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School of Interactive Arts and Technology Simon Fraser University Calendar | Spring 2018

Interactive Arts and Technology

Doctor of Philosophy

This program offers a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in art, design, media and information technology with particular expertise in the computational and interactive aspects of art, design, new media learning, business, computer games, cognition, performing arts, social science and cultural studies. The program is geared toward students who wish to learn about technology and how it is made and used.

The program has the quadruple objectives of: first, research and development of new computational technology in the context of complex human organizations and situations; second, research into the acts of designing, making, and managing technology; third, inquiry into and use of research methodologies that enable interdisciplinary collaboration and the development of new technologies; and fourth, application of new technologies in society and industry, particularly in creative areas of art, design, games and media.

Admission Requirements

There will be annual admission with the possibility of early or out-of-cycle admissions in special cases.

The minimum standards will be those of Simon Fraser University, as described in the Graduate General Regulations, augmented by the following specific requirements.

The school aims to admit students with diverse backgrounds, across the broad areas in which our faculty have disciplinary expertise. The following admission requirements encourage such diversity while setting minimum standards for acceptance into the program.

Minimum Standard Entrance Requirements

  • a graduate degree in a field related to the proposed program of study, e.g. MSc computer science, MASc engineering (electrical, communications, computer engineering), MA or MSc in education, management, or economics, communications, MFA in art, design or performing arts, MA in art, art history, architecture, linguistics, psychology or philosophy, MArch, MLArch
  • OR a graduate degree in another, related discipline. Applicants are required to establish the relationship between the discipline in which they hold their previous degree or degrees and this program and explain how they would benefit from this program.
  • OR an undergraduate degree in one of the two categories above. Applicants are required to demonstrate both high academic standing (3.5 GPA or better at a Canadian university, or equivalent), for the undergraduate degree, and evidence of research aptitude and accomplishment.
  • a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better at a Canadian university, or equivalent, for the master's degree.
  • three reference letters each from a suitably qualified person.

Additional Admission Requirements

English Language Competence

English is the language of instruction and communication at the University. Accordingly, an applicant whose primary language is not English must demonstrate command of English sufficient to pursue graduate studies in the chosen field. Please refer to Graduate General Regulation 1.3.12 for minimum language requirements and further information.


Candidates who are considered for admission may be required to submit a work portfolio and/or be required to attend a personal or telephone interview during the latter stages of the admission process.

Advising and Supervision

Students entering the program will be assigned an interim advisor. The interim advisor has two main tasks: advising the student on issues related to study within the program and assisting the student in identifying and approaching potential senior supervisors. There is no requirement that the interim advisor has a role in supervision once the senior supervisor is approved. Student supervision will comply with graduate general regulations section 1.6 Supervision.

The normal size of supervisory committees is two members.

Program Requirements

The PhD program requires a minimum of 18 units, consisting of course work (12 units), two terms of a research colloquium (0 units) and a thesis (6 units).

Course Requirements

Students complete a minimum of 12 units, of which 6 of 9 must normally be SIAT course units. For students with a non-SIAT Master's, 9 units must normally be SIAT graduate courses.

Required courses include two of

IAT 803 - Science, Technology & Culture (3)

Introduces the core values of interdisciplinary scholarship through engagement with history, theory and practice in the study of science, technology, society and culture. This course will be a reading-intensive, extended seminar style investigation of theoretical and historical references in science and technology studies and broader societal implications of technologies. Prerequisite: SIAT Graduate Student.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 Kate Hennessy
Th 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
SUR 5380, Surrey
IAT 804 - Foundations of Research Design for Human-Centred Design of Interactive Technologies (3)

Provides an introduction to different epistemological worldviews, research approaches and methodological traditions of inquiry that are used to conduct research within SIAT. Students are introduced to a range of ways of knowing and inquiring in human-centred design, development and analysis of interactive technologies including scientific, social science, humanities, design and art-based approaches. Prerequisite: SIAT Graduate Student.

IAT 806 - Interdisciplinary Design Approaches to Computing (3)

Introduces students to computer programming that encompasses knowledge of art/design history and practices, and introduces a deep approach to design thinking in creating interactive software projects. This programming-intensive course includes an introduction to Interactive Design Computing and the history of ideas that lead to modern interactive computing systems and emphasizes decision making in software design process, historical perspective of art and design, interactive software objects, iterative design cycles and design rationale in producing interactive software and introduces a historical perspective on these techniques. Prerequisite: SIAT Graduate Student.

Students complete any remaining requirements from electives, special topics and directed readings courses. For students with a SIAT Master's: Students take any two SIAT courses (minimum 6 units) and any two electives. All units must be graduate courses.

SIAT Elective Courses

IAT 832 - Exploring Interactivity (3)

Analyses, designs and prototypes more effective and more appropriate products and systems to support interactivity. This course will examine these issues through an iterative modeling process.

IAT 833 - Performance, Technology and Embodiment (3)

Explores the theory and practice of performance and technology in the context of interactive-art. Investigates interactive performance as an emerging practice-based area of research. Grounds performance practice in a variety of fields including: human computer interaction, phenomenology, artificial intelligence, embodied cognition and computation, computer games, and virtual worlds.

IAT 834 - Mixed Methods in Design Research (3)

A range of ways of knowing and inquiring in design research are explored by providing comparisons of different traditions appropriate for empirical mixed method design evaluations. This is a second research methods course. Prerequisite: One research methods course, either quantitative or qualitative. Students with credit for this course when offered as IAT 888 Special Topics in Spring 2007 may not take this course for further credit.

IAT 835 - Sustainable Interaction Design (3)

Sustainable interaction design (SID) examines the role of design in digital artifacts that support environmental sustainability. SID considers digital artifacts with respect to recycling, reuse, and renewal. The aim of the course is to introduce and understand SID concepts, research, and practice.

IAT 842 - Theory and Design of Games (3)

Games have become a major part of our culture, rivaling the popularity of movies. Drawing on a wide variety of examples and disciplines, this course examines theories and techniques for the analysis of existing games, and the design of new ones. It studies game design, and will provide students with the conceptual and technical tools necessary to critique and design games of all kinds.

IAT 844 - Spatial Computing (3)

Covers the concepts, algorithms and design principles underlying modern 3D computer animation and visualization from a user interface perspective. Research topics include 3D user interface constructs; information, data and knowledge visualization; 3D graphics and animation; spatial perception; and virtual and immersive environments.

IAT 846 - Interactive Systems for Design (3)

Introduces students to the design of computational systems that themselves support the design process. Prerequisite: IAT 800.

IAT 847 - Metacreation: Endowing Machines with Creative Behaviours (3)

Theory and practice of the metacreation as a contemporary approach to generative art and design that involves using tools and techniques from artificial intelligence, artificial life, and machine learning to develop software that is creative on their own. Through the project students will build software that exhibits behaviour that would be considered creative if performed by humans. Prerequisite: IAT 800. Students with credit for IAT 811 in 2008 or 2009 or IAT 888 in 2010 may not take this course for further credit.

IAT 881 - Special Topics I (3)

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 Diane Gromala
Th 4:30 PM – 7:20 PM
SUR 3200, Surrey
IAT 882 - Special Topics II (3)

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 Alissa Antle
Tu 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
SUR 5320, Surrey
IAT 884 - Special Topics IV (3)

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G300 Halil Erhan
Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
SUR 5240, Surrey
G301 Halil Erhan
We 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM
SUR 3100, Surrey
G302 Halil Erhan
We 6:30 PM – 8:20 PM
SUR 3100, Surrey

External Courses

Subject to supervisory committee approval and graduate program committee approval, students may fulfill the remaining course requirements through other appropriate graduate courses at Simon Fraser University or elsewhere (the latter subject to Simon Fraser University rules on external courses).

Directed Readings

Directed readings should be distinct from work undertaken toward the thesis, and only one can be counted towards the program requirements. Students should not expect to complete a directed readings course when a substantively comparable Simon Fraser University course exists. Directed readings courses, even if led by SIAT faculty, may not be counted as part of the minimum 12 SIAT units. Normally a directed readings course may not be taken from the student's senior supervisor(s).

Research Colloquium

The research colloquium is an important part of the program. Students present in two seminars and are required to register in the following colloquium course for at least two academic terms.

IAT 805 - Research Colloquium (0)

Through an interdisciplinary speaker series, presents research topics relevant to the SIAT graduate program. Engages students in discussion and debate on the utility, results and methods of research. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Prerequisite: Enrollment in the SIAT graduate program.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 Kate Hennessy
We 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
SUR 5380, Surrey

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination tests for achievement in interdisciplinarity, breadth of knowledge, depth of knowledge, topic focus and scholarly skill.

With supervisory committee consent, students may write the comprehensive examination following completion of required course work. Upon passing, the student is admitted to full degree candidacy. The examination may be retaken once.

As part of the preparation to undertake the comprehensive examination, the student submits, to the supervisory committee, a comprehensive annotated bibliography of readings used throughout course work, and readings related to the proposed thesis topic. The senior supervisor will inform the graduate program committee of the supervisory committee’s consent to write the examination and will provide a copy of the annotated bibliography.

Upon receipt of this from the senior supervisor, the graduate program committee will form an examination committee comprising the supervisory committee, the graduate program chair or designate, and one other member of faculty in the School who is eligible to act as a senior supervisor. The graduate program chair or designate shall chair the examination committee.

The examination will have three sections: the first tests breadth of knowledge within the course of study; the second tests for knowledge of the proposed thesis topic; the third tests for knowledge of and skill with pertinent research methodology. At least two of the sections will have a required archival component. The exam will have an oral component that will test for all three sections.

The examining committee will refer to the bibliography when preparing the exam. The exam process should not exceed one term from the date of notification to the graduate program committee of the consent to write the examination. This may be longer should a student be required to retake the examination.

Specific guidelines for these examinations are available from the graduate program assistant.

PhD Proposal

The program requires a dissertation proposal aimed at collegial review of the proposed work, development of research formulation and presentation skills, and approval of the dissertation work by the supervisory committee and the graduate program chair.

The approval of the graduate program chair is largely for oversight issues, for example, required ethics clearances. The dissertation proposal has two components: a research prospectus and a public event with timely notification given to the campus community.

PhD Dissertation

PhD candidates produce and defend a dissertation as part of degree requirements. All Simon Fraser University regulations concerning thesis form and examination process apply. A successful dissertation demonstrates an original contribution to a field of study. The expected standard of work is that of peer-reviewed work by accomplished scholars in their specialization. Candidates are encouraged to consider the professional and career implications of this major scholarly work.

Students who are working on their PhD dissertation will enrol in the following course.

IAT 899 - PhD Thesis (6)

Students who are working on their PhD thesis enroll in this course. This course will not count towards the course work requirements. PhD candidate status is neither required for nor implied by enrollment in this course.

PhD candidate status is neither required for, nor implied by, enrolment in this course.

Academic Requirements within the Graduate General Regulations

All graduate students must satisfy the academic requirements that are specified in the Graduate General Regulations, as well as the specific requirements for the program in which they are enrolled.