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Software Project: Coding IXD


InstructorProf. Dr. Claudia Müller-Birn
Number of Places18
RoomTakustr. 9 055
StartOct 16, 2019 | 10:00 AM
endFeb 12, 2020 | 12:00 PM

Wednesday 10 AM - 12 PM


In this course, we co-educate computer scientists and product designers. Beyond experiencing interdisciplinary work, we want students to envision interactive systems that are intelligent: by this, we mean an intelligence through code that is carefully using material, form, and context, while profoundly respecting both human capabilities and vulnerabilities.

We understand this course as experimental space, where different perspectives meet, exchange, and evolve. Each semester, based on small project teams of up to five members, students are challenged to examine a specific application context. Within this context, the teams envision a new application or product concepts.

We guide this process through various carefully tuned methods that are used to spark their ideas. Students iterate through several rounds of ideation and refine their concept in different prototype versions. The most compelling or promising interaction concept, the one that allows grasping the quality and essence of the product concept is implemented in a working prototype.

Students are accompanied by a team of experienced designers and computer scientists but also by guest experts that provide feedback to the various design iterations. If needed, special workshops are organized to cover specific topics ranging from prototyping to project management. The whole course is evaluated continuously to enhance our methodological toolbox.

This course offering is a cooperation of the research group Human-Centered Computing at the institute of computer science at the Freie Universität Berlin and the Product Design Department at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin (KHB).

Besides the regular weekly meetings, the KHB provides complimentary workshops each Monday from 10 AM to 1 PM where participation for computer science students is optionally.

Topic of this semester

Entity:City – Neo-analogue products for urban space

People have been living in cities for more than 8000 years. During these millennia, cities have grown to become probably 'the most complex thing man has designed' (Rogers, 1995). The UN predicts that by the year 2050, up to 68% of the world's population will live in urban areas (1).

Cities can be understood as superorganisms (Girardet 1999) that embody life in a collective sense. Their structures and processes are versatile and interwoven at different levels. Yet 'the way in which most of our present-day needs are served resembles a system of infinite throughput without recycling or feeding loops to the places resources initially came from' (Dobbelsteen, 2012).

Increasing digitization is also affecting cities. In the field of HCI research, intelligent, sustainable, and interlinked urban environments are now being under investigation. At the heart of a so-called "Smart City" are networks of mobile devices, sensors, actuators, and intelligent algorithms that collect and analyze urban data in real-time (Freeman et al., 2019). However, purely technologically focused approaches usually fail because the specific needs of the city and its inhabitants are neglected (2).

As cities should not only be seen as physical spaces or geographical containers for social and technical phenomena, designing for a Smart City is more than implementing urban computing technologies (Paulos & Goodman, 2004) and developing more sophisticated data analysis. Cities function as finely tuned psycho-geographic units that influence the perception, psychological experience, and behavior of their residents (Dobbelsteen, 2012). Urban Informatics, therefore, focuses on the social and human impact of technology (Freeman et al., 2019).

We want to foster the new culture of the neoanalog, by developing strategies for a Smart City which involve meaningful intersections between people, places, stories, purposes, and technologies. These meaningful intersections can only be achieved if the identity of the city of Berlin is taken into account.

The project entity:city intends to reveal, explore, and design these intersections. Focusing on Richard Roger's ideal of a city as 'the cradle of civilization, the engine of culture, and the inspiration for community and citizenship', new interfaces are created that take the identity of a city into account, i.e., how inhabitants and visitors experience the city.

In interdisciplinary teams of students of the computer science institute (FU) and the product-design department (weißensee) and in cooperation with the cluster of excellence Matters of Activity and the CityLab Berlin, concepts at the border between the digital and the physical are developed. By enriching objects with digital content, neo-analog products will be created that explore new forms of interaction between human, material, and code.

In their project work, the teams collaboratively engage in the conception, design, and prototypical implementation phases. Due to the topic of the course, it will be necessary to gain practical experience with sensors, network technologies, data processing, and physical computing as early as possible. The basics for this will be taught.

This course is a cooperation of the working group Human-Centered Computing under the direction of Prof. Dr. Claudia Müller-Birn (FU-Berlin) and the department Product-Design under the direction of Prof. Carola Zwick (Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee). The course is part of the Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity.


Rogers, Richard & Anne Powers. (1995) Cities for a small planet. Farber and Farber.

Dobbelsteen, Andy & Keeffe, Greg & Tillie, Nico & Roggema, Rob. (2012). Cities as Organisms. 10.1007/978-94-007-4378-6_9. 

Girardet, Herbert. Creating sustainable cities. Schuhmacher Briefing No. 2,  Green Book Ltd. 

Eric Paulos and Elizabeth Goodman. 2004. The familiar stranger: anxiety, comfort, and play in public places. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '04). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 223-230. doi:10.1145/985692.985721

Guo Freeman, Jeffrey Bardzell, Shaowen Bardzell, Szu-Yu (Cyn) Liu, Xi Lu, and Diandian Cao. 2019. Smart and Fermented Cities: An Approach to Placemaking in Urban Informatics. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Paper 44, 13 pages. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300274