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Drawing Data by Hand

Meghna Dholakia, Lia Coleman
September 17, 2023 to November 19, 2023 (10 classes)
Sundays, 6-9pm
Online (Zoom)
$1200 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on August 13, 2023

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Drawing data by hand is a way to attune our eyes to the hidden and so-plain-as-to-be-unseen dimensions of our world. In this course we will 'sketch' data as a way to engage with data concerning us, our communities, and the greater world. We might plot our fears, map our neighborhoods, graph our love lives, and chart the impact of our experiences. We will focus on the handmade, quirky, human-scale data that we can gather, clean, manage, and visualize without expert use of technology. As we develop our personal practices, we also enter the murky world of data as a text. Data is entangled in a knot-work of relationships. Work involving data cannot be divorced from the way that data is collected, stored, manipulated, bought, sold, and stolen by organizations, governments, and other entities. So, as we experiment with data as a tool for artistic curiosity and understanding we will ask questions about the materiality of data, its uses in surveillance, the positions of subject and collector, and the glories and dangers of classification.


Course of Study

Class 1: Thinking about thinking about data

  • SFPC orientation
  • Introductions via sketching
  • Historical and current views on data
  • Data vs. knowledge

Class 2: Observing & Collecting

  • Listening for data
  • Power relations
  • Ways of knowing

Class 3: Organizing & Classifying

  • Meta Data
  • Organizing as relational
  • Categories!
  • The myth of normal

Class 4: Retrieval, Access, Storage

  • Archives
  • Data contracts
  • Earned knowledge

Class 5: Making Meaning

  • Analysis
  • Bias
  • Feeling your way

Class 6: Forms

  • Charts, Graphs, Plots, and Donuts
  • Data sketching in 1+/- dimensions
  • A walk through history

Class 7: Visual Craft

  • Color
  • Line
  • Emphasis
  • Creating for all
  • Creating for you

Class 8: Jam Session/Workshop Day

Class 9: Critique & Discussion

Class 10: Celebration & Sharing


  • We'll be sketching every class, so participants will be asked to draw. This may feel unfamiliar or scary. However, if you can draw the following: a line, a circle and/or a triangle you have met the skill requirement.
  • Participants are asked to be citizens of the classroom, to participate in our group discussion and take an active role in shaping our collective experience.
Time & Workload
  • Participants are expected to spend time outside of class doing readings and assignments. Assignments may consist of data-sketching, reflection, or light research. Expect around an two hours a week.
  • Over the 10 weeks we'll be producing data sketches and reflections which we will compile and publish as a group.
  • Pens of multiple colors
  • Plain paper and dotted/grid paper
  • A ruler may be helpful
  • Access to a modern computer

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you if:

  • You're interested in experimenting with a new way of interacting with the world
  • You like to make things with your hands
  • You want more critical conversations about data

This class may NOT be for you if:

  • You want a deep dive of d3.js
  • You want a deep dive of tableau
  • You aren't interested in reflecting on your own processes

Meet the Teachers


Meghna Dholakia

Meghna Dholakia is a designer and artist fascinated by individual, collective, and geologic narratives of transformation. She enjoys long walks and collecting interesting looking leaves.

she/her · website · twitter · instagram


Lia Coleman

Lia Coleman is a Chinese-American artist and AI researcher based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Coleman’s work centers on the interplay of AI technology, art & design, coding, and ethics. They actively conduct research on creative AI at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute and publish guides for artists to responsibly use machine learning. Coleman’s artwork explores themes of collective memory and loss. In assembling datasets, they attempt to record and archive the past– a process which is inherently never complete. They embrace the unpredictability of neural networks, as a reflection of their own experience of grappling with the elusive nature of truth and the past. Coleman is an alum of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the School For Poetic Computation. They have also served as an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Their work has been shown internationally in Dubai, Germany, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the United States, and has been featured by Vox, Wired, Tribeca Film Festival, Mozilla Festival, Science Gallery Detroit, New York University, the NeurIPS Conference, and Gray Area. Their writing on AI art has been published by Princeton Architectural Press, DISEÑA, and Neocha Magazine.

they/them · website · twitter · instagram


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

Apply Now

Is there data that should never be collected? What is it and why?

Applications open until Applications closed on August 13, 2023.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on August 25, 2023. Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 10 classes, it costs $1200 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.