Thanks to end-of-semester business, which included a search committee that ate up at least ten hours a week for the past six or so weeks, I’ve made pretty much zero progress on my own projects. But I have seen some fantastic student work that reminds me of how much I enjoy working with students — and of how teaching and advising is just as much “my own work” as the next book project.
The parade of student successes began last week, when I stopped by the ITP thesis presentations. I had been invited to respond to these projects mid-stream and was excited to see how they evolved. First was Rune Madsen’s Versionize, “a web-based tool for iterating ideas individually or in groups,” which is coming along beautifully. Then the highlight for me was Morgen Fleisig’s “Visual Logic: Aesthetics of Computation,” a one-bit computer — “an absurdist testament to our social organization & industrial scale, and a study of the aesthetic potential of the modular components that make up the complex digital devices all around us.” It’s all that and more. I loved it. How can you not appreciate a project about which its creator can say: “I have already set my thesis on fire once.” There should be more fire involved in the thesis process.
Speaking of which… Two of my own thesis advisees have submitted fantastic projects this semester. Ben Mendelsohn’s “Bundled, Buried, and Behind Closed Doors: Visiting New York City’s Concentrated Internet Infrastructure” is a hybrid video documentary and written project, and Andrew Nealon’s “Comic Aura: American Comic Book Culture and Conceptions of Authenticity in the Age of Digital Reproducibility” is a lovely written thesis.
And last Friday night my Libraries, Archives, and Databases class met to present their final projects (a few also presented in class that Tuesday). We had a great range of topics:
- Talaandig soil painting and dance as archival practices
- Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s librarian
- Urban photography and the documentation of the ordinary
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ archive
- Archiving dance performance and Labanotation
- I particularly loved the following quotation from this project: “I go into the archive and a difference emerges, the archive gets messed up. At the same time it becomes visible through my body . . . My body makes the archive visible and at the same time, creates this difference.” – Martin Nachbar
- Databases, storage, and spatiality
- Information access technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa
- The materiality of books and the sensory experience of reading
- The public libraries of Bogotá, Colombia
- Image fidelity in digital archiving practice
- Teenagers and libraries in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
- Identity, affect, and materiality in the Lesbian Herstory Archives
- The creation of the Fugazi Live archive (I’m somewhat personally invested in this project!)
- “The Collapsible Archive” in the work of the Atlas Group
- The Stasi archives
- The public library as a potential base for a “truly public” internet
I really enjoyed this class (in particular, the students!). This semester was the first time I taught it, and I hope to have the opportunity to do it again.