Sean Zhu @ ITP

I'm a graduate student in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), a two-year master's program at NYU with a focus somewhere at the intersection of art, human-computer interaction, and social studies. The program's stated mission is "to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people's lives."

My goal is to use my background in software engineering, education, and UI/UX design to help solve classes of inequity and pointless frustrations that are faced by large categories of people. I hope my time in ITP can accelerate this by teaching me useful fundamentals and by expanding my network and worldview.

Here are the 3 topics I care about the most:

1. We are increasingly relying on software engineers, a non-demographically representative set of people, to be in positions of power.

I want to solve this by making it easier for everyone to code. I want to do this without making a VC-funded company because then it might violate criteria B, so I basically want to solve it as a side project, which means I have to solve it using very little resources. The product I want to start with is a visual, low-code programming tool that is 95% compatible with at least one existing, popular programming language (for example js or python).

2. We creating misinformation, negative emotions, and divisiveness faster than we are coming up with ways to solve them

It's clear that social media companies' and governments' efforts to clean up fake news is only playing catch-up. Not only is it slow to catch up with new kinds of fake news that pops up, it is inherently unable to preemptively prevent new kinds of fake news from wreaking havoc. I want to solve this by making it possible for the community to solve fake news in a decentralized way. A core idea idea of this is that you have to fundamentally trust people to make their own decisions about what sources of information to consume. I know that this actually sounds like a recipe for disaster, but I feel like the solution I have addresses it. See more of the vision and a prototype here:

3. Despite much recent mobile tech innovation, digital work still largely tethers people to desks, to the indoors, and to distracting screens.

I want to make tech that allows people to do all the things they love about computers, without needing to sit at a desk, needing to be indoors, or needing to look at a screen. My thesis will relate to this topic.

Every ITP student is required to maintain a blog of their work. This is my blog! Below are all the courses I have taken so far, and a listing of my work for each.

About this site

The setup of this blog website itself is an exploration. My goals were to create an aesthetically pleasing, useful, and responsive site with no required JavaScript and no cumulative layout shift. Over time I've added some more features, like link previews and handy media shortcuts. More recently, I also added a frontend-only rich-text CMS, allowing me to edit almost all my content primarily in the browser and saving directly to the filesystem.

Spring 2022
CAD for Virtual and Reality

Prof. Benjamin Light. Course website.

My work
  • 2022-02-01 – Week 1: Technical drawings
  • 2022-02-08 – Week 2: Extrusions
  • 2022-02-15 – Week 3: Models
  • 2022-02-22 – Week 4: Parts & components
  • 2022-03-01 – Week 5: Assemblies
  • 2022-03-08 – Week 6: Four-bar linkage
  • 2022-03-15 – Week 7: No homework
  • 2022-03-29 – Week 8: Sculpting
  • 2022-04-05 – Week 9: Generative design
  • 2022-04-12 – Week 10: Final project ideas
  • 2022-04-19 – Week 11: Rendering, final project progress
  • 2022-04-26 – Week 12: Sheet metal, simulation
  • 2022-05-03 – Week 13: Final project!
Exploring Concepts from Soft Robotics

Prof. Kari Love. Third-party course listing.

My work
  • 2022-02-03 – Week 1: Explorations
  • 2022-02-10 – Week 2: Inflatables
  • 2022-02-17 – Week 3: Soft actuator
  • 2022-02-24 – Week 4: Custom molds & project proposal
  • 2022-03-03 – Week 5: No updates
  • 2022-03-10 – Week 6: Final project

Prof. Kathryn Hartman. Third-party course listing.

My work
Thesis Production

Prof. Juliette Powell. Course website.

Fall 2021
Art Toy Design

Prof. Benjamin Light. Course website.

My work
  • 2021-11-09 — Week 1: Doll
  • 2021-11-16 — Week 2: Sculpting
  • 2021-11-23 — Week 3: Materials
  • 2021-12-14 — Week 6: Final toy!
Design Research

Profs. Dave Derby & Heidi Brant. Third-party course listing.

My work
Designing the Absurd

Profs. Pedro Oliveira. Course website.

Introduction to Fabrication

Prof. Benjamin Light. Course website.

My work
  • 2021-11-04 — Week 1: Flashlight
  • 2021-11-11 — Week 2: 5 or more of something
  • 2021-11-18 — Week 3: Something laser-cut
  • 2021-12-02 — Week 4: Enclosure
  • 2021-12-09 — Week 5: Something with a motor
Game Design and the Psychology of Choice

Prof. Jennifer Lim. Third-party course listing.

Thesis Research

Prof. Juliette Powell. Course website.

My work
  • 2021-11-09 — Week 1: Main idea
  • 2021-11-16 — Week 2: Concept map
  • 2021-11-23 — Week 3: Comparing to prior art, requirements and users
  • 2021-11-30 — Week 4: Questions, venues, experts, personas
  • 2021-12-14 — Week 6: Final presentation
  • 2021-12-27 — Week 7: Final paper
Textile Interfaces

Prof. Kathryn Hartman. Third-party course listing.

My work
Spring 2021
Bluetooth LE & Low Power Wireless

Prof. Jingwen Zhu. Course website.

My work
  • 2021-03-04 — Week 6: Final project writeup
  • 2021-03-04 — Week 5: Final project progress
  • 2021-03-04 — Week 4: Final project ideation
  • 2021-02-25 — Week 3: BLE p5 web app
  • 2021-02-11 — Week 2: BLE characteristics
  • 2021-02-04 — Week 1: BLE discovery
Intangible Interaction

Prof. Yeseul Song. Course website.

My work
  • 2021-04-07 — Week 9: Project 3 ideas
  • 2021-03-31 — Week 8: Arduino and Wi-Fi
  • 2021-03-24 — Week 7: Virtual gallery thoughts
  • 2021-03-10 — Week 5: Project 2 Curious Cube progress
  • 2021-03-03 — Week 4: Project 2 Curious Cube proposal
  • 2021-02-24 — Week 3: Project 2 Curious Cube ideas, ADPS9960 sensor
  • 2021-02-17 — Week 2: Project 1 pt 2
  • 2021-02-10 — Week 1: Questions, Project 1 pt 1
Looking Forward

Profs. Gus Chalkias & Regine Gilbert. Course listing.

My work
Fundamentals of Multimedia Storytelling

Prof. Jennifer Lim. Third-party course listing.

Playful Communication of Serious Research

Prof. Brett Peterson. Course listing.

Tech, Media, & Democracy

Prof. Justin Hendrix, et. al. Course website.

My work
Fall 2020

Prof. Nancy Hechinger. Course listing.

My summary

This course is an introductory "sampler" that all incoming students must take their first semester. We discussed different topics related to tech & society every week.

My work for this course is currently private but will be published here soon.

Faking the News

Prof. Benjamin Moskowitz. Third-party course listing.

My summary

This course is about why fake news exists, how it is created, and how it spreads. Discussion is sometimes technical (e.g., we learn about software used to make deepfakes), historical (e.g., what are the origins of news media), and social (e.g., how does social media change people’s perception of the truth). Homework is technical — we learn how to make our own deepfakes!

My work
Introduction to Physical Computing

Prof. Daniel Rozin. Course website.

My summary

This course is an introduction to understanding and making simple electronics circuits and IoT devices. We learn about how to calculate voltage, what resistors do, to wire things up on a breadboard, how to solder, how to debug circuits, and how to write code for an Arduino and have it interact with circuits, sensors, and computers.

My work
  • 2020-12-16 — I presented my Project 3 at the Winter Show.
  • 2020-11-25 — Week 13: Project 3 final
  • 2020-10-14 — Week 12: No post!
  • 2020-11-25 — Week 11: Project 3 prototype
  • 2020-11-18 — Week 10: No post! I didn’t have the materials :(
  • 2020-11-11 — Week 9: Project 2 final
  • 2020-11-04 — Week 8: I2C, Project 2 progress
  • 2020-10-28 — Week 7: More serial, Project 2 idea
  • 2020-10-21 — Week 6: Serial comms
  • 2020-10-14 — Week 5: No post!
  • 2020-10-07 — Week 4: Project 1
  • 2020-09-30 — Week 3: Speakers, servos
  • 2020-09-23 — Week 2: I/O
  • 2020-09-16 — Week 1: Breadboards, electronics, switches
Population Infinite: The Future of Identity

Profs. Dan Oved & Anastasis Germanidis. Course website.

My summary

This course explores how technology is changing our concept of identity. We learn about how identity can be simulated, hidden, abused, redefined, repurposed, etc. Homework is technical — we learn how to use various tools that we can use to play around with identity. These tools are useful outside of this class too — they include the test automation library Puppeteer and the text ML model GPT-2.

Socially Engaged Art and Digital Practice

Prof. Clarinda MacLow. Third-party course listing.

My summary

This course explores how technology can be used with art that acts as social commentary — both as a way of building the art and as a subject of the commentary. Homework is a written or multimedia response to the readings for each week.