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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.

Applicants must satisfy the University admission requirements as stated in Graduate General Regulations 1.3 in the SFU Calendar.

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.


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.

Program Requirements

This program consists of courses, two terms of a research colloquium, a comprehensive examination and a thesis. Students complete a minimum of 12 course units, of which 6 units must normally be SIAT graduate courses. For students with a non-SIAT master's, 9 units must normally be SIAT graduate courses.

Students complete 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.

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.

and six graduate units from SIAT graduate courses*

and two terms of research colloquium

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.

and a comprehensive examination

IAT 890 - PhD Comprehensive Exam (0)

With the consent of their supervisory committee, students may sit the Comprehensive Examination following completion of required course work. Upon passing the student will be admitted to full degree candidacy. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. The examination may be retaken once. Prerequisite: Enrollment in SIAT PhD Program and completion of Annotated Bibliography.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
G200 TBD

and a thesis

IAT 899 - PhD Thesis (18)

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. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
G200 TBD

* Subject to supervisory committee approval and graduate program committee approval, students may fulfill this requirement through other appropriate graduate courses at Simon Fraser University or elsewhere (the latter subject to Simon Fraser University rules on external courses). Only one directed reading can be counted towards the program requirements.

Program Length

Students are expected to complete the program requirements in 12 to 15 terms.

Other Information

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 supervisors. There is no requirement that the interim advisor has a role in supervision once the supervisor is approved. Student supervision will comply with graduate general regulations section 1.6 Supervision. The normal size of supervisory committees is two members.

Directed Readings

Directed readings should be distinct from work undertaken toward the thesis. Students should not expect to complete a directed readings course when a substantively comparable Simon Fraser University course exists. Normally, a directed readings course may not be taken from the student's supervisor(s).

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 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 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 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 thesis proposal aimed at collegial review of the proposed work, development of research formulation and presentation skills, and approval of the thesis 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 thesis proposal has two components: a research prospectus and a public event with timely notification given to the campus community.

PhD Thesis

PhD candidates produce and defend a thesis as part of degree requirements. All Simon Fraser University regulations concerning thesis form and examination process apply. A successful thesis 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.

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.