Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


Using a mixed methods approach that includes cultural analytics tools participants learn to:

  • Identify, study, compare, evaluate, abstract, and create new knowledge about the use of representation in contemporary digital culture.
  • Propose and create novel implementations and uses of representation in new media. 
  • Generate new research hypotheses and works in areas related to representation and new media.

Credits: 6

Schedule: 11.01.2022 - 05.04.2022

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Lily Diaz-Kommonen

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

Prof. Lily Díaz-Kommonen,

Doctoral candidate Cvijeta Miljak,

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Course Description

    Representation, which has been defined as the use of signs to stand for something else, can be described as a ubiquitous tool in the artist and designer's toolbox. There are several reasons why the notion of representation is important to artists and designers:

    1) It is a phenomenon that emerges from our embodied experience in the world as humans and brings together language, culture and sensory perception.

    2) The internalized affects, knowledge, and values of human communities are externalized and made concrete into artefacts of culture through the use of representation. It is by understanding how diverse forms of representation are used in the making of genres for example, that we can assimilate the universe created in a work of interactive narrative.

    3) Representation plays an important role in the way that human beings understand and express the ethos (character and spirit) of the society in which they live.

    The course offers the students a holistic systems-oriented approach to the topic of representation. Rather than a mimetic approach, a systems-oriented, research-based approach into the notion of representation leads the art and design scholar to discern and evaluate the context and reasons why an artist or a designer might have chosen a particular set of tools, or decided on a particular theme, topic, or strategy for the realization a given work.

  • applies in this implementation

    During its 2022 edition the Systems of Representation course will focus on the notion of Simulation. A simulation is the imitation of something, real or not. The activity of creating simulations entails the creation, modeling and, or reproduction of key characteristics and behaviors of a physical object or abstract system, often with the objective to achieve a better understanding of the thing itself. 

    Learning objectives

    In the course we will study the use of simulations in the arts, humanities and sciences, as well as in industry and media for the creation of new products and in relation to contemporary artefacts, including architecture, games, historical reconstructions, to name a few. We will ponder about issues such as authenticity and reproduction in relation to uniqueness. 

    From a cultural-historical perspective, we will examine the use of simulations in the design and creation of (digital) media artefacts in order to:

    1. ‘Problematize’ their ‘sharing the world’ with other species, including humans and 

    2. Tease out the ways in which these artefacts shape our perception, practices and values (ethics). 


    The methods used in the course include:

    1. Survey of cross-cultural examples which exemplify the use of simulatio

    2. Presentation and discussion of post-phenomenology method that enables the researcher to deconstruct the simulation and analyze its components.

    3. Researching and reading about aspects related to the topic of simulations. 

    4. Practice-led research leading to development and presentation of Case-Studies by the tutors as well as participating students.

    Learning Outcomes

    1. Achieve a general understanding regarding the notion of simulation and its potential use in art and design practices, including research.

    2. Assemble a Learning Diary which documents the processes of reflection and doing throughout the course of a project. 

    3. Be able to design a simulation. 

    4. Be able to write a short, critical, essay regarding an aspect of simulations.


Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    A minimum of 80% attendance is required. Assessment is based on:

    1. A 1500 word essay, 30%

    2. A web-based project, 40% 

    3. Attendance and participation in class, 30%

  • applies in this implementation

    See the details on calculating the workload below for variations about the assessment methods. These changes will be discussed during the first session.

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Students should be ready to devote three (3) hours a week outside of class for assignments.

  • applies in this implementation

    Assignments and evaluation



    Credit hours

    Design a simulation.*

    25% or 50%


    Using a critical perspective, write a short essay about the process.*

    25% or 50%


    Complete a Learning Diary.



    Regularly present your ideas in class.



    Total number of credits: 6


    160 hours

    *Students can choose between realizing a project, writing an essay, or doing smaller versions of both.


Study Material
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    A resources list that includes readings, films and engagement with other types of media will be prepared for the course at the beginning of each edition.


  • applies in this implementation

    The course makes use of audio-visual media as well as reading materials.

Substitutes for Courses
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    5 Gender Equality

    10 Reduced Inequality

    16 Peace and Justice Strong Institutions


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    During the years 2020-2023 the course is affiliated to ongoing research projects in the Systems of Representation group.

    Teaching Period:


    (2021, 2022) - No teaching

    Course Homepage:

    Registration for Courses: Sisu replaces Oodi on 9 August, 2021. Priority order to courses is according to the order of priority decided by the Academic committee for School of Arts, Design and Architecture:

    In Weboodi, at the latest one week before the course starts. A description of current interest will be required.

    The order of priority for admitting students to courses at Aalto ARTS 1.1.2018 onwards (approved by The Committee of Arts, Design and Architecture on 10.10.2017)

    The order of priority is as follows:

    1. students for whom the course is compulsory for their major/programme and who have scheduled it for the current academic year in their personal study plan (HOPS);
    2. exchange students for whom the course is a part of his/her officially approved learning agreement and scheduled to be taken during the current semester;
    3. students for whom the course is compulsory for their major/programme and who have not completed it yet;
    4. students, for whom the course is part of his/her major s or programme s alternative studies and has been scheduled in the student's PSP (HOPS) for the current academic year
    5. students, for whom the course is part of his/her major s or programme s alternative studies and who have not completed the requisite number of credits for alternative studies yet;
    6. students for whom the course is compulsory for their minor;
    7. students, for whom the course is part of his/her minor subject s alternative studies and who have not completed the requisite number of credits for alternative studies yet;
    8. students who have applied for the course through a student mobility scheme (internal mobility within Aalto University, flexible study right (JOO) studies etc.);
    9. other students.


    Courses that are intended to be multidisciplinary (e.g. UWAS courses) may apply an order of priority based on the learning outcomes of the course, while bearing in mind the university obligation of enabling students to complete their degrees within the normative duration of study set for the degree. The order of priority does not apply to courses organised by the Centre for General Studies or doctoral courses.

    This decision on the order of priority does not influence the right of the teacher to define prerequisites for the course.

Details on the schedule
  • applies in this implementation



    1 February

    Introduction to the area of study 

    About simulation – A survey of examples from art, humanities and sciences. (LDK)

    8 February

    About simulation How do we go about creating simulations? 

    1. The means, methods, and processes used to create simulations

    2. The normative contexts in which they are created.

    3. The primary uses and purposes served. (LDK)

    22 February

    The concept of the original and the notion of form in digital media (LDK)

    1 March

    Simulation, further examples – space, time, memory (CM)

    15 March

    Student’s presentations of initial concepts for essay(s) and/or design(s).

    29 March

    Simulation in the arts – Invited guest (Andreas Brockmann?)

    12 April 

    1 hour session touching base about state of projects (essays and designs)

    26 April 

    1 hour session touching base about state of projects (essays and designs)

    17 May

    Presentations of final works.