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ICAM (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major) (VA29)

The Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts major draws upon and aims to bring together ideas and paradigms from computer science, art, and cultural theory. The goals of the program are to prepare the next generation of artists who will be functioning in a computer-mediated culture; to give students necessary technical, theoretical and historical backgrounds so they can contribute to the development of new aesthetics for computer media; to prepare students to mediate between the worlds of computer science and technology, the arts, and the culture at large by being equally proficient with computing and cultural concepts; and to give students sufficient understanding of the trajectories of development in computing so they can anticipate and work with the emerging trends, rather than being locked in particular software currently available on the market.

No prior programming or technical experience is required to enroll in the ICAM major. ICAM welcomes students who are eager to learn to work creatively and critically with technology.

Printer friendly curriculum sheet:

For Students Declared Fall 2021 and later

For Students Declared Fall 2016 to Spring 2021

Students with the major declared prior to Fall 2016 need to contact an academic advisor for the appropriate curriculum sheet.

What specific skills will this program teach students?

The ICAM major seeks to prepare students to invent the digital culture of the future. While learning practical technical skills is an important part of the program, production technologies emerge and obsolesce rapidly; students will find themselves learning new skills throughout their careers. As such, the program focuses on helping students develop a broad conceptual understanding of both cultural and technical topics, and the intellectual flexibility to invent, adapt, and learn on their own, in addition to acquiring the skills to gain an entry-level job. 

As a cross-disciplinary program, ICAM students also have opportunities to study music and digital audio production through coursework in the Music department. Students can thus design a program that prepares them for work with a range of media. In addition, coursework in other Visual Arts areas, including Speculative Design and Studio Art, as well as in external departments such as Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) and Cognitive Science, provide opportunities for students to develop both conceptual and technical breadth. 

Practical coursework includes programming (with emphasis on video, audio, interactivity, networking, data APIs), electronics, virtual environments, computer vision, machine learning, data visualization and media production. Students are highly encouraged to take additional coursework outside of the department in an area of their interest such as Computer Science/Engineering and Cognitive Science. 

What is this program preparing student to do after graduation?

ICAM graduates have gone on to a range of fields in both industry and fine arts. Some students have pursued graduate study in fields including digital media arts, photography, user experience design, and many others. Students have entered industry in fields including web development, game design, media production, and social media marketing. A number of graduates have started their own businesses, ranging from developing independent games, software, and hardware to online marketing services. While the ICAM curriculum includes  practical coursework in programming, electronics, virtual environments, and media production, students are highly encouraged to take additional coursework outside of the department in an area of their interest such as Computer Science/Engineering and Cognitive Science. This additional coursework can both enhance students’ conceptual and practical skills in their ICAM coursework and broaden opportunities for them upon graduation.

Below is a sampling of companies, position titles and graduate schools that ICAM students have gone on to after graduation:


Disney, Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, NASA, Apple, Yahoo, RISD, Brown University, Illumina, Madison Square Garden Venture, Cadence Labs



Software Engineer, Product Designer, Lead Developer, Marketting Coordinator, UX Designer, Creative Director, Business Analyst, Lecturer, Exhibiting Artist, Assistant Professor, Media Specialist, Game Designer, Hardware Interface Designer, CAD/CAM Engineer, iOS Developer, Curator, AI and Game Programmer


Graduate Schools University of Utah, CalArts, Carnegie-Mellon University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Arizona, RISD, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, USC, Georgia Tech, Northeastern University

What equipment, software and tools are utilized in this program?

As with all programs that incorporate technology, specific tools taught within ICAM are continually evolving. Students should also be aware that, since specific tools inevitably come and go, coursework focuses on theoretical and practical concepts, rather than the idiosyncrasies of specific tools. 

With that said, the following are some languages and platforms currently taught within the major. (Specific tools are subject to change at any time.) 

  • Programming environments: Python, Processing, Unity (or other game engines), Max/MSP/Jitter and Javascript. ICAM students are also required to take basic programming courses in CSE (currently taught in Java.) 
  • Physical computing platforms include Arduino. 
  • Rotating topics covered in upper division courses include data APIs, computer vision and machine learning frameworks, hardware and software for interactive and performative media. 
  • Image editing, vector graphics, and 3D design software

What distinguishes this program from those that are similar?

ICAM is a fine art making major utilizing computer science concepts and media. Artists produce creative projects using computer programming, media technologies, physical electronics and other “maker” resources such as fabrication technologies. As a major or minor, it is intended for students who what to explore the overlap between critical art making and engineering techniques.

Additional information you should know about this program!

While many ICAM graduates go on to careers in industry, prospective students should understand that ICAM is a fine arts major. While the program incorporates practices from fields including Design and Computer Science, it is neither a graphic design nor a computer science major. ICAM Students will study computing in the arts from a fine arts and critical media perspective: they will study art, culture, and technology history, and produce software and hardware projects that combine a critical perspective with a research based approach.  Students will also gain experience in engaging and creatively working through the issues of incompleteness and uncertainty inherent in emerging and rapidly involving research fields. We believe this broad, critical, education is essential for enabling students to develop the intellectual criticality and flexibility that will enable them to invent and build the digital media of the near future.

See examples of senior projects!

Cindy Nguyen | Second-Year ICAM & Cog Sci Double Major
By ComputingPaths@UCSD • July 14, 2022

Ricardo Dominguez | Computing and Arts with Visual Arts Associate Professor and Chair
By ComputingPaths@UCSD • July 12, 2022