This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
1 0 T H
A N N I V E R S A R Y
Dean Deborah Fitzgerald
n the life of every great university there are defining moments, when the very best ideas are made tangible and, then, come alive. Though few and far between, these moments both reflect and crystallize what is, and provide a vision for what can be. The creation of Comparative Media Studies in 1999 was one such moment. Under the extraordinary leadership of Henry Jenkins and William Uricchio, CMS has grown from a cool idea into a powerful and transformative organization. Drawing from MIT’s long traditions of experimentation and exploration, CMS has moved the humanities into a digital future, artfully combining the analytical and creative rigors of humanistic scholarship with emergent technologies and cultures. The result has been dazzling, challenging, always moving forward. It is with deep admiration for Henry and William, and profound gratitude for their vision, that we celebrate this anniversary. MIT is so fortunate to include CMS in its roster of “great ideas made real”—we trust that the next ten years will be as inspiring as the first.
Deborah Fitzgerald Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Professor of the History of Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society massachusetts institute of technology
l e t t e r
From the Director
f e a t u r e
Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab
Philip Tan and Geoffrey Long
e v e n t s
Media Spectacle: Remembering Chris Pomiecko
p e o p l e , p l a c e s , things
Brad Seawell and Andrew Whitacre
d e s i g n a n d i l l u s t r a t i o n s
Comparative Media Studies Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Ave., E15-331 Cambridge, MA 02139 617.253.3599 / email@example.com / cms.mit.edu Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Evolution of Comparative Media Studies
p r o j e c t s
p r o j e c t s
p a s t p r o j e c t
Chris Csikszentmihályi, C4FCM Kurt Fendt, HyperStudio Daniel Pereira, C3 Scot Osterweil, TEA Philip Tan, GAMBIT
p r o j e c t s
Project New Media Literacies
e v e n t s
p e o p l e , p l a c e s , things
Convergence Culture Consortium
p r o j e c t s
10 Years of Happenings
Brad Seawell and Andrew Whitacre
p e o p l e , p l a c e s , things
Justin Bland Administrative Assistant Mike Rapa Technology Support Specialist Brad Seawell Communications Coordinator Becky Shepardson Academic Coordinator Jessica Tatlock Events Coordinator Andrew Whitacre Communications Manager Sarah Wolozin Program Manager
Visiting Scholars and Postdoctoral Researchers
The Education Arcade
p r o j e c t s
e v e n t s
Center for Future Civic Media
William Uricchio and Andrew Whitacre
Communications Fourm, Media in Transition, and the Origins of CMS
Behind the Desks
a c k n o w l e d g m e n t s
And to Our Sponsors
FROM THE DIRECTOR
elcome to the CMS 10th anniversary newsletter. Looking back over this newsletter’s evolution from a photocopied and hand-stapled assemblage to the far more professional norms of recent years says more about our editorial and production staff than about the Program in Comparative Media Studies. Despite ten years of existence, we effectively remain a start-up: dynamic and responsive to environmental shifts; ad hoc in terms of some of our operations; extraordinarily ambitious; and growing in leaps and bounds. CMS has not lost the exhilarating sensation that I experienced a decade ago when I joined Henry Jenkins in the program’s first days. It’s been an amazing adventure, peopled by a cast of talented colleagues, superb students, and a dream administrative and research team. We began with a formula that Henry liked to describe as stone soup: we provided the water and stones, and we scrounged around, cajoled, or just plain conned others into contributing whatever substantive morsels they could. Thanks to a brilliant recipe, a supportive faculty and dean, the talents of Alex Chisholm and Chris Pomiecko, and some very generous donors, CMS emerged as a hearty repast, richer and more nutritious than we had any right to expect. It was the right program at the right time. CMS’s resilience manifested itself vividly in those early days. We ran head-on into the Y2K panic, 9/11, and the “dot bomb,” all of which proved disastrous for countless reasons, our fundraising efforts among them. But we came through. The tragedy of 9/11, for example, served to pull the CMS community together, and within a few days we produced re:constructions— reflections on humanity and media after tragedy, a website (web. mit.edu/cms/reconstructions) that remains a deeply creative
and moving Zeitdokument. The common cause offered by this project, and the power of the community’s response, can in retrospect be read as a synecdoche for the larger CMS project. The aggregated commitment, passion and participation of the community—more than any structural resources—produced something meaningful, lasting, William Uricchio and some might argue, transformative. CMS still benefits from pro bono teaching, still thrives on the passion of its faculty, staff, and students, and still manages to spin gold from straw.
Great ideas can change the world, but only if they reach and influence the necessary audiences. CMS gives this insight a new twist: we seek to engage audiences and reposition them as participants and partners.
Despite tough times for stock portfolios and donors, a few stalwart friends prioritized the CMS program, and the program meantime developed an ever-larger cluster of funded research projects. You’ll read about the work of these projects in the coming pages, but to make a long story short, they enabled us to extend the work of the classroom, to test it, and in many cases, to have a very real impact in the world. And as if that
F R O M F E AT D I R E C T O R THE URE
impact were not enough, the projects also provided a new dimension to our pedagogical efforts, a way to pay student stipends, to support a talented research staff, and even to house the program in the interval between when we outgrew our old
The CMS story continues to manifest itself daily in the work of students, faculty and staff, and in the impact of our graduates who are active across the media ecosystem and throughout the world.
headquarters but had not yet moved into our new location. So what was the attraction? Comparative Media Studies positioned itself at the crossroads of new directions in cultural research and education and the inherited traditions of the arts and humanities. It combined diverse disciplinary approaches together with sensitivity to the participants in media practice, and an embrace of the manifold channels and processes of communication in today’s fast changing world. It tested its ideas, modified, deployed and extended them through applied research and a commitment to public outreach. And it continues to do so. The CMS approach to making media studies comparative— across media platforms, across historical divides, and across national boundaries—has offered a solution to one of the key challenges facing today’s top tier media studies programs. At a time when scholars are grappling with media and cultural change of seismic proportions, CMS provides a central staging ground for new intellectual collaborations and cutting-edge research interventions. The results of these interactions offer
innovative answers to both enduring and newly pressing questions. Great ideas can change the world, but only if they reach and influence the necessary audiences. CMS gives this insight a new twist: we seek to engage audiences and reposition them as participants and partners, a move that comes from an understanding that media are not so much something we consume, as something we do. This stance results in a commitment to theory and practice, to engineering change in the real world, to integrating arts and criticism, to combining humanities and the sciences, and to maintaining a deep and nuanced international perspective—all parts of a shared purpose between CMS and the broader MIT community. The pages ahead chronicle that story, and give it form. But the CMS story continues to manifest itself daily in the work of students, faculty and staff, and in the impact of our graduates who are active across the media ecosystem and throughout the world. Ten years…it seems both an eternity and a sliver of time. But somehow, it still tastes like stone soup.
William Uricchio, Director Cambridge, MA April 2010
The Evolution of Comparative Media Studies
By William Uricchio, Director
ransition. CMS embraces it as an object of study, particularly as it relates to the history and future of media; we are academically immersed in it, as a condition of contemporary scholarship; and it is our institutional fate, as the program responds to the opportunities and challenges at MIT. Understanding transition implies a reference point, a speaking position, and what better moment to take stock of where we are, and where we are headed, than a tenth anniversary celebration? CMS began as an answer to a problem: how can we prepare a new generation of specialists to understand media change, to engage with it both critically and creatively, and to lead public discussion on media futures? The digital turn accelerated a dynamic as old as media itself: change. Historically, the most stable media, even when backed by social regimes determined to maintain the status quo, have repeatedly given way to unexpected appropriations. Whether triggered by innovative uses or the deployment of new technologies, these disruptions to the expected order of things have often been smoothed over in the retelling, giving way to seemless narratives of progress
and stability. But the quickened pace of change, amplified by the howls of anxiety from established media industries and proponents of the cultural status quo, have combined to make the stakes of the current transition unmistakable. But how to make sense of this? Our tradition of media study, born within the disciplined walls of the academy and the coeval of the media industries themselves, has fixated on largely stable ensembles of technology and audiences. Humanities programs tended to accrete around the media of film and television, and while concerns centered on ever-changing textual systems and audience engagements, the media themselves were largely taken for granted and understood as little more than textual delivery systems. This is not to belittle the important work that sought to understand various forms of signification and the processes of and conditions for sense-making. It is instead to suggest that all too often, the field sought comfort in the imagined purity of its object of study. Like our sister institutions, we at MIT studied film; and sooner than most of our peers, we added the study of television: in 1982, the MIT School of Humanities, Arts,
Image by Flickr user Dom Dada http://www.flickr.com/photos/ogil/
and Social Sciences (SHASS) formed an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in the Literature Section under the lead of David Thorburn entitled Film and Media Studies. The accelerating pace of the digital turn posed the same problem here as elsewhere: should we continue to accrete layers of new media upon old, stacking them into the media equivalent of a Tower of Babel? Or should we default to disciplinNow an Associate Provost at MIT, Philip Khoury is credited with being one of ary constraints, holding fast to CMS’s staunchest institutional supporters film and television, and setting as Dean of SHASS. aside the digital developments for someone else to worry about? While many media study programs opted for one or the other of these models, we took a different path, evident in the formation of the two-year SM program in Comparative Media Studies (2000) and the SB program in Comparative Media Studies (2003). The “C” in CMS says it all: rather than looking at media as discrete silos and figuring out which two or three to include, we sought to reformulate our focus, looking instead across media forms at the processes of interaction and change. This required
understanding the particularities of each medium as a textual system and as a set of historical practices, but it also allowed us to look beyond these particularities to the interrelationships among media technologies, texts and practitioners. The comparative approach encouraged us to work not only across media forms, but to explore them in different historical and cultural settings, and to call upon a wide array of methodologies to understand and assess our findings. Just over a decade ago, Henry Jenkins backed by then-Dean Philip Khoury, led a group of SHASS faculty with overlapping interests in media. They pulled together and gave substance to this idea. Drawing on the disparate array of faculty expertise, CMS was born in a spirit of collaboration and committed participation. Perhaps it was in the air: In varietate concordia…“unity in diversity”… could have been our motto; it was adopted a few months later by the European Union. The MIT Factor The emergence of CMS from the humanistic study of film and television is actually the latest expression of a much deeper and more robust set of media developments at MIT. Consider the long, distinguished, and eclectic history evident in the work of Vannevar Bush (engineering), Ithiel de Sola Pool (political science), Norbert Wiener (mathematics), Harold “Doc” Edgerton (physics), Ricky Leacock (the film section), Noam Chomsky (linguistics), and Nicholas Negroponte (media arts
and sciences). The work of these and many other MIT colleagues binds together the development of Technicolor, the $100 laptop, stroboscopic photography, ARPANET, direct cinema, free software, creative commons, the second self, manufacturing consent, and yes, convergence culture. These and many equally groundbreaking technologies, applications and critical insights have been subsumed back into their originating disciplines. While media@MIT is a story that merits much greater attention, its relevance for CMS can be found in the notion of interdisciplinarity underlying these efforts. In fact, a number of these developments owe their existence to the Institute’s historically most generative strategy: disciplinary border crossing. This strategy can be seen in the “Rad Lab” during its heyday in the 1940s; or more recently in the floor plan of the Stata Center, which encourages chance encounters; or for that matter, in the disciplinary mix built into the Media Lab and the new Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. The contact zones between and among established disciplines offer innovative new ways to frame questions—and to answer them—while still being able to draw upon traditional domains of expertise. Comparativity in this context offers the latitude to assess and choose from among different approaches, rather than being locked into a particular orthodoxy—an asset in a time of change. Consistent with this approach, CMS has actively sought working partnerships with colleagues throughout SHASS, and
in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), the Media Lab, the Visual Arts Program, and elsewhere throughout the Institute. Robustly interdisciplinary—or “undisciplined”, as Henry Jenkins likes to call it—CMS thrived in MIT’s fertile environment. And yet surprisingly, the SB program in CMS made history as one of the Institute’s first interdisciplinary degrees, attesting to the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons’ observation that many MIT students “increasingly seek to explore professional paths that do not neatly map on the traditional disciplines and major programs that we have long offered.”1 As of this writing, CMS is the second largest undergraduate major in SHASS! Clearly, MIT students have figured out how to prepare themselves for a fast-changing field. Comparative Media Studies: The Bigger Picture Both the undergraduate and graduate programs encourage the bridging of theory and practice, as much through courses as through participation in faculty-led and independent research projects and creative work. As an academic program, CMS has been transformative, offering a historically grounded and culturally informed way to understand the impact of digitalization, globalization, and the redefinition of producer/consumer relations on media industries, texts, and practices.
1 Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons, p. 30
s In Medias Re
tive of MIT Compara The Newsletter Media Studies
presents new schools Marks literacy in localresearch journey scores for old films r’s Measuring media Thus began Walke r in logy Marks, senior lecture the state of techno s
artin to find out about uby Reginald Owen r Arts, is the Walker in low-income comm Music and Theate isiting scholar Vera in schools located es a new threethe cracked the children’s attitud music curator for nearly stumbled on nities. What were when she Treasures from In a world where intile and uneven floor DVD box set, More toward technology? 1894can Archives: 50 Films, and prestige, how of an elementary om American Film formation is power entered the classro t experilton section of innern compete withou 1931. these childre school in the Carrol Would these chilence with computers? city New Orleans. themselves from “I was shocked at dren be able to elevate nments and enviro the condition of the their impoverished on ns as communicati classroom and the emerge into positio world? Do they even school,” she said. brokers in a digital She expected to see have computers? and other questions some things lacking Answering these rative r to MIT’s Compa in this low-income has brought Walke g with neighborhood. But s where she is workin that Media Studie what she calls “the she was surprised Vera Walker Henry Jenkins on photo the school did not --Isaac Singleton Storyteller Project.” t examines the “The Storyteller Projec have basic things. y technology in literac where children role of media and This was a school schools,” Walker toilet paper and paper development in urban brought their own ller Project seeks to from single-parent “The Storyte towels. Most came feder- explains. for chilional programming t all qualified for free create educat t homes. Almos s. y and cultural relevan dren that is sociall al breakfasts and lunche l thinking skills. I would find out and promotes critica “I wondered what 7 continued on page of these children on about the attitudes . Witmark Picture This cover from The technology,” she recalls apand Organ (1913) Album for Piano m Treasures progra ence, pears in the More n Marks. in Transition confer for the fourth Media notes courtesy Marti e stoing proposals for papers 6-8, 2005. The conference will explor MS is accept Treasures from to be held May as an art form. Work of Stories,” The follow up to 2000’s released in al activity as well “The and politic across es was l practice, a social how they migrate American Film Archiv stories endure, and rytelling as a cultura the ases American moaddress why some s and historical eras; September and showc The conference will as well as other culture ion; and the way some their first four their own societies tion pictures during s of media in transit ve media forms within seem less es not only narrati are deployed in period ly while other stories decades and includ ways in which stories nt media simultaneous industrial films, and t differe films but newsreels, stories easily inhabi conversation aims to stimulate a home movie clips. adaptable. to their the set have been tion conferences, CMS may often only speak the silent films in all Media in Transi All As with sionals who 2 ed music, with more continued on page lists and media profes given newly record among scholars, journa created and perthan 35 piano scores new own tribal groups. as well as a dozen of stories formed by Marks, MIT4: the work by MIT composers. scores contributed Medias Res Treasures will be Inside In May 6-8, 2005 The release of More and USA a program of films Cambridge, MA, MIT, celebrated with 2 on Oct. 27 beginted on a rolling director’s column, Abstracts accep music in Killian Hall ,3 ry 1, 2005 event is free and basis until Janua people, places, things ning at 8 p.m. The le, 4-5 . orum/mit4 / colloquium schedu open to the public mit.edu/comm-f forum web. ate director, 8 defrantz acting associ
may in the works for Story conference
Like CMS itself, the program’s public face has evolved from seemingly ragtag—for example, the newsletter, In Medias Res, was originally photocopied by hand—to something altogether more professional. But it has always maintained CMS’s collaborative, do-it-ourselves ethic, making great use of the talented people at hand. Counterclockwise from left: the grainy cover of the first issue; the fall 2004 issue; the spring 2009 cover, the first to feature an illustration by GAMBIT designers; and the fall 2009 cover, combining graduate student photography and staff graphic design.
How is this achieved? A core of CMS-specific courses (Theory and Methods; Major Media Texts; Media in Transition; Workshop) establishes the overarching structure that enables students to make the most of a wide array of interdisciplinary electives available both at MIT and Harvard. Students are encouraged to develop a broad understanding of key issues surrounding media change that cut across different national borders and delivery techniques; they are also encouraged to develop an in-depth understanding of multiple media traditions, old and new. In this way, the program manages to provide coherence and a common vocabulary while being uniquely shaped to fit the needs of each student. CMS helps students to become leaders who will shape and enhance our understanding of media, drawing on their background in the humanities and the social sciences to tackle compelling real-world problems. The CMS curriculum helps students build upon their prior technical and professional knowledge to develop new conceptual models and forms of expertise and to expand their brainstorming, problem-solving, negotiation, team work, leadership, project completion, and communication skills. They are taught to translate conceptual frameworks into a language that will allow their broad dissemination and application. They are asked to test what they read in their assigned texts against contemporary developments that may change the media landscape. They interact with the best contemporary thinkers on media, whether they are scholars,
journalists, business and government leaders, artists, activists, journalists, or policy makers. They become important participants in ongoing research initiatives in areas such as educational games, media literacy, or branded entertainment, which directly apply what they are learning in their classes to specific challenges confronting education and industry. Research Through its research projects, symposia, and outreach programs, CMS explores the social, economic, and cultural impact of digital technologies and their analogue forbears and asks important questions about democracy, diversity, and cultural participation. The basic research themes were established by the faculty at the outset of the program, and have since been realized through a number of funded initiatives that examine a wide variety of traditional and new media and their uses. Sponsored research projects have included the Knight Foundation supported Center for Future Civic Media (in collaboration with the Media Lab); the MacArthur Foundationfunded Project New Media Literacies; The Education Arcade, with sponsors such as NBC and the Smithsonian Institution and carried out in collaboration with the Scheller Teacher Education Program in DUSP; the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, supported by Singapore’s National Research Foundation and Media Development Authority and carried out with help from CSAIL; the HyperStudio, dedicated to developing in-
novative approaches to digital humanities and social sciences; and the Convergence Culture Consortium, where researchers from CMS and companies such as Turner Television, Yahoo, MTV, Petrobras, and others discuss media futures and strategies for enhancing cultural participation. The success of these projects owes much to our talented research directors and staff, to the many post-docs and visiting scholars that have been in residence, and of course to our students. While not typical of the traditional humanities research support model, these projects have shown that our work is relevant and that various organizations are willing to invest millions of dollars to see it properly carried out. The projects provide a way for CMS to extend its scholarly agenda into a range of media encounters, and they provide a wealth of research data, resource networks, UROPs (undergraduate researchers), internships, and even jobs for our students. The close fit between research and the larger CMS mission is nowhere more apparent than in the academic courses that the various projects have sponsored. Topics such as media convergence, media literacies, and civic engagement all attest to the link, but the most dramatic developments have appeared in the form of the games curriculum, a full spectrum of courses, many of which were initiated and taught by GAMBIT and Education Arcade post-docs and senior researchers. The projects have had one additional benefit: the fifteen hours a week that most students spend working as part of their research assistantship have trans-
formed the educational process, leveraging a complementary set of skills and experiences to those typically generated in the classroom. And above all, the projects have given us a forum in which to test our ideas and extend them into the world, while giving students and faculty an opportunity to work together collaboratively. Outreach More than just a degree-granting program, CMS has worked hard to share its distinctive approach to media studies, in the process embracing its position as a leader in the field. In the spirit of the academy best captured by the fact that we “give” papers and make our scholarship public (a spirit exemplified by MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative), CMS strives to do its part. Beyond lectures and publication, we make our various colloquia, conferences, and research findings available through our website, blogs, podcasts and newsletters. We have made the program a center where scholars, critics, activists, and industry and creative leaders converge for thoughtful discussion. Whether through our weekly colloquium and Communications Forum series, or the biennial Media in Transition conference, which has won a position as a leading international forum for new thinking on media, or the annual Futures of Entertainment conference, an important niche for conversations between the academy and industry—we have sought to extend a dialogue to the larger community. Other conferences, such as those
co-sponsored with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Yale’s Center for Internet Law, or on “Race in Digital Space” co-sponsored with USC, or the countless other specialized seminars and conferences we support, all offer ways for our students and external constituencies to exchange ideas and develop new networks. We use the term “outreach” to mean three things. First we reach out to members of other communities, be they academics,or practitioners or policymakers, and invite them into CMS as visiting fellows or speakers at our various events. Second, we have sustained research partnerships with groups at other parts of MIT, in other universities, and in other parts of the world, allowing us to cultivate the systematic exchange of ideas. And third, we make sure that whatever we do, from events to student theses, is available on our website for the larger interested public. Together, these approaches have both fuelled our thinking about media in transition, and been transformative in impact, at least judging by the press coverage of the program and the widespread pick-up of our concepts. Transition Ten years…ten graduating classes, and with them, wave upon wave of talent. Professors, activists, industry strategists, media makers, leaders in thinking about transmedia storytelling, about the frontiers of media literacies, about new media and civic engagement….Our graduates, like all of us, continue to
face the challenges of a fast-changing media scene. Social media continues to spread, and its users continue to innovate; infrastructural conditions such as memory, transmission speed and processing power continue to improve; corporate concentration and political influence continue to grow, even as alternate media and participatory culture thrive; and new areas such as computational media—code, software, and platform studies— continue to emerge. The case for CMS, and its commitment to learning from the past and putting new questions to the future, is stronger than ever. And its position is clearer than ever, located at the juncture of the traditions of the humanities, the lived practices of this cultural moment, and the emerging technological regimes that will do much to establish our horizon of expectations. What, then, is ahead? After a decade of depending on the generosity and talents of many MIT faculty members, we look forward to stabilizing— and formally recognizing—faculty participation in CMS. Yet, we need to redouble our efforts to gain a few key media studies positions. Henry’s departure to USC was symptomatic of a problem on this front, and with any luck, it will also help serve as a catalyst for its resolution. With core faculty and the larger pool of talented colleagues from other departments, CMS can redouble its efforts as a leading program in the field, one of the School’s largest majors, and a significant research presence. Most proximately, we look forward to enhancing our network of collaborations, building on the connections that we
have made with Sloan, CSAIL, DUSP, and other parts of the Institute. The program’s move to the “old” Media Lab building is not only a vast improvement over the physical conditions of our first decade in Building 14, but it brings with it new opportunities to interact more fully with our neighbors in the Media Lab and the Art, Culture, and Technology program. We will also continue to intensify relations with our “other” neighbors at Harvard such as Berkman and the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. As CMS moves ahead, it will continue to develop its efforts to connect and network within the Institute and with a growing number of global partners, both in terms of joint research projects and the visiting scholars program. Only in this manner can we can we continue to stay ahead of the curve of global media developments. With faculty, we will move towards the long-envisioned realization of a Ph.D. program. The needs of an intensely mediated world and the challenges brought about by fundamental changes in the technologies and practices of media production, distribution, and consumption have created a compelling need for the kinds of expertise that CMS generates. We are confident that our graduates can provide thought leadership in the field of media studies as well as in the culture generally, but our students require terminal degrees if they are to obtain appointments in the academy and leadership positions in research. Consistent with the spirit of Mens et Manus, CMS will also continue to embrace research as a defining program element.
The testing of ideas in the form of applied research has been fundamental to our success as an intellectual endeavor and as an educational program. CMS research activities have provided its faculty and students with a way to extend the work of the Institute to the world, and they have benefited the program by attracting expertise and revenues, the latter providing stipends for graduate students and attracting post-doctoral fellows. Our research activities have shared three characteristics: they have been collaborative, involving multiple faculty and students; they have been interventionist, helping to generate insight and change; and they have addressed multiple constituencies in the media world including the industry, various cohorts of users, media makers, analysts, and policy makers. The nature of our future projects will inevitably change, reflecting the interests of the faculty that lead them, the availability of financial support, the creative partnerships that develop within the Institute, and of course, the demands of the larger media environment. But these three principles will continue to guide us. Moving forward, CMS will take advantage of its international reputation and proven track record to continue building and enhancing the program. MIT is positioned to have the most innovative media studies department in the country, and indeed, in the world, continuing the Institute’s grand legacy. Our goal in the coming years is precisely that: to be the top media studies department, not in terms of size, but in terms of innovation, insight, and leadership.
E AT U PFR O J E CRTES
apster and CMS appeared on the scene more or less simultaneously, and our thinking about media has never been quite the same ever since. In the case of CMS, our distinction was having both a comparative approach to the study of media and a commitment to mind and hand, thinking and making: Mens et Manus. Research is core business at CMS. Unlike the research in most humanities-based programs, which tends to be highly individualistic, CMS understands research as a collaborative act, one that draws members of the community together in common cause. It sees research as a way to apply the ideas that we as a field generate, extending the benefits of knowledge beyond the walls of an academic institution. And, thanks to that engagement, research offers us a way to test our ideas, to see what works and what needs to be refined or rethought. This commitment to collaboration, extension, and iteration has enabled us to attract significant funding from foundations, government agencies, corporations, and private donors. This funding, in turn, has enabled us to get on with our work by hiring an excellent staff of researchers, supporting the majority of our students, and enhancing the impact of our work—and our students—in the world. The various CMS research projects have enabled structural partnerships at MIT with the Media Lab, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, and they have had significant impact from the games sector to digital humanities, from the K-12 classroom to the corporate boardroom, and in the civic media sector as well. Let’s take a look... –W.U.
PROJECTS F E AT U R E
By Daniel Pereira
Illustration by Luis Blackaller
he Convergence Culture Consortium (C3) research project is one of the program’s most direct applications of CMS theory and practice in the areas of corporate media, digital media, and the creative industries. Launched in 2005 by Henry Jenkins, William Uricchio, and CMS alum Parmesh Shahani, ’05, the Consortium built on previous research projects at CMS that sought to directly engage the media industries. Building on the work of alums such as Aswin Punathambekar, ’03, Shahani and a group of CMS graduate students (Alec Austin, ’07; Ivan Askwith, ’07; Sam Ford, ’07; Geoffrey Long, ’07; and Ilya Vedrashko, ’06) worked with Sloan School alumnus David Edery, ’05, and a variety of consulting researchers at CMS and partner institutions around the world to develop a partnership consortium between media studies researchers and media companies and brands. C3’s goal for the past five years has been to investigate the changing relationship between media producers and their audiences, new modes of advertising and branding, the conglomeration of media properties, and the implications
of participatory culture. The project launched with three founding partners: GSD&M Idea City, MTV Networks, and Turner Broadcasting. The Consortium has produced a series of white papers, including: • Fandemonium: A Tag Team Approach to Enabling and Mobilizing Fans • Playing in Other Worlds: Modeling Player Motivations • This Is Not (Just) An Advertisement: Understanding Alternate Reality Games • Moving Stories: Aesthetics and Production in Mobile Media • No Room for Pack Rats: Media Consumption and the College Dorm • How to Turn Pirates into Loyalists: The Moral Economy and an Alternative Response to File Sharing • Selling Creatively: Product Placement in the New Media Landscape
• Vision Report 2010: In-Game Advertising • Fanning the Audience’s Flames: Ten Ways to Embrace and Cultivate Fan Communities The CMS/C3 research collaboration was launched amidst the hardcover release in 2006 of Jenkins’ Convergence Culture—Where Old and New Media Collide, now a highly influential text in both media industries and media studies circles. By 2006, the Consortium expanded from three to five corporate partners, adding Fidelity Investments and Yahoo! to the community. In 2008, Brazilian companies Petrobras and Internet Grupo (iG) joined. Today, iG, Petrobras, and founding partner Turner Broadcasting join new 2010 partners The Alchemists (a transmedia storytelling company from Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro) and Nagravision SA (Kudelski Group). Building on the influence of Convergence Culture, Jenkins and the 2007-2008 C3 research team led by research manager Joshua Green and project manager Sam Ford released
a well-received white paper entitled Spreadability: If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead. Spreadable media focuses on understanding how and why people spread content and emphasizes that the spread of content requires moving beyond the mentality of stickiness and the mindset of creating content that will “go viral” and infect those who come into contact with it, building instead on a model that emphasizes the active role of the audience in shaping the circulation and contextualization of media content. Jenkins, Green, and Ford are currently working on a book project that brings together research from throughout the consortium community to flesh out this idea and its implications for the media industries, brands, academics, and active audiences. April 2009 saw the release of YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture by Green (with Jean Burgess). Green collaborated with C3 researchers Ana Domb and Xiaochang Li, Sam Ford, and MIT Sloan School graduate student and C3 researcher Eleanor Baird on the content analysis and a resulting white paper, entitled YouTube: Online Video and Co-Created Value, leading up to the
EA U T PFR O JH ERTES Y E X T TE C A V
release of the book. In spring 2009, three more C3 white papers were released to Consortium sponsor companies: • Tacky and Proud: Exploring Tecnobrega’s Value Network • More Than Money Can Buy: Locating Value in Spreadable Media • It’s (Not) the End of TV as We Know It: Understanding Online Television and Its Audience While the C3 books and white papers have been widely influential—both in corporate media as well as independent media circles—the series of C3-sponsored events since 2006 have garnered the most passionate response. In April 2006, CMS and C3 presented Convergence 2006: THERE IS NO BOX, with Jenkins playing the role of the spoon-bending child from The Matrix. In a mix of public and private sessions, conference attendees discussed topics including media history, brand loyalty, fan productivity, patterns of multimedia use, online community formation, the global television trade, marketing in videogames, and the experience economy. Drawing together consortium members, faculty, and affiliated researchers, this inaugural C3 retreat served as a fitting end to the first year of C3, providing an opportunity for the diversity of perspectives the consortium draws upon to be appreciated. In April 2007, C3 presented Convergence 2007: Collaboration 2.0. The working premise of this event was “Collaboration Marks Convergence Culture.” Collaboration 2.0 explored models of collaboration, co-creation and the opportunities for brand revival within convergence culture. It brought together researchers from both national and international universities to explore best practices for mobilizing user-generated content and activating audiences as co-creators, to look at the impact active audiences can have on brands, and to consider new modes for engaging the audience. The event provided an opportunity for members of the Consortium to talk to C3 researchers, academics, and other consortium members about the reshaping of the industry. November 2006 was the first Futures of Entertainment (FOE) conference. With Jenkins and Green sharing duties as moderators on each panel, FOE1 introduced long form, “deep dive” panels (two hours or more in length) that have become the trademark of the annual FOE event. Futures of Entertainment brings together key industry leaders who are shaping the new directions in our culture. As advertisers look for new ways to engage audiences, content creators search for new audiences, and audiences’ quest for new ways to connect with culture, the nature of what counts as “entertainment” is rapidly changing. We are seeing the blurring of aesthetic and technological distinctions among media platforms, in the difference between “advertising” and “content” and of the roles of “creator” and “consumer.” The inaugural Futures of Entertainment conference considered developments such as user-generated content, transmedia storytelling, the rise of mobile media, and the emergence of social networking.
From the first Futures of Entertainment conference, a panel made of up of (from left) Big Spaceship founder Michael Lebowitz, media research consultant Alex Chisholm, and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz. Photo by Geoffrey Long.
By Futures of Entertainment 2 (FOE2) in 2007, the logics of convergence culture were quickly becoming ubiquitous within the media world. FOE2 brought together key industry players who are shaping these new directions in our culture with academics exploring their implications. The conference considered developments in advertising, cult media, metrics, measurement, and accounting for audiences, cultural labor and audience relations, and mobile platform development. Futures of Entertainment 3 and 4 in 2008 and 2009 saw a steady growth of the event—with a great mix of new FOE attendees—as well the “FOE fanatics” who attend the event every year. FOE4 integrated a transmedia theme into day one of the conference. Since the event, C3 and the transmedia storytelling movement have received a huge amount of press worldwide, and transmedia continues to gain currency within the creative industries. FOE is now what some consider the best annual conference of its size and subject matter anywhere in the country.
Looking forward, the current C3 research team consists of CMS graduate student Sheila Seles—who is working on a C3 white paper for 2010 tentatively titled Something Old, Something New: Understanding the Value of Television’s Disaggregated Audiences. Sloan School graduate student Ravi Inukonda is contributing research in the area of online advertising, specifically online advertising networks and exchanges; and C3 Research Specialist Alex Leavitt is working on a research memo entitled “More Cerebral Gelatinizing Shows Anytime, Anywhere: Constructing Audiences for Online Television in the Media Ecology”. A variety of the C3 consulting researchers outside MIT are working on research memos based on their current academic work. In 2010 and beyond, CMS thought leadership continues in the form of C3 and its ever-expanding network of scholars and practitioners. Stay tuned!
Convergence Culture Consortium is online at convergenceculture.org.
By Scot Osterweil
life as the Games-to-Teach Project, a Microsoft-funded initiative with CMS dating back to 2001. The project resulted in a suite of conceptual frameworks designed to support learning across math, science, engineering, and humanities curricula. Working with top game designers from industry and with faculty across MIT’s five schools, researchers produced 15 game concepts with supporting pedagogy that showed how advanced math, science, and humanities content could be uniquely blended with state-of-the-art game play. In 2003, Games-to-Teach became The Education Arcade, and it reflected CMS’s collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach to applied humanities. It was a partnership between CMS and MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program in the School of Architecture and Planning and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was headed by co-directors Alex Chisholm (CMS), Eric Klopfer (STEP), and Kurt Squire (UW). In 2004 and 2005, TEA sponsored conferences with the Entertainment Software Association at its E3Expo in Los Angeles and in the process cemented MIT’s central role in the expanding public conversation about the educational potential in games. During the same period, CMS grad student Philip Tan led a team of graduate and undergraduate students in the development of Revolution, a ground-breaking mod of the role-playing game Neverwinter Nights, transforming it into an exploration of societal conflicts in pre-revolutionary Williamsburg, Virginia. The eduCaTIOn aRCade TOday In the intervening years our colleagues in Wisconsin have launched a separate parallel research group of their own, and while we continue to work closely with them, TEA is now wholly at MIT. It nevertheless continues to thrive as a collaboration between CMS and STEP under Eric Klopfer’s direction, and it currently supports several strands of research. Eric’s work has focused on the use of handheld devices in the emerging genre of Augmented Reality (AR) games, and on StarLogo TNG, a programming language that supports student creation of 3D games and simulations. Concurrently, CMS grad students and TEA staff working with me have created a wide range of on-line games and simulations. In this effort, we have largely focused on initial conception, game design, and the development of pedagogical strategies, sometimes performing the actual game development in-house, and sometimes working with outside partners, but always with the goal of creating games that will actually make their way into the market and students’ hands, while at the same time advancing our research agenda. A large number of CMS graduate students affiliated with The Education Arcade have gone on to careers in the game industry. These include Philip Tan, ’03, Karen Shreier, ’05, Ravi Purushotma, ’06, Dan Roy, ’07, Kristina Drzaic, ’07, Alec Austin, ’07, and Evan Wendell, ’08, while Lan Xuan Le, ’09, has continued to work on games in the course of her doctoral studies. TEA’s founding directors, Alex Chisholm, Eric Klopfer, Kurt Squire, and I have launched Learning Games Network, a companion not-for-profit that advances learning games in realms outside the university. Projects include games about language learning, middle-school science, and literature. LGN also plays a leadership role in promoting greater collaboration among developers of learning games nationwide.
Image from Caduceus
he Education Arcade (TEA) explores games that promote learning through authentic and engaging play. TEA’s research and development projects focus both on the learning that naturally occurs in popular commercial games and on the design of games that more vigorously address the educational needs of players. Our mission is to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts, and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education. TEA projects have touched on mathematics, science, history, literacy, and language learning, and have been tailored to a wide range of ages. They have been designed for personal computers, handheld devices, and on-line delivery. LOOkIng BaCk As one of the earliest research groups in Comparative Media Studies, The Education Arcade is itself nearing the completion of its first decade. It began
EA T E X T TE E A V Y E X T H E AV T PFR O JHUCRTES Y
At this writing, The Education Arcade is busier than ever. Projects include, generally grouped, augmented reality games and online games. augMenTed ReaLITy gaMeS Ubiq Bio Currently in development, Ubiq Bio (working title) will be a series of AR games on challenging biology topics, including genetics and natural selection. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health. LIONS Project This project engages middle school students in playing and authoring augmented reality games as part of an after-school and summer enrichment program. In partnership with the Missouri Botanical Garden, our goals are to explore the benefits and limitations of utilizing AR games and AR game design software to help St. Louis area youth develop STEM skills and positive attitudes about science and technology. The AR curriculum is one part of the larger LIONS Project (Local Investigations of Natural Science) funded by an NFS-AYS grant. Zoo Scene Investigators The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Dublin, OH, partnered with the TEP lab to create a new AR game for its middle school (grades 5-8) field trip visitors. In this game, Zoo Scene Investigators, a zoo security guard has tackled a mysterious nighttime intruder. Players use their mobile devices to search the zoo grounds looking for clues which could link the intruder with the illegal wildlife trade. Research questions focus on the use of mobile devices to provide interactive narrative augmenting existing live animal exhibits. TimeLab TimeLab starts with a video that sets the players 100 years in the future when global climate change has wreaked havoc on Cambridge. They are then sent back in time to the present day to study ballot initiatives that could potentially remediate the effects of global climate change in the future. Players walk around the MIT campus and surrounding areas collecting information (real and virtual) on methods of reducing climate change and the impact of climate change on Cambridge. Sponsored by the Center for Future Civic Media, TimeLab has been played with a number of groups including parents and kids at the Cambridge Science Festival, adults as part of the Center for Future Civic Media, and MIT students as part of a class. OnLIne gaMeS MIT/Smithsonian Curated Game In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, we are creating an alternate reality game that will be played by middle schoolers nationwide over a period of eight weeks in spring 2011. Collaborating with each other, with MIT undergrads, and with Smithsonian scientists, students will do real science while investigating the causes of a fictional cataclysm. It is funded by the National Science Foundation. Microbes This is an on-line simulation that will introduce kids to the role that microbes play in the oceans’ ecosystem. Though constituting the majority of the sea’s biomass, undersea microbes are still little understood. Professor Roman Stocker of the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has performed groundbreaking research on microbial behavior, engineering lab equipment that makes possible studies that can’t be undertaken in open oceans. We are working with him to create a game that will help educate the general public about his findings. Microbes is funded by the National Science Foundation. Waker and Woosh In the summer of 2009, students in the GAMBIT Lab created two games that figure in TEA’s current research. Woosh and Waker were created in tandem as educational games. Waker has a narrative, expressed through cutscenes and supported by its in-game art, while Woosh’s art is entirely abstract. Both use identical gameplay to expose players to two basic physics concepts, requiring players to manipulate the graphical representations of displacement and velocity in order to navigate through the game. We are exploring whether either the narrative or the abstract form of the game is more effective in promoting student engagement with, and understanding of, the physics topics. Caduceus A game for pre-teens, Caduceus introduces players to medical science and philanthropy in a puzzle adventure game set in steampunk world. In this game we also modeled new approaches to involving parents in their children’s game play, a mechanism intended to support learning by reinforcing its situation in a larger social context. Funded by Children’s Hospital Boston, it can be played at generationcures.org. Kids Survey Network We are now completing work on multiplayer games will be part of the larger Kids Survey Network site, managed by project partner TERC. The games will introduce players to ideas about data collection and representation. We have also created a series of videos that will appear on the site, and which hopefully will be as entertaining as they are informative in familiarizing students with the challenges of survey taking. Kids Survey Network is funded by the National Science Foundation. Lure of the Labyrinth Lure of the Labyrinth was designed by The Education Arcade and developed in partnership with Maryland Public Television and Boston developer Fablevision. A puzzle-adventure game designed to help middle-school students explore pre-algebraic math, Labyrinth went online in January 2009 and can be played for free at labyrinth. thinkport.org.
The Education Arcade educationarcade.org. is online at
By William Uricchio and Andrew Whitacre
and institutions that abuse the trust of the communities they serve. By helping to provide people with the necessary skills to process, evaluate, and act upon the knowledge in circulation, civic media ensures the diversity of inputs and mutual respect necessary for democratic deliberation. Some of what emerges at the Center looks like traditional journalism, while some moves in radical new directions. aCCOMPLIShMenTS Comparative Media Studies and the Media Lab literally won the Center’s start-up funding, with a proposal by Henry Jenkins, Mitch Resnick, and Chris Csikszentmihályi securing first prize in the inaugural Knight News Challenge in 2007. It has allowed Comparative Media Studies to become a thought leader in understanding civic practices. From research associate Anna Van Someren’s work on participatory culture and civic decision-making to CMS alumni Colleen Kaman’s and Abhimanyu Das’s projects to help kids engage with their communties, CMS is at the fore of developing tools for civic action. Here is a sampling of CMS-based projects for the Center: Comix News Network is an opensource web tool by Abhimanyu Das (SM ’09) for people to create web comics easily as a complement to regular student reporting and as a platform for discussions about issues that concern them. It is designed to enable and encourage artistic engagement, civic journalism, and social networking. Project Roebling, being developed by Audubon Dougherty (SM ’10), is the first educational platform targeting the tens of thousands of refugees that are resettled into the U.S. every year. Roebling is a participatory learning laboratory that creates a digital bridge between refugees and other marginalized youth throughout the world. Using the online peer-to-peer, extensible and social program, students develop new media literacy skills through collaborating on storytelling projects using maps and multi-media. Say What?!, a collaboration between Media Lab students and CMS’s Colleen Kaman (SM ’09), is a seven-part workshop exploring the relationship between empathy and civic engagement. The workshop fosters mutual understanding, collaborative problemsolving, and self-expression. Old and New Media: Converging During the Pakistan Emergency is a whitepaper written by Huma Yusuf (SM ’08) that addresses the knowledge gap about new media and democracy in the developing world. It examines how digital technologies—such as cellphones and live internet streams—and new media platforms—including blogs, YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook—were used to access information, organize political action, generate hyperlocal news reports, and promote citizen journalism during the “Pakistan Emergency,” a period of heightened political instability between March 2007 and February 2008. Open Park is a model for collaborative online news production being developed by Florence Gallez (SM ’10). As collaboration and the sharing of skills and resources have proved to be a winning formula in other professional spheres, Gallez considers it “only logical to explore what this new practice could do for the future of journalism.” Colleagues based at the Media Lab have also generated noteworthy civic media tools: ExtrAct, a set of Internet-based, databasing, mapping, and communications
Image from Google Earth
he Center for Future Civic Media supports research at MIT to innovate civic media tools and practices to strengthen geographic communities. It bridges the Media Lab and CMS and received initial funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Center develops systems for sharing, prioritizing, organizing, and acting on information, such as new technologies that support civic media and political action. It serves as an international resource for the study and analysis of civic media; and coordinating community-based test beds. These three activities are vitally interconnected. We study the existing uses of civic media to identify best practices and urgent needs; connect those insights to the development of new tools and processes; partner with local groups to put these tools and processes into the hands of community builders; and monitor the results to inform the next phase of development. Transforming civic knowledge into civic action is an essential part of democracy. As with investigative journalism, the most delicate and important information can often focus on leaders
EA T E X T TE E A V Y E X T H E AV T PFR O JHUCRTES Y
technologies for geographic communities impacted by natural gas development, is a novel platform spearheaded by Center director Chris Csikszentmihályi for community education and civic action. It provides the means for these communities to generate information about their own particular conditions as well as connect with, learn from, and act in concert with other communities that share similar issues or engage with similar companies. To develop these tools we are working with a network of lawyers, citizens’ alliances, national activist organizations, and environmental health experts in Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Texas. Sourcemap, from Media Lab researcher Leo Bonanni and visiting scientist Matthew Hockenberry, is a social network built around supply chains, enabling collective engagement with the sources and material of consumer products. It provides resources for calculating the carbon footprint and geographic spread of various products and services, including consumer electronics, travel, and food. And Newsflow, by Center fellow Jeffrey Warren, is a dynamic, real-time map of news reporting, which displays the latest top stories—all from the last few minutes—and the news organizations which covered them. Viewing news in this way lets us see how the choice of “top stories” by news bureaus is geographically unequal, or rather, what areas of the world are neglected by various national news sources. FeaTuRed evenTS The Future of News and Civic Media Each summer, the Center hosts Knight Foundation and our fellow News Challenge winners for the Future of News and Civic Media Conference. Knight Foundation unveils its next class of Challenge winners, and it is a prime chance for civic media projects to be invented, reinvented, dissected, and combined. Conference sessions follow a barcamp format, ones generated on-site by the attendees themselves. Barcamps have included everything from the practical “Fundraising for Nonprofit Investigative Journalism” to the provocative “Reporting Under Repression”. MBTA Hackathon Public transportation is vital to life as we know it in Cambridge and Boston, so in early 2010, the Center partnered with the MBTA, Massachusetts’ bus and rail authority, for a two-day hackathon of transportation data. Participants brought great ideas for phone or web apps and played with real-time bus tracking and train information. The hackathon resulted in new tools for making the average commuter’s life easier and set a higher bar for data transparency in governement agencies. Communications Forums The Center co-hosts two Forums, allowing us to welcome incredible speakers to MIT, from The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder and City Year founder Alan Khazei to Global Voices’ (and Center fellow) Ethan Zuckerman and NPR’s Juan Williams.
Csikszentmihályi’s ExtrAct project, featured with this image on the MIT homepage in 2009, has helped communities defend their land and environmental rights.
IAP During MIT’s Independent Activities Period, Csikszentmihályi and Nadav Aharony have taught Call for Action, a four-day intensive seminar on mobile phones and activism. It addressed questions such as how can mobile networked devices be used for social change, politics, and expression? Can phones help to organize people, gather information, and enable collective action to stop global warming? Organize labor? End a war? International speakers ranging from community activists to UNICEF workers discussed the problems with existing technologies and suggested parameters for new systems. Csikszentmihályi and the Media Lab’s Dale Joachim hosted a class to discuss innovative technologies relevant to the crisis following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Students got to choose their own projects but also mixed with people of widely different technology expertise.
The class organized presentations from technologists, activists, and Haitian community members. It was an intense hands-on session aimed at seeding projects that will make a difference in Haiti much beyond the earthquake. OuR ThankS We at CMS offer our sincere thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for their generous financial support and focus, not just for the Center for Future Civic Media but for dozens of other civic media projects. We also express our thanks to two former colleagues in particular: Ellen Hume, who served as our founding research director and brought her years of journalistic experience to a group of techies, and Ingeborg Endter, our outreach manager.
The Center for Future Civic Media is online at civic.mit.edu.
By Philip Tan and Geoffrey Long
“It sounds like a grand governmental plan,” says Tan, now GAMBIT’s U.S. Executive Director, “but it’s all being done by actual people on the ground who are passionately interested in games, and the kinds of problems and challenges we face in games, because we want to push this medium forward.” MOdeL To fulfill this mandate, GAMBIT is structured as two labs—a Cambridge lab in Kendall Square adjacent to the MIT campus, and a Singapore lab overlooking the country’s main river and the historic Raffles Hotel. At the beginning of the summer, forty top Singaporean undergraduates in programming, art, sound design, game design, and management board a 24-hour flight to the U.S. lab, where they work in teams with undergrads from MIT, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Berklee School of Music. Each group gets a game-related research question from a product owner—a researcher from MIT or a Singaporean university, who acts as a client—and is given eight weeks to produce a short, playable game prototype addressing the research question. At the end of the summer, completed games are posted as free downloads on the GAMBIT website for the world to play and critique. Product owners move their research forward with a playable prototype based on their research, and students return to Singapore with not just a finished game in their portfolio but with the invaluable experience of working in a team under real-world development conditions. GAMBIT examines each of the game prototypes and selects a few for continued development. This is where the Singapore lab takes the lead. Not every Singaporean student returns to school or begins military service once the GAMBIT summer program concludes—a few are selected to join the Singaporean GAMBIT lab. Under the guidance of Singapore Executive Director Teo Chor Guan, this full-time team develops new games based on the most promising concepts from the summer game prototypes. For example, GAMBIT’s first summer program yielded a game called Wiip, which let players crack a Nintendo Wii controller like a whip as the ringmaster in a circus. The Singapore lab decided to make a new game based on Wiip’s unique characters, art style, music, and circus setting, and after a few months of development produced the award-winning Xbox LIVE Indie Game CarneyVale: Showtime. By participating in this “finishing school” program, students in the Singapore lab earn valuable realworld experience and game credits as they take their games to market, making these alumni even more desirable to the Singaporean game industry. While the Singapore lab focuses on development, the U.S. lab functions as a research hub for game studies during the academic year. Working with Philip Tan in the U.S. lab are Jason Beene, art director; Andrew Grant SB ’93, technical director; Geoffrey Long SM ’07, researcher and communications director; Marleigh Norton SB ’98, lead interaction designer; Abe Stein, audio director; Sara Verrilli, development director; Matthew Weise SM ’04, lead game designer; Rik Eberhardt, studio manager; Generoso Fierro, outreach coordinator; Claudia Forero-Sloan, finances; and Mike Rapa, technology support specialist. The lab is also home to a number of scholars, including visiting associate professor Mia Consalvo, postdoctoral researchImage from Carnivale: Showtime
n 2006, the Singaporean government issued a call to a number of universities for collaboration on such areas as biotechnology, environmental engineering, and, most interesting to CMS, interactive and digital media. CMS alum Philip Tan Boon Yew SM ’03 and CMS co-founders Henry Jenkins and William Uricchio responded with a proposal for the Singapore-MIT International Game Lab. Their proposal combined MIT’s thirty years of leadership in game innovation and game studies with Singapore’s energetic digital youth culture and aimed to test new ideas in games by actually making games. With this blend of experience, theory, and realworld applicability, in April of 2007 the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab was born. GAMBIT explores new directions of development for game studies and the game industry, encouraging collaboration between MIT and Singaporean institutions, universities, polytechnics, art schools, and companies. Possible areas of such exploration include Gamers, Aesthetics, Mechanics, Business, Industry, and Technology— hence, “GAMBIT.”
EA T E X T TE E A V Y E X T H E AV T PFR O JHUCRTES Y
ers Doris C. Rusch and Clara Fernández-Vara, and a long string of visiting scholars including Jesper Juul, Mitu Khandaker, Jaroslav Svelch, and others from a range of countries: Norway, China, Canada, and many more. The U.S. lab also hosts courses on topics such as writing for games, game history, gender studies in games, and meaningful games, providing MIT graduate and undergraduate students a place to conduct more lengthy explorations into game concepts, development tools, and research topics. Collaborating with colleagues at nearly a dozen different Singaporean universities, the U.S. lab continually assembles the research questions that will drive each following summer’s game prototypes. gaMeS In addition to GAMBIT’s thirty game prototypes, the Singapore lab has also produced four fully-featured games to date: Backflow, a mobile phone game that was named a finalist in the 2008 Independent Games Festival Mobile; Snap Escape, a photography-and-action game for Facebook nominated for the 2010 Mochi Awards; Monsters In My Backyard, a puzzle-action platformer featuring Pinocchio, an experimental auto-rigging software from MIT; and CarneyVale: Showtime, which was a finalist for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the 2008 Independent Games Festival, one of the PAX 10 featured games at the 2008 Penny Arcade Expo, and the Grand Prize Winner of Microsoft’s 2008 Dream-BuildPlay Challenge. In 2010, CarneyVale: Showtime became the first Singaporean game to sign a distribution contract with Microsoft, with the Windows version of the game scheduled to debut in 2010. Prototypes produced in the first year included Backflow and Wiip; AudiOdyssey, a game playable by both the sighted and the blind; and The Illogical Journey of Orez, which was GAMBIT’s first collaboration with The Education Arcade. In 2008, the lab produced Ochos Locos, a card game platform created for the One Laptop Per Child XO computer; Akrasia, a game about addiction showcased at the IndieCade International Festival for Independent Games; and Picopoke, an interpretive photo game for Facebook named a finalist in the 2009 Independent Games Festival Mobile. Other notable games included Rosemary, an adventure game exploring memory and nostalgia; Waker, a project with The Education Arcade (named a finalist in the 2010 Indie Game Challenge); Moki Combat 2.0, Abandon, and Dearth, three collaborations with the MIT Computer Science and AI Lab, and Tipping Point, a board game based on research from the MIT Sloan School of Management. SuCCeSSeS In addition to these games’ multiple awards, the lab has also enjoyed great success with its research. To date, researchers from the lab have published nearly sixty articles in international journals, including a critical historical perspective of BioShock by Matthew Weise in Eludamos; a history of the chiptunes movement by CMS graduate students Kevin Driscoll SM ’09 and
In 2010, building on its stellar outreach to the game design community, GAMBIT launched a video podcast series available on TechTV (techtv.mit.edu/collections/gambitgamelab).
Joshua Diaz SM ’09 in The Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures; numerous articles by Jovan Popovic’s lab in the ACM Transactions on Graphics; collaborations between Singapore and MIT researchers such as Alex Mitchell from National University of Singapore and Nick Montfort of CMS and the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies; and multiple articles in such game industry publications as The Game Career Guide and Gamasutra. Representatives from the lab have also presented at such industry and academic conferences as SIGGRAPH, IndieCade, Foundations of Digital Games, FuturePlay, the Game Education Summit, Media in Transition, Descolagem, Games for Health, the Independent Game Conference, and the Game Developers Conference. Research from the lab has been showcased in multiple books, including Jesper Juul’s A Casual
Revolution, which was completed while he was a visiting scholar at the lab. In 2010, the U.S. lab announced that GAMBIT affiliates William Uricchio, Geoffrey Long, and Jesper Juul will be co-editing Playful Thinking, a series of short books on game-related topics for the MIT Press to debut in 2011. Overall, GAMBIT’s primary success has been its influence on game studies and development worldwide. At the 2009 Games Convention Asia conference, the director of training at Lucasfilm Animation Singapore held up GAMBIT as an example of what a games education program can be. Moving forward, GAMBIT aims to continue to raise that bar, continue producing innovative, creative games, and continue training creative gamemakers for both sides of the world.
GAMBIT is online at gambit.mit.edu.
Image from U.S.-Iran Missed Opportunities
By Kurt Fendt
ondary-level initiatives to primarily college-level and adult education projects. Funding for HyperStudio comes from a mix of sources with project-specific grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and other foundations. HyperStudio’s research is conducted within the context of the emerging field of Digital Humanities. We typically focus on projects containing smaller datasets ranging from a couple of hundred to several thousand media items. The innovative humanities tools that we create to interact with these media repositories are always driven by educational or scholarly needs and are being developed in close collaboration with faculty and students. We have identified four main areas in our digital humanities research. Visualization HyperStudio develops visualization tools and methods that support scholars and students to research content from a variety of perspectives and parameters. All tools are being developed as dynamic tools, that is, tools such as timelines that can be integrated into the learning and research process, supporting users in formulating new questions or reexamining existing visualizations. Collaboration With greater availability of media, texts, and other data there is an increasing need by scholars and students (who we consider as novice scholars) to share their research findings and collaborate on the interpretation of complex content. Drawing on social networking concepts and ideas that evolved in participatory media, HyperStudio is working on a set of tools that support our users in their collaboration activities in novel ways. Scholars will be able to combine different kinds of media texts, data, and visualizations and form an interpretative argument and share these with their peers. Other scholars can then integrate these interpretations into their own work without losing access to the original texts and data. Dynamic media While there a number of innovative tools available for static media such as images, there is a surprising lack of tools that can support scholarly work with dynamic media such as video and audio. Together with other research teams, HyperStudio is exploring forms of fine-grained video and audio annotation that can then be integrated with other collaboration and visualization tools to support the close reading of media such as theater plays and international films from a variety of angles, cultures, and domain expertise. Online publishing This new research area explores new forms of publishing that can only be done online. Since most of HyperStudio’s work focuses on the research or learning process, we are investigating and experimenting with formats that support the evolving nature of research on the one hand while also meeting the needs of scholarly publishing and peer review on the other. Within this context, HyperStudio has developed a number of projects and tools. Our overall approach is the conceptual discovery and development of a humanities project and its pedagogical uses. HyperStudio’s project platforms provide students and faculty with flexible online environments to create, annotate, and share mediarich documents for the teaching and
yperStudio – Digital Humanities at MIT – explores the potential of new media technologies for the enhancement of education and research in the humanities and social sciences. Our work focuses on new methodologies and practices enabled by digital technologies and their impact on scholarly inquiry and educational practice. In close collaboration with scholars, educators, students, and developers, we conceptualize, develop, and deploy media-rich projects combined with innovative digital tools. HyperStudio is part of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), and one of the research groups within Comparative Media Studies. HyperStudio works across the disciplines in SHASS with projects and initiatives ranging from Anthropology, History, Literature, Foreign Languages, and Political Science. Over the years, we have partnered with groups in other schools at MIT and outside partners, developing concepts for educational and scholarly projects and consulting on best practices and implementation strategies. The audience for our educational projects ranges from a few sec-
EA T E X T TE E A V Y E X T H E AV T PFR O JHUCRTES Y
learning of core humanistic subjects. Using our open standards platforms, faculty members build subject-specific archives that extend the use of multimedia materials in the classroom and enable the formation of learner communities across disciplines and distances. In its earlier years primarily focusing on projects for learning foreign languages and cultures such as the NEH-funded Berliner sehen project for German Studies, a major grant from MIT’s d’Arbeloff grant for Excellence in Education allowed HyperStudio to realize projects across SHASS. Under the title: Metamedia – Transforming Humanities Education, HyperStudio has developed close to thirty media rich project along with an online platform called m:media. The Metamedia project focuses on creating shareable multimedia archives for use in MIT humanities subjects, and, increasingly, in collaboration with outside arts and humanities organizations. Flexible learning tools allow teachers and students to use the archives to create customized teaching modules for use in the classroom. Humanities subjects often rely on collections, and our approach allows for the creation of “mini-archives” which can be navigated, sorted, and annotated by students. The Metamedia model allows a wide variety of possible navigation interfaces for a given archive, as well as among archives, while maintaining a standardized backbone among all the projects. For this reason, our digital projects are not simply websites; they’re flexible and highly interactive learning environments, adaptable resources which teachers can use to build teaching modules according to their specific needs. With new scholarly needs arising, more “digital” becoming available, and more faculty working on online projects, HyperStudio has been developing a new on-line platform called Repertoire. Repertoire is HyperStudio’s toolkit for use in digital humanities research projects and collections. Its central design precept is to provide individual digital humanities projects flexibility in modeling, analyzing, and presenting their materials as they choose—while also allowing researchers to combine features from other projects in innovative ways. Fundamental to Repertoire’s philosophy is that digital humanities materials and investigators have unique concerns and that while they may share techniques and perspectives, no one size fits all. Hence, for the Comédie-Française Registers project, which hinges on analysis of digital archives, Repertoire supports data-extracting markup analysis. This enables the project to maintain a set of data that reflect the Registers’ archival appearance while also providing a database of play attendance data for analysis and visualization. For projects like the U.S.-Iran Missed Opportunities initiative that depend on collaborative creation of interpretive narrative and timelines, Repertoire offers user management and wiki-style interlinking essays. The Global Shakespeare project will adapt this essay module, using its own database of Asian Shakespeare performances and videos. All of our digital humanities tools will be open source. Tools such as HyperStudio’s dynamic timeline called Chronos or innovative implementations and prototypes such as the collaborative timelining tool Emergent Time will be made available to a larger Digital Humanities audience in order to contribute to new modes of scholarly inquiry and innovative teaching. OuTReaCh In addition to our research and development initiatives, HyperStudio has conducted a variety of outreach activities. Besides the StudioTalks at MIT, ranging from topics such as Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and its relevance to digital humanities or talks on software studies and the possibilities of capturing the artistic process in a digital format, HyperStudio has developed a biennial conference called Humanities + Digital (hyperstudio.mit. edu/h-digital/). The first conference takes place in May of 2010 on the topic of Visual Interpretations. The conference will bring digital practitioners and humanities scholars together with experts in art and design to consider the past, present, and future of visual epistemology in digital humanities. The goal is to get beyond the notion that information exists independently of visual presentation, and to rethink visualization as an integrated analytical method in humanities scholarship. By fostering dialogue and critical engagement, this conference aims to explore new ways to design data and metadata structures so that their visual embodiments function, as Johanna Drucker puts it, as “humanities tools in digital environments.”
An image from a Japanese performance of Othello, collected as part of the Global Shakespeare archive.
TeaM Integral to the HyperStudio team are the CMS graduate students who play a vital role as digital humanities researchers and faculty lead on projects. Together with the software developers, the project manager, and the other team members, they are responsible for developing new concepts and innovative ways to integrate traditional humanities scholarship with new digital opportunities. Several of HyperStudio’s former graduate students (Christopher York, ’01, Karen Verschooren, ’07, Whitney Trettien, ’09) have remained connected to HyperStudio in one or the other way and are still contributing to the research of HyperStudio.
HyperStudio is online at hyperstudio.mit.edu.
PA S T P R O J E C T
left behind as they enter school and the workplace. Some have argued that children and youth acquire these key skills and competencies on their own by interacting with popular culture. Three concerns, however, suggest the need for policy and pedagogical interventions: • The Participation Gap: the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow. • The Transparency Problem: the challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world. • The Ethics Challenge: the breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants. Educators must work together to ensure that every American young person has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant, can articulate their understanding of how media shapes perceptions, and has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and participants in online communities. At New Media Literacies, one of our goals is to invite educators at every level and discipline to participate in an on-going dialogue related to our research questions. We consider this dialogue as a process toward building a participatory form of scholarship known as a worked example. A worked example is a multimedia presentation of one or more key moments, findings, or interesting challenges or tensions that emerge out of field testing of educational materials. The name is intended to suggest that the “working” of the example—the building of something approximating the experience of the curriculum or moment and through that process new ideas emerge and are investigated—is a crucial element of synthesis of data. As we work toward creating our worked examples to synthesize and summarize our field research, we invite educators to participate and contribute to our on-going dialogue and help us grapple with exactly what it is that we see and learn from our field data and field experience. To this end, everyone is invited to join NML’s Community to participate in a series of conversations around the development of New Media Literacies educational resources and our field work. They can join a conversation of a topic crucial to our understanding of effect of new digital media on today’s learning environments. Each discussion highlights evidence and collected artifacts from our field research to support and initiate dialogues.
Project New Media Literacies is online at newmedialiteracies.org.
By Erin Reilly
roject New Media Literacies, now housed at the University of Southern California, got its start as a CMS research project in 2005, the same year as Pew Internet & American Life project study found that more than half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced. In many cases, these teens are actively involved in what we are calling participatory cultures— a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. It’s a culture in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created). Since 2005, New Media Literacies has published an influential white paper, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century; created a series of resources for educators including the Teacher’s Strategy Guide, the Learning Library, and in collaboration with Howard Gardner’s GoodPlay Project, developed Our Space, a digital media and ethics casebook; conducted field research to support and iterate the de-
velopment of these education resources; and collaborated in national and international professional development initiatives. Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement. The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. These skills—such as play, performance, multitasking, networking, transmedia navigation, and others—build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom. Participating fosters a learning ecology where youth acquire new knowledge across invisible boundaries and offers opportunities to practice these skills across work and play, school and afterschool, face-to-face encounters and online communities. A growing body of scholarship suggests potential benefits of these forms of participatory culture, including opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship. Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be
T E E V EH E A V Y XT NTS
10 Years of Happenings
By Brad Seawell and Andrew Whitacre
omparative Media Studies has never shied away from putting its work on display, not just for its own sake but to challenge CMS’s own thinking about the focus and direction of media research. That ethos has resulted in remarkable public events—talks, forums, conferences, film series, almost any format you can think of—all of which puts a spotlight on the academic creativity and excellence demanded by CMS . . . and almost all of which, fantastically, is available as audio or video at cms.mit.edu. Some of the events, such as the “Race in Digital Space” and “Computer and Video Games Come of Age” conferences, were dramatic one-off enterprises. But others, highlighted below, have come to define both Comparative Media Studies at MIT and media studies as a powerhouse, international field. Colloquium The CMS Colloquium series provides an intimate and informal exchange between a visiting speaker and CMS faculty, students, visiting scholars, and friends. Each week during the term, CMS hosts a figure from academia, industry, or the art world to speak about their work and its relation to our studies. These sessions are free, open to the public, and serve as an excellent introduction to our program. The colloquium is also the source for our weekly podcasts, broadcast to the world at large
on our website and in the iTunes Store. The Colloquium has hosted such luminaries as the X-Men’s Chris Claremont, famed comics critic Scott McCloud, political campaign adviser Tucker Eskew, Yochai Benkler and Wendy Selzer of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Pulitzer Prize-winning MIT professor Junot Díaz, online game scholar Celia Pearce, and even wrestling champion and author Mick Foley. Communications Forum
For more than thirty years the MIT Communications Forum has played a unique role at MIT and beyond as the host of important conversations about all aspects of communications, with special emphasis on emerging technologies (see page 32). Leading academics, journalists, political figures, and corporate managers have appeared at its conferences and panels. The Forum continues its rich tradition of organizing quality public discourse as the programming division of CMS. Addressing an array of bold communications topics, speakers over the years have included Associated Press reporter Helen Thomas, evolutionary biologist
The biggest draw in CMS’s first ten years was a 2008 visit by acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy author Neil Gaiman for the inaugural Julius Schwartz Lecture. Gaiman has since won a Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book, and the film adaption of Coraline received an Academy Award nomination. Video of his lecture is available at techtv.mit.edu/collections/cms.
Stephen Jay Gould, publisher and New York Review of Books founder Jason Epstein, MPAA president Jack Valenti, political consultants Joe Trippi and Cyrus Krohn, author Thomas Frank, legal scholar Cass Sunstein, New York Times media columnist David Carr, Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt, and Deadwood creator David Milch. Julius Schwartz Lecture This is an annual event held to honor an individual who has made significant contributions to the culture, cre-
ativity, and community of comics and popular entertainment. The lecture is hosted by CMS and was founded to honor the memory of longtime D.C. Comics editor Julius “Julie” Schwartz, whose contributions to our culture include co-founding the first science fiction fanzine in 1932, the first science fiction literary agency in 1934, and the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. Schwartz went on to launch a career in comics that would last for well over 42 years, during which time he helped launch the Silver Age of Comics, introduced the idea of parallel
NYU media scholar Stephen Duncombe (left) and New York Times media columnist David Carr appeared at a Communications Forum on politics and popular culture in 2009. Photo by Greg Peverill-Conti.
From IAP 2009, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creators Joel Hodgson (left) and Trace Beaulieu (right) with Jason Begy (SM, ‘10) and Outreach Coordinator Generoso Fierro. Photo by Andrew Whitacre.
Pavel Curtis (left) and Tim Berners-Lee in 1997, speaking on privacy, freedom, and regulation at the first Media in Transition conference.
From IAP 2010, GAMBIT lead game designer Matthew Weise leads a workshop on adaptng games from other media. Photo by Geoffrey Long.
T E E V EH E A V Y XT NTS
universes, and had a hand in the reinvention of such characters as Batman, Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom. Like Schwartz himself, the first two Schwartz Lecture speakers were pop culture heroes in their own right: Neil Gaiman, creator of the D.C. Comics Sandman series and the 2009 film Coraline, and J. Michael Straczynski, screenwriter and comic book author best known as the creator of the science fiction series Babylon 5. IAP CMS takes pride in its participation in MIT’s Independent Activities Period, the two weeks each January when anybody can teach on a topic of their choice. Often, CMS faculty will teach a condensed course for credit, such as Mia Consalvo’s IAP course on conducting textual analysis. But more often, faculty and staff use IAP as a chance to put their passion on display. The bestknown IAP class at MIT, in fact, was former CMS director Henry Jenkins’ Dr. Seuss reading and lecture, which he held for eighteen straight years. But lesser-known events still made a mark. CMS’s technology assistant Mike Rapa and his wife Jen screened eight films by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam. And in January 2009, grad student Jason Begy and GAMBIT events planner Generoso Fierro were pleasantly surprised when their small talk about Mystery Science Theater 3000 ballooned into a severalhundred-person event after MST3K founders Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu asked to speak and show clips from the show. Media in Transition In 1999, the Media in Transition project came to an end. But to help launch the new Comparative Media Studies program, the Communications Forum created a biennial Media in Transition conference. Six conferences later, the MiT conference is known as the preeminent event of its kind, bringing together a cross-disciplinary collection of scholars from dozens of countries, who discuss themes key to the future of media studies. The 2002 conference, for example, brought talks on globalization and convergence—half a decade before “convergence” was a common term in the field. The most recent conference, in 2009, brought hundreds of attendees to the MIT campus all focused on the storage and transmission of data, obliging humanities scholars to consider the acceptance, sharing, and survival of their increasingly digitized work. Humanities + Digital: Visual Interpretations Conference recompose the field of digital humanities to integrate more dynamic analytical methods into humanities research? HyperStudio’s conference brings digital practitioners and humanities scholars together with experts in art and design to consider the past, present, and future of visual epistemology in digital humanities. The goal is to get beyond the notion that information exists independently of visual presentation, and to rethink visualization as an integrated analytical method in humanities scholarship. Futures of Entertainment We are seeing the blurring of aesthetic and technological distinctions between media platforms, of “advertising” and “content” and of “creator” and “consumer”. Futures of Entertainment brings together key industry leaders who are shaping these new directions in our culture. The conference will consider developments such as usergenerated content, transmedia storytelling, the rise of mobile media, and the emergence of social networking. Heading into its fifth conference in 2010, Futures of Entertainment has taken its spot as one of the great annual gatherings of content creators, advertisers, and academics. Media Spectacle Founded by late CMS program administrator Chris Pomiecko, Media Spectacle celebrates his love for filmmaking by showcasing the finest video projects created by MIT students, staff ,and faculty. Now in its twelfth year, the event has received submissions of every genre from experimental to documentary to narrative works created on every conceivable platform and device. The event is judged by esteemed members of the CMS community as well as Cathy Pomiecko, Chris’s sister. After each year’s selected pieces are screened, the undergraduate winner for best film receives a cash prize and the Chris Pomiecko Trophy, followed by the Claude Berry Award for the best non-undergraduate entry.
A brand-new conference comes via HyperStudio, picking up in Media in Transition’s off-year to carry on similar topics. The first Humanities + Digital Conference happens in May 2010 to tackle the visualization challenges inherent to contemporary scholarship. How do visual representations of complex data help humanities scholars ask new questions? How does visual rhetoric shape the way we relate to documents and artifacts? Can we
As advertisers look for new ways to engage audiences, content creators search for new audiences, and audiences quest for new ways to connect with culture, the nature of what counts as “entertainment” is rapidly changing.
Snapshots from the 2009 Future of News and Civic Media Conference, hosted by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media. This annual conference brings together winners of the Knight News Challenge—smart, decidated inventors and researchers, all addressing the changing information needs of citizens in the U.S. and worldwide.
T E E V EH E A V Y XT NTS
CMS affiliates also use events to raise funds for charity. Following the earthquake in Haiti, for example, GAMBIT staffer Abe Stein created a 48 hour marathon in which staff, students and friends played a game of their choosing from start to finish for online pledges to Partners In Health for Haiti relief. The event raised over $5,500. Clockwise from top left: Marathoner playing a complete season of NHL2010; Generoso Fierro pointing out to Abe Stein that it’s 5:44am, at which point they have been playing twenty-three straight hours; Abe Stein, exhausted in the last hours. GAMBIT’s videos are avilable at http://techtv.mit.edu/collections/gambitgamelab. Video stills by Generoso Fierro. Background image by the United Nations Development Programme.
The Communications Forum, Media in Transition, and the Origins of CMS
By David Thorburn
Originally housed in the School of Engineering and affiliated with the Center for Transportation, Policy, and Industrial Development, the Forum moved to the School of Humanities and Social Science in 1998, two years after I became director. This transition was more than a change of address. Though it retained its commitment to rigor and clarity about scientific and technological matters, the Forum now began to focus more systematically on the social and cultural significance of communications media. At the same time, MIT’s thriving cross-d isciplina r y u ndergraduate program in Film and Media Studies— soon to become Comparative Media Studies—had established a secure base of enrollments and participating faculty drawn from all sections in the Humanities. As the name of the new program implies, a key principle of our enlarging conception of media study was that no medium can be understood fully in isolation. Both the historical development of a medium and its relations with ancestor systems and contemporary media forms must be central to the serious study of communications. This idea of a media studies curriculum—at once more historical and more attentive than existing programs to the intricate rivalries, collusions, and interactions among contemporary media— seemed to us a compelling rationale for our burgeoning undergraduate program and for a new graduate program. In 1997, in anticipation of the Forum’s move to the School of Humanities and Social Science, Henry Jenkins and I applied to the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation for funds that would help to establish the intellectual ground for a graduate program. The result was a $600,000 grant for the Media in Transition project, a four-year series of lectures, discussions, and conferences comparing earlier periods of decisive technological and social change with our contemporary experience of media transformation and convergence. MedIa In TRanSITIOn The inaugural conference was held at MIT in 1997. Its title, “Technologies of Freedom?,” echoed that of Pool’s most influential book, the added question mark suggesting the need to consider the darker possibilities of our digital future. Other conferences in the series included “Transformations of the Book” (1997), which considered aspects of the legacy of the culture of print as it began its migration to digital formats; “Democracy and Digital Media” (1998), which considered the double power of new technologies to nourish democratic and grassroots movements but also to strengthen extremist voices; and “The Internet: Next Generation and Beyond” (also 1998), a collaboration between the Forum and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program at which MIT researchers described their vision of the future. The culminating conference in October 1999, titled “Media in Transition,” marked the launch of the new graduate program in Comparative Media Studies. The strongest papers and reports generated by the project are available in two volumes published by the MIT Press, Democracy and New Media and Rethinking Media Change. The Media in Transition project’s work is more extensively archived on its website: web.mit.edu/m-i-t. Over the next decade, the partnership of CMS and the Forum was fortified and extended in a series of
The MIT Press’ Media in Transition book series. Sample chapters, excerpts, and some images are available at web.mit.edu/transition. Photo by Andrew Whitacre.
A 1982 poster for a talk on an information census. The Forum was known as the MIT Research Program in Communications Policy. The description begins, presciently, “People talk of an ‘information explosion.’”
ounded in 1978 by the late Ithiel de Sola Pool, a pioneer in the study of communications who taught in MIT’s Political Science Department, the Communications Forum has played a unique role at MIT and beyond as a site for cutting-edge discussion of the cultural, political, economic, and technological impact of communications, with special emphasis on emerging technologies. Leading scholars, journalists, media producers, political figures, and corporate executives appear regularly at conferences and panels sponsored by the Forum.
T E E V EH E A V Y XT NTS
The sixth and most recent Media in Transition conference featured a panel on Archives and History. From left, John Miles Foley, director of The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition at the University of Missouri; Lisa Gitelman, co-editor of New Media, 1740-1915, an entry in the Media in Transition book series; Rick Prelinger, an archivist whose collection of films was acquired by the Library of Congress; and Ann Wolpert, director of MIT Libraries and a Communications Forum board member. Photo by Greg Peverill-Conti.
Dr. An-Pang Kao (left), President of Kainan University, Taiwan, with Communications Forum Director David Thorburn (right) at MIT’s Stata Center. A group of Kainan scholars led by Pres. Kao spent a day on the MIT campus, touring MIT facilities and visiting with MIT faculty and administrators. Kainan University helps to fund the Forum, which sponsors a cultural exchange program for Kainan students and professors.
biennial Media in Transition conferences in addition to smaller conferences covering a variety of topics such as digital cinema, race in digital space, and technology and education. These events helped to establish the distinctive character of media studies at MIT, branding CMS as uniquely committed not only to interdisciplinary, comparative, and historical approaches to communications study but also to a discourse about media that includes media makers, journalists, corporate spokespersons and policy-makers as well as academics. In the third Media in Transition conference, on the changing role of television, for example, participants included John Dimling, chairman of Nielsen Media Research; Charles Ferris, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; the TV journalist
Marvin Kalb; and scholars and researchers drawn from many fields in the humanities and social science. A significant feature of our conferences has been their international character. In the most recent Media in Transition gathering, presenters came from twenty-five foreign countries. Nearly half our international visitors have returned for a subsequent conference, and some have become regulars. These international voices have nourished our conversations, of course, and they have also carried CMS principles beyond the U.S., into their own institutions and professional cultures. The FORuM’S FuTuRe Beginning in January 2006 the Forum inaugurated an exchange program with Kainan University, Taiwan. The project brings students from Kainan
to MIT each term to study media, literature, language, and other humanities subjects as well as engineering and management. In addition, MIT faculty members travel to Taiwan every other year to participate in symposia or to deliver talks on media and technology. Forum board member Shigeru Miyagawa, Head of Foreign Languages & Literatures, has just returned from such a lecturing visit. Two years ago a group of MIT researchers led by CMS Director William Uricchio organized a symposium that offered a sampling of how MIT labs and classrooms deploy educational technologies. The Forum also frequently collaborates with other groups at MIT, including the Technology and Culture Forum and the Center for Future Civic Media, which is currently complet-
ing a two-year series of panel discussions focused on the civic uses of digital technologies. These and other Forum activities are archived on our website at web.mit.edu/comm-forum. Henry’s intellectual vision and moral energy have been central to the Forum’s activities over the past decade, and he has been a primary architect along with William of the Media in Transition conferences. Carrying on in Henry’s absence will be difficult and challenging. But he has agreed to remain on the Forum’s governing board, and I hope his voice, however muted by distance and new commitments, will continue to inspire all of us at MIT.
The Communications Forum is online at web.mit.edu/comm-forum. Communications Forum Coordinator Brad Seawell contributed to this article.
Media Spectacle: Remembering Chris Pomiecko
By Henry Jenkins
ow can I describe Chris Pomiecko’s contributions to the Comparative Media Studies Program? He was there before the beginning. As the first administrator of the MIT Film Office, he was the point of contact for pretty much anyone in SHASS who had an interest in film: he would talk to the faculty when they would drop off their film orders and make reasoned suggestions about what films we should be teaching; he would talk to the students as they came to pick up the films we assigned and make reasoned suggestions to them about what else they should be watching; he would be involved in any event in the school—and often, beyond—which included film screenings, and he would often create his own projects if he saw a film which he felt strongly needed to be shown on campus. He was our point of contact with a diverse array of other student and staff organizations on campus. Every so often, he would tap that network and organize a screening of MIT-produced films, sometimes including his own work, always taking great pleasure in showing off what his friends had made and making sure they heard about each other’s projects. As the name “Media Spectacle” implies,
the program would be expansive, including everything from experimental films and videos to endless kung fu comedies to documentaries showing off lab experiments. Some of what was shown could have made its way onto the program of a major festival, much of it was painfully bad, yet he was less interested in the films as products and more interested in helping the people who made them. The festival would be his way of nudging people to complete half-finished projects or to get shy media makers to open up their work to a larger audience. It played a vital role in shaping the film culture on campus. The Media Spectacle was clearly something that grew out of his great and very public love of cinema and his more private but still very clear affection for those people he came into contact with. Chris’s often sarcastic sense of humor masked a gentle spirit, a warm heart, and a nurturing soul. Chris ran a tight ship with his student workers, making sure that the screenings for classes went off without a hitch, and the few times something went wrong, it was inevitably my error in filling out the request forms, rather than a glitch in his well oiled system. He created an enormous sense of team spirit through his pizza parties and the campy t-shirts
he would design (many of which were favorite parts of my personal wardrobe for years and years). And he was there for each and every one of them in their times of need, kicking them in the butt or cheering them up as required, even welcoming them into his home. When we launched the CMS graduate program, he extended this role to the graduate students when he assumed the position as Program Administrator, and for the first few cohorts, it was impossible to imagine CMS without Chris sitting at his desk and greeting them when they came into his office. We were all scrambling so hard in those early days that it would have been hard to give every student the attention they needed, but Chris understood that attending to the student needs came first and he helped to set a tone for the administration of the program over the coming decade. Sometimes this would require him to push back unessential parts of his job to the frustration of some faculty (me among them) who might have thought those tasks to be of the highest priority, but over time, I’ve come to respect the wisdom of the choices he made, and as CMS grew, he was someone that William and I leaned on for wise advice and dispassionate council.
It is hard to describe the shock to the CMS community when Chris died in a car accident in 2005. It was as if someone had ripped the heart out of the program, though the community rallied together and provided each other support. It was clear that we needed to do something to insure that Chris’s spirit remained a strong presence in the program. The Media Spectacle, now formalized as an annual event with prizes, became our way of paying tribute to his long-time service and his deep passion for supporting the work of student filmmakers. Generoso Fierro has done an outstanding job curating the Spectacle in more recent years. The technical quality has improved dramatically, thanks both to more formal instruction at MIT and to the more participatory culture surrounding us which has given students more chances to express themselves through film and video. I have been lucky enough to attend and judge many of the Spectacles and always come away inspired by the creativity of MIT students, staff, and faculty.
Media Spectacle occurs each spring and is open to all members of the MIT community.
Image of the Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline, Mass., by Flickr user sushiesque
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
n the fall of 2008, just after CMS coDirector Henry Jenkins announced his decision to pursue new challenges at the University of Southern California, CMS began inviting graduate students to describe what their work with CMS meant to them, to their time at MIT, and to their professional lives. Here, we collect the responses we’ve received over the last year. Jim Bizzocchi, SM ‘01
In all my professional activities, I draw deeply on my experience in Comparative Media Studies. I continue to take advantage of the many outreach activities CMS supports on media, transition, society and culture. The program has given me standards for excellence in scholarship, teaching, and mentoring that I strive to reach in all my activities. David Spitz, SM ‘01
Touche’s “dot com” consulting practice and sixteen months in Columbia’s accelerated MBA program, I joined WPP Group, where I am currently director of business development for WPP Digital. My task is to develop partnerships and investments that will “catalyze” the world’s largest communications services group as it transitions its advertising, media, public relations and market research businesses into the digital era. This role sits at the intersection of technology, marketing, and customer insight—much like the CMS program I entered ten years ago. Christa Starr, SM ‘01 A decade ago—in the early months of 1999—I was working long hours and late nights on a movie called Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I believe it was a Tuesday night when an email from Henry Jenkins hit my inbox, saying he was starting a graduate program at MIT and would I be interested in applying. The next morning, I walked into my manager’s office at ILM and said, “I’m sorry—I have to go now.” There are few things in this world as special as being invited to participate in an MIT program. And even fewer can compare to the experience of being one of the first five graduate students admitted to CMS. Henry had assembled an impressive lineup of teachers and guest lecturers— William Uricchio, Edward Barrett, Chris Weaver, and many others—with
the express purpose of studying media as it transitioned from the relatively passive forms of television and film into the vast interactive and immersive frontier of the Internet. Like any fledgling department, it had its fits and starts, but I believe I emerged from the program with a greater understanding of the history of media in the world and a clearer idea of how I could use emerging media to tell the types of stories I wanted to tell. It’s been a decade, and rarely a day goes by when I don’t use some of what I learned in CMS in my working life. It’s part of who I am and what I do, and I’ll always be grateful. Christopher York, SM ‘01
As a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University, I continue to build my career as a scholar, a mentor, and an artist. I am particularly pleased to have mentored graduate students to completion. I am also pleased to have recently received a university award for excellence in teaching. My ambient video art has been well-received—my latest work, “Cycle,” has been selected for a dozen exhibitions and festivals. My academic publishing is proceeding well. In the past year I have published, been accepted or presented book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers.
The two years I spent at MIT, from 1999-2001, turned out to be transitional not just for me but for everyone. Being a CMS graduate student during this incredible “boom and bust” cycle gave me a front-row seat to some of the defining perspectives of the era: from the venture capitalists and dot-com CEO’s roaming around campus like wolves (and later lambs); to the entertainment executives we met during our graduate class’s West Coast tour; to the research scientists who were already thinking about, and in many cases building, what would become Web 2.0. In 2005, after a few years in Deloitte &
I am currently doing archival research for a Ph.D. in African History at Yale. It’s a testament to CMS’s range and vision that, while I no longer study media, all my current academic interests can be traced back to people, courses, and projects at MIT. After finishing my CMS thesis on regional tourism as a
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
form of consumerist ethnography (with William Uricchio and Michael Fischer at MIT and Kay Warren at Harvard), I decided to follow interests in social studies of science and history of technology in an African colonial context. My dissertation explores pre-colonial iron-working and trade in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on iron’s central role in managing fertility and human wealth. I also continue to have an interest in digital humanities begun at CMS under Kurt Fendt: my dissertation will employ mapping iron trade routes. Without CMS’s emphasis on reading cultural artifacts and popular practices in context, connecting technology to social movements, and thinking productively across traditional disciplines, my approach to African history would be very different indeed. Candis Callison, SM ‘02
professionally had burst. In CMS, I not only got the chance to reflect on those experiences, but I encountered a praxis of theory and experiment that led me to consider another direction in life: academia. Upon graduating, I chose to stay at MIT and began a doctoral program in Science, Technology, and Society, which I will soon complete. My academic research hasn’t strayed from CMS topics—I’ve spent the past several years trying to understand how climate change gets invested with meaning through the work of media, scientists, and various social movements. Anita Chan, SM ‘02
from the National Science Foundation and Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Law & Culture and has been published in the journals Science Studies, Anthropological Quarterly, the Revista Iberoamericana de Comunicacion, and in the edited volumes The Inner History of Devices and International Essays in Law & Society. In fall 2009, I joined the faculty of the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign as an assistant professor of Media Studies. My intellectual curiosity was continually challenged and fostered at CMS, and I am so very grateful for the friends, colleagues, and mentors that I had the fortune to find there. Qi Wang, SM ‘02
realized film is my favorite medium”— with the valuable comparative, transitional, and connected perspective built in from the very beginning. I also made documentaries and currently work as curator for the influential REEL CHINA Documentary Biennial—my initial interest in documentary was kindled right there in CMS’s lab where I played with Final Cut Pro, fascinated and indefatigable, cutting my first documentary digitally until three in the morning. I feel extremely proud to be part of the CMS family and will always be grateful to Henry, William, Shigeru, Jing, and others. Margaret Weigel, SM ‘02 It’s been a long, strange trip for this one-time graphic designer and musician since I embarked on two years of mindaltering studies with Henry, William, and many others. I spent two years after graduation as Henry’s partner in crime for a new three-year MacArthur grant on digital media and learning. (Hey, Henry, do you remember “krispy walrus”?). I would not be at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education today, working as a researcher and project manager, if I hadn’t quit my design job and taken a chance on a very new graduate program—and if they hadn’t taken a chance on this unlikely scholar. CMS was always more than the sum of our assignments. I learned how to study hard, skim fast, and write even faster. During that time I also met some wonderful people and made some persistent friendships. I hope CMS survives this turbulent period and emerges even stronger.
When I started CMS in fall 2000, I came straight out of industry and was eager for a chance to reflect on the fastpaced cauldron of convergence I had come from. A few months later, the dot-com bubble I had come of age in
The work I began with CMS for my master’s project, “Collaborative News Networks: Distributed Editing, Collective Action, and the Construction of Online News on Slashdot.org,” continues today in varied, new forms. In 2008, I completed a Ph.D. program at MIT’s Science, Technology, and Society Program with a dissertation that studied electronic governance in Peru, and the ambition to cultivate rurally inclusive network societies in contemporary development plans. Work from these veins of research earned support
Simply put, without CMS I would not be where I am now as quickly and happily. Currently I’m an assistant professor in cinema and media at Georgia Institute of Technology, but the real starting point of this path was at CMS. When asked about my CMS background and later Ph.D. concentration in film studies, I often reply: “It’s after comparing various media at CMS that I
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
Michelle Woodward, SM ‘02 The critical skills I gained in analyzing media and images from a variety of perspectives in the CMS program have enriched all my subsequent work. Since 2002, I have been photo editor at the magazine Middle East Report where I use photographs to show our readers a nuanced picture of the region not often seen in the mainstream media. In writing for scholarly journals I draw on knowledge gained through the wonderfully diverse range of classes available to CMS students. I might not have ventured into blogging about photography and my life in Beirut during 2007 (at mwoodward.com) if I hadn’t had the hands-on experience with multiple media formats that was such a valuable part of the CMS experience. I also recently began teaching photography in Johns Hopkins’s Odyssey program of liberal arts courses for adults, where I focus on combining technical instruction of composition, design, and light with visual literacy and critical analytical skills—undoubtedly inspired by CMS. Stephanie Davenport Rubino, SM ‘03
My family and I recently left Cambridge to relocate to sunny San Diego. I have been doing consulting with my former employer March Communications, a boutique technology PR firm. I managed media campaigns for telecom and software clients, as well as development efforts for both the agency and clients. I was drawn to March given their focus on helping European companies break into the U.S. market and willingness to let me take on smaller, experimental projects touching on Second Life, mobile storytelling, and 3D animation. CMS represents a tumultuous period in my life when I tried to drink in everything the MIT environment had to offer in two all-too-short years, find continuity with the work world where I still had a toe in the action at France Telecom, and find an outlet for my creative side. Hungry for more, shortly after graduation I completed a CMS-like program at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University. I am happy to still be in touch with many of the bright, often eccentric folks I met during my time at MIT, who share an interest in all things “new” media. Nadya Direkova, SM ‘03
on using game techniques for creating better web experiences. I presented some of my insights at the IXDA conference in Vancouver, and I reconnected with CMS by teaching a workshop on experience design during IAP this winter. It was a pleasure to be back in school and share my work with the students. CMS has been a great platform for me: connecting me to great people, sharing the MIT experience, and introducing me to media industry partners. The former Games-to-Teach project gave me a start in the world of educational game design and introduced me to Microsoft R&D and Leapfrog. Every time I meet CMS faculty and students, I am inspired by their talent, self-starter attitude and unique and successful journeys. Robin Hauck, SM ‘03
women living in and around Boston. I founded Misstropolis (misstropolis. com) with the intention of raising the quality of online content for women in their 30s, 40s ,and 50s. In a start-up, every day is business school: Entrepreneurship 101. On a daily basis I find myself utilizing or sharing knowledge I learned while at MIT. My classes laid the groundwork for a deep understanding of the modern media landscape and equipped me as well as anyone with knowledge of related theory. Furthermore while a student in CMS, surrounded by the most innovative minds in the country, I found the confidence in my voice and my ability to state my opinions so that I could put something on the page and send it out to the world. That confidence has enabled me to follow an entrepreneurial path in a fiercely competitive media space. Even though it was hard and I had children at home demanding my attention, I never wanted CMS to end. The two years on the MIT campus were some of the richest in my entire life. Thank you, infinitely! Zhan Li, SM ‘03 I am a Ph.D. student at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication, so I write this update with mixed feelings. I’m hugely excited that Henry has joined our school and that there will be opportunities for me to work closely with him again. My planned dissertation research will focus on new media directions in scenario planning, and I foresee rich overlaps with Henry’s work. At the same time, like many, I follow
I work as a Senior Interaction Designer at Google. My work focuses on user experience research and design and
Though the Infinite Corridor, Colloquium, and all-nighter cram sessions feel like things from a lifetime ago, my CMS experience informs and invigorates my present life every day. Currently, I am the editor-in-chief of a lifestyle site for
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
news about the future of CMS. MIT should not only support but expand this unique program. CMS’ ideas are groundbreaking—the program offers students an unusually high level of freedom and support. Without having had the privilege of developing my interests in such an environment, my present career path would not have been possible. Aswin Punathambekar, SM ‘03
leave the science and engineering world and make my way, via a stop in Athens, Georgia, to CMS. At CMS, Henry Jenkins, William Uricchio and other teachers and colleagues taught me why media studies matters and involved me in a joyful and truly collaborative effort to define what matters in media studies as we move through the 21st century. While a reflection on what CMS means to me could run several pages, I can say with confidence that the most important lesson I learned, one that I try to pass on to my own students at the University of Michigan, is this: to read, write and think with kindness and generosity. Sangita Shresthova, SM ‘03
and vision alive. In all my travels, I have seen nothing like it. I feel grateful, privileged and proud to be part of the CMS community. As I am currently based in Los Angeles, I do also look forward to welcoming Henry to his new home here and hope to participate in the fostering of a West Coast reincarnation of CMS. Philip Tan, SM ‘03
GAMBIT was the logical next step for my personal growth as a game maker, as well as for the ongoing contributions of CMS to the development of the medium of videogames. Tackling the ever-growing challenges with the creativity and support of the staff, William, and Henry has made this the most personally rewarding job that I’ve ever had. R.J. Bain, SM ’04
I spent my middle-school years in Madras (now Chennai), the center of the Tamil film industry. And as luck would have it, my family lived close to a grand marriage hall that was often the site of film shootings. On many afternoons, I would rush home, drop my schoolbag, and run to this marriage hall to hang around, chat with people on the sets, gaze at film stars and on rare occasions, get a picture taken with one of them! As a fan, I always knew media mattered. It’s just that middleclass youth in 1980s India did not quite know how to make a career out of engaging with media. Many years later, I had the support and good fortune to
I recently completed my Ph.D. at UCLA and am embarking on new creative film and dance projects as I rework my dissertation on Bollywood dance into a book. Looking back, CMS approaches to media and storytelling led to new, exciting and complex media innovations. For me, CMS opened new doors for me in ways I never imagined possible. As a dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and scholar, I constantly draw on my CMS experiences in all my work. I sincerely hope that MIT will find ways to keep the CMS program
I have been the executive director of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab since 2006. Together with William, Henry, thirteen staff members, five graduate students, and a whole other lab in Singapore, we’ve built a combination of curiosity and proficiency that uses cutting-edge research to put smiles on faces. We’ve grown relationships and projects with other schools and within MIT, with the game industry and independent game developers, and with researchers, students, and game players from all over the world. After working with CMS in Gamesto-Teach and The Education Arcade,
My Comparative Media Studies experience actually began before I attended a single CMS lecture as a student. As a member of the CMS staff, I witnessed first-hand the considerable time and hard work that Henry and his team put into fundraising on behalf of the CMS program. Working closely with Henry and his family, as they made personal sacrifices for the sake of a new academic program, made a huge impression on me both as a humanist and as an adult. As a student, the CMS program challenged me to reconsider my ideas regarding communication and self, and I emerged, after two years, not only with a greater awareness of how
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
individuals interact with each other but with a better understanding of who I am as an individual. My time with the CMS faculty and my fellow students helped provide me with a foundation of theoretical knowledge that continues to inform my work in the television industry on a daily basis. Recently, I worked as a producer on the 11th season of the CBS reality competition series Big Brother. I find it fitting that I’ve been asked to reflect on my CMS experience while working on a television show that makes use of documentary and games to tell stories, streams live to the web 24 hours a day, and has a dedicated fan following unlike any series of its kind. By providing me with the tools to think creatively and critically about topics such as these, CMS has made me a more mindful and deliberate media producer. My years at CMS were some of the most formative of my life, and I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunities I was provided, thanks to the dedication of Henry and the CMS faculty and staff. Michael Epstein, SM ‘04
Well, I’m just like everyone else: mixing it up. Every day, in fact, I do that CMS two-step between creative media work
and analysis of media change—waking up to draw up specs for an iPhone application to go with Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City, then it’s time to check in on animation for a historical narrative in Beacon Hill, and then company finance, and then relating architecture to detective fiction. The mix of old and new is probably what’s most settled with me from the CMS program, and it’s a warm beacon in the mobile media world, that can be brazenly opportunistic, and poorly rooted in the old crafts of story, a sense of place, and reflection. I run Untravel Media, a multidisciplinary studio that specializes in mobile media storytelling. Professor Ed Barrett advised on one of our projects to develop a walkable iPhone companion to a PBS special about a historic murder. In fact, some of my classmates may recall a spring day in 2003 when I brought them to Beacon Hill to run a crude prototype of this application. It miserably failed as the flowering trees and fresh environs trumped any of my GPS triggered grainy videos. But the “ah ha” of that little excursion and the realization that mobile media needs a new storytelling approach could only have happened through a praxisoriented program like CMS. These are still fundamental lessons we use in our productions, and the vision is finding a foothold in the growing communities of iPhone and mixed-reality producers. On a personal note, I got married to Silvia, whom I met in Venice through a CMS connection. We reside happily at the foot of Beacon Hill surrounded by several waypoints in a historic murder story.
Clara Fernandez, SM ‘04
When I arrived at CMS, my main research interest was the cinematic versions of Shakespeare on film. Two of the best scholars in the field, Peter Donaldson and Diana Henderson, were associated with the department, so it seemed the right place to go. I also brought with me a substantial collection of videogames, which I had become interested in as a field of research. While having such a wide range of eclectic interests would not have had room most other places, it is a requirement to become a CMS student. Although I wrote my thesis on Orson Welles and Shakespeare, in the end I decided to focus on videogames and went to Georgia Tech to get my Ph.D. in digital media. Now, I’m back in CMS with a group of other CMS alumni, studying and making games. I still love theatre and my Hamlet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. CMS was a turning point in my career and also in my personal life. While I went through a time of change and challenges, I found an exciting career, a bunch of good friends, and a wonderful partner. It was the right place at the right time.
Amulya Gopalakrishnan, SM ‘06 For someone—me—with a rather constricted view of the humanities, CMS was a happy surprise. Its approach was both reflective and relevant, and it provided the kind of environment that naturally fostered creative cross-connections. My friends in the program were doing entirely different kinds of work, and whether at those weekly dinners at Senior House, or tramping down the Infinite Corridor, or at colloquia, those conversations are a big part of my CMS memories. I also think back of Henry’s stupendous and singular commitment to CMS, and to each one of us. Don’t know how he did it, but I can’t thank him enough. My CMS experience has definitely seeped into the way I think of culture and media. I moved back to journalism in India, reporting and anchoring for NDTV, a TV news network. I covered tech and social media for a bit, and began to appreciate the extent to which CMS gave us frontline perspectives on emerging media debates. After a year, I shifted to the editorial pages of the Indian Express, where I manage the op-ed page and also write columns on media, culture and tech. “We’re all smatterers, in a way. But a great deal of civilization depends on intelligent smattering,” said Frank Kermode, about the enterprise of literary study. For me, CMS was the best kind of smattering, bringing a humanistic intelligence and historical grounding to thinking about media.
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
Moneta Ho (now Kushner), SM ‘04
Brian Jacobson, SM ‘05
The training I received from Henry, William, and the students and faculty I met at MIT continues to animate my work, and I remain grateful for the experiences that CMS made possible in two (too) short years. Sarah Kamal, SM ‘05
I will always treasure my memories of the two years that I spent in the CMS program at MIT. There was a lot of positive energy and excitement with faculty and classmates working on interesting projects and collaborations in an emerging field. We got to surf websites, watch movies and play videogames for our homework—how cool is that? At the center of it all was Henry. I am excited for Henry and wish him the best in his new endeavors but also hope to see the CMS program at MIT continue to grow and thrive. CMS provided me a great background for my career as a user experience designer at Microsoft, where I have been working for the five years since graduation. Thanks, CMS!
Since leaving CMS in 2005, I have tried to carry on the program’s spirit of collaboration and generosity in my research, writing, and teaching. I have also continued to seek out similar sites of interdisciplinary thinking and comparative scholarship, most recently as a 2008-2009 Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) Scholar. My Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Southern California, “Studios Before the System: Architecture, Technology, and Early Cinema,” examines the origins of the relationship between cinema and architecture in the world’s first film studios. This work has earned pre-dissertation research support from the Social Science Research Council’s (SSRC) Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (Visual Culture field, 2007), and from fall 2009 through fall 2010 I will be conducting archival research in Paris, London, and New York under the auspices of a Fulbright Advanced Student Fellowship to France and the SSRC’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship.
I joined CMS as a novice in the humanities, trained in the tidiness of linearity through my bachelor’s in mathematics and practiced in the idealism of humanitarianism via my development work in Uganda, India, and Afghanistan. It took some gentle jostling for me to let go of stubbornly narrow understandings of theory, research, and the nature of knowledge. But thanks to CMS I learned how to express myself in the world of cacophonous, ambiguous debate rather than conclusive proof. Ah, the trauma of entering the messy real world! CMS, in my eyes, offered openness towards ideas, to the unpopular in the popular, and modeled a human acceptance, intellectual generosity, and embracing of diversity that I cherished. After graduating from MIT, I worked with UNIFEM in Afghanistan on media strategies. I edited the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, a policy platform for the Afghan
government to improve the status of women over the next ten years. I wrote for Oxford Analytica, the UN Chronicle, and Oxfam’s Gender and Development journal. And throughout I held Henry’s crystal clear prose and William’s attention to historical pattern as examples in my professional and, to my own surprise, continued academic pursuits. Life has been hard at times, abrasive. But I think I’m on the other side for now, as a Trudeau Scholar conducting my doctoral studies at the London School of Economics. And CMS lives on in my life, wrapped in nostalgia and gratitude. Many thanks. Andrea McCarty, SM ‘05
The two years I spent at CMS were two of the most valuable years of my life. I entered CMS in 2003 from the media archiving world, looking for a graduate experience that would give me time to read, research, and think about media. What I found was an incredibly rich intellectual landscape, with many opportunities to explore ideas and to work on interesting projects. Between my thesis work, time spent on projects at the HyperStudio, class work and
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
colloquia, I was able to make connections between media theory and practice on many different levels. I have since left Cambridge and now work as director of archives and asset management at HBO in Los Angeles. My CMS experience regularly informs my professional life as I watch media projects evolve at HBO and provide the material assets for repurposing content on a variety of media platforms. One of the most extraordinary things I experienced at CMS was a sense of finding my place among a community of like-minded scholars. My ’05 classmates, as well as Henry, William, Kurt Fendt, and other professors, made the experience unlike any other. CMS was a supportive environment in which to try out new ideas, experiment, learn and grow. I hope that MIT will find the means to support and grow this program that provided me both a temporary home and a lifelong foundation.
Rekha Murthy, SM ‘05
After eight years in web and radio, I entered CMS ready for a Big Change and seeking ideas for the Next Thing. I was split between hope that the program would give me more professional direction and self-caution that I was asking a lot. Well, my CMS experience exploded that dichotomy and far exceeded my hopes. I’m still a generalist, but now I see generalism as a strength, not a drag. Henry, William, and my outstanding classmates were both validating and challenging. I came out inspired and no more specific. But I see that’s the condition of a media enthusiast in the current age, and I now can embrace it. Since CMS, I’ve remained in the Boston area. I’ve been an information architect for a consulting company, a product manager for a mobile software startup, a freelance user-experience designer, and now, in the most delightfully open-ended of titles, director of projects + partnerships for Public
Radio Exchange, just down the street from MIT in Harvard Square. When PRX released an iPhone app with hundreds of public radio streams, I was asked to do the media outreach. I faced the media and technology implications head-on and unafraid and encouraged stations, listeners, bloggers, and journalists to do the same. CMS has given me a flexible roadmap to lifelong learning and media consumption. My tastes are broader than they used to be: I read graphic novels, watch TV series from beginning to end, and enjoy the breakdown of genre and taxonomy. I try to help others cross their own borders and assumptions, as when I lead academics, government officials, and citizens on walking tours of street media in Central Square. I am so glad I have been able to stay within MIT’s geographical orbit, in order to stay plugged into its formidable social, intellectual, and creative forces. I have been honored that Henry and William have regularly reached out to keep me in that orbit, and I look forward to that continuing. Swati (Mia) Saini, SB ’05 After I received my degree in CMS, I interned at CNN for the summer before joining Goldman Sachs full-time as a hedge fund salesperson. I then left to attend Harvard Business School. I am now currently an anchor/reporter for Forbes Video Network where I cover business and finance stories.
Karen Schrier, SM ‘05
I’m working as an executive producer at Scholastic in their digital division, and I’m also a doctoral student in games and education at Columbia University and adjunct professor at Parsons New School for Design. There are so many ways I continue to benefit from the program Henry and William created. My CMS education helps every day at Scholastic, where we develop transmedia properties, prototype games and websites, analyze new media and digital trends, and develop social networking tools. For the first few months, my boss introduced me by proudly saying “she studied at MIT with Henry Jenkins.” Also, CMS has helped me tremendously in terms of publishing my work and getting into conferences, and of course, with my doctoral studies. I’m excited to have Henry write the forward to my book on ethics and games. Beyond that, my friendships and collaborations were an integral part of my CMS experience and were (and continue to be) extremely rewarding. In fact, upon hearing of Henry’s departure, the class of ’05 worked together this past year to write a letter to MIT President
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
Susan Hockfield to express the importance of CMS to MIT and beyond. I know that this type of camaraderie is no small part due to the ability of Henry, William, and the CMS faculty to hand pick the right students and to create a culture of cooperation, integrity, openness, and intellectual curiosity. I am inspired to foster this type of culture when I (hopefully) start my own program in the future. Parmesh Shahani, SM ‘05
this storm, often being called upon to serve as a spokesperson. It has been an exhilarating, emotional, and humbling journey. Finally, I have helped in translating creative and corporate India for the world at forums such as Next Media (Banff, Canada), XMedia Lab (Auckland, New Zealand) and the Prague Bollywood Film Festival. It’s pretty clear that none of this excitement would have happened without CMS. It changed my life for the better and I am indebted to Henry, William and the rest of the CMS faculty, as well as to the incredible staff and students of the program for providing me with the academic and entrepreneurial opportunities to spread my wings. Yannis Zavoleas, SM ’04
My experiences with CMS’s Convergence Culture Consortium were directly responsible for me getting the dual job of editorial director of the Indian fashion magazine Verve and head of vision and opportunities in the Incubation Lab at the Mahindra Group, where I worked on venture capital and new media. I spread the convergence mantra across both jobs. I have also spent three years traveling India and the world with my book Gay Bombay, which emerged out of my CMS master’s thesis. This time has coincided with the emergence of a strong gay rights movement in India and ground-breaking incidents of activism and legal change. I have found my book and myself in the center of
ideas. I come from an interdisciplinary background combining architecture and digital media. For that, CMS was perhaps the best place to critically link these design areas; moreover, I was unrestricted from any of the conventional or mainstream definitions about architecture. I have gradually constructed approaches, which are in a sense more reflective of me: on the methodologies and practices about architecture and how these may relate to the available tools and the rhetoric of design. Over the past six years, I have exhibited and published my work, and presented in over thirty conferences internationally. Being an academic, I have been able to evolve my ideas by testing them in workshops and in class with my students, too. Some of these ideas actually sprang from my experience at CMS. Overall, I thank CMS for encouraging me to think creatively in novel, often subversive, ways, in order to effectively challenge my field. Chia Berry, SB ‘06 I live in fabulous Austin, Texas, and work in the feature film and commercial broadcast industry where I get my hands dirty assisting in all aspects of production. I enjoy dabbling in different forms of visual media. I’m still trying to figure out all the ways to apply my degree.
Vanessa Bertozzi, SM ‘06
Since graduation, I have been teaching architectural design and digital media as assistant professor in the School of Architecture, first at the Technical University of Crete, and then at the University of Patras, Greece, where I am now. The time I spent studying at CMS was decisive for me, for I was granted the intellectual framing to systematize my
My time at MIT was challenging, mindblowing, but most of all, as I’ve worked in my career, it has been useful. I work at Etsy.com, the online marketplace where artists, craftspeople, and collectors sell their hand-made and vintage items. Etsy is a community of people across the world that shares a passion for making things and supporting independent artists. I run Etsy’s blog and oversee our video podcast (blog.etsy. com). The combination of big ideas from CMS and their application has informed not just the way I view the world but the way I participate in it. At CMS, we grappled with theory and history and tried to use those frameworks to understand the culture we live and breathe, but there was another added insight into work and life and culture: Henry and William instilled in us a respect for others as we went about our research. This is something that grounds the work I do today, and I will carry that forward throughout my career. I know I speak for many when I say Henry and William and everyone at CMS played a very benevolent role in our “practice of everyday life.”
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
Nikki Pfarr, SB ‘06 This spring I’ll be graduating from the Institute of Design with an MDes. Next up: a Ph.D. My research interests lie at the crossroads of design thinking, human-technology interaction, and behavioral economics. CMS provided a unique, interdisciplinary foundation for the type of work I now do in academia and industry. Ivan Askwith, SM ‘07
Three years after CMS, I am now the Director of Strategy for Big Spaceship, an award-winning creative agency in Brooklyn, NY. I owe this entirely to CMS, since my thesis work on Lost’s transmedia storytelling first led me here, and pushed me to ask the same kinds of questions I’m now responsible for tackling on behalf of brands and content producers. Since leaving 14N, I’ve gotten the chance to work with a huge range of clients, including Second Life, Sony, Adobe, A&E, AMC, USA, EPIX, and, most recently, Activision, Wrigley and
GE, on some of the coolest projects I can imagine. Throughout, the most rewarding aspect has been the chance to bring thinking from MIT—on transmedia, alternative reality games, branding and fandom—into direct practice and conversation, in ways that help the entertainment and marketing industries rethink their core assumptions. And in the process, here’s what I’ve found without fail: there is a real hunger for the “applied humanities” approach that CMS embodies. There’s a deep desire to understand culture, audiences and engagement in more meaningful and less formulaic ways, and a growing respect for insights from once-disregarded areas like game design, fandom and media studies. The time I spent at CMS and with the Culture Convergence Consortium, learning from Henry, William and my incredible cohort, will remain among the most valuable, satisfying and lifechanging experiences I have ever had. I’m forever grateful for the time I got to spend at MIT, and for the chance to be part of this community, and can’t wait to meet the students who will join us in the decades to come. Chris Casiano, SB ‘07 I have continued working as a game designer, making a return to my home state of Maryland. I spend my time playing games and deflecting questions about what I’m working on. I have lately had a chance to return to my CMS roots by catching up on gaming academia.
Kristina Drzaic, SM ‘07
cookies to illustrate the play experience of The Cherry Orchard, discussing the theories behind the modern idea of time with William, or designing the learning game Labyrinth with Scot Osterwiel in The Education Arcade. While the course material may, at first glace, seem all over the place every disparate activity has a connected thread that follows through so that everything latches together. Considering media on the meta-level has changed my approach to all media, and given me a unique viewpoint on my industry. If I could I would relive CMS all over again. Amanda Finkelberg, SM ‘07
Post CMS I’ve had grand adventures! I moved to Australia, contributed to the book I Link Therefore I am: The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy and, best of all, became a designer of games. Currently, I’m working as a story designer for Irrational Boston. I have no doubt that CMS helped me discover and obtain my dream career. When I entered CMS I was a filmmaker with an interest in how film theory tied into videogames. Two years later I magically materialized with a thesis that channeled all my knowledge and passion for videogames into something useful (game secrets as player-driven design!) and, even better, an understanding of participation and the meta-structures that tie all media together. CMS has changed the way my brain functions. Each day at CMS is different. I could be baking strangely flavored
My time at CMS was possibly the most rewarding two years of my life and undoubtedly the hardest I’ve ever worked. The experience of living and working amongst such an unbelievably talented, creative, and dedicated group of people at MIT was unforgettable. I am particularly grateful for the opportunities I had as a research assistant, working with New Media Literacies, Literature Professor Diana Henderson and ICue. I have been teaching at a digital arts college in the Bay Area since my graduation in 2007. My class is a mixture of theory and practice and I derive my media worldview from my CMS
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
mentors, Henry and William. My students are constantly challenged to think about their roles as producers, fans, and consumers and to always situate technology in an appropriate historical context. I think the unique subject matter and perspective of CMS has kept me ahead of the curve when addressing issues in contemporary media. In June of 2009 I gave birth to my son Milo and have been really enjoying spending time with him. Sam Ford, SM ‘07
For many academic disciplines, developing specialization and expertise brings with it narrowing one’s interest. As an undergraduate at Western Kentucky University, trying to decide what to do next with my life—that was one of my fears. My attention roamed as an undergraduate student, and I wound up with four majors and a minor across three different university departments. As I thought about the job possibilities of what was next, it appeared my best choices would be becoming a professional journalist, at a time in which no one was sure exactly what that meant as
a career goal with newspaper bureaus closing and newsrooms laying reporters off as never before, or going to graduate school, where I would choose one among my myriad interests to pursue. And then I found CMS. My two years working with Henry, William, my fellow students, and the cast that comprised the CMS faculty and staff had immeasurable impact on my life, both personally and professionally. CMS presented me the opportunity to forge a research track and career that found common themes among my many passions. From examining my personal relationship with media to thinking through the media savvy of the Baptist preachers of my childhood, from studying the public policy implications of Internet regulation to examining patterns of media consumption and sharing in tape trading communities and college dorm rooms, from studying historical and contemporary media texts alike to examining the potential impact of digital communication on small weekly newspapers, CMS’ distributed network and eclectic mix of interests opened rather than narrowed my interests, all the while teaching me the skills and modes of thinking that would help guide my post-CMS career. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunities afforded by teaching courses on the cultural history of U.S professional wrestling and U.S. soap operas while at CMS and for the chance to help launch and later help manage the Convergence Culture Consortium after graduation. The community that has formed around that project from both the media industries and the academy has led to
a variety of valuable projects for me: my current job as Director of Digital Strategy at Peppercom Strategic Communications, co-editing The Survival of the Soap Opera with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington (due out from the University Press of Mississippi in 2010); and the Spreadable Media book project I’m currently working on with Henry and Joshua Green. Most of all, though, I’m thankful for the colorful characters who have filled my life, from my time in CMS. This is a network that spans both the globe and a broad range of career interests. Yet, I feel there is a shared ethos among many of us, shaped in part by our time with Henry, William, and the many people who have contributed to the CMS experience. I look forward to seeing the work that is yet to come from the CMS alumni network and knowing that, even as my time as a graduate student at MIT grows more distant, it will continue to impact my life in new and surprising ways. Neal Grigsby, SM ‘07
When I wrote my master’s thesis on narratives of adolescence for CMS, I felt driven by a long-standing interest in the subject matter.
Looking back on it now, however, it is clear that my focus on “coming of age” stories was no coincidence after my experience with the program. When I began the program I had little clue about what to expect, or about how I could possibly contribute given the caliber of talent and intellect that surrounded me. Henry and William proved two patient and effective mentors, and my friends in the program the most supportive of peers. By the time I left the program I felt genuinely transformed. My studies and especially my experiences with the two research groups that I worked for—the Project for New Media Literacies and the GAMBIT Game Lab—helped me connect the dots personally and professionally, to turn what seemed like a bunch of disparate interests and concerns into something like a possible career. On a purely causal level I owe my current position to CMS—I was referred to the project from a colleague at NML—but the debt I owe is certainly deeper than that. I am currently the community manager at Tikatok, the self-publishing website for children. Working as part of a startup, you are asked to do a staggeringly broad array of tasks. I can’t imagine a program that could have better equipped me for this environment than CMS. More recently, the company was acquired by Barnes & Noble, and the challenges have changed dramatically, but my experience with CMS has proven just as valuable.
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
Rena He Huang, SM ‘07
Henry and William, who, with great passion, turned their ideas into reality. Now, I live happily with my daughter and husband in Beijing. My memories of CMS are all warm. Thanks, CMS! Geoffrey Long, SM ‘07
I joined wigix.com, a California-based startup in the summer of 2007, and went back to China to lead the catalog team. Wigix.com is an online marketplace driven by the community. The catalog is built with the joint efforts of our editors and members (if CMS hadn’t taught me how to deal with user-generated content, at least it had warned me of such thing). Now, two years later, our catalog has grown to cover over three million unique items and is one of the company’s most valuable assets. My experience building the digital archive for Chinese animation films with the metamedia group at CMS has prepared me well for my current job. Hands-on skill and experience is one great benefit of CMS. More importantly, CMS is a great educational experience that I could have at nowhere else. We got the support and encouragement we need to pursue our research interest, no matter how weird it may appear. For the first time, I saw that education can be as challenging, interesting, and useful (and torturing) as this. And I believe it can only happen at a place like MIT and could not have happened without
In 2003, I stumbled across a Technology Review article on something called transmedia storytelling. As I read through it my heart started racing - this was what I’d been obsessed with, what I wanted to do, what I wanted to study. My BA was in English and philosophy, but it was the application of classical thinking across emerging media that really got me going. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a graduate program where I could keep exploring this interdisciplinary, nontraditional space. Now, here was this “Henry Jenkins,” and here was this bizarre, wonderful thing called “Comparative Media Studies.” I’d finally found what I was looking for. I finished my SM in CMS in 2007, but I still haven’t found anyplace I’d rather be. CMS is still ahead of its time and it has suffered its share of slings and arrows for it, but working with C3, with
GAMBIT, with Henry, William, Beth, Ian, Chris, Gene, Sarah, Becky, Brad, Andrew, Kurt, Scot, Erin and everyone else, has been a dream. Through CMS I’ve gotten to meet brilliant people like Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner and Frank Espinosa; see incredible places like China, Greece and Germany; and work on fantastic things like the book series I’m now coediting with William and Jesper Juul for the MIT Press. The world is calling - the transmedia space is exploding and after getting married last Halloween there’s this “family” project to get started on—but I’ll always remember these years working with CMS as a life-changing time of great wonder and discovery. I’m intensely grateful for these experiences, for this intellectual framework, and for this family of friends and colleagues. No matter what comes next, I intend to pass the CMS message, model and heart forward. As Henry and William have demonstrated, this is how real world-building is done. Dan Roy, SM ‘07
on games teaching language, and hope to continue doing so for a long time. Thank you Kevin Driscoll ’09, Lan Le ’09, Ana Domb Krauskopf ’09, and Lauren Silberman ’09 for all your help on that! The work I did with Ravi, Scot and many other CMSers on Lure of the Labyrinth (Kristina Drzaic ’07, Evan Wendel ’08, Elliot Pinkus ’10, Lan Le ’09, and Alec Austin ’07) as a student gave me a strong foundation and philosophy for learning games. That collaboration propelled me on an adventure to San Francisco, where I made other games to teach math, met new people, explored an exciting city, and missed CMS. When I returned to Cambridge, the CMS community welcomed me with open arms, easing the transition. The work I did with Eric Klopfer, Henry, and Alice Robison on my thesis continues to shape and push my thinking about mobile and cross-platform games. The annual IAP workshops CMS offers along with the Global Game Jam at GAMBIT have become valued traditions for kicking off the New Year. Most of all, the sense of possibility that pervades each conversation continues to inspire me. I can’t think of a better group to vet visions or play the game of life with.
It’s hard to imagine where I would be or what I would be doing today if not for CMS; the community has affected me profoundly. I’m still working with Ravi Purushotma (’06) and Scot Osterweil
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
Liwen Jin, SM ’08
My two years at CMS were definitely the most valuable and memorable experience in my life! It opened up to me a kaleidoscopic and thrilling world of western humanities and rigorously trained me how to approach problems in different ways. I flew to join the CMS program directly from China in the summer of 2006. Since then I have experienced remarkable educational and culture differences. In CMS classrooms, students were always encouraged or even compelled to think and critique independently from various perspectives rather than simply follow established opinions. For example, in China we were taught at school that Darwinism was a scientific “fact” while in the U.S. many youths only regarded it as a “hypothesis” that is open to questioning and debates. I can still recall that I quickly got frustrated during the first semester as cultural clashes imposed great challenges to me at the beginning. However, after being exposed to various types of reading materials, research projects, classroom discussions and seminars, it eventually ignited my strong curiosity and passion towards the western media and society. CMS further inspired me to intensively learn and think about cultural and
societal differences and convergences between the West and East, which was undoubtedly one of my biggest gains at CMS! I am currently working as an analyst at IDC/IDG—a global market research and consulting firm headquartered in Framingham MA. My position involves extensive quantitative and qualitative research on market data. Though the learning from CMS does not directly apply to my day-to-day work, the childlike curiosity, independent reasoning and creative thinking with which CMS equipped me has helped and benefited me ENORMOUSLY! Thank you all, Henry, William, Jing Wang, Kurt Fendt, my ’08 classmates, and other professors and staff! Andres Lombana, SM ’08
new media literacies continue shaping my work. All I learned during my years at MIT resonates in my everyday life as a media explorer, researcher, artist, and educator. Huma Yusuf, SM ’08
Practicing and studying media continue driving my journey. After Cambridge, I moved to Austin, where I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Radio-Television-Film department at the University of Texas. I am glad I was part of the community and program that Henry and William developed at MIT. The CMS experience was certainly challenging and mind-blowing. Thinking across media, having a historical poetic perspective, doing media theory/practice, and understanding
Working as a reporter in Karachi, Pakistan, with a monthly news magazine, I was enticed by the notion of journalism that amplified the voices of the insightful and impassioned people I regularly interviewed. Although I could not articulate it at the time, I wanted to combine citizen journalism and social networking to make for more interactive—and inclusive—storytelling. At CMS, I explored ways in which mediated practices help people coin their own narratives through my thesis on urban identity and violence. But the real learning happened at Thursday night colloquiums (and Shay’s afterwards) and through my projects for MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media (C4), then in its first year. C4 exposed me to the work of Media Lab students and research groups such as New Media Literacies, The Education Arcade, and HyperStudio. I found myself in a world of software applications and media practices that the best
sci-fi writer couldn’t dream up: mobile diagnostics, user-generated radio, interactive timelines and more. An audio editing and tagging software I worked towards never quite took off, but the struggle to make it succeed was enlightening. Meanwhile, I completed a white paper on Pakistani new media and democracy, which is being published by Zone Books/MIT Press in 2010. Since graduating, I have worked as the first features editor of Dawn, Pakistan’s only interactive news website, complete with blogs, a Twitter feed, YouTube channel, and transmedia journalism. I am also working with several NGOs to set up community radio stations in Pakistani conflict zones that will incorporate user-generated content submitted via cellphone. I continue to advocate for free media policy and document new media trends in South Asia. If it hadn’t been for CMS, I may still be writing in print alone. Katherine Chu, SB ’09 I am a first-year master’s student in MIT’s Technology and Policy program. I currently work with researchers in partnership with General Motors to investigate new technology investment decisions, cut costs, and reduce carbon emissions during their manufacturing process. Josh Diaz, SM ’09 Entering the CMS program was a leap of faith, I think—both for me, and for the program. I assumed that the graduate program with the most tantalizing opportunities and challenging projects was also going to be one least likely
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
to appreciate my diverse background and interests. This was not the first assumption that CMS would challenge, but it had the most impact. Soon after arriving, I was using my curiosity as a map for learning more about all the treasures I’d thought of. Even the side treks (especially the side treks?) turned out to be through fallow fields of cool stuff that I was encouraged to explore with brilliant and wonderful scholars at my side. Now that I’m out in what is erroneously referred to as the real world, I’m in tremendous debt (spiritual, not financial) to Comparative Media Studies. Challenging prevailing convention is one handy thing; finding out whether the challenge is working or not is another, and it was my time in CMS that helped find the difference. Whether it’s being able to respond (with evidence!) to the queries of media-studies skeptics or being able to point out the invaluable experience of working in the GAMBIT Game Lab to my professional peers, CMS gave me the tools to land not just the job I have now, but probably whatever the future will throw at me, and the faith to know that I’ll be able to find something worth stopping and asking about when I get there, too.
Lan Le, SM ‘09
I have been, in my time, something of a disciplinary wanderer—a secret humanist in search of an intellectual home amongst the sciences. I finally found that intellectual home at CMS after a long flight from my first disciplines, the only institution that regarded my meandering as a strength rather than a crippling mental deficiency. At CMS, I felt as if the program had been especially made for me, as if grown in a tube from my genetic inheritance to anticipate the possibilities of my budding thought-forms. But even so, there seemed to be an entire universe of thought left outside the bounds of the CMS curriculum—philosophy of science and history, architecture and visual studies, much of critical theory— subjects that professionals of humanistic studies considered foundational. I realize now that this sort of education, being foundational, could easily be provided by someone else. What we were taught at CMS, in a way both simple and profound, was the education that you cannot receive at
any other program—intellectual fearlessness, an aggressive methodological adaptability, and an expansive horizon of interdisciplinary thinking. Even after only one quarter in my Ph.D. program at UC Santa Barbara’s Film & Media program, I recognize the distinctness of the CMS inflections on my thinking and eagerly anticipate the ways it will transform everything it touches. These inflections, and the lifelong friendships I have made at CMS, will be the longest legacy of my lamentably short acquaintance with CMS. And so long as our friendships persist, our sentiments and feeling like the infrastructure between nodes of a far-flung network, CMS too will remain as the tissue of myth and memory that make our histories. Xiaochang Li, SM ‘09
It feels too soon for me to reflect CMS with any clarity. Sometimes people still introduce me as a CMS student, and it won’t occur to me to correct them until
it’s too late and awkward to bring up again. I regularly enlist members from my cohort for various freelance gigs and haphazard—but totally epic—plans for great justice (in the form of overlong blog posts). I haven’t even gotten new business cards yet. Perhaps my time at CMS can be summed thus: I arrived lugging three different copies of Proust’s Recherche, running away full-tilt from those wanting to mold me into a scholar of French modernism. I left having embraced methodological schizophrenia and theoretical promiscuity, talking about networked global mediascapes and collaborative imaginaries, transmedia intertextuality and advertising. CMS taught me how to not only recognize, but to face the political stakes of my work head-on, to think bigger without sacrificing rigor and specificity, and that academic writing didn’t need to be performance art (though, sometimes it can’t be helped). Along the way, I was able to work, play, and get up to all sorts of shenanigans with some of the most brilliant and generous minds I will ever encounter. And make up a whole slew of (really evocative!) neologisms. In the handful of months since then, I’ve moved to New York, consulting and developing research for brands and media companies seeking that uniquely CMS approach and working back through all the media that I didn’t have time to consume while in grad school.
P E O P L E ,E P L AH E A V Y H I N G S T XT CES, T
Colleen Kaman, ‘09
Orit Kuritsky, SM ‘09
MIT has definitely been one of the biggest challenges of my life. It has also been a life-changing experience. Since CMS, I have continued to work in journalism and documentary, at the moment as a consultant with PopTech, a science and technology conference and media company. I am currently working on a multimedia initiative focused on engaging young people in the sciences. Working with PopTech feels a bit like being part of the extended CMS community, not only because Henry brought the current CMS class with him when he spoke at the conference in 2002, but also because it is an environment where I grapple with the practical implications of media and technology on a daily basis. I continue to be inspired by my time at CMS and fully expect that the tools I gained there will continue to inform my professional life, wherever it takes me. I am forever indebted to William, Henry, and the rest of CMS for their patience, vision, and wisdom. Thank you.
After defending my thesis I spent a year in Tel-Aviv, where I directed a cable network dedicated to parenting. (I was also part of its target market; my son Itamar was six months old when I started.) My job was to manage the re-launch of a linear channel, a limited pay-per-view version, a related parenting website (hophorim.co.il), and make them work together in the best possible way. On this job, every day I tapped my experience at some of CMS’s hands-on classes (One that especially comes to mind is Henry’s Media Industries and Systems class, in which we designed media properties for young boys and read, among other insightful texts, the manuscript of Convergence Culture). Analyzing the rapidly changing media landscape around me is something that—like most CMSers—I’ve been practicing before I started the program. Yet, since CMS I’ve been doing it with more deft and depth thanks to Henry’s and William’s insistence on lucid communication, their respect for popular culture, and their insistence that we avoid superficial analysis based on taste judgments (not to mention eye-opening reading suggestions and a wealth of historical case-studies).
Since September I’ve been back in Somerville working on an adaptation of a novel (World Cup Wishes by Eshkol Nevo) into a prime-time drama series for Israeli Channel Two. The core theme of this series, like my CMS master’s thesis, is the elusive concept of transformation. I am pretty sure that my CMS experience will keep informing the next steps in my professional life, whatever they may be. Whitney Trettien, SM ‘09
Jason Begy, SM ‘10
It’s only after entering a Ph.D. program in a more traditionalist humanities discipline (English) that I came to truly appreciate the diversity of CMS. While at MIT, I discussed hiphop YouTube and counterfeit luxury goods; authored a videogame; compared television to Victorian serial novels, and mix-tape culture to the emergence of print; and watched my first K-drama (about a gay pastry chef). I even did the Soulja Boy dance with Richard Stallman (!). As much as I love studying early modern literature and book history at Duke, these are experiences that could only happen in the ongoing experiment that is CMS. Happy 10th.
The past two years in CMS have comprised the most challenging, exciting and fun period of my life. Working in GAMBIT has afforded me the chance to not only study game design, but to engage in game research on a level rarely possible in academia. During my time here, I have studied how players respond to audiovisual feedback and how such feedback has evolved in commercial games. I have also worked on a study of the player base of a new casual MMO. Design-wise I have contributed to Tipping Point, a cooperative board game and browser game designed to teach project management skills. In the summer of 2009, I was part of the GAMBIT Summer Program where I worked on Pierre: Insanity Inspired, a game built to study how players respond to failure. After this semester I am extremely fortunate to be staying on in GAMBIT for another year, and after that, who can say? I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have met and worked with so many fascinating people. I
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
have immensely enjoyed working with the GAMBIT and CMS staff, my fellow CMS graduate students, and the GAMBIT undergraduate researchers. While I only had a short time to work with Henry, I too am sorry to see him go. Yet, I am also glad he is spreading his vision beyond MIT, which can only be a good thing. Lastly, I want to thank my wife for putting up with me these two years. I wouldn’t have. Audubon Dougherty, SM ‘10
of the “Carroll Wilson Circle,” which allowed me to embark on a fascinating project in Peru and meet amazing entrepreneurial MIT alums. I’m also very happy to have gone through CMS with such great colleagues. I will miss our online chats and all the supportive pep talks and knowledge sharing on virtually any topic. Since the future doesn’t exist yet, I’m hesitant to talk about it—but I hope it involves gainful employment for all of us, and lands me in the EU. If I can figure out a way to consistently travel and keep doing media production and management, I’ll be satisfied. And even if that doesn’t work out, I wouldn’t trade in my experience here for anything. Florence Gallez, SM ’10
I feel so grateful to have been admitted to CMS. Aside from the solid academic foundation and ever-interesting course content, what I appreciate most is the community of scholars, professors, and staff who were always there to support my classmates and me. Thanks especially to William and Henry for their unflinching optimism and inspiration. Also to Sarah Wolozin for her assistance with C4 projects and to Ed Barrett for letting me TA his fun classes all year. CMS has been such a unique program. Being able to experience other aspects of MIT has been wonderful—particularly taking pottery, attending Sloan courses, teaching undergrads, working on a documentary with the MIT Glass Lab, helping the MIT@Lawrence project in DUSP, and becoming part
as I posed in front of MIT’s entrance for the shot, I now pose to reflect on three thought-provoking multidisciplinary semesters in the CMS program. I now see a world interacting in unexpected ways on multiple platforms and converging into one big future filled with connected media creators. In it, I see a Florence more media-informed, more focused, and with more different spheres open to her than ever. CMS has pushed me to re-think the ‘old,’ question assumptions, and create ‘the new’ of tomorrow. Trained as a journalist, I came to CMS dreaming of “rewriting the news” and shaping its future through open publishing. The CMS faculty and staff put everything into place to make this happen, affording me a degree of support and freedom unseen in new media programs. Henry Jenkins’ detailed feedback and futuristic insight, William Uricchio’s and Ian Condry’s guidance and international perspectives, CMS’ cooperative spirit, its students’ talents and courses have informed my vision of a new model for digital news production. I am now developing the OpenPark platform for collaborative journalism at the Center for Future Civic Media, and writing a Code of Ethics for news in the digital age for my thesis. Next: opening the OP platform for citizen journalists and communities to tell their news and stories.
Flourish Klink, SM ‘10
Things I wouldn’t have without CMS: • A half-finished master’s thesis (at the time of this writing) on fan humor and lulz. • The experience of helping to design and run a pervasive game. • Knowing what a pervasive game is. • Any interest in silent films whatsoever. • Time spent in struggling Brooklyn schools, testing curriculum to teach new media literacy. • A sense of the history of media. • Two years of experiencing the incredibly fruitful intellectual atmosphere of Cambridge. • Not just a job, but a calling—to be Chief Participation Officer of The Alchemists, advocating for fans on the highest level possible. I’m so grateful for my time here. I’m glad that, nearly ten years ago, Henry managed to get my email address to interview me for Convergence Culture, introducing me to the idea of media studies—and I’m glad when I was finishing college and feeling like I didn’t really want to take my Religion degree and go become a minister, I had the great good sense to look into CMS.
As this self-portrait for a photography class I took in January attests, CMS has taught me to see new facets of myself and the world around me. Just
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
Hillary Kolos, SM ‘10 I admit I came to CMS with a narrow focus—to learn how to incorporate the ways my students participated in the media-rich world outside of the classroom with how they were learning inside the classroom. Many of my initial questions were answered by working as a research assistant at Project NML and talking with colleagues, Henry, classmates, and the folks at GAMBIT. These initial answers led me to new, deeper questions that I hope to explore back in public schools. The best part of CMS, though, was having my mind opened up to so much more. William revealed the important historical patterns of media transitions, as well as the quirks of European living. Henry helped me appreciate a whole new world of media forms and audiences, as well as what not to do in a mud wrestling match. My classmates taught me the joys of playing games (especially trivia at Characters!) in addition to studying them and were who kept me going. The CMS staff showed me how a program can care about and support a group of students with a crazy range of interests and demands. My time with CMS has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but I leave it equipped with a more open mind, a powerful set of tools, and a bunch of new friends that I hope to keep with me for the rest of my life!
Michelle Moon Lee, SM ‘10
Nick Seaver, SM ‘10
Sheila Murphy Seles, SM ‘10
My time as a graduate student in CMS has been exhilarating. CMS was the only program that was able to satisfy my demands for equal parts theory and practice; span a wide variety of media, including games; and recruit a diverse and stimulating student cohort. I have had amazing opportunities to expand my interests in playing and designing games of all sorts, including educational games at The Education Arcade under the guidance of Scot Osterweil. I’ve become particularly interested in transmedia storytelling and pervasive games. My thesis involved collaboratively designing a pervasive game adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo to explore the role of ethics in games. Along with Flourish and Elliot, of whom I am forever appreciative, I completed a week-long playtest of our game Civilité during IAP 2010. I am grateful to Henry, William, and Scot for their unwavering support, in the classroom, in directed research, or on game design projects. I am thrilled to bring the skills and knowledge that I’ve gained at CMS to Quilted, the design and development cooperative where I am a prospective member. Quilted is expanding the services we provide to non-profit and social justice organizations to include game design.
My experience in CMS has been full of surprises: how diverse the interests of my classmates were; how well “media studies” described my interests; by the interest of faculty in my work; and that there were so many great classes that I wanted to take extra, even during my thesis-writing term. CMS has been amazing in exceeding my expectations. The phenomenal interdisciplinarity of the program supported my wideranging thesis topics, and William and Henry helped me to narrow my focus. Thanks to the diverse faculty, I have chased down interests in material culture, sound studies, and automation. The ability to bounce ideas off my classmates stopped me from going too far off the deep end (right, guys?), and learning about their work has been enlightening. (An added perk: they make great bar trivia teammates.) Writing my thesis on the history of “re-performance” and the player piano and applying to Ph.D. programs, I am grateful for the strong interdisciplinary foundation CMS helped me build. I am glad that there was room for me, among brilliant thinkers about industry, culture, entertainment, and technology, to explore and find my interests.
“CMS prepares students for jobs that don’t exist yet.” I didn’t think about it much until I actually started looking for a job, for that asks me to think about the media landscape as I’ve come to see it during my time at CMS. The CMS point-of-view is the greatest gift William and Henry have given us. They’ve taught us to find connections in unlikely places, look for antecedents, and ultimately question the status quo. My classmates have been wonderful teachers, too. I’ve learned a ton from my cohort and made some great friends in the process. Because of our diverse interests and backgrounds, CMS ’10 has assembled the best trivia team ever to grace Characters Bar and Grill. I am writing my thesis on the television industry’s struggle to adapt to the digital world. As I venture out into the world beyond MIT, I feel prepared to tackle the challenges facing the media industries with a critical and informed perspective. I may not know how to fix the television industry (yet), but after two years at CMS, I do know how to ask the right questions.
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
he word faculty has a deep history, a Latin root meaning power, ability, opportunity, resources, and wealth. Those early meanings resonate and aptly describe the colleagues who for over a decade have given form and substance to the CMS program. Most faculty involvement with CMS is a labor of love carried out in addition to other sectional demands; at MIT where the fire hose metaphor reigns, these demands can be intense. Despite this, CMS-affiliated faculty, whose testimonials follow, have taught, advised, helped to administrate, and made the operation of the program possible. Over ten years ago, many of the faculty still here and a few others who have since moved on, gathered to give form to an idea. Retreats led by Henry Jenkins and sponsored by then-Dean Philip Khoury drew on the faculty’s collective wisdom to discuss the curricular contours of the new CMS program, to give shape to its research agenda, and to identify the resources that would sustain it. Dean Deborah Fitzgerald has generously provided resources, guidance, and inspiration, plus the occasional nudge when needed. And CMS has benefited from Ian Condry, who stepped up to the position of associate director at the critical moment when Henry moved to USC. In short, this faculty has enabled CMS to fulfill its mission, forming the core of its community and the persistent center of its intellectual identity. –W.U.
Edward Barrett Writing and Humanistic Studies
inspired masters’ theses. I remember we’d go to Casa Mexico in Harvard Square halfway through the semester. I remember thinking graduate students can eat a lot of guacamole and chips before dinner. Ian Condry CMS and Foreign Languages and Literatures
I remember meetings with colleagues from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and other schools across the Institute to discuss an idea for a new program. I remember thinking this is a great idea even though we didn’t have a name for it at first. I remember thinking Henry is secretly a wizard. I remember the talented and gifted administrative staff, how lucky the program was to have them (then and now). I remember directing the graduate workshop in the first years of the program. I remember trying to find space for students to work in. I remember Chris Pomiecko taking time out of his busy day to order sandwiches for the workshop. I remember we tried not to spill anything on our computers. I remember marveling at the talent of those workshop students. I remember their final projects, how they always went beyond what they had proposed. I remember how many of those projects
or passively experience. Media is something we do. The Institute’s ethos of practical engagement with the world, combined with thoughtful collaboration and dialogue that transcends disciplinary boundaries, helps create an unparalleled crucible for research and innovation. I hope that in the years to come we continue to build upon the core strengths of the program, including the commitment to being truly comparative—over national borders, through history, and across media. If today’s media worlds are driven in part by the energy of people who want to connect, participate, and engage, then CMS couldn’t be in a better position to help shape where our understandings of media will lead. Beth Coleman CMS and Writing
These are exciting times for Comparative Media Studies at MIT. As we celebrate our ten year anniversary, we can see the success of the program in so many ways, from the students past and present, to the extensive network of scholars and media professionals both at MIT and beyond, who together have brought energy and insights to the program, constantly pushing each other and the field in new directions. Given the storied past of CMS, it’s no surprise that there is such passion for its future. MIT is a unique place for media studies right now. Media is no longer something that we watch or consume
I came to CMS directly from graduate school. I had met Henry Jenkins at a
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
conference some time before, and we had stayed in touch. I am incredibly grateful to have had the CMS experience as part of my foundational years as a scholar and teacher. Because of the rich conversations among colleagues, students and friends here, my intellectual world has greatly expanded. I work in theory and practice—thinking about new media and making things with new media. CMS has been an exciting place to experiment with these new worlds we inhabit. I look forward to the next 10 years. (Coleman’s book Hello Avatar, published by MIT Press, is available in fall 2010.) Tommy DeFrantz Music and Theater Arts
on a consulting trip with Henry; taking CMS undergrad majors to dinner and a movie to celebrate their academic achievement, and hosting events for grad students and affiliated faculty to encourage exchange when I acted as associate director for the program while William was on leave. CMS is also a fun place to engage the feedback loop of media to performance. Where else could I collaborate with j-pop expert and CMS professor Ian Condry, create a “live action anime” show with giant robots and lip-synching undergraduate actors, and travel to Tokyo to share our work to an astonished audience? Nowhere! CMS rules. Kurt Fendt Foreign Languages and Literatures
CMS continues to be a hospitable home for my concerns with black popular culture and mediated performance. Work with CMS students, faculty, and affiliated researchers expands my understanding of performance, presence, interactivity, and corporeality as we careen through the 21st century. My favorite episodes to date include leading dance workshops for Electronic Arts staffers in California
planning meetings. The first meeting I attended took place on neutral ground in the Charles Hotel. As it turned out, this was a wise decision as one of the topics on the agenda was defining the name of the new program. Now at its 10th anniversary it’s hard to imagine that the very core of CMS, namely its comparative nature, was once such a contested term that sparked heated discussions. I can’t recall what the other alternatives were but I am glad Comparative Media Studies was the strongest candidate and finally prevailed. The second moment I recall vividly was when the first group of five CMS graduate students moved into their office across the hall from my own office in building E10. Even though the building had already been scheduled for demolition—it was at the location of the new Media Lab—I was happy to be close to activity of an exciting new initiative. One of those first students, Christopher York, became the first research assistant in HyperStudio and I am glad to say that he is still working for us as a consultant from afar. Over the years, the CMS students have become such a central component of HyperStudio that it’s hard to imagine what the Studio would be without them.
Mary Fuller Literature
Having been involved with CMS much beyond the decade we are celebrating now, makes it a challenge to single out a few memorable moments. Nevertheless, I picked two that for me marked a shift in the program as well as my own engagement with CMS. The first one happened in May 1997 when Henry invited me to join the
I first met Henry Jenkins at a Modern Language Association cocktail party in 1988, and since I thought we were competitors for the same job in Renaissance literature it was a surprise to see him again at MIT in the office next door, working on fan fiction. Our conversations about videogames and early modern exploration started me down a path of thinking about how and where older texts connect with present forms and concerns. The work I do now thinks about books as much as about texts, which is to say that I think about the physical things that early modern books are—marketable commodities, aesthetic objects, blank spaces to be marked and written on by readers, and the vehicles for texts that may be utterly transformed without changing a jot of their content. Playing with 500-year-old books is one of the coolest things I get to do, and having interesting questions to ask about them comes at least in part from the intellectual neighborhood of Comparative Media Studies. When the book is one
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
among many possible media—and that’s the historical reality—a perspective on it becomes possible that may not have been so available before. Stefan Helmreich Anthropology
I’ve greatly enjoyed my affiliation with CMS since arriving at MIT. I had particular fun in fall 2009 teaching the Media and Methods: Sound course, one of the new core classes for the major. Students explore how perceptions and technologies of sound emerge from cultural, economic, and historical worlds. We learn how environmental, linguistic, and musical sounds are construed cross-culturally and we listen to the history of telephony, architectural acoustics, and sound recording, as well as to the globalized travel of these technologies. Colleagues from CMS— notably Beth Coleman, Ian Condry and William Uricchio—have been essential to getting this class off the ground. I’ve also had a grand time working with CMS students on their theses. I learned about cartoon sound from Andres Lombana, who made me hear Looney Tunes anew. Nick Seaver, who served as a TA for my sound class, has been writing a thesis on the semiotics of
the player piano that has been making me rethink the relation of musical agency to technology. CMS has been a welcoming community. As an anthropologist, I’ve been pleased to listen in on conversations about new media and honored to offer back my own ethnographic work on allied topics—particularly in a CMS colloquium I did back in 2008, “Submarine Media: Sounding the Sea with Cyborg Anthropology,” which detailed my dive to the sea floor in the submersible Alvin, an experience that pressed me to think freshly about the medium of water through media theory. Anthropology and CMS share a commitment to thinking comparatively, across cultures and examples, and I’m looking and listening forward to long and continuing collaboration. Diana Henderson Literature
Photo by Richard Howard
Whether teaching Major Media Texts, serving on the Admissions Committee, or supervising theses, from the program’s first year onward I’ve greatly enjoyed the cross-disciplinary learning
that the CMS graduate program encourages. Not least among those pleasures has been the opportunity for us all to venture far beyond our home fields, and learn from MIT colleagues. I especially recall the fun in seminar when George Ruckert had us attempting to clap complex rhythms as he introduced Indian classical music theory (better to understand Satyajit Ray’s The Music Room); the seriousness of students’ presentations on media representations of Turkish hunger strikes and South African visual art after apartheid; and, of course, lively debates about the merits of various artistic genres, the contemporary relevance of traditional media, and the protocols of reading. Plus the chance to teach everything from Shakespeare to Pullman’s Dark Materials, from Aristotle to Omkara: what’s not to celebrate? My research on contemporary performances of Shakespeare across media has also benefited from working with students such as Clara Fernandez and colleagues like Pete Donaldson, while the group projects we pursued with the Royal Shakespeare Company opened up new horizons of possibility. Working now with Pete, Janet Sonenberg, Shankar Raman, and Jay Scheib on a Global Shakespeare project, I’m eager to see where the next years take us and the program more generally—especially as we benefit from the participation of newer colleagues, strengthen our undergraduate curriculum, and reach out within and across units to enlarge the circle of participating faculty.
Wyn Kelly Literature
Who would have imagined a project that brought together MIT’s CMS and Literature faculty, researchers and students, New Bedford schoolteachers, a whaling museum, a community theater, and Melville’s Moby-Dick? Project New Media Literacies stood at the fulcrum of all these constituencies in one of the most meaningful convergences of my career, and I have Henry Jenkins and all the CMS community to thank for an unforgettable experience. What I learned about appropriation and remixing, participatory culture, reading and literacy, performance and identity, creative and critical work, and fan practices through the particular lens of Moby-Dick has shifted the ground under my scholarly and pedagogical work in tremendously productive ways—spawning a book, articles, lectures, and half a dozen new courses. In every contact with CMS faculty and students—going back to the first
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
days of MetaMedia and digital archives, continuing through years of innovative thesis projects and colloquia, up through the extended period of weekly writing sessions that produced the Teachers’ Strategy Guide for Reading in a Participatory Culture—I have learned enormously from the CMS culture. One significant lesson: going off balance. The creative energy of CMS continues to unsettle my assumptions and send me in new directions. What the writer of a Soundings (the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences newsletter) profile called “Wyn’s Excellent Adventure” would have been impossible without the intellectual stimulation and support of CMS. I owe the program my deepest gratitude and look forward to the next leg of the great adventure. Eric Klopfer Scheller Teacher Education Program
making them in the context of understanding games and their role in entertainment, industry and people’s lives. On a practical level, the creativity of the CMS students who have worked on projects with us is invaluable. Their input has shaped our work and brought it life that would just not be possible without them. Many of these are CMS master’s students, but my affiliation with CMS has also meant attracting students with media talents, creativity and ingenuity as undergraduate researchers and students in classes as well. The umbrella of The Education Arcade that sits across STEP and CMS creates a unique space that is nearly impossible to replicate anywhere else. Martin Marks Theater and Music Arts
Whenever anyone asks me what The Education Arcade is, I describe it as the intersection of the Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP—of which I am the director) and CMS. CMS lends both credibility and expertise in this endeavor. It means that we’re not just producing educational games based on good pedagogy; it means that we are
What CMS has meant to me... First, a CineMusic Space of support and intellectual enrichment. I first started doing my research into film music in the mid 1970s, and at that time when I described the work to other scholars I was mostly met with curious or blank looks. True, some were enthused; but others, deep into approved archival research, became wary or a bit envious; not a few were coolly dismissive. But here at MIT, professors in Lit-
erature and Foreign Languages & Literatures were among the very first to get really excited when I talked about my work. Then, after the Film and Media Studies program morphed into CMS, two things happened: my teaching of Film Music, Musicals, The Film Experience, and Film Analysis served broader purposes; and my silent-film scoring projects and performances found engaged audiences whose feedback was of tremendous help. In short, the work had a space in which to exist. And second, a Contrapuntal Mind Stretcher. When other faculty and graduate students talk and write about media, my language skills are put to the test; when they describe their work on digital media projects, my IQ seems to shed degrees by the minute; when they theorize, I get skeptical or cranky. (I become one of those old-timers like the people I described above.) It’s all so . . . new. And yet that’s the point, isn’t it? A wonderful group of scholars and entrepreneurs and pioneers who are hacking their ways through cyberforests, mapping a universe that just keeps expanding, finding dark and light matter of immediate import. No one can keep up, but, even the small percentage of things I am able to absorb, has made my life considerably sweeter. I am beholden to them all and thank my lucky stars.
Nick Montfort Writing and Humanistic Studies
I was lucky to have a few CMS memories from before I started teaching in the program in 2007. I got to take one of Henry’s classes when I was a graduate student at MIT, around when he and William were establishing CMS. In the years after that, I met and heard from CMSers at conferences and read some amazing CMS theses and faculty writing. When I joined the MIT faculty, teaching the graduate workshop class, with its eclectic collection of media projects and an eclectic, dynamic group of students, it was my first teaching experience here. I’ve enjoyed working with students as they write their theses, continuing to teach workshop, and having CMS graduate and undergraduate students as part of the class in my other subjects. Already, we’ve had students join us from around the world, some with international research interests and some ready to understand how computing connects to culture. We now have the chance to build on these strengths—to lead the way in taking
EA T FX T H E A V T P E O P L E ,E P L AHUEAE, Y H I N G S T E X T TCE RSV Y
a global view of media and in understanding the qualities of computational media. Our students can now make contributions in emerging fields that deal with creative computing, such as software studies and platform studies. And, we can continue to bring practice together with theory, criticism, and scholarship in innovative ways. I’m looking forward to continuing to be part of CMS and to helping the program continue its success. James Paradis Writing and Humanistic Studies I feel a sense of gratitude to all those who contributed to the rise of Comparative Media Studies at MIT. What a fascinating range of inquiries has developed under the savvy creativity of Jenkins and Uricchio, two of the field’s most widely regarded figures. I appreciate, too, the vision of Thorburn, Donaldson, Barrett, and Marks who fleshed out subject matter and gave structure and institutional framework when it utterly mattered. CMS has been a transformative experience for many of us at MIT, and it is unquestionably the most exciting new undergraduate major to appear in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The graduate students and CMS research initiatives have made MIT media studies a model for institutions around the country. Through its bold multidisciplinarity—which for me brings to mind the irreverent glance of Chris Pomiecko—CMS offered and continues to offer the chance to transform the humanities at MIT.
Faculty across the School have devoted a telling amount of collective energy to extending their curricula and teaching into the realms of CMS, venturing out of their comfort zones into new spaces where historicism encounters the production of the new, the contemporary, the ordinary, the popular. If MIT is an institution unapologetically devoted to the invention of the new, CMS will be the linkage of our critical and historical awareness to that spirit of modernity. It is with no small excitement that I contemplate the next chapter in this uniquely MIT experience. Hanna Rose Shell Society, Technology, and Society
William, Nick, Jim and so many others inspired me throughout the term. In addition to teaching courses in 2009-2010 on The Rise of Modern Science, Science and the Cinema, and Research Methods, I am finishing a book on camouflage called Hide and Seek. In early 2010, I am mobilizing my ongoing project on Haiti, media and secondhand clothing called Secondhand (Pepe) as part of the relief efforts after the earthquake. David Thorburn Literature
agreed to serve on the governing board of the Communications Forum. Reflecting on Henry’s two decades at MIT, I think especially of his and Cynthia’s exemplary labors as Headmasters of Senior House, of his always riveting presence in the classroom, of the way his intellectual energy inspired his colleagues. When the Literature faculty was considering Henry’s appointment, some professors were (reasonably) uneasy, despite his glittering credentials, because his degrees were not in literature but in journalism and film. Of course, his memorable work as a teacher and scholar more than vindicated the decision to hire him. I think it’s the best decision we ever made. Edward Baron Turk Foreign Languages & Literatures
In this, my first year teaching at MIT, I have enjoyed having the opportunity to work with CMS faculty, students and the larger community. I gave a talk “How Not to Be Seen” as part of the CMS Colloquium Series, and this was a great introduction to the host of experiences, knowledge and voices at CMS. There, I had the opportunity to meet a range of graduate students; their feedback and warm welcomes from
I’m still trying to imagine MIT without my visionary friend Henry Jenkins. His impact on the civic and intellectual culture of the Institute has been remarkable, and the legacy of his imaginative teaching and his leadership as the founding director of CMS will nourish us all for years to come. But nothing is here for tears. Although Henry’s now across the continent, his inimitable voice will reach us in books and blogs and perhaps in person, as he’s
The wonderful three-year period during which each fall semester I taught the graduate pro-seminar Major Media Texts includes some of the fondest moments I have had in a very long teaching career! For those students who shared the experience, I will bet that a simple evocation of such signifiers as “Tristan,” “amour fou,” “BuÒuel,” and “Richard Powers” sparks sweet remem-
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
brances. What I most enjoyed was the fruitful collision of my cultural and intellectual baggage with yours. Each of you taught me so much! My only regret is that I wasn’t able to share with you an entirely new area of study I’ve recently been working in: contemporary theatre and performance. This research has culminated in my new book, French Theatre Today: The View from New York, Paris, and Avignon, to appear next year. Those of you who read it will see that I’ve done my best to keep alive the same spirit of joyful exploration that characterized so much of our work together in class. William Uricchio Comparative Media Studies I’ve long been interested in the early days of the book, photography, the telephone, film, television, networked computers, and games. They are as compelling for the modes of connectivity and representation they enable, as for the paths not taken. The CMS program fits this interest neatly, and not just as a facilitating institutional frame. The program is itself inevitably a response to a moment of accelerated media change, part and parcel of the brokering of social interest attendant to a reconfiguration of media practices and meanings. And what fascinates me about emerging media is the same thing that fascinates me about CMS: it offers access to ideas as they become organizing principles, ways of knowing the world and communicating that knowledge. Like the media it studies, CMS is ultimately a social process. A community of diverse scholars, it has
gone on to organize platforms (conferences and colloquia) and institutional venues (research projects) that have transformed the field. A strong community ethos and collective energy have sustained the program through tough times, and account in no small measure for its success. It’s been a privilege to spend a decade with such passionate, talented and generous students, colleagues and staff, and to be part of a truly collaborative community. Although our organizing concept was clear, our timing fortunate, and our results impressive, the real measure of CMS is the community it fostered, and the ongoing work of that community as it continues to spread. Christine Walley Anthropology
I’m an associate professor of Anthropology and am currently working on a documentary film, Exit Zero, about the impact of deindustrialization in a former steel mill community in Southeast Chicago. (The film serves as a companion to an in-progress book entitled, “The Struggle for Existence from the Cradle to the Grave”: An Anthropologist’s Memoir of Family and Class in the United States.) Jing Wang Foreign Languages & Literatures
Chris Weaver Comparative Media Studies
Weaver, left, with Jenkins and Ralph Baer
Congrats on the 10th year anniversary, CMS! Some of the program’s students I worked with are now young professors in different parts of the country. They are message bearers. May CMS thrive for decades to come. Hats off to the founders!
I have taught classes on documentary/ ethnographic film at MIT for a number of years, including to numerous CMS graduate and undergraduate students. At present, I am co-teaching with Chris Boebel a new class, DV Lab: Exploring Science Through Video and New Media, that combines documentary film analysis and production.
I first met Henry in 1999 and was fascinated by his ambitious new program at my alma mater. I had been part of the the Media Lab’s precursor, but Henry’s extensive knowledge of media, its consumption, and applying it in novel ways captivated me. Henry’s annual attempt to vanquish Cynthia in mud-wrestling, and his willingness to accept perennial defeat, only further endeared him to his “fans”. His willingness to allow others to laugh at his expense makes his teaching all the more real—a quality he shares with William, another person of great depth but precious little “attitude.” This dream-team’s guidance added strength to my own work, and I committed to support their program. Having taught at MIT under Ithiel de Sola Pool, I offered my services, and Henry and William were gracious enough to provide an opportunity to contribute. That commitment has been rewarded many times over by the quality of students with whom I have been privileged to teach and interact. After thirty years of association with MIT, CMS has earned a special place not only at the Institute, but in my heart.
P E A C K N ,O P LL EC EG M T H ITN G S OPLE W A D S, EN S
Visiting Scholars and Postdoctal Researchers
MS has had the great pleasure to host talented researchers and to nurture brilliant young minds just starting their academic careers. Here are the visiting scholars, postdocs, and research affiliates who have contributed to our work—as we hope we have to theirs. Jörn Ahrens Visiting Scholar Stuart Brotman Visiting Scholar Axel Bruns Postdoctoral Researcher Alex Chisholm Visiting Scholar Catherine D’Ignazio Visiting Scholar Glorianna Davenport Visiting Scholar/Visiting Lecturer Martijn de Waal Visiting Scholar Frank Espinosa Visiting Scholar Clara Fernández-Vara Postdoctoral Researcher David Finkel Visiting Scholar
Frank Fleerackers Visiting Scholar Russell Francis Postdoctoral Researcher Cristobal Garcia Visiting Scholar Cabell Gathman Visiting Scholar Matthew Gaydos Visiting Student Joshua Green Postdoctoral Researcher Tomoyuki Iino Visiting Scholar Kristine Jørgensen Postdoctoral Researcher Jesper Juul Visiting Lecturer Mitu Khandaker Visiting Scholar Robert Kozinets Research Affiliate Kuan-Chang Kuo Visiting Scholar Pilar Lacasa Visiting Scholar
Qing Li Visiting Scholar Yu-Ling Lu Visiting Scholar Jason Mittell Research Affiliate Peter Müller Visiting Scholar Konstantin Mitgutsch Visiting Scholar David Nieborg Visiting Scholar Esteve Ollé Postdoctoral Researcher Ksenia Prasolova Visiting Scholar Curtiss Priest Research Affiliate Tatiani Rapatzikou Visiting Scholar Bo Reimer Visiting Scholar Alice Robison Postdoctoral Researcher Doris Rusch Postdoctoral Researcher
Stacey Schulman Visiting Scholar Song Shi Research Affiliate Jaroslav Svelch Visiting Student Shenja van der Graaf Research Affiliate Yuichi Washida Research Affiliate Chris Weaver Visiting Scholar/Visiting Lecturer Stefan Werning Visiting Scholar Stacy Wood Research Affiliate Fong-Gong Wu Visiting Scholar Harmony Wu Visiting Lecturer Christopher York Research Affiliate Rongting Zhou Visiting Scholar
P E A C K N ,O P LL EC EG M T H ITN G S OPLE W A D S, EN S
Behind the Desks
he success stories behind Comparative Media Studies are many. Students go off to get Ph.D.’s, invent jobs that didn’t yet exist, and return to their former work wiser and better prepared for a changing media landscape. But a less publicized story is the talent and dedication of the staff. It’s not only that they keep the students on track to graduate, find that $20,000 check that’s gone missing, or organize events so flawlessly that you don’t even notice that the event was organized, it’s who they are and what they do as people. To give just a few examples, they stay overtime to help students; organize and run film festivals; speak unconventional languages such as Danish; jog to and from work every day rain or shine; volunteer at soup kitchens. They have wide and varied interests including yoga and meditation, Internet radio drama, fantasy baseball, fiction writing and, of course, every type and form of media. Have you ever been over to the GAMBIT Game Lab on a Friday evening? Case in point. But most of all, they are a generous, hardworking group of people that understands the meaning of teamwork and team spirit. They believe in what they do—building and running a media program that prepares students to go out and make the world just a little better. Here is a list of staff both past and present to whom CMS would like to give its heartfelt thanks.
R.J. Bain Jason Beene Jason Bentsman Justin Bland Clement Chau Alex Chisholm Katherine Clinton Geeta Dayal Rik Eberhardt David Edery Kurt Fendt Generoso Fierro Amanda Ford Sam Ford Ximena Forero-Irizarry Claudia Forero-Sloan Shari Goldin Andrew Grant Jason Haas Evan Hinkle Ellen Hume Leila Kinney AJ Liberto
Geoffrey Long Jenna McWilliams Marleigh Norton Scot Osterweil Daniel Pereira Chris Pomiecko Douglas Purdy Mike Rapa Erin Reilly Brad Seawell Becky Shepardson Susan Stapleton Abe Stein Philip Tan Jessica Tatlock Anna van Someren Sara Verrilli Karen Verschooren Margaret Weigel Matthew Weise Andrew Whitacre Kelly Leahy Whitney Sarah Wolozin
And to Our Supporters
any of us grow up with tales of the power of belief… Tinkerbell, Ruby Red Slippers, not to mention the more serious narratives inscribed in our civic and religious training, all portray belief as almost magical, transformative, life-altering. It is a wonderful and fundamental thing, hard won and easily lost. But financial backing—belief plus resources—is a horse of another color. A manifestation of commitment, putting money behind one’s belief, goes one step further, combining the affective with the material—and in this case, an all-too-rare material. CMS has been fortunate to win the faith—and the committed support—of a handful of friends. The customs and intricacies of fundraising oblige us to leave them somewhat behind-the-scenes, but without doubt the program’s early and enthusiastic backers have allowed us to do extraordinary things. They have helped us build an endowment that supports students and a “technologist in residence”—a position vital to the program’s bridging of theory and practice in a technology-intensive environment. The support for students has been particularly important since it allows us to fund talent independent of the needs of our various sponsored research projects—and it allows us to support new research projects during the development stage. It enables us to orchestrate a mix of interests and skill-
sets during the admissions process, a mix vital to the program’s success. And it helps to ensure the 100% acceptance rate on our offers of admission that we have lately enjoyed. CMS is indebted to these friends and their extraordinary generosity. Despite the economic challenges that attended the program’s birth (Y2K, 9/11, the “dot bomb”) and the latest national economic meltdowns, these friends have played a crucial role in CMS’s development by providing gifts and endowment so that we could carry on with our work. CMS faces another challenge: as a relatively young program, we lack a pool of graduates who have been out in the world sufficiently long to consider contributing to dear old alma mater (not to mention, good ol’ CMS!). For a new and untested program, the belief—and commitment—of our supporters has made a profound impact on our operations. It has literally changed lives, whether by enabling us to support deserving students or allowing us to develop highimpact research initiatives. We look forward to the day when our alumni, following their inevitable successes, living what they have learned, likewise find themselves in a position to sponsor the CMS vision. We count ourselves as extraordinarily fortunate to have friends like these. –William Uricchio
77 Massachusetts avenue, e15-331, caMbridge, Ma 02139 usa
MIT Comparative Media Studies
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.