Designing the c/c/c studio

10 years of teaching artists to code and coders to art

Ben Swift

17 Jan '20


10 years of art & code at ANU

the c/c/c studio and the Reimagine project

discussion questions

but first, some music

so many qualifications!

10¹ years of teaching artists² to code³ and coders⁴ to art⁵

  1. 10 years: well, 9 actually (since 2011)
  2. artists: mix of CS majors, art majors, and others
  3. code: yeah, I know, CSEd is more than just coding
  4. coders: see “artists”
  5. art: to create something of aesthetic/poetic/ethical value

my story

💻 + 🎵 = 🤯



loads of students, large classes

some resources are plentiful, others scarce

huge opportunities, but how to make the most of them?

COMP1720: Art & Interaction in New Media

first-year elective available to both CS & art students

started in 2011 (~50 students)

2019 enrolment: ~250 students (80% CS, 20% art)

major project (40% of total grade) is an interactive browser-based artwork in p5.js

reflections: what's good, what's hard


lots of students new to programming (and some stick around)

forces students to figure out what excellent work even looks like


even wider range of “starting places” than usual

(some) CS students struggle with the subjectivity

COMP2710: Laptop Ensemble

later-year elective available to both CS & music students

started in 2018

“boutique” class: less than 20 students total

this year in LENS

flipped mode

whole-class crits & jams

reflections: what's good, what's hard


similar to COMP1720

get to assess my students in a nightclub


getting students to truly work as an ensemble

getting students to grow during the course


a $350m+ investment in CS & Eng @ ANU

new departments, 2x faculty

finding new ways of being a computer scientist

a series of Reimagine Fellowships to support this…

The c/c/c studio

I’ve been awarded a fellowship to build the c/c/c studio

an A-levels extension course in creative computing (selective entry, 2 year program)

small cohorts (<20/year), first intake in 2021, first graduates in 2022

a joint venture between CS & the art/music schools

c/c/c studio curriculum

2h on-campus ~4h self-study per week

1st year: interactive visual & generative art (p5.js)

2nd year: computer music & livecoding (Extempore & Pd)

studio-based learning: students conceive, plan & build something each year, with an exhibition at the end

needs to be approved by the board of education

but why?

central thesis

making music & art isn’t a side track on the road to computing

discussion questions

can we go all in on creative coding? i.e. could this be CS101?

how do we make the cultural artefact part of the incentive scheme?

what’s the appropriate entrance exam/portfolio/other?

how do we make sure we don’t just stretch the privileged kids?

how do we study it?

how do we scale it?

what do we call it?

what’s next?

if you’d like to chat, let me know 😊—I’m here till Thursday


Ben is an interdisciplinary researcher and Senior Lecturer in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University. He’s interested in computational art & music, human-computer interaction, AI/machine learning (particularly in pursuit of creative ends) and the intersection of code, creativity and culture as those boundaries dissolve in the modern world. He’s the director of the code/creativity/culture group within the ANU Research School of Computer Science.


He is a livecoder, and is the vice president of the Australasian Computer Music Association (ACMA). Ben is one of the inaugural ANU Reimagine Fellows, part of a $300m+ investment from the ANU charged with re-thinking (and re-doing) what it is to be a computer scientist in the 21st century.

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