Category: Class Announcement

Semester Recap + Final Projects


In our Media + Materiality seminar this semester we started off by learning about our foil: theories of immateriality. We looked at work from physics, mathematics and economics to architecture, art history and media studies. We then looked at theories addressing the persistence of materiality despite predictions of its demise; we read some Bill Brown, Katherine Hayles, Vilém Flusser, and Rosalind Krauss. After that, we spent a few weeks exploring various theories of, and approaches to studying, materiality, including material culture studies, the social lives of things, “thing theory,” actor-network theory, object-oriented philosophy, Bennett’s “vibrant matter,” infrastructure studies, and media archaeology.

Because the students’ task for the semester was to design exhibitions of media objects or systems, we took some time early in the semester to read about the distinctive challenges of on-site and online exhibition design, and to meet with experts in the field: my colleague and Whitney curator Christiane Paul, and Tim Ventimiglia, Sr. Associate at exhibition design firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates. In late March, we used Thomas Edison’s various material practices and developments — and their exhibition — as a case study, and we took a field trip to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. We also set aside a few weeks for “plug-in” lessons that we designed on the fly, to respond to students’ interests: at their request, we dedicated one lesson to handwriting, another to evolving material forms of the book, and a third week to the Internet of Things. As the semester drew to a close, we set aside two weeks to focus on students’ projects: we held a pecha kucha, where students presented their works-in-progress, one week, and a tech lab the other. And our final two weeks were dedicated to presentations of final projects, which I’ll summarize here in no particular order:

O.a-M.’s “Media + Chemical Basis” examines the chemistry — all the way down to the the Carbon and Silicon and Iron atoms — that comprise our most commonly used media, both analog and digital.

A.B. wonders what we might learn by studying the objects on people’s desktops, both physical and virtual.

A.S., an accomplished digital strategist, explores historical transformations in the materiality of money. Her exhibited objects all live on Pinterest, while the substantive discussion resides on the exhibition blog.

J.L., a professional journalist in Colombia, created the “The Material Journalist,” which examines how changes in journalists’ reporting tools and the material forms of their news outlets have altered the ways news is reported, produced, and disseminated.

A.K.’s “Thing Power of the Pawned Object” explores the material culture of five New York-based pawnshops through the words of their brokers and the biographies of objects in their inventories.

D.L. studies how downtown New York of the 80s gave rise to materially-specific filmmaking practices — specifically No Wave Cinema (password: “nowavelong”).

J.R. invited contributors to submit meaningful objects and “discuss their provenance and significance.” She hopes that by “unpacking the complex social relationships between objects, their possessors, and the circumstances of their possession,” “This Old Thing” will “reveal something about the intersections of materiality, embodiment, memory and self-identity across space and time.”

J.S., in “Reading Words, Screening Text,” looks at the changing forms of books and reading, and the politics of digitization.

M.F.’s “Restart Slideshow” follows the “Birth, Life, Death, Autopsy, and Afterlife of the slide projector.”

In “Nomad of Noise,” A.V. examines the material bases of “glitch,” offers a typology of glitch aesthetics, and identifies a few of “glitch’s” historical precedents.

In “Weave as Metaphor,” V.P. explores parallels between tactile, textural forms of communication — weaving, quilts, quipu, etc. — and computer code.

M.O. created “Digital Shot Celluloid Thought” to examine the relationships between digital and celluloid technology in filmmaking.

T.G.’s “GeoType” maps connections between typography and place.

E.K.’s “Blue Filtered Light” offers nine channels that examine the television as an object; various channels look at the history of tv, static, digital distortion, test patterns, etc.

A.M.’s “Afterlife” looks at e-waste and the afterlife of our technological gadgets.

L.S. created an “anti-archive” to “materially document the contradictions and hypocrisies of Big Government’s take on the OWS Movement.”

And L.G. created “Some Direxion,” a digital zine that explores the cut-and-paste aesthetic of punk zines and magazines.

The Final Pitch

Don Shows You How to do Pathos. Mad Men ´The Carousel´ from Emilio on Vimeo.

We’re presenting our final projects on May 7 and May 14. Each presentation should last no longer than ten minutes, including time for comments and questions. I’d encourage you to aim to talk for five or six minutes, and save the remaining time for feedback. Your presentation can take any form — but at the very least you should walk us through (parts of) your online project and discuss its conceptual/theoretical foundation and the rationale behind some of your major design decisions.

Aim to be as “plug and play” as possible: bring your work on a flash drive or make sure it’s easily downloadable from the web; we want to avoid spending time on tech set-up.

May 7: Louis, Amelia, Victor, Liam, Tony, Alex, Ariana, Edmund
May 14: Jennifer S., Omar, Deb, Angelica, Mary, Mike, Jimena, Andrew, Jen R.

You’re welcome to bring food and drink to share!

Edison Field Trip, 3/31

Thomas Edison National Historical Park Field Trip

Saturday, March 31, 2012

[Do I have your excursion release form?!]

We’ll be meeting with Ranger Ben Lee and Archivist Leonard DeGraaf at 2pm.

You’ll find travel instructions (via car, NJ Transit) on the TENHP website. The easiest way to get there is via DeCamp Bus LinesRoute 66 from Port Authority to to West Orange, NJ. You might choose to leave take the 11:30 bus, if you’d like to look around the park before our appointment and leave immediately after. Or, if you’d prefer to browse after our appointment, you can join me on the 12:30 bus from Port Authority. I encourage you to arrive at Port Authority close to noon (tickets are first come, first served!), and purchase your round-trip ticket in the Ticket Plaza in the south building, between 40th and 41st streets. The fare is $7.50 each way. We can all meet at the bus gate, which will likely be on the third or fourth floor of Port Authority.

The bus is supposed to drop us off in West Orange at 1:10 (although, given my experience, we’ll likely be late leaving NY and therefore late arriving in NJ). We’ll then have a ten- to fifteen-minute walk to the park (wear your walking shoes!).

If you take the bus by yourself, you’ll need to walk south on Main Street to the park. I will have given the rangers a list of all of your names, so if you arrive apart from the group and want to look around in advance of our 2:00 appointment, you can give your name to the rangers in the Visitor’s Center.

Main Gate

We’ll all gather at 1:55pm in the Visitor’s Center, which is right inside the front gate (above) and to the left.

After our tour, we can hoof it back up to the bus stop to catch the 5:25 bus back to Port Authority, which should put us in New York shortly after 6.           

We’re Moving

via Flickr:

We’ve got a new classroom: Room 601 @ 66 W 12th Street! It’s got individual desks rather than a large table, but at least we won’t have to relegate people to the “outer circle” any longer.