Media and Materiality is a graduate seminar in the School of Media Studies at The New School. It’s let by faculty member Shannon Mattern and Technical Associate Sepand Ansari.
Ours is an existence characterized by cultural flux and political economic flows, by the virtualization of place and the acceleration of time, the disembodiment of labor, the fluidity of identity, the “conceptualization” of art, the etherealization of communication. Yet even these financial flows and digital networks rely on physical supports, on material storage devices and infrastructures, and embodied interactions with human actors. This seminar examines media as material objects, as “things,” as symbolically charged artifacts, as physical supports for communication. In the first third of the semester we’ll explore various theoretical frameworks and methodologies – from “thing theory” to media archaeology to object-oriented ontology – that can be useful in studying the material culture of media. The second third will be dedicated to topical or theoretical “plug-ins” that pertain to students’ research interests. And in the final third, we’ll focus on the creation of online exhibitions of material media – an endeavor we’ll approach as a form of “multimodal scholarship,” an alternative means of performing and publicizing academic work. The particular format of our projects will also provide an opportunity for us to think through the central concepts of our class: what does it mean to mediate the materiality of media objects, and to create a virtual exhibition that addresses their physicality?