Post Mortem - The First Semester

As I near the end of my second semester, I wanted to take the time to reflect back on the classes that I took in the first semester. It's mostly to compile a list of lessons that will be important for my time at ITP and what I choose to do after.

EDIT 04/06: At the end are some of my thoughts about what being at ITP was like in that first semester as well.

Visual Language

I took this class because I had an interest in visual design from working with visual designers at HPalm and Allscripts. Making graphic things such as a logo and a business card showed me that although making graphics isn't my forte, I can now understand and analyze it more in depth. It certainly gave me the courage to try making them by myself.

Take this class if: you want to know the basics about graphic design classes
Don't take this class if: you want to learn graphic design tools. There are some workshops on Photoshop and Illustrator that get you through the very basics, but that's not the point of the class

Networked Media

This is a class that I wish had spanned the entire semester because of how much material there is in this space. Getting to play with client and server side development was incredibly important because it taught me about the anatomy of a website. There's a ton of material to cover in seven weeks, but it left me wanting to know more, especially in the realm of mobile development (which is why I opted to take Always On, Always Connected and Dynamic Web: Mobile in the second semester). I want to focus on front end development, but I've started to appreciate server side as well.

Take this class if: you want to know about the basics of web development
Don't take this class if: you don't have a lot of time. It was a pretty demanding class but I enjoyed learning the material

PComp (Intro to Physical Computing)

Oh PComp. This class was the class that scared me the most (then again, when you start a class going over the basics of physics... well...), but it also pushed me out of my comfort zone the most. The midterm and final projects for this course were a great deal of fun because it was a different kind of creative than what I do regularly. Thinking about hardware interactions was a new concept; until now I'd only ever thought about how people do things on glass surfaces to trigger the software displayed under it. Now I had to think about physical material and gestures beyond swipes and taps. So while I burned a lot of LEDs and screwed up a couple of circuits, it definitely gave me an appreciation for how to build things (and document them properly).

Take this class if: well we don't really have a choice since it's mandatory for ITP, but it's a good way to get into ITP culture since everyone takes it (this is one of the only things I regret about passing out of ICM)
Don't take this class if: I don't recommend people not take this class. Seriously, don't pass it up. Unless you've already made hardware installations or done intense circuit things...

Cabinets of Wonder

This class is partly why I wanted to come to ITP - I love museums dearly and would love to work in the space someday. Cabinets is a very exploratory class in that you go to many different kinds of museums to see the design problems in the space for yourself. The 'field research' was much more effective than the traditional lecture style, supplemented with guest lecturers who came in to talk to us. 

What really stuck with me from this class was that I was forced to think about analog solutions. My background is entirely in software, so for me software is the go to solution. Museums however don't always have that luxury and software requires maintenance, so the challenge was in creating an interactive experience with physical objects. Challenge accepted!

Cabinets was everything I wanted, even though it took me quite some time to pare down my topic for the final project. I loved this class so much!

Take this class if: you're interested in museums. The stuff we learn from going on the visits along with discussions with the people in the class and Nancy is incredible. Plus, behind the scenes tours of one of the best museums in the world? YES!
Don't take this class if: you don't like walking around a lot or museums. 

I realized after looking at this post again is that I broke down the classes I did, but I failed to address the ITP experience as a whole. That was the glue between all of these classes, so to not talk about it is like presenting only half of a picture. 

The first semester is designed to orient first years to ITP - it's a great narrative that's been well thought out, and I'm grateful for the experience. Three of the four mandatory classes are in the first semester: Introduction to Computational Media (ICM), PComp, and something called Applications (it's more of a seminar class with lots of speakers so I didn't include it above). I waived out of ICM since I was a computer science major and already familiar with object oriented programming, but I regret it slightly because ICM is so fundamentally ITP. I can't be too regretful because I got to take Cabinets of Wonder instead. 

When I talk about ITP, I talk about a space where people are interested in challenging themselves in ways that are important to them. What I found is that you can do whatever interests you at ITP but you have to push yourself hard - you're driven by yourself here, though that pressure is also amplified by the insane levels of creativity from your classmates. The world is your playground - do cool things! I took that to heart in the second semester, which I'll talk about when it's over, but it's a lesson that I will take with me into the future. 

I came in as someone who was 100% software oriented, and now I think about non-digital solutions and hardware. My love for mobile is still strong and will be what I center my education here around, but I've also expanded my horizons creatively. For that, I'm grateful for the experience of the first semester.