…a semi-annual update! 

head shot

Yes, it’s that time — a quick update!

In a world of fake news, where to begin? Trivial but true … the satirical newspaper The Onion inaccurately attributed a report on mass shooters to me (‘they need more attention’!?!?). It’s strange, because I’ve never opined on the topic, and because I’m not famous enough to satirize.

Just back from Amsterdam and the latest edition of Doclab’s offerings at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. My lab at MIT (the Open Documentary Lab) has a partnership with Doclab, and we followed up on last year’s research into AI-based projects (overviews of the work are in Immerse) with a focus on VR experiences. In particular, we’ve been looking at notions of narrative, at ‘storytelling’ and what I’ve called ‘storyfinding’ (when users find and connect their own dots and create their own stories). We collected several hundred user responses, and will soon be analyzing and writing up the results. It was great to see In Event of Moon Disaster (a brilliant DeepFake project directed by Halsey Burgund from MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and Francesca Panetta from MIT’s Center for Advanced Virtuality) pick up a Special Jury Award for Creative Technology!! Meanwhile, the good work continues on the boards of directors of Amsterdam’s EYE Film Museum and Berlin/Halle’s Silbersaltz Festival, together with lots of lecturing (Madrid, Bogota, Beijing, Gent … even Lawrence Kansas!!).

Kat Cizek (multiple Emmy Award winning maker of the Highrise series, and a descendant of the NFB’s Challenge for Change initiative) and I and a group of wonderful co-authors have put our field study of co-creation (Collective Wisdom: Co-Creating Media within Communities, Across Disciplines, and With Algorithms) on MIT’s PubPub platform. With luck, it will be out as a book with the Press in another year. The Co-Creation Studio is going strong, and we are drilling down into our understanding of the method by working with makers in workshop settings (we did one on an AI-driven robot devil with a team of Bolivian women; and we are currently organizing one on Indigenous epistemologies and AI).

Utrecht, where I’ve been a professor since 1993 (!!) was also the site of the first Media in Transition (MIT — clever, huh?) conference away from MIT. It was remarkable to see so many international colleagues in Utrecht! And it turned out to coincide with a really touching retirement celebration organized by my colleagues. I’m still on the job at MIT, but the Dutch — wisely, I think — have mandatory retirement. Now, I’m only dealing with PhD students.

The Netherlands is also the site of an exciting new initiative called PublicSpaces, an endeavor to construct a new digital public space for public service media, archives, museums, universities, etc. This currently fragmented (and increasingly pressured) public sector has tremendous potentials; but there should be ways to reach this material, and share thoughts with one another, in ways that don’t require data scraping and being sold to the highest bidder by big tech giants. We are taking the first steps, and with hard work and a bit of luck, this could go global.

recent videos:

(a number of my recent talks can be found via a Google video search …)

Amsterdam 2018

London 2017

Cambridge 2016

Stockholm 2009