Responsive Mobile Environments

Spring 2017, Carnegie Mellon University

Course Prefix & Number 48-528 (Undergraduate 9 units);
48-758 (Graduate - 12 units)
Meeting times Pittsburgh: 14:30PM-16:20PM
Locations Hunt Library A10, PhysComp
Instructor Daragh Byrne
Teaching Assistant Wei-Wei Chi
Office Hours: Byrne: Wednesday 4.30pm-6.00pm.

Course Content

About this course

This 15-week course will introduce students to responsive mobile environments and encourages them to explore speculative terrains that intersect art, technology and design and space. Iteratively, introducing students to the idea of responsive mobile environments, the first half of the semester will tour these three facets of intelligent spaces through readings, applied explorations and guest lectures. The second half of the semester will be organized as a large scale applied and collaborative project.

The theme for 2018 will be the exploration of human memory and how digital and connected technology can support, augment, enhance, effect and alter the ways in which we remember, recount and reflect on your experiences.

Together we’ll investigate digital augmentation and mediation of memory through connected experiences and the internet of things; to chart new and potential relationships between ubiquitous computing and our memory. Students in ‘Responsive Mobile Environments’ will by investigating the underlying theory, research and implications of digital memory, as well as, speculate on these possible futures by prototyping technical and embedded systems that bridge technology and physical space.

tl;dr; As part of this design-build course, we’ll get hands-on with emerging technologies, concepts and applications in digital memory. Over it’s 15-weeks, we’ll prototype and explore new tools and tech to explore and speculate on the digital and connected memory.


In a sense, the era of digital memories is inevitable.
Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell, A Digital Life, Sci.Am., 2007

Humans have grappled with the impact of technology on the construction of memory since Socrates. Paintings, writing and more recently photography and video provide ubiquitous mechanisms to preserve, externalize, and share important experiences. In an increasingly connected and digitalized information age, our entanglements with distributed memory and identity are growing necessarily complex. Our social streams, quantified measures of self from wearables and the traces of our daily interactions automagically preserved by our smartphones afford promise to stimulate and support our understanding the past. We can easily envision a future with complete and pervasive capture of self through these rapidly expanding and seemingly endless streams of digital data. But these digital and online surrogates can already confound and challenge our conceptions of and even the formation of human analog memory. * So, what does this future look like?

how will networked memories effect and augment humans? will we be able to and should we remember everything? how reliant could we become on these digital tools? how does it change our understanding of self? can you forget or lie in a world of ubiquitous connected memory? what happens when our digital lives live beyond us? how does networked memory transform historical record and cultural memory? …

This course will anticipate this almost inevitable future of memory: a connected world where memories are captured, shared, monitored, and recounted as a networked effort. It aims to a develop a vibrant interdisciplinary dialog on the current and future challenges of memory in the digital era. It seeks to not just imagining, but prototype, new near-future scenarios that speculate and critically examine the potential and limits of ‘total recall’.


This course is part of the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology program at Carnegie Mellon University and makes use of the new IDeATe@Hunt Collaborative Making Facility in the lower level of Hunt Library.

This course is an IDeATe collaborative studio as part of the IDeATe Intelligent Environments or Physical Computing minor and concentration offerings.

Please note that students will be required to follow the IDeATe@Hunt policies.


  1. Before the first class complete the skills survey.

  2. Our Slack community is the main hub for course updates, discussion and content. Read more about the slack and its role in the course. Use slack communications with the instructors and TA’s too (i.e. don’t email us!). Highly recommended: Download the Slack client for your smartphone or desktop and enable notifications!

  3. Projects should be documented on the Gallery. This site contains a guide to using the gallery. These are due before class.

  4. It’s your responsibility to be familiar with the course policies and standards. If you cannot attend classes make sure you know what to do.

  5. No late work accepted. Please don’t ask.

  6. At times you’ll need special software, hardware or tools to complete your projects. Many of these tools are resources available as part of this course. If there’s something else you need let us know.