• Offered by School of Art and Design
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Design
  • Areas of interest Philosophy, Digital Arts, Visual Arts, Design
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Mitchell Whitelaw
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings

Contemporary life is increasingly shaped by algorithmic systems and complex social, cultural and political networks. At the same time, we depend on natural systems whose complexity is difficult to grasp, and whose integrity is under threat. In this course, we explore generative systems and automation in both natural and technological contexts. From algorithmic platforms and AI, to fermentation, mycelium and biological networks, students will examine the concepts, practices and materiality of generative systems through creative projects. By critically, ethically and reflexively intervening in environmental and technological contexts, probing contemporary forms of automation and generative systems, students will develop a deeper understanding of what automation means for practice in the visual arts and design, and how to critically engage with these systems.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of techniques and concepts of automation generative systems and discuss their use in contemporary creative practice;
  2. critically apply natural and technological systems in creative practice;
  3. investigate practices and discourses around automation and generative systems and apply findings to creative production; and
  4. substantiate creative outcomes with research and rationale.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Natural systems project  (40) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Natural systems project rationale (1500 words) (10) [LO 4]
  3. Algorithmic systems project  (40) [LO 1,2,3]
  4. Algorithmic systems project rationale (1500 words) (10) [LO 4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact comprising lectures, tutorials / workshops.
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 24 units of courses towards an ANU degree, and you must have completed DESN2002 or DESN2010. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed DESN2004 or DESN6004 (Dynamic Design).

Prescribed Texts

Not applicable

Preliminary Reading

-Morris, Robert. "Some Notes on the Phenomenology of Making", Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris. New York, N.Y: MIT Press, 1993.

-Steyerl, Hito, and Kate Crawford. “Data Streams.” The New Inquiry (blog), January 23, 2017. https://thenewinquiry.com/data-streams/.

-Stiegler, Bernard. Automatic Society. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016.

-Metahaven. The Sprawl, 2015

-Hartmut Bohnacker, Generative Design : Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

-Luna Maurer, Edo Paulus, Jonathan Puckey and Roel Wouters, Conditional Design Manifesto. https://conditionaldesign.org/manifesto/

-Mitchell Whitelaw, “Space filling And Self-Constraint: Critical Case Studies in Generative Geometry.” Architectural Theory Review, 15(2), pp.157–165.

-Cantrell B, Martin LJ, Ellis EC. Designing Autonomy: Opportunities for New Wildness in the Anthropocene. Trends Ecol Evol. 2017 Mar;32(3):156-166. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.12.004. Epub 2017 Jan 18. PMID: 28108135. https://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(16)30237-3 

Assumed Knowledge

Familiarity with basic computer techniques for graphics and design.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8418 22 Jul 2024 29 Jul 2024 31 Aug 2024 25 Oct 2024 In Person N/A

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