I’m professor of comparative media studies [CMS] at MIT, in a program that continues to define the frontiers of media study. And I’m professor of comparative media history at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in a department with uncanny resemblances to CMS.  At MIT, I founded and serve as Principal Investigator of the Open Documentary Lab, which explores the intersection of documentary, emerging technologies, and the new relationships that enable both to thrive. I’m also PI of the new Co-Creation Studio which focuses specifically on the methodological implications of making media *with* rather than for or about people.

Comparativity … it’s a pretty central word in my world, a number of other visiting professorships that I’ve held in Germany, China, Sweden, and Denmark have given me access to a comparativist’s dream.   I’m interested in comparing the development and uses of pretty much all forms of media and am particularly interested in moments of instability, uncertainty and disruption.  These tend to be revealing moments, moments that show forgotten potentials or recurrent longings, moments with implications for how we represent and structure the world, and how we remember.   I’m a media historian, and spend a lot of time exploring the deep history of the telephone, television, photography and film.  But although centered in 18th and 19th Century sources and 20th century deployments, in fact the relevance of this work tends to be at the frontiers of contemporary media development.  So in fact, the telephonoscope is as central to my work as the latest developments in YouTube and AI. Today’s ‘newest’ media scene is particularly fascinating to read against the developmental patterns of the past.

I’m constantly struck by the very different starting points and assumptions of these technologies across different cultural spaces, and do quite a bit of comparison among North American, European, and increasingly Asian developments.  And I’m particularly intrigued by how these technologies are deployed to help articulate (and sometimes reposition) identity — the topic of my last two books.

I’m also quite interested in the role played by algorithms in applications such as Wikipedia, Photosynth, Facebook and Narrative Science and their implications both for collaboration and the modern subject, and how we need to rethink some of our basic theories of media and mediation in their wake.  This work has pulled me back to developments in the 15th Century (arguably, the site of the modern subject’s formation) and the notion of the algorismic, helping to articulate the distinctiveness of the algorithmic in contemporary culture.  Like I said, I’m a historian….

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