New media such as apps and websites are not only about usability but also about pleasure. You prefer to use an application that delivers pleasure and use it for a longer period of time. A pleasurable experience is also called an 'aesthetic experience'. The communication products that can evoke such an aesthetic experience are also called aesthetic artifacts. Examples are interactive applications, websites, infographics and advertisements. Aesthetics is important for anyone working in the field of communication and media design.
In this course, three related topics will be discussed. First, properties of aesthetic artifacts are addressed at the level of form (e.g., Gestalt) and content (e.g., visual incongruities). This knowledge helps you to analyse, evaluate and design aesthetic artifacts. Secondly, influential theories about the aesthetic experience are discussed, such as the Arousal Theory, Fluency Theory and Appraisal Theory: why do we like what we like? Thirdly, aesthetic effects are discussed. For example, what is the link between aesthetic pleasure and usability? And between aesthetic pleasure and persuasion? The methods for measuring aesthetic experience and effects are also discussed.
(1) Individual analysis. You analyse an existing, self-selected aesthetic artifact based on the theory discussed (20% of the final grade),
(2) Group assignment: empirical research project. You formulate a research question based on the theory discussed, choose an aesthetic artifact from one of your individual analyses, manipulate this aesthetic artifact and compare the different versions in terms of aesthetic experience, usability and/or effectiveness. You report your findings in a research report (40% of the final grade).
(3) Exam consisting of open questions about the theory (40% of the final grade).
All tests need a minimum of a 6 to pass the course.