Post-Human Factors Syllabus 2017


Post-Human Factors


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



Rhode Island School of Design | Department of Interior Architecture & Adaptive Reuse

Fall 2017

Critic: Michael Leighton Beaman


CIT #103

INTAR 2381-01 |  Monday 9:00am - 12:00pm

INTAR 2381-02 |  Monday 1:00pm - 4:00pm



Nature Lab Liaison

Photography Liaison


Any notion of architecture or even design is preceded by an understanding of ourselves as the predominant spatial referent. The human antecedent from its physiological definitions to cognitive capacities to social imperatives, is already embedded in any process of creation, structure of experience, or body of knowledge we produce or engage. However, the expansion of the ecology metaphor to contextualize everything from climate change to global economic behavior, along with the development of technologies that edge ever closer to autonomy, calls into question the degree to which humans occupy the a priori position in any design process. It is this question of the de-centering of humanity as the dominant if not sole arbiter of meaning, measure of relevance, or generator of value that has created a post-humanist milieu for architects and designers. How do designers reconcile these two oppositional imperatives within design thinking? What are the histories of  relationships between humans and technologies; what defines a technology; and how do these relationships impacted the built environment?  

These will be central questions explored in Post-Human Factors.

This seminar examines the changing definitions of human and the manifestation of human-technological conditions through spatial and artifactual production. Though our primary interest will focus on the implications on spatial design, we will borrow from ergonomics/human factors research, which positions design as a part of a techno-human assembly; and philosophies of technology, which seek to understand the relationships between our devices (which includes ones we can inhabit) and ourselves.  Our course engages two domains of inquiry: Theoria (Concepts) and Praxis (Practices). We will explore these two domains simultaneously through critical discourse and course assignments with the intent that theory opens up possibilities for practice, and practices produces new territory for theory. 

Through lectures, readings and discussions, our exploration of theory will delve into contemporary post-humanist design thinking, the discourse on technology and design, and historical texts which have laid the foundation for this domain. We will focus on six frames through which architectural discourse is able to appropriate ergonomics to analyze its own statements on humans, nonhumans, and their spatial ontologies: the Appropriative, the Diacritical, the Mechanical; the Capacitive, the Cybernetic, and the Ecological. 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. 

Our foray into praxis will investigate the ways in which we engage, challenge or are complicit in the perpetually intertwining human-technological relationships through the systems, spaces and objects we create and utilize, through a series of design assignments. You will be introduced to, and expected to incorporate, both digital and mechanical techniques for collecting, utilizing, and communicating anthropocentric / techno-centric data to complete a series of assignments. 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 (human, trans-human, post-human, and non-human), and our shared environments.  

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



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

This module counts for 50% of your entire Human Factors grade. Grade distribution for this module is as follows:

75 pts._ Assignments + Final Submission
30 pts._ Readings & Class Discussion


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 use of technologies to create and realize spaces and objects with an understanding that these spaces and objects are themselves technological artifacts. For more on this stance of "nested" technologies see. Authur xxx

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 the plotters and laser-cutters. You will be expected to use this software and hardware throughout this module.

Software Requirements:

  • Rhino 5 (also available at the RISD art supply store for approx. $90)
  • Grasshopper (latest release)
  • Human (Grasshopper Plug-In)
  • Mesh Tools (Grasshopper Plug-In)
  • Weaver Bird (Grasshopper Plug-in)
  • Adobe CS Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop & InDesign) 
  • Google cardboard apps (windows, android, and iOS) - we will discuss which of these we will use during class
  • Structure Object Scanwe will discuss which of these we will use during class

Hardware & Training Requirements

  • Laser Cutter training (@ BEB shop & CIT 6th Floor Fab Lab)
  • CNC Mill training  (@ BEB shop & CIT 6th Floor Fab Lab)
  • 3D printer training (Dimensions Printer and/or Shape Ways)
  • Co-Works training (TBD)
  • Structure Scanner for iPad


The following adhere to the Rhode Island School of Design 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 reading(s), 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.

RISD is committed to the principles of intellectual honesty and integrity. Members of the RISD community are expected to maintain complete honesty in all academic work, presenting only that which is their own work in tests and assignments. 

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. Please contact the Office of Student Development and Counseling Services directly to coordinate reasonable accommodations.


Students are required to submit documentation of their work to both the instructor and RISD. Late submissions will be graded accordingly. Incomplete and/or failing grades will be given to any student who fails to submit both sets of work documentation.

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 construction
 3. All files and requirements from previous assignments 

File naming convention:  Beaman_A01_Diagram


Documentation of your final project is required via RISD server submission using RISD documentation standards found here

Practices & Discourses

Assignments and Presentations are due on the Monday following their assignment at 9:30am for both Sections.  Assignments and Presentations should be uploaded to the proper sub-folder in the course Google Drive folder. Request access here.


You will be working in groups for both assignments and presentations. You are expected to contribute equally to the research, conceptual development and physical production of all group work. Your groups are as follows


Mourning Session Groups | INTAR 2381-01







Afternoon Session Groups | INTAR 2381-02









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 available on the course website and are due at the beginning of class. This includes any file submission requirements.

Assignment Schedule & Topics*

Week 01 |  Assignment 01 | due Oct. 30

Week 02 | Assignment 02 | due Nov. 06

Week 03 | Assignment 03 | due Nov. 13

Week 04 | No Classes

Week 05 | Assignment 04 | due Nov. 27

Week 06 | Assignment 05 | due Dec. 04 + Photo shoot | Dec 9th @ 10am

Week 07 | Final Project Submissions | Dec 09 th @ 5:00pm




Each week we will have a discussion on assigned media (readings, films, tv episodes, and podcasts). Using the schedule below, one group will lead a discussion about that week's assigned media. The group leading the discussion is expected to identify key concepts, issues, concerns, and questions from that week's media, drawing correlations between these and our course project.  Discussion will last 45 - 60 minutes.


Discussion Schedule *

Week 01 | N/A

Week 02 | Lead Discussion: Groups A & F

Week 03 | Lead Discussion: Groups B & G

Week 04 | Lead Discussion: Groups C & H

Week 05 | Lead Discussion: Groups D & I

Week 06 | Lead Discussion: Groups E & J



We will cover concepts surrounding the history, study and impact of human factors in design through readings and discussions. Readings are available on the course website. You are also expected to have questions and comments about each week’s reading and participate in class discussion. 

Seminar Schedule & Readings*

Week 01 | Nye, David. "Can We Define Technology" 

Week 02 | Mumford, Lewis. Technics & Civilization

Week 03 | Ihde, Don. "A Phenomenology of Technics." (part A + B)

Week 04 | Ihde, Don. "A Phenomenology of Technics." (part C + D)

Week 05 | Banham, Reynar"Environmental Management" 

Week 06 | Foucault, Michel. “ Panopticism”

References / Further Reading

Additional text which expand on the concepts covered in this course, and/or provide historical contexts and references for assignments, presentations, and seminars. 


Alexander, Christopher. " Goodness of Fit" in On the Synthesis of Form. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964. 15 - 27

Beaman, Michael. "Gentlemen Do (Not) Operate Machinery" in Traces and Trajectories.  Austin: University of Texas Press. 2011, 47-49

Hayles, Katherine N. How We Became Posthuman. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1999

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, W. Lovitt, Trans., New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1977.

Heidegger, Martin, John Macquarrie, and Edward Robinson. Being and Time. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1962. 

Hooke, Robert; Martin-Duque, Jose; Pedrazza, Javier. “Land Transformation By Humans: A Review” GSA Today. V.22, No.12, Dec. 2012. pp. 4 - 10.

Winner, Langdon. "Do Artifacts Have Politics" in Daedalus, Vol. 109 No 1, 1980. 121-136.

Lynn, Greg. 1993. "Body Matters", Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts: The Body. Ed, Andrew Benjamin. London: Academy Group, 61-19.

Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. " Protagoras" in The Dialogues of Plato. New York: Random House, 1937, 1213 - 16 (excerpt)

Massumi, Brian. “Strange Horizon: Buildings, Biograms and the Body Topologic”, in Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002) pp. 177-207

Meister, David. “The Formal History of HFE”, Ch. 04 in The History of Human Factors and Ergonomics. (London, Lawrence Erlbaum Asso. 1999) pp. 146 - 182.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2010. Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. Colin Smith. London: Routledge.

Nagel, Thomas. What is it Like to be a Bat? in The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 1974. 435-50

Picon,  Antoine. 2010. Digital Culture in Architecture: An introduction for the Design ProfessionsBasel: Birkhauser

Rabinbach, Anson. The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue and the Origins of Modernity, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

Reed, Christopher; Lister, Nina-Marie. “Ecology and Design: Parallel Genealogies” Places Journal, April 2014. (Actar - 2014) (accessed: Sept. 8, 2014)

Simondon, Gilbert. On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. Deleuze Studies 5.3 (2011) 407-424. Translated by Nuinian Mellamphy, Dan Mellamphy, Nanadita Biswas Mellamphy. 

Taylor, Frederick Winslow. The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). reprinted by Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1998.



Tilley, Alvin. “50 Percentile Man and 50 Percentile Woman” in The Measure of Man, Ergonomics in Design, Revised Edition, New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002. 

Dreyfuss, Henry. The Measure of Man and Woman, Ergonomics in Design, New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1966. (excerpts)

Americans with Disciplines Act: Accesibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities 2010. U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Washington DC.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Standards for Accessible Design. U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Checklist for Existing Buildings. U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Panero, Julius &  Martin ZelnikHuman Dimension & Interior Space: A Source Book of Design Reference Standards. Watson-Guptill; Revised ed. 1979


* subject to change as the course develops