I organized a workshop on “Spaces of Media Access, Making and Learning” for the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle — and today we found out we’re in! I look forward to chairing the discussion among Anne Balsamo, Paulina Mickiewicz, Jentery Sayers, and Patrik Svensson (and me) in March! Here’s our proposal:
When Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Public Library opened its doors to the public in 2004, the building represented a radical rethinking of how media-spaces could blend the analog and the digital, media-access and media-making, the provision and the creation of knowledge. Now that this renowned building has reached its tenth anniversary, we would do well to consider how the SPL has evinced a new approach to conceiving and designing spaces where people read, watch, hack, and engage with media in myriad ways. In this workshop we’ll explore a variety of media-spaces – from libraries and laboratories to makerspaces and popups – in an attempt to consider (1) how changes in the media landscape, including new theoretical contributions from media studies, might inform the design of more functional and responsive environments for media engagement; and (2) how considerations of such spaces might make productive theoretical and methodological contributions to media studies.
Mattern will kick off the workshop by situating the discussion within the context of the SPL anniversary. Balsamo will then discuss current efforts to think about how networked technologies provide the infrastructure for fluid and mobile learning experiences that take place in distinct, but connected nodes: the school, the library, community centers, museums, domestic spaces, and other cultural venues. Mickiewicz will expand our theorizations of the notion of access as it relates to contemporary library design and use by considering a broader spectrum of users and patrons, such as those with media impairments or disabilities, as well as the socio-economically disenfranchised. Sayers will outline strategies for building “popup makerspaces” that intercross critical media theory and critical making, with a particular emphasis on minimal computing. And Svensson will explore the curatorial practices, particularly those sensitive to the materiality of technology and learning, that are necessary to make media-spaces functional.
Presenters will share plans and models of exemplary media-spaces, prototypes generated in their own labs, and documentation of how these media spaces are used, in an attempt to prompt discussion. Ultimately, we hope the workshop will inspire participants to get involved in the design of their own local libraries, labs, and learning environments, and to champion the unique perspectives that media studies scholarship can bring to these design deliberations.
Anne Balsamo is Dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School. Her recent book, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke, 2011) examines the relationship between culture and technological innovation, with a particular focus on the role of the humanities in cultural innovation. Previously she was a Full Professor at the University of Southern California, where, from 2004-2007, she served as the Director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy.
Shannon Mattern is Associate Professor of Media Studies at The New School. She writes about archives, libraries, and other places of media consumption and production; media infrastructures; and media exhibition. She’s author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities (Minnesota). Her work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Korea Foundation.
Paulina Mickiewicz is a Ph.D. candidate in Communication Studies at McGill University. Her dissertation “The Bias of Libraries” considers the role that the library plays as a communications medium and cultural technology. Her research interests include new media technologies, cultural institutions, and the impact of digitization on questions of access. Paulina has been the recipient of, among others, an FQRSC Doctoral Fellowship, an H. Anthony Hampson Award, and a Wolfe Graduate Fellowship.
Jentery Sayers is Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Maker Lab at the U. of Victoria. His work has appeared in e-Media Studies; Int’l Journal of Learning and Media; Kairos; Computational Culture, among others. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities have supported his research. His first book, How Text Lost Its Source: Magnetic Recording Cultures, is under contract with Michigan.
Patrik Svensson is a professor in the humanities and information technology and director of HUMlab at Umeå University. As the director of HUMlab, Svensson is engaged in facilitating cross-sectional meetings and innovation in the future of the humanities and the university, and in the intersection of the humanities, culture and technology. Svensson’s research interests span information technology and learning, research infrastructure, screen cultures, and the digital humanities.