Next week I’m giving two talks — one on “the future of the library” in a colleague’s undergraduate “intro to media studies” lecture class, and another on “Conceptual Units: How Our Knowledge Institutions Materialize Intellectual and Cultural Values” for the “Media, Materiality, Infrastructure” workshop convened by Nicole Starosielski and Arjun Appadurai at NYU. I ultimately realized that I couldn’t create two separate presentations on top of all my regular class prep and meetings — so I wrote a talk that’ll serve both purposes. I’m calling it “Intellectual Furnishings”: it proposes that we think about the literal furniture of our knowledge institutions — and how those material objects inform how we organize our media, structure our thoughts, and cultivate our values. I’ll post my slides immediately below, and the text — with all my slide-change cues — below that.
In Tuesday’s session of my Digital Archives class, we’re meeting with two of The New School’s archivists, the fabulous Wendy Scheir and Liza Harrell-Edge, to talk about the past, present, and future of the university’s archives, including especially their ongoing collaboration with Collective Access in creating a new collection management system. Then, for the second half of the class, we’re meeting with Kit Laybourne and Peter Haratonik, two of the founding faculty of our Media Studies program — and of its precursor, the Center for Understanding Media.
In preparation for class, the students will have read a few published articles on New School history (most of which make use of archival material); and several representative archival documents from key moments in TNS history — the university’s founding in 1919; the addition of the University in Exile in 1933; the mid-70s, when the Center for Understanding Media was integrated into The New School, etc.
Several days ago I posted drafts of a few sections of an article I’m writing for Places. I’m exploring speculative interfaces to the “smart city” — the windows that supposedly allow us to peer into, and potentially interact with, our future-cities’ operating systems. The methodological part of that work may or may not appear in the final publication — but it’ll certainly prove useful for the “Digital Archives” studio I’m teaching this semester. I’ve asked students to critique existing interfaces to archival collections as part of their preparation for our work, which involves proposing “platforms for highlighting and recontextualizing noteworthy…material [in The New School's archives] – particularly material regarding the history of media study and media-making at [the university].”
So, here’s a revision, and “archival customization,” of my post from January 10. First, I explain how we might determine what constitutes an interface, and then I propose a methodology for critiquing interfaces — particularly archival interfaces.
I’ll never forget the smell of my maternal grandfather’s basement. I haven’t been there since 2003, but that aroma — a sweet and potent mix of sawdust, Cuban cigars, potting soil (for the dozens of potted plants he somehow managed to grow to rainforest scale), and must — still pervades my memory. Just last year I was in a theatre in New York that smelled strikingly like that basement, and I immediately imagined myself sitting in the wooden banker’s chair that swiveled between his two desks, one of which held a massive old Remington Royal typewriter on which PopPop — known to the rest of the world as Richard Roy Myers — wrote us notes and jokes and typed up direction cards for the gadgets he made us in the workshop.
We’ve wrapped up our fourth semester of Urban Media Archaeology. Once again, Rory and I were blown away by the students’ innovative research projects, their applications of various methodologies, their exhaustive research (including quite a bit of archival work), and the inventive means by which they transformed their arguments into spatial stories. Here’s a little synopsis of their projects (many of which are still works in progress!), accompanied by some words of wisdom the students shared in their end-of-semester reflective blog posts about the research-and-mapping process (not everyone’s posted yet):
Hira studied halal food trucks as embodiments of global migrations and geopolitics; of local, multicultural infrastructures of exchange; and of the cultural politics of food.
We’ve wrapped up another semester of “Archives, Libraries + Databases” graduate seminar. Once again, we visited the NYC Municipal Archives, the Morgan Library, the Reanimation Library, and the New School Archives — and this year we added a tour of the Interference Archives. And again, our reading spanned by high Foucauldian and Derridean theory to practical LIS manuals and popular media.
My students once again created a variety of exciting projects:
Next semester I’m reviving (with my colleague Barry Salmon) the “Sound & Space” class we first taught in 2005, and last taught in 2008. And I’m teaching a new graduate studio course on “Digital Archives & Institutional Memory,” which is conceived as a hands-on “Part 2″ to the “Archives, Libraries & Databases” seminar I’ve been teaching for the past few years.
My students aren’t Library/Information Science students; they’re media studies students (there are also, often, a few Design & Technology and Writing students in the mix, too). In short, we’re not experts in cataloguing or archival processing or Dublin Core or Encoded Archival Description or anything like that. But I think people like us, who think about media — about how form and content inform one another, about how users interact with media, about meaningful links and interfaces and non-gratuitous interactivity — just might have something useful to say about archival techniques and technologies. That said, I’m still planning to call in quite a few experts to fill in for my many — and sizable — knowledge and skill deficiencies. And I’m also looking for a crackerjack TA.
I’ll post the draft syllabus below, and I welcome any and all recommendations — regarding readings, activities, overall course structure, potential guest presenters (maybe even you?!) — from colleagues, students, whomever.
Last Friday Ben Fino-Radin, digital repository manager at the Museum of Modern Art; and Lori Emerson, assistant professor of English and director of the Media Archaeology Lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder, convened at NYU ostensibly to discuss “New | Media Archives.” I was invited to write about their discussion for the lovely and exciting Nautilus, a new-ish science magazine, which I highly recommend. You can read my post, which was assigned the rather prolix headline, “Preserving Yesterday’s Tech to Get a Better Gasp on Today’s,” here.
Today in my Archives, Libraries + Databases grad seminar we’re starting our database unit. I’ve got lots of great material to share, and it’s proving somewhat difficult to keep track of all the videos, images, etc., in my lesson plan — so I figured I’d just dump everything into a blog post. It’ll keep me more organized and it’ll allow others to have access to this material, too.
I wrote about paperwork, play, and the aesthetics of administration — using Mina Johnson and Norman Kallaus’s 1967 Records Management textbook as my launching pad — for the Reanimation Library‘s “Word Processor” series. Here’s my intro:
For more than half a century Jack Wilkinson’s office supply store stood on the corner of Allegheny Street and Cherry Alley in my hometown of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. When I was a little girl, we’d make frequent visits—not to stock up on supplies for my dad’s hardware store or my mom’s classroom and volunteer activities, but at my request. On birthdays and Christmas I’d come in with a list: invoices, restaurant order forms, cash box, label maker, rubber date stamp, accounting book. These were my toys.