Wk 4: Mobile Activity Design

banner for CSULB School of Art, Art 110, Art Appreciation, Summer Session 2017

This week we'll try designing an activity that uses a Mobile App.


Three years ago I created two new activities for Art 110: Instagram and Deep Ethnography.

Instagram was so popular, students were so grateful to have a class activity that actually used the tools that use in their normal everyday lives, that they were literally standing in line to thank me.

Even though students have always been ambivalent about the trade-offs with mobile devices, the empowering, but also the enslavement, they hated the ethnography activity! They said it was the hardest, most awful activity of the entire class, or maybe their entire college career!

Based on that semester, we've done the Instagram activity every semester since, and we've never again try the ethnography activity!

Reversal of Fortune

In fall semester 2016 however, things seem to change. I realized that now a lot of students, maybe half of the class, had private Instagram's. Suddenly an activity that had seemed so cool was starting to feel like it was a little bit invasive of student privacy. At least some of the students felt that it was. And that became the last semester we ever have, or will, do that particular Instagram activity.

And then in Spring 2017, I started having conversations with students where something about the Ethnography activity would come up. I'd tell them about this activity we tried a few years ago that everybody hated! A number of students said they'd be really interested in trying it and so we did bring that activity back last semester. The class still thought it was really hard! But they seemd to "like" it, or think it was important and worthwhile, in a way that the earlier class hadn't.

To my surprise, much-loved Instagram was out, and hated ethnography was back!

2D graphic of a phone and many apps Image: Mashable

Mobile Art Activity

We need a Mobile Art Activity! I think most students who take Art 110 expect to do things like painting and drawing, and they don't want too much technology in the class. But I do think that if we want to survey the landscape of the ways that one make might make art in the 21st century, that mobile needs to be a part of that. Video games and lots of other things are also a part of that, but those can be a little bit complicated for us to try to do in a one-week activity. Which is why mobile does seem so friendly and convenient.

I've tried different mobile activities: drawing with Snapchat, a cool app that Miranda July created called Somebody, and so on. They've all kind of worked, although none of them have been quite as successful as the original Instagram activity once was.

Your Mission

So here's your chance to succeed where I have failed! Design some sort of mobile app art activity. It might use Instagram, or SnapChat, or something entirely different. I really liked that the original Instagram activity was a group activity, and even more conveniently, a group activity that didn't require people to meet up or work together, but that allowed you to interact with each other's images. That was pretty sweet! I'd love to find something like that again, but that might be pretty hard. The new activity could be a group activity, or more likely it might wind up being just a solo activity that we each do.

Design your activity, write up how it might work, and include an image of some sort. Perhaps:

  • Someone trying it with their phone, or
  • A screen image of something similar, or
  • A sketch of how it might work, etc

Woman in front of a wall of mobile app graphics Image: Oracle blogs