Past News


  • An undergraduate creative computing course titled "MAT 80XU - (E)Utopian Design Tools" will be offered in Session B of UCSB's Summer Session, August 2nd - September 11, 2021.
  • The course is part of the MAT THEMAS undergraduate course series that incorporates STEM + Arts & Humanities (Technology Humanities Engineering Mathematics Arts Sciences).

    Course description

    What does it mean to "make the world a better place"? How do we enact eutopias (good, possible places) rather than merely imagine utopias (ideal, impossible places)? (E)Utopian Design Tools is a creative-computing and project-based class that operationalizes positive and innovative change. Working with the 3D graphics program Blender and connected platforms, we leverage digital tools as the arm of our imaginations, addressing contemporary problems as creative opportunities. We engage worldmaking, immersive art, and speculative design through the transdisciplinary pedagogical model of THEMAS (STEM+Arts+creative Humanities) to impart a holistic thinking and making toolbox. Additionally, we train a making reflex to problem-solving through iteration and prototyping. Strategies for designing with impact, ingenuity, and empathy are further refined via concepts from cognitive science, user-centered design, engineering ethics, and information aesthetics, among other areas. A selective survey of the literature of utopias also contextualizes this undertaking. In these ways, we empower students to meet challenges holistically, effectively, imaginatively, and compassionately, with a cutting-edge toolkit supercharged with computation. The "real world" is not fixed but music in motion: we are its composers and performers. In this unique, historical moment, how will you create the future?

  • An art installation titled "Cangjie’s Poetry" by MAT PhD student Weidi Zhang has been selected to be one of the exhibits featured in the SigGraph 2021 art gallery. The virtual event will take place August 9-13 2021.
  • Cangjie is a complex intelligent system that was designed as a conceptual response to the future semantic human-machine reality. There are two visualizations generated by Cangjie through perceiving the real-world via a camera (located in the exhibition space) in real time. Inspired by Cangjie, an ancient Chinese legendary historian (c. 2650 BCE), who invented Chinese characters based on the characteristics of everything on the earth, we trained a neural network "Cangjie" to learn the constructions and principles of all the Chinese characters. It transforms what the neural network perceives into a collage of unique symbols made of Chinese strokes. UCSB Computer Science PhD alumni Donghao Ren also collaborated on the project.

    Due to the pandemic, the exhibit has been modified to use public sources of data that replaces the video camera in the exhibition space.

    Another art project by Weidi Zhang titled "Lavin" has been selected to be a part of the art gallery for the 2021 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. The virtual event will take place June 19-25 2021. MAT PhD alumni Rodger Luo also collaborated on the project.

    A new audio visual artwork by Weidi Zhang titled "Astro" will be shown at Planetarium 1 in St. Petersburg Russia.


    Astro by Weidi Zhang

    Weidi discussed her current art projects in an interview by Neural Magazine.