Term Paper

The paper should be 10-15 pages, on a topic that is not simply a rehash of material in the class, but that connects it to something beyond it, such as a human-computer design issue, a related body of research, the work of another author, a potential application to some professional field, or the like. It should apply a phenomenological orientation to some topic that you care about. It needs to be more than just your opinions about the issues of the course. It should also be more than a "book report," in that you make an effort to discover and describe relationships between the material you are covering and what we have been talking about in class. Within these broad guidelines, you are free to take on whatever topic you find interesting. We will provide some more examples and discussion after the course starts.


October 24, 9am by email to the teaching staff

A one page description of a proposed topic. This should include the key issues of of what you want to achieve in the paper, and a listing of some sources (books, articles, etc.) that you plan to read and incorporate material from. In responding to the proposal we will be looking for other materials we can suggest, and for ways to help you focus the topic. If you have more than one alternative, feel free to discuss several. We will get comments back to you by the end of the week and you can iterate.

Thursday, November 17, in class

A first full version of the paper due in class. This should be a complete paper, not an outline or sketch. We will provide comments by the following week that might lead to extensive rewriting. We will also pair up the class so that your draft will go to another student as well. Please bring a printed copy and also email an on-line version (I'm leaving for an air trip Friday and will take the printed ones with me). We will forward the on-line one to your partner.

Monday, November 28

Comments to the student you were paired with on her/his paper (also send your comments to us). Don't worry about correcting their grammar, typos, etc. Comment on the basic content and what you find compelling and/or confusing. If you really can't get it done over Thanksgiving, negotiate with your partner (in advance) for a date later in the week.

Thursday, December 8, in class

Informal in class presentations. This is nothing fancy (no Powerpoint), just a brief outline of your main ideas followed by a chance for class discussion.

Monday, December 12, 5pm

Final version of the paper due at my office, Gates 388 by 5pm.


In looking for topics, first take a quick glance through the schedule of readings to get a feel for the range of issues in the course. Although the criteria for a topic are fairly open, it should be in the spirit of the kind of inquiry the course is intended to promote - examining basic assumptions (implicit and explicit) in a body of work, a practical endeavor, etc.

Some examples of papers from previous years

Some titles and topics from previous years

  • A Critical View of Graph Conventions (interpretation in information visualization)
  • A phenomenological approach to natural language syntax
  • A structural approach to education (based on Maturana)
  • Agathonic Design
  • An Improvisational Computer Program
  • Art and Technology (from a phenomenological perspective)
  • Artificial Life
  • Beyond rational choice theory
  • Bormann's critique and corporate environment
  • Building the lived experience and the possibilities of social change into interactive agents using the social theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Clifford Nass
  • Computer Vision
  • Computer-aided language learning
  • Computer-generated illusions
  • Computers and law (issues of truth and the meaning of language)
  • Construction industry
  • Context-Aware computing
  • Corporate Knowledge Management (its claims about the nature of knowledge)
  • Creating emotion in a Computer: Evaluating the link between emotion and physiological functioning
  • Culture in HCI
  • Design patterns
  • Directing attention
  • Disembodied Learning
  • Educational Equity
  • Expertise and education
  • Extending the Body through Tool-like Technology
  • Feminism and phenomenology
  • File Sharing
  • Genetic Programming
  • Husserl, Empathy and the New AI
  • Language and the evolution of consciousness
  • Language in Interface Design (interface as communication vs. representation)
  • Languages to Express Uncertainties (in decision support tools)
  • Linguistic Commensurability
  • New Possibilities in the History of Computing
  • Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital
  • Phenomenological limitations of semantic modeling (in civil engineering applications)
  • Phenomenological Understanding of Double Disembodied Language
  • The Experience of Persuasive Technologies
  • The experience of place vs. space in virtual environments
  • The Paradigm Paradigm (further exploration of Kuhn's notion of paradigm)
  • The Programming "Language"
  • The Role of Mental Representation in our Understanding of Character Animation
  • The Science of persuasion
  • To be or Not to Be in MUDS
  • Understanding Realism in Computer Games Through Phenomenology
  • Using Natural Models to Understand the Internet
  • What Makes Natural Language Processing Hard?
  • Wittgenstein (on language, truth, etc.)
  • A project on linguistic design
  • Autopoiesis and AI
  • Building the Brain: Computational Neuroscience or Emergent Intelligence and Question Analysis
  • Cognitive architectures
  • Emergent Intelligences
  • Emotion and AI
  • Hermeneutics and Innovation
  • Hierarchies
  • Human-Computer Interaction Issues and Techniques in Data Visualization and Computer Vision
  • Music
  • On the Symbols of Art or On the Different Shapes of Information
  • Phenomenology and the Sacred Space: Experiencing Worship at the Crystal Cathedral
  • Rationalistic and Phenomenological Parallels between AI and the Social Sciences
  • The hermeneutics of user-generated content