy of absence, students are responsible to complete all assignments, presentations, and readings on time, unless alternative arrangements have been made with the instructor.

The University of Virginia is committed to the principles of intellectual honesty and integrity. Members of the UVa community are expected to maintain complete honesty in all academic work, presenting only that which is their own work in tests and assignments. This includes recognition and adherence to the UVa honor code. 

Any student who feels s/he may require accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately at the beginning of the semester to discuss specific needs. In addition, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at the University of Virginia's Department of Student Health directly to coordinate reasonable accommodations prior to the start of any UVa course if you need to discuss or implement solutions to specific needs.


Students are required to submit documentation of their work. Late submissions will be graded accordingly. Incomplete and/or failing grades will be given to any student who fails to submit a full set of required documents.

Documentation of all assignments and final project must be submitted to the instructor via Google Drive folder (link will be provided). This submission must include the following:

 1. Packaged InDesign file + PDF of final project board
 2. Photos of your final models, installations, prototypes, etc
 3. All files and requirements from previous assignments. 

File naming convention for Individuals | Course Name_Last Name_Assignment Number_Document Type

For example: ARC3020_Beaman_A01_CirculationDiagram

File naming convention for Teams or Groups | Course Name_Group Name or Number_Assignment Number_Document Type

For example: ARC3020_GroupA_A01_CirculationDiagram


Assignments and Discussion preparation are due at 3:30 pm on Wednesdays unless otherwise noted. 


Each week you will be asked to complete one step in a course project. These assignments will require you to use digital and mechanical technologies, and work both in groups and individually. Assignments are linked below.


Each week we you will be assigned a reading, film, tv episode, or other media to review, and prepare commentary on for class discussion. You will be expected to participate in seminar discussions, and present a working knowledge of the material covered. All readings and web-based content are provided via link to a PDF or website below. 

W 01 | Origins

Jan 18


  • Discuss/Present: Intro & Syllabus
  • Prometheus & Epimetheus
  • A01: Non-Human Bodies


  • film: Slavoj Zizek & Sophie FiennesThe Perverts Guide to Ideology - 'They Live",



W 02 | Humans

Jan 25


  • A02 | Mapped Bodies




W 03 | Structures

Wed | Feb 01


  • A03 | Virtualized Bodies




W 04 | Actants 

Wed | Feb 08


  • A04 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages - Part A




W 05 | Schemas

Wed | Feb 15


  •  A05 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages - Part B




W 06 | Objects

Wed | Feb 22


  •  A06 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages - Part C





W 07 | Embodiments

Wed | Mar 01


  •  A06 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages - Part C (cont.)




W 08 | Spring Break


W 09 | Cyborgs

Wed | Mar 15


  • A07 | Project Thesis - Part A




W 10 | Ethics

Wed | Mar 22


  • A08 | Project Thesis - Part B


  • Podcast: Kate Darling Interview: "Waking Up" w/ Sam Harris
  • tv: WestWorld (2016), Season 01, Episode 01





W 11 | Post-Humans

Wed | Mar 29


  • A09 | Prototypes 01





W 12 | Machines

Wed | Apr 05


  • A10 | Prototypes 02


  • film: Ex Machina
  • text: Felix Guattari: Chaosmosis, Ch 02: 




W 13 | Accomplices


  • A11 | Prototypes 03





W 14 | Cognitions

Wed | Apr 19


  • Project Review


  • text: John Searle: Minds, Brains & Computers
  • text:  Steven Shaviro: Discognition, Introduction





W 15 | Project Updates

Wed | Apr 26


  • Project Presentation Rehersal



W 16 | Final Review



  • Final Project Presentation 



For most of the assignments this semester you will be working in groups. This includes individual work, which may rely on others for assistannce, testing, and feedback. 


  • Cathrine Smith
  • David Cavillo
  • Tyler Woods
  • Liz Camuti


  • Austin Edwards
  • Josh Cruz
  • Weiyu Liu (vivi)


  • Ziggy Chen
  • Jinguang Xie
  • Freda Nan 


  • Freda Nan Zehui Li
  • Zihao Zhang
  • Yunni Dan


Assignments are assigned each week unless otherwise noted. Each assignment builds on the previous to create a semester long research + design project. Assignments are due and must be submitted online through our course Google Drive at the start of class on the indicated due date. 

- Always document & cite where you get all information - 

A01 | Non-Human Relations

(Individual Work) | Due: 01.25.16 


  1. Over the course of 24 hours list every non-human entity that you engage. 
  2. Determine which are "technological" and which are not. Define what "technological" means in your determination.
  3. Compile a list of "technological" non-humans into a Google Spread Sheet
  4. In separate cells rate the following for each entity. Use a 1 (lowest) - 5 (highest) scale
    • Dependence
    • Autonomy
    • Mediation
    • Fitness
    • Spatiality

A02 | Quantified Bodies

(Individual & Group Work) | Due: Feb. 01. 2017


  1. Using the provided Illustartor template, Rhino template, or  both, (or generate your own) identify points of mobility and areas constraint with in your own body
  2. Once you have identified points of  movement, map the range of motion of these joints. Take into account the comfortable limits of this range.
  3. Convert this information into a 3D description of range of motion. 

A03 | Virtualized Bodies

(Group Work) | Due: Feb. 08. 2017


  1. Use the Kinect Sensor in conjunction with Rhino5, Grasshopper, and Firefly to explore how your body defines spaces through its behaviors, in the following ways:
    • Boundaries
    • Intensities
    • Trajectories
    • Tendencies
  2. Consider how your (or a group member's)  actual behaviors are:
    • Observed
    • Captured
    • Transformed
    • Represented
    • Transmitted
  3. Design a system of formation, formalization, and/or virtualization that is "contingent" on some bodily generated data. This can be done exclusively through grasshopper + sensor input, or can be some hybrid of virtualized and composed data. 

A04 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages: Part A

(Group Work) | Due: Feb. 15. 2017


  1. Using the data, insights, and design inquiries from A01- A03, create a proposal for an anthropo-technical assemblage.  This assemblage should involve both human and non-human components. 
  2. Begin by defining what interests your group has:
    • Combine your data from A01 - A03.
    • Answer the following questions and give examples of projects, research, or technologies (in any field) that are emblematic of the answers. 
      • What areas of human-technological relationships are you interested in investigating?
      • What process would you go through to investigate these interests?
      • How would these interests manifest in human-technology relations?
  3. Your group's anthropo-technical assemblage proposal should impact:
    • Human Spatial Definitions (combines physiological and cognitive spatial understanding)
    • Human Behavioral Practices (combines physiological and cognitive activities)
    • Human Perceptual Capacities(combines physiological and cognitive interactions with environments and objects)
  4. Consider what the means and materials of your assemblage would involve. What would be the path from research to actualization? Create a diagram (vector-based graphics) that illustrates this work-flow. We will come back to these diagrams - they will change throughout the semester. 

A05 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages: Part B

(Group Work) | Due: Feb. 22. 2017


  1. Using your proposal from A04, develop a system of relationships that incorporates human and non-human components into a singular assemblage of behaviors and materials. (This can develop from step 4 in the previous assignment.)
  2. Define how the relationships within your project proposal manifest within this assemblage, through a diagram or some other illustrative and descriptive document.
  3. Create a prototype of this proposed assemblage. 

A06 | Anthropo-technical Assemblages: Part C

(Group Work) | Due: Mar. 01. 2017 + Mar. 15. 2017


  1. Refine your prototype from A05 using the feedback you gained in class.
  2. Test this prototype in "real-world" conditons.

A07 | Final Research Project Thesis

(Group Work) | Due: Mar. 15. 2017

A  thesis is a relatively simple, and direct statement that answers the following questions: what are you doing; how are you doing it; and why does it matter? These three constituents form the basis for both large and small projects, short essays and extensive books, and everything from a charette to a career. Though not always stated, and at times elusive, every project has a thesis. The first part of revealing and developing a thesis is to consider how your group project fits (or does not) into ongoing research, practice and theory.   


  1. Using the terms, concepts and discussions developed in class situate your group project within an on-going discourse on human-technology relations. Consider what statement your group is making with your project; what issues are you investigating; and what effects you are creating. 
  2. As you develop your project further, outline how your project contributes to this discourse. What do the practical issues you are working with have correlations in theory. 
  3. Finally, consider what your project contributes to the definition(s) of human (this may include post-human, trans-human, and non-human). 

A08 | Final Research Project Prototypes

(Group Work) | Due: May 5th 2017



* *All specifics listed below are provisional and will be developed before the beginning of class.