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What Is A Media Lab?

situated practices in media studies

An Interview with Edward Kim of HICapacity, a Hackerspace in Hawaii

Interview by Laurel Carlson

LC: Can you say a bit about who you are, your position within HICapacity, and how you came to be involved with the hackerspace?

EK: My name is Edward Kim and I’m a Senior Software Engineer at Slickage Studios, a local consulting firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am a graduate of the local university (University of Hawaii at Manoa) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Computer Science. I have been working in the tech field for about 10 years now. I’m also the main point of contact at HICapacity. HICapacity consists mainly of professionals, and most of our members hold employment outside of the organization. Being that we serve a community and don’t really see ourselves as a business, our members typically hold no real titles. I call myself the main point of contact mainly to share a common ground with people that are not familiar with our structure. As for the things that I do at HICapacity, I handle most of the logistics within the organization. This includes but is not limited to planning and coordinating events with both members and outside talent, handling membership fees, rules, and disputes, and general outreach with regards to our organization as a whole and as an advocate for the tech industry whether it relates to STEM education or tech awareness in regards to other industries here. I became involved with the hackerspace thanks to a old college buddy that was already aware of the organization. Through this connection, I quickly became involved with event-related duties and worked my way up through our old structure (typical business hierarchy – president, VP, treasurer) as leadership continually moved to the mainland for better opportunities.

LC: How do you define the goals of HICapacity?

EK: HICapacity’s goals are really hard to define. We constantly grow and evolve as the community evolves and we try to meet the needs of the community as that happens. We were originally a makerspace with the intention of focusing on both traditional hardware topics like arduinos and other microcontrollers but also shared a focus on a lot of software related topics like JavaScript and Ruby on Rails. Having grown in many directions at once (carpentry, t-shirt making, robotics, and more recently fashion tech and wearables), we tend to rebuild our organization and our goals as is needed. As of right now, we more broadly define ourselves as an advocate for technology within the state of Hawaii. This is a very broad goal and was intentionally picked to be so. We want to focus on both the sharing and increasing the knowledge between professionals within our community and general advocacy of technology as a viable industry in Hawaii, whether it be through STEM education outreach or setting up events that highlight the technology sector here.

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An Interview with Lara Stein Pardo of RAP Lab

Interview by Erin Armstrong

Lara Stein Pardo is a cultural anthropologist and visual artist currently working as a Research Associate in the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture (RAP Lab) at University of Colorado, Boulder.

 

EA: Lara, I want to start by thanking you for taking the time to speak with me and to explain to our Digital Humanities class about your work. As you know, I’m incredibly interested in your Mapping Arts Project, which has led to some interesting developments in my own pedagogical aspirations. Could you tell us a little bit about what the Mapping Arts Project is, and where it is headed?

LSP: The Mapping Arts Project is a primarily web-based project that maps cities through places where artists have lived and worked historically. The project is online at mappingartsproject.org, and includes Miami and Providence so far. Denver and Chicago are in development. The project includes archival, spatial, artistic, and ethnographic research and materials. Future plans include continual technological improvement such as the use of mobile locational technologies and the redevelopment of the website to show a global map (vs city maps). In the Spring I’ll be working with students in the course, “Geographies of the Arts,” to launch Mapping Arts-Denver.

EA: Could you explain what started the project? What were some of the biggest challenges (knowledge of coding etc., economically, gaining interest, etc.) you faced, and ones you may still be facing, when you started this?

LSP: I started the project in 2009, while doing ethnographic fieldwork for my dissertation on contemporary arts. I wanted to find a book that would tell me about the history of the arts in Miami. I could not find such a book. Instead, I began to conduct archival, ethnographic, and historical research. At first, I thought the project would be a short-lived participatory art project. But, the more research I did, the more I realized it needed to be a bigger project. That’s when I designed and developed the website – to be able to create a broadly accessible and continually growing project. Some of the biggest challenges in the beginning were time and funds to do the initial web development. Oh, also, finding the right team to work with. I have kept the project manageable thus far. Eventually, I will need to raise funds again to expand the technological capabilities of the project.

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An Interview with Professor Claudia Mareis and Dr Jamie Allen from the Critical Media Lab, Basel

The lab is a space where things are unready, unfinished, at risk and without known utility. The common root of ‘lab’ and ‘labour’ is also helpful in that it evokes an active, physical space with bodies in it doing things (which can be a rare thing in the hallowed but empty halls of academia).

An interview with Professor Claudia Mareis and Dr Jamie Allen from the Critical Media Lab in Basel.

“We need places, laboratories, fundamental labs to discuss the terminology, the conceptual schemes, the pedagogies, and the value systems. We need to work on this. This is what the humanities should be doing. Fundamental research like they are doing in the labs.” — Rosi Braidotti

How do you characterise the Critical Media Lab’s work and mission statement; what are the defining characteristics of what you do?

The Critical Media Lab is a place, a physical location and discursive locale, where we attempt to strike a balance between research, writing and reflection that critically examines our contemporary and historical practices of media, design, art and technology, while allowing space and physical resources for these practices themselves. Simply put, production, in the sense of actually producing something that is not a research paper, book or essay format reflection on some other practice (as writing, after all, is also a practice) should not necessitate either tacit or explicit support of the means, techniques or technologies of that production. Making media doesn’t mean you are ‘for’ more media in the world, and having knowledge of the institutional, organisational, social and political effects of media, technology and design making should allow for more, not less, reflexive practice in these areas. McLuhan once quipped regarding his own status as a reluctant hero of media studies how talking about something does not mean you are in favour of it.[1] Making, doing and practicing media, art and design, although productive, need not be productivist in the sense of exacerbating the logics of mass-media, corporate or ahistorical techno-capitalism.

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An Interview with Adrian Miles about RMIT’s Consilience Lab

Although students come in thinking they will write essays, the lab’s milieu is that an essay (for example) is a process of “making” with words. Once we recognize it as a making, we can experiment.

Adrian Miles is a senior lecturer in New Media at the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University in Melbourne, AU. He is program manager at the Consilience Lab and co-director of the non/fiction lab at RMIT.

What is your lab called and where is it?

It’s called the consilience lab. It is at RMIT University in the School of Media and Communication, Melbourne.

What sorts of projects and activities form the core of your work? 

Well, I’m sort of cheating perhaps. It is an honours lab. Honours in Australia is often an additional and optional fourth year of study. It builds upon the three year undergraduate degree a student has completed and is a research year where students undertake a substantial project. A 12000 word thesis is a good measure of the sort of thing that would be done. In this lab research is done via thesis or project + exegesis. It is the standard pathway to a PhD (you can apply for a PhD directly after a successful honours year.)

Since we are a school of media and communication, and 70% of the students do it by project, there is often a ‘technological’ focus.

The lab is a degree program so has a curriculum. We have a common research class (methods, etc), and three thematic labs lead by researchers. For the past three years one lab has revolved around media materialism (using Alien Phenomenology as the introductory reading). This is the most tech of the three thematic labs we have offered.

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Exploring Digital Ephemera: An Interview with The Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University

Jim Brown is Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University Camden. His research focuses on the ethical and rhetorical dimensions of new media technologies.

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What is your lab called and where is it?

JB: We are the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University Camden. We attempted to put together a snazzier name than that, but our dean was keen to keep “Center” in the title. Like “lab”and “studio,” the term “center” has its own political weight (maybe suggesting size, research heft, etc.)Rutgers-Camden is one of three campuses in the Rutgers system, the state university system of New Jersey. Camden is in South Jersey, just across the Ben Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I am the Director and Robert Emmons is our Associate Director.

What sorts of projects and activities form the core of your work? Is there a specific temporal or technological focus for your lab?

JB: We are two years old, so we’re still fairly “young,” but our main research project is the Rutgers-Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera (R-CADE). The R-CADE operates with much the same ethos as Lori Emerson’s Media Archaeology Lab. We don’t have an extensive collection of technology, but our primary focus is actually on providing scholars with software or hardware that they’d like to investigate, research, and/or repurpose. Our R-CADE Symposium features this kind of work.

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An Interview with John Vallier of MediArcade at University of Washington

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John Vallier is Head of Distributed Media Studies and an affiliate assistant professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington.

What is your lab called and where is it?

It’s called Media Arcade (aka mediArcade) and is located in Suzzallo-Allen Library at the University of Washington, Seattle. We landed on “arcade” for a few reasons:

– it provides access to a number of gaming consoles;
– we wanted to draw undergrads into the space (they were primarily the ones who paid for it), so we aimed to make it sound “fun”;
– it’s closed to the public, so it is not a commons;
– we already have a Media Center, which houses our main video collection;
– it’s a roundabout reference to Benjamin’s The Arcades Project.

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An Interview with Wolfgang Ernst

 

The Media Archaeological Fundus is populated with core technological molecules which at first glance look outdated but become a-historical once they are deciphered with media-archaeological eyes, ears and minds.

Can you start by telling us a bit about how the idea for the Media Archaeological Fundus came about? 

The seminar for Media Studies was founded at Humboldt University in Berlin in 2003, replacing the former seminar, Theatre Studies. All of a sudden, spaces like the student practicing stage and its related fund of objects for rehearsal were empty. This was the ideal moment for the Berlin school of media studies (insisting on the materialities of communication and epistemic technologies) to claim such rooms under new auspices. The stage became the Media Theatre where technical devices themselves become the protagonist, and the fund became the space for a collection of requisites of a new kind: media archaeological artefacts.

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Post-Studio Practices: An Interview with Neal White of Office of Experiments

I wanted to deliberately move away from the hermetic space that media / digital art was creating for itself – the Lab – and to set up an independent contemporary art practice that was networked and moved across spaces, enclosures, archives and galleries. Therefore I needed to find a way of working with others that was neither exploitative nor driven by serving another discipline or field.

Interview by Jussi Parikka

6/2016

Neal White runs the Office of Experiments, a research platform that “works in the expanded field of contemporary art.”

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Jesper Olsson on The Media Archaelogy Lab

the point of the Media archaeology lab is to historicize and critically investigate digital media and technologies…not to underwrite the myth of constant progress, but rather to complexify the history of media. In tinkering with old, forgotten, and dead media it opens our eyes to mistakes, waste, and failure […] in order to sharpen our understanding of what media are and how they operate, of their specific temporality, of their impact on perception and thinking, on cultural practice and art and everyday life.

An interview with Jesper Olsson on the concept of the media archaeological lab.

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Hackerspace Culture: An Interview with Alicia Gibb of the Blow Thing Up Lab

In this interview for Theory & Practice of “Doing” // From Digital Humanities to Posthumanities, Georgie Archibald speaks with Alicia Gibb, director of the Blow Things Up Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. The interview explores the function and culture of the BTU Lab as a university and community hackerspace. It was conducted and recorded in person at the Lab in November 2015, before being transcribed at a later date.

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