MAS.961 | Fall 2004 | Graduate

Seminar on Deep Engagement


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Prof. Cynthia Breazeal
Prof. Glorianna Davenport

Guest Lecturers

Dan Arieli
Chris Csikszentmihalyi
Judith Donath
Hiroshi Ishii
Tod Machover
John Maeda
Pattie Maes
Joe Paradiso
Roz Picard
Mitch Resnick

Course Description

Innovation in expression, as realized in media, tangible objects, performance and more, generates new questions and new potentials for human engagement. When and how does expression engage us deeply? While “deep engagement” seems fundamental to the human psyche, it is difficult to define, reliably design for and critically measure or assess. Can we articulate “deep engagement” principles? Can we use any existing evaluation metrics to ensure quality of experience? Many personal stories confirm the hypothesis that once we experience deep engagement, it is a state we long for, remember, and want to repeat. We need to better understand these principles and innovate methods that can ensure higher-quality products (artifacts, experiences, environments, performances, etc.) that appeal to a broad audience and that have lasting value over the long term.

This course explores such issues of deep engagement through lectures, class assignments, lively discussions and critiques of course readings, and a final student project. Guest lecturers drawn from the Media Lab faculty will present diverse perspectives on this topic representing domains such as music, art, design, film, interactive technologies, learning, environments, and more. For example: How can we structure compelling stories that evolve and are adaptive? How can we build machine-driven characters into stories and games that bond with and develop interesting relationships with the human audience? What relationship does a young musician have with a musical instrument? How can we design interactive spaces that are viscerally engaging? What are optimal conditions for interactive learning? And how can we measure deep engagement at a physiological level?


activities percentages
Weekly Written Assignments 25%
Class Participation/In-class Projects 25%
Term Project/Paper 50%

Weekly Readings

  • Two components: critique (not more than one page per reading) and responses to assigned questions.
  • Readings posted opposite the lecturer of the day are the readings due for that week.
  • Critiques and assignments should be completed by noon, the day before class meets.

Term Project

  • Write a conference quality paper with original perspectives on literature, OR build and evaluate a computational model, and connect to literature and lectures.
  • Proposals are due by Week 7.
  • Final project presentations will be held on the last day of Week 14.
  • Final conference style papers (8 page max) are due by Week 14.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004
Learning Resource Types
Projects with Examples
Problem Sets with Solutions