On this website you will find information on Felix Hardmood Beck's involvement at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) since 2015.

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Manus Et Machina 02019

Course Title: Manus Et Machina
semester theme for Fall 2019: Handtools
Course Number: CADT-UH 1001
Course Category: Art, Design, and Technology (Core Competency Course)
Course Credit: 4.0 points
Course Weeks: 14 weeks
Contact Hours/Week: Day 1, Project Colloquium: 155 min
Day 2, Seminar: 75 min
Day 3, Seminar: 75 min
Prerequisite: There are no prerequisites for this course.

Find the Weekly Schedule for Fall 2019 (incl. homework and due dates),
the themes/dates for Case-Study Presentations ,
and themes/dates for the Essay Presentations .

General Course Description

The Core Competency Course »Manus Et Machina« explores how technology has influenced our life, and investigates the use of tools and machines by human and the influence of tools and machines on human over the ages. The course further explores how technology has influenced the fields of arts and design, and investigates this inspirational source for new technological developments.

Lecture and discussion will be the breeding ground for the development and creation of a Handtool (semester theme for Fall 2019): Every student will create the prototype of a device that can be used for a specific task. There is no specification for the nature of the tool, nor the task to be performed. Create anything that does not yet exist! The project will be complemented by lectures and case-studies, reading assignments (completed prior to class), class discussions and one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Project phases are described here. The course builds up the knowledge about futuristic developments and their use and influence from past to present, dealing with questions concerning ethics and values. “Media arts” and other concepts such as “digital arts” will be discussed as modern manifestations of the merging of technology with arts and media. Based on the fusion of readings, study, discussion and experiences, over the course of the semester students will develop an understanding of how mutually reinforcing and beneficiary a mix of Art, Design and Technology can be. Students will leave the course with a completed project to be displayed in an exhibition and a personal philosophy of about Art, Design and Technology.

Place in the NYUAD Curriculum

The course »Manus Et Machina« is a Core Competency Course in the field of Art, Design, and Technology. It is cross-listed with the Design Minor, and with the Heritage Studies Minor This course teaches students to think critically and work creatively toward innovations in arts practice, design and engineering, data visualisation (2D/3D), programming, and performance. Guest lecturers as much as interdisciplinary co-teaching plays an important role in this course.

Learning Outcomes

Students in the course will learn to develop critical thinking skills and be trained in concept development. As the project contains practical elements, interested students will also be trained in using machines like laser-cutter, 3D-printer, and other rapid prototyping tools. At the end of this course, students will:

  • Be able to have a basic understanding of the fundamental differences between humans and machines.
  • Learn and understand basic concepts of human-machine interactions.
  • Analyse whether machines can become socially aware, and have a basic understanding of the technologies and what it takes to make machines have and articulate feelings and emotions.
  • Be forced to think about ethical issues in the digital age.
  • Appreciate technology.

These outcomes will be assessed through reports, class participation, in-class exercises, and project presentation and documentation as described below.

Teaching and Learning Methodologies

The course Manus Et Machina is a very intense course. It contains out of a mix of theory and practice. Students will be involved in a lot of reading, discussion and writing, as well as the completion of a practical project. There are two modes of delivery: 1st. Seminar (2x 75 min/week) and 2nd. Projectcolloquium (1x 155 min/week):

This course adopts a SEMINAR format that requires students to participate actively in class discussions. Considerable class time will be spent on presentations and discussions of related art and design projects, and lectures/case-studies on different technological aspects. Hence, students are expected to read and research about a substantial number of projects, participate in classroom and online discussions, and develop a concept for a PROJECT . Each student will give two case-study presentations, will write an essay, and an artistic project statement, and give a presentation of the project prototype during an exhibition at the end of the semester (date t.b.a.). Each student is required to do a final project of a topic of their choosing that goes deeper into issues beyond what was discussed in class. The aim of the project is to develop the concept of a working tool that displays the technical and conceptual intellectuality of the student. While the focus in the first semester half 1 lays on concept development, the focus in semester half 2 lays on the design and development of the working machine prototype. Weekly presentations and ethical discussions of cases provide the groundwork for students to prepare written case analyses and accompanying oral presentations. The course makes use of an online sites – NYU Classes – that will serve as a repository for required readings, assignments, and additional course materials. Class discussions will be supplemented by multimedia material such as Keynote/Powerpoint slides and video clips. If possible there will be a two days class trip offered. During this trip several workshops will take place: e.g. drawing, photography, fire making with sticks, manufacturing stone arrow-heads, wood work etc.

Required Text Books


  1. Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly, New York, 2010
  2. William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler, Universal Principles of Design, Rockport Publishers, Beverly, 2015
  3. Salim T.S. Al-Hassani, 1001 Inventions, The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization, Washington D.C., 2012

Required Films

As supplemental materials there will be a wide range of online video resources and project documentation. Links will be shared via NYUClasses.

List of Discussion Topics

Week 1 Manus Et Machina
Time Management
Project Management
Week 2 Design =/≠ Art
Form (sometimes) follows function
Useless devices? (Taccola Wheel, the Useless Box)
Week 3 The geometry of Motion
The Mechanical Turk / Al-Jazari's Elephant Clock
The Reuleaux Collection of Mechanisms and Machines
Week 4 Machines and Emotions
The Gestalt Principles / Mind Hacks
Understanding Human Senses (the example of a Zoetrope)
Week 5 Introduction to media and things
The difference between auto-activity, reactivity and interactivity
Print vs. Screen – explaining the DPI (Audio, image and video quality)
Week 6 Machines in Films I.
Metropolis (director Fritz Lang, 1927)
The Way Things Go by Peter Fischli and David Weiss
Week 7 Machines in Films II.
Blade Runner (director Ridley Scott, 1982)
Ex Machina (director Alex Garland, 2015)
Week 8 Art that surrounds us
Examples from past, present, and future
Week 9 Design that surrounds us
Examples from past, present, and future
Week 10 Technology that surrounds us
Examples from past, present, and future
Week 11 AI
Almost intelligent systems
IoT – The Internet of Things
Week 12 Who Owns the Future?
Social Media (Facebooks User Agreement)
Privacy and Security in the IoT era
The mental model of digital media producers and consumers (Creative Common Licences)
Week 13 Realities United
Virtual Reality
Augmented Reality
Week 14 Final Prototyping
Week 15 Presentations and exhibition of the latest prototype


Students must complete all assigned coursework in order to pass the course. All required papers and project related documents must be submitted electronically via NYU Classes. No extensions will be given on assignments or papers without sufficient extenuating circumstances and prior approval from the instructor. Any two missing classes will result in (-) minus point to the final grade automatically.

Marking Scheme:

I. Essay and Rewrite – Deadline for essay: end of week 2, deadline for re-write: week 4 10%
Theme: Understanding the Technical World. Task: Choose a recent (max. 1 year old) news story in a popular national or international news source concerning novel technology. Your assignment is to read the news article and then write an essay about the selected topic (approximately 3 pages). Your essay must include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion and should use the format defined by the Modern Language Association. The text should a) summarise the article, b) evaluate the news story from technical, rhetorical and sociological points of view (Who is the target audience?). Please include the merit and shortcomings the story has and the c.) possible impact of the featured technology on society. You should close your essay with d.) an outlook into the future, and with an ideation of new and non existing use-cases for this technology. The essay must be submitted as PDF through NYU Classes course page named according to the following template: essay_YourFirstName_YourLastName.pdf and containing a Header with your complete Name, and Student number. The essay is designed to teach students how to perform a conceptual outline of a project idea.
II. Artistic Statement – Deadline: end of week 13 20%
The final writing – the Artistic Statement – will reflect the student’s project theme and hence the developed handtool. The project theme has to be submitted in advance for critique and approval by the instructor in a one-on-one session. The text should feature the concept behind the project (approximately ±600 words ⇒ three paragraphs: Power Paragraph, Technical Paragraph, and Research Timeline Paragraph). Find a sample here. The concept should be clear and understandable. The text should contain additional drawings and/or information graphics to explain and underline the project's idea. Integrate your personal view based on the many discussion in this course and on the reading. The text document must be submitted through NYU Classes course page.
III. In-Class presentations: essay presentation, and 2x case-study presentations 10%
Students will each give three 15 minute oral presentations (max. 15 slides ⇒ google Slides, keynote or powerpoint) at the beginning of a class: Two case study presentations will relate to a dedicated theme of the day (those themes will be assigned to students at the beginning of the term). A third presentation on a subject related to the students project essay. The presentation must be submitted as PDF format the day before the oral presentation through NYU Classes. The student should use the class presentation template. The name of the uploaded file should follow the same naming standard: casestudy1(2)_YourFirstName_YourLastName.pdf. The essay presentation should a) summarise the article, b) evaluate the news story from technical, rhetorical and sociological points of view (Who is the target audience?). Please include the merit and shortcomings the story has and the possible impact of the featured technology on society. You should close with an outlook into the future, and c.) with an ideation of new and non existing use-cases for this technology. The essay presentation has to be submitted as PDF through NYU Classes course page a day before the presentation, and named according to the following template: essaypresentation_YourFirstName_YourLastName.pdf
IV. Class participation 10%
Students are expected to be on time, and to come to each class fully prepared, having read through the texts, or watched the films assigned for the day’s class – and thought about them carefully. Participation will be assessed on the basis of both the regularity and the quality of contributions. Students will be asked to initiate class discussions without prior warning and may be asked to perform this function more than once.
V. Project Report 10%
Students are required to submit electronically five ±150-word project report with additional pictures to describe the actual status of their project: research, choice of technology, materials, etc. A template will be handed out to the students at the beginning of the term.
VI. Realisation of Final Prototype 30%
Students are required to realise a prototype of an innovative handtool. There is no specification for the nature of the tool, the size of it, nor the task it will perform.
VII. Presentation, Documentation and Exhibition 10%
Every student will have to present the last developed handtool prototype at the semester end to the entire group and eventually to external guests. The presented prototype has to be displayed in a class exhibition.
Total 100%

Further Documentation

Course documentation, 2016

Course documentation, 2017

Course documentation, 2018

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