Portland-Based Artist to Offer World’s First "Mobile Apps as Art" Course

Industry: Art

This coming winter, Dr. Sean Miller is teaching the very first course of its kind in the world on how to build mobile apps as art at Portland Community College in Oregon.

Portland, Ore. (PRUnderground) December 1st, 2015

This coming year, Portland will host the very first course of its kind in the world on how to build mobile apps as art. Dr. Sean Miller is teaching a course entitled “Apps as Art: Learn to Code Apps that Are Artistic” next Winter term through Portland Community College’s Community Education division.

With the advent of smartphones at the end of the last decade, mobile app development has exploded. According to Statistica.com, the Apple App Store boasts over 1.5 million mobile apps available for download. The Google Play Store tops that with 1.6 million apps available for Android devices.

The vast majority of those mobile apps are meant for practical purposes. They help users communicate with their family, friends, and colleagues. They offer productivity gains at work and help at home. Other apps instruct, by curating news and other information, or entertain, through gameplay. Some apps are even nicely designed—with stylish, intuitive user interfaces.

But few apps are exclusively forms of artistic expression. The general rule is that apps are meant primarily to be commercial. But there are a few notable exceptions. The art app Biophilia, released in 2011, was the result of a collaboration between app artist Scott Snibbe and recording artist Björk. There’s also performance artist Miranda July’s social media app Somebody. But app creation is often an expensive endeavor that requires a team of coders and designers to make happen, hence the emphasis in app development on turning a profit.

Dr. Miller aims to challenge the conventional wisdom that mobile apps need be commercial—or that app development will always be prohibitively expensive for non-professionals. He’ll be offering a course this coming year in app art development in Portland, Oregon.

The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art has a long history of supporting digital artists, including Miranda July. Portland also hosts the popular XOXO Festival, as well as TechFestNW. The Meetup group PDX Creative Coders, dedicated to supporting those who “create art with code,” has over 800 members. “Right now,” Dr. Miller said, “Portland is a hothouse of digital creativity. I want to do my part to help foster artistic expression here through this emerging, important medium.”

Students who attend Dr. Miller’s course at PCC don’t need any previous programming experience. During the five weeks of the course, which meets for 3 hours every Wednesday evening starting January 13, 2016, students will build replicas of the apps that come preinstalled with Apple and Android devices, for example, Calculator and Notes. To accomplish this, they’ll use a powerful, yet easy-to-use development platform called LiveCode. Students will then explore ways to adapt and subvert these standard mobile apps for artistic purposes. The course culminates in a show where students will present their creations to the class.

For more information about Dr. Miller’s “Apps as Art” course, visit the PCC website.

About Dr. Sean Miller

Sean Miller holds a PhD in English from the University of London. He’s the author of Strung Together: The Cultural Currency of String Theory as a Scientific Imaginary, from the University of Michigan Press. In addition to making app artwork, he writes a monthly column for the webzine PopMatters.com that explores the intersections of science, literature, and culture. He has over two decades of experience as both a technologist and teacher.

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