Combining new media art practice with critical inquiry and ethnographic research, Boston and other sites serve as laboratories for exploring different modes of representing place. Films, maps, sound recordings, videos, and other media artifacts are treated as archaeological objects and are re-interpreted for public exhibition online and in physical spaces.
The course is based around four convergent areas:
Database documentary as a method for collaboratively representing a multiplicity of perspectives on place
Media anthropology as method and theory for recording and representing a phenomenological and culturally-inflected experience of place
Media archaeology as discourse and discipline focused on critique of conventional, teleological and technologically-determinist media history and theory
Histories and theories of media art practice based in the archive, found footage and the readymade
The course is organized around multiple components:
Weekly screenings and artist/project presentations related to the week's reading themes, demonstrating relevant (and hopefully inspiring) critical media practices
Ongoing, collaborative creation of a database of place-based media representations, including written critical commentary and metadata annotations
Creation of original works in audio, video, photography, or other media, to add to the database
Progressive development and critique of individual final hypermedia projects incorporating original audio, video and text
Seminar-style discussion of readings and screening/project presentation (preceding week and preview of upcoming)
Screenings and visiting artist/project presentations
Critique and discussion of practice-based components
Media practice and final project
The practice-based component of the course is focused around uncovering and re-framing place-based representations of Boston and other sites. Building towards the completion of a final hypermedia essay using custom HTML5 software developed specifically for this course, students will produce distinct, yet interrelated projects in multiple media formats over the course of the semester. These sub-projects will include producing original works involving location audio recording, video recording, and/or photography, as well as transforming archival (non-digital) media into digital media through experimental recording practices.
The final result is thereby individual and collective. Each student will singularly author a multimedia narrative, while the entire database of the course's collaborative research will also be accessible for nonlinear navigation on a map-based website.
Central to all work in this course will be the selection of a focused field site. Students will choose a location within the greater Boston region, and regular, repeated visits for engaged observation and documentation throughout the semester willl be required. Notions of "place" constitute one of the main topics of the course, and correspondingly, what constitutes a site for each project can vary widely. It might be an old neighborhood (e.g. Scollay Square or Revere Beach), an intrastructural network (e.g. The Emerald Necklace or the Red Line), an iconic location (e.g. Fenway Park), a spatialized theme (e.g. the Boston accent), or many other forms of spatial/conceptual/cultural places.
In addition to the field site, each student will serve as a sort of "specialist" in two primary physical media archives over the course of the semester. One of these archives will be a Harvard source, and another will be remote. For the purposes of this course, being a specialist simply means that you have an overview of an archive's general contents and how to access it. You will share this information with others in the class so that everyone can have access to multiple archives to support their work.
The course will result in a public exhibition online. The online exhibition will be a showcase of student media essays, as well as a general interface to all media accumulated and mapped throughout the semester. This database will then serve as the basis for a curated screening in the spring.
This course is media and technology intensive. It is expected that all students have some familiarity and experience working with Macintosh computers. Experience working with digital media software of any kind will be valuable, but more important is a basic comfort level with navigating the Mac OS interface in general and with basic file management.
For certain kinds of archival work, it will be necessary for students to have their own laptop computer and a portable (bus-powered) external hard drive (e.g., 250 GB). For the media production side of this course, students will work with video cameras, audio recorders, and still cameras. Post-production will occur in the VES editing suites in Sever Hall Basement, which contain new Mac Pros outfitted with Final Cut Studio (Final Cut Pro for video, and Soundtrack Pro for audio) and Photoshop. Prior experience with recording equipment, or with these or similar software (e.g., iMovie, Premiere, Pro Tools, iPhoto, etc.) is not required, but will be useful (once you learn one such program, you can use any other one; the essential insight is that they all generally work according to similar, transposable basic principles). While working in new media requires hands-on technical skills, the only prerequisites of this course are an openness to and enthusiasm for learning new software approaches.
Students will be encouraged to learn by doing, and to share skills with each other. The emphasis of this course, however, is not on learning technical skills per se, but rather on being able to make whatever use you can of the media technologies at hand for artistic practice.
This course and the work that you will create is an experiment. Nothing like it has been done here before. It is important to keep in mind that all of us will be inventing elements as we go, and this process of discovery and development is part of the excitement. Consequently, it's also important to understand certain things will fail, break and not turn out as planned, and to embrace these hiccups as part of working in a collaborative, laboratory environment.
1. IntroductionThursday, 9/2
Overview of course and questions (20 mins)
Interviews with interested students
2. Urban Database DocumentaryTuesday, 9/7 2-3:15 pm
Presentation of excerpts from A Media Archaeology of Boston: 2009 (co-curated w/ Olga Touloumi and Julie Mallozzi), including:
Peter, Donald, Willie, and Pat (1989)
Johnny Tremain and the Sons of Liberty (1958)
Seeing Boston (1904)
Launching of the Salem at the Fore River Shipyards (1906)
Met State (2001)
Welcome to Somerville (2008)
The Blinking Madonna and Other Miracles (1996)
Railroad Smash-up (1904)
Boston Fire (1978) (16mm)
BOSTON FIRE- roxbury mass house fire (2004)
Freedom of the American Road (1955)
The Perceptual Form of the City (1955)
3:15 - 4 pm
Introduction to course website and hypermedia authoring tools
Address all technical logistics
Exercise 1 Due 9/9
Make a 5 node narrative about a specific place using media you find online at Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, NPR, SoundCloud or other sites. In total, the narrative should be no longer than 5 mins.
Wednesday, 9/8 (Screening) Man With A Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov [62 mins in total/silent] (1929) The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, Matt McCormick [17 mins in total] (2002)
Low, Setha. Anthropology of Space and Place: Locating Culture. 2003 [Introduction] (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Manovich, Lev. "Database as Symbolic Form." 2001. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Shapins, Jesse. "Mapping the Urban Database Documentary." 2010. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Benjamin, Walter. "Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility." 1939. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Holston, James. "Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship." 1999. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
3. Media Archaeology as Method: The City as Archive Tuesday, 9/14 Meet at 1:45 pm at 625 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square 2-2:45 pm
Presentation by Harvard Film Archive preservationists Liz Coffey + Amy Sloper, including discussion of a film archive in the age of digital media, the phenomena of orphan films, and the viewing of Boston home movies and other related works in 8mm, 16mm and 35mm
2:45 - 4 pm
Rao, Vyjayanthi. "Embracing Urbanism: The City as Archive." New Literary History, vol 40:2, Spring 2009. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Kittler, Friedrich. "The City is a Medium." New Literary History, vol 27:4, 1996. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Zielinski, Siegfried. Deep Time of the Media: Towards an Archaeology of Seeing and Hearing by Technical Means. 2006. [Prologue, Chapters 1 and 2] (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Exercise 2 Draft due 9/21, presentation due 9/22 Develop a proposal for a project about a specific place or theme in the Boston region. Include a paragraph synopsis, as well as a list of relevant archival sources.
Wednesday, 9/15 (Screening) Pacific Far East Line and B-Side, By Abigail Child (1979) Glow in the Dark: January-June, By Rebecca Meyers (2002) Eyes on the Prize - Program 13: The Keys to the Kingdom, Co-directed by Jacqueline Shearer (1987) Weegee's New York, Weegee and Amos Vogel (1952)
Thursday, 9/16 Class meets at 2 pm in B-04 in the Carpenter Center
Guest presentation by Scott Macdonald on "The City As Motion Picture"
Castro Street, By Bruce Baillie (1966) Side/Walk/Shuttle, By Ernie Gehr (1991)
An artist (Zebbler), an aerial photographer (Alex MacLean), a transportation planner (Kate Fichter) and a design librarian (Ann Whiteside) will talk about the very different ways in which they make, use, and analyze urban images in the Boston area. Organized by Mariana Mogilevich (Harvard GSD), Rebecca Ross (Harvard GSD) and Ben Campkin (UCL Urban Laboratory)
Schnapp, Jeffrey, Todd Presner with Johanna Drucker and Peter Lunenfeld. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Louise Lawler, Twice untitled and other pictures. Curator, Helen Molesworth. MIT Press, 2006. (RESERVES) Louise Lawler: an arrangement of pictures. Assouline, 2000. (RESERVES)
Exercise 3 Due 9/30 Re-recording of media from physical archives.
5. Sensory Ethnography of Place through Moving ImagesTuesday, 9/28
Lucien and Ernst presentation of audio/video recording
Exercise 4 and 5 Due 10/7 Half the group working in video Half the group working in audio Exploratory audio or video recording of site Create a 5 minute sequence. For video, your sequence should be silent (i.e. no audio tracks).
Wednesday, 9/29 (Screening) Foreign Parts, By Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki (Q&A to follow)
"Spotlight: Foreign Parts". By Robert Koehler. Cinema Scope, Issue 44. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Thursday, 9/30 2-3 pm
Review Exercises 3
Casey, Edward. "How to Get from Space to Place in a Fairly Short Stretch of Time." In Senses of place, 1996. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and place: the perspective of experience. [excerpts]. 1977. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Basso, Keith. "Wisdom Sits in Places." In Senses of Place, 1996. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
6. Hearing Place: Soundscape, Acoustemology, PhonographyTuesday, 10/5
Feld, Steven "Waterfalls of song: An acoustemology of place resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea" In Senses of place, ed. Steven Feld and Keith Basso (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1996). (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Tonkiss, Fran. "Aural postcards: Sound, memory and the city." In The auditory culture reader. Ed. Michael Bull and Les Back (Oxford: Berg, 2003). (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Mitchell, W.J.T. "There are no visual media." In Journal of Visual Culture 4.2 (2005): 258-266. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Schafer, R. Murray. The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. [Introduction, 3-6, 14] (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Kelman, Ari Y. "Rethinking the soundscape: A critical genealogy of a key term in sound studies." In Senses & Society, vol. 5, no. 2 (2010): 212-234 (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Wednesday, 10/6 (Listening)
Listening session of place-based audio works (programmed by Ernst)
Gilles Aubry, Les écoutis le caire (Gruenrekorder, 2010)
Jake Tilson, Foundsounds (Atlas, 1993)
Walter Ruttmann, Weekend (1929)
Peter Cusack, Favourite Beijing Sounds (Kwan Yin Records, 2007)
Christina Kubisch, La ville magnétique/The magnetic city: 24 electromagnetic walks in Poitiers (Ville de Poitiers, 2008)
Jed Speare, Cable Car Soundscapes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1982)
Aaron Dilloway, Radio Nepal (Hanson Records, 2005)
John Arndt, Field Recordings from the Great Salt Lake Desert (Gallery 400, 2006)
Recommended listening (on reserve in the elbow room):
Steven Feld, Rainforest Soundwalks: Ambiences of Bosavi, Papua New Guinea (Earth Ear, 2001)
Steven Feld, The Time of Bells series (Voxlox)
Cheryl E. Leonard, Chattermarks: Field recordings from Palmer Station, Antarctica (Great Hoary Marmot Music, 2009)
Francisco López, Buildings (New York) (V2_Archief, 2001)
Various artists (Sublime Frequencies)
Chris Watson, Stepping into the Dark (Touch, 1996)
Jana Winderen, Heated: Live in Japan (Touch, 2009)
Review Exercises 4 and 5
Exercise 4 and 5 Due 10/14 Individuals recording audio previous week, switch to video Exploratory audio or video recording of site Create a 5 minute sequence. For video, your sequence should be silent (i.e. no audio tracks).
Exercise 6 Due Monday 10/18 at 5 pm digitally to course instructors Develop revised project proposal, including edited synoposis and detailed description of interactive user experience (i.e. how will visitors experience your project on the course website). Conceptualize your project both within the current features of the website, as well as imagine new modes of interaction that might aid your specific narrative. In addition to the written treatment, also create rough draft storyboard narratives that begin to intimtate your project's structure.
8. Documenting Each Other and Our AbsencesTuesday, 10/19
Review Exercise 6
Wednesday, 10/20 (Screening) Readings
MacClancey, Jeremy. "Brief encounter: The Meeting in Mass-Observation of British Surrealism and Popular Anthropology." The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 1, number 3 (1995). (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Crain, Caleb. "Surveillance Society: The Mass-Observation movement and the meaning of everyday life." New Yorker, 2006. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Friday, 10/22 10 am - 12 pm
Steven Feld visit to class (Sever 415)
2:30 - 5 pm
Steven Feld and Hillel Schwartz The Elusive: Listening in Sensing the Unseen series at MIT
9. Discovering the Ordinary: Documentary Arts and the Urban Vernacular in Postwar Architecture and Planning CultureTuesday, 10/26
Discussion of previous week's screenings, readings and guest presentations
Wednesday, 10/27 (Screening) The City, Lewis Mumford (1939) The Social Life of Small Public Spaces, By William H. Whyte (1988) Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, By Reyner Banham for the BBC (1972)
Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1960. [excerpts] (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Horowitz, Helen. "J.B. Jackson and the Discovery of the American Landscape." (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Jackson, J.B. "The Accessible Landscape," "A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time," "From Monument to Place." (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Ruscha, Ed. Every Building on the Sunset Strip. 1966 (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Smithson, Robert. "Tour of the Monuments of Passaic." 1967 (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Venturi, Robert, Brown Scott, Denise and Steven Izenour. Learning from Las Vegas. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972. [excerpts] (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Venturi, Robert, Brown Scott, Denise and Kevin Izenour. "Theory of Ugly and Ordinary." In Learning from Las Vegas. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
Crawford, Margaret. "Introduction." Everyday Urbanism. Monacelli, 1999. (DOWNLOAD PDF)
11. Midterm Critique and ReviewMidterm Review Due Monday 11/8 at 5 pm Complete a "rough cut" version of your project for our guest critic, Shannon Mattern, to review before class. We will send Prof. Mattern a login to our website at 5 pm on Monday 11/8, and then she will closely view each project, as a regular visitor to the final website would do. For this reason, make sure that your projects can stand alone as much as possible without you having to introduce/explain in person. Class time will then be dedicated exclusively to discussion of each project. There will be no in-class presentations.
We will aim to have the nonlinear linking features in place by 11/4 for people who are planning on making multiple "narratives" for their "project." If we do not get the feature done, people can write notes to Shannon that indicate how they would like her to navigate (e.g. at which node they would like her to have the option to navigate to another node/narrative).
Wednesday, 11/10 (Screening)
Group discussion of class project(s) and remaining future sessions. Amsterdam Global Village, By Johann van der Keuken
No class for Veteran's Day
12. Network Culture and Urban Imaginaries in the Global CityTuesday, 11/16
Picon, Antoine. "Toward a City of Events: Digital Media and Urbanity." (Download PDF)
Varnelis, Kazys, ed. "Place: The Networking of Public Space" (Varnelis/Friedberg), and "Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Participation" (Russell/Ito/Richmond/Tuters), and "Conclusion: The Meaning of Network Culture" (Varnelis). In Networked Publics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008. (Download PDF)
Huyssen, Andreas. "Introduction." In Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. (Download PDF)
Wednesday, 11/17 Class meets at 6 pm in B-04 in the basement of the Carpenter Center
Guest presentation "Mediation, Performance, and the Public Sphere" by Mark Tribe
13. CritiquesTuesday, 11/23
Wednesday, 11/24 (Screening)
No screening for Thanksgiving
No class for Thanksgiving
14. Looking ForwardTuesday, 11/30
Group design brainstorming for public presentation and relationships of projects
Wednesday, 12/1 (Screening)
No screening for final critique prep
Opening up the black box and evaluation
15. Project ReviewsThursday, 12/9
9:30 am - 3 pm
Gund 109 (GSD)