In the first of several posts featuring pieces from this fall’s issue of In Medias Res (at the printer now!), we’re highlighting the work of CMS/W faculty members taking on fellowships for part or all of the 2014-2015 academic year. Some, like Heather Hendershot, will be just up the road. Others, like Fox Harrell…well, we’ll see him on Skype!
Vivek Bald will be spending the 2014-15 academic year as a Fellow at Harvard University’s Warren Center for Research in American History.
Along with seven other Warren Center fellows, he will be participating in a year-long seminar centered on “Multimedia History and Literature”, convened by the historian Vincent Brown and literary scholar Glenda Carpio.
Bald’s own research over the course of the year will focus on developing the digital media components of his Bengali Harlem/Lost Histories Project: a feature-length documentary film and a community-sourced, web-based oral history project documenting the lives and histories of mixed Bengali-Puerto Rican and Bengali-African American families in mid-20th century Black neighborhoods in the U.S. He will also be working on his next full-length book project, which explores ideas, images, and fantasies of “India” in American popular and consumer culture in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Heather Hendershot has been awarded a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she will be working on her book on William F. Buckley’s public affairs show Firing Line (1966-1999).
Focusing on the show’s “golden age” from 1966 to 1980, each chapter of Hendershot’s book will center on a key issue and/or set of political figures; guests discussed will range from big names (Noam Chomsky on the futility of continuing in Vietnam) to then-unknowns (27-year-old Captain Oliver North on the absence of war crimes in Vietnam).
Following an introduction to the program’s origins and its link to Buckley’s 1965 run for mayor of New York City—he lost the election but became a media star—chapters will focus on: Goldwater and the Extremists; Communism, McCarthyism, and the Blacklist; Civil Rights and Black Power; Vietnam and Nixon; the Women’s Liberation Movement; and Ronald Reagan and the triumph of right-wing conservatism. Firing Line offers a compelling case study for charting the trials and tribulations of PBS, a case study focusing particularly on exactly how and why conservative programs thrived when public broadcasting was defunded. It also helps us understand the pre-history of Fox News, right-wing talk radio, etc. Bluntly put: how did we get from there to here? In addition, the program and its creator can help us chart out new ways to think through the history of the American conservative movement.
D. Fox Harrell will be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Science (CASBS) at Stanford University for 2014-2015, where he will focus on several projects. Recently, he has lead his research group, the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (ICE Lab) in the development of a platform called Chimera that supports authoring games and interactive narratives that more effectively take social identity into account. In Chimeria, social identity categories are gradient (members can be more or less central to categories), dynamic (members can move between categories), and allow for multiple memberships. Using Chimeria, Professor Harrell’s focus will be on developing computational media systems that can achieve greater aesthetic, affective, and social resonance – in particular games and social media for expressing and better understanding cognitive phenomena related to social identity. Harrell will also be consolidating results of his 5-year NSF Career Grant-supported project called “Computing for Advanced Identity Representation” for publication.
William Uricchio received the prestigious Berlin Prize and will spend six months at the American Academy in Berlin working on a book on the cultural work of algorithms. From the 15th century onwards, things like three-point perspective, the printing press, and Decartes’ notion of the self all contributed to a celebration of point of view, authorship and the individual. Algorithms changed all that, blurring these traditions, challenging our notions of the self, and in the process subverting the project of the modern.
Working with cases drawn from predictive musical taste algorithms (The Echo Nest), image aggregators (Photosynth), story generators (Narrative Science) and participatory and interactive documentary, William will explore cultural forms that don’t fit easily within our inherited logics. Today’s algorithmically produced texts may look the same, but they fundamentally undercut the tenants of the modern—and our traditional systems of analysis. The question is, with what implication? What questions should we be asking, what methods can we deploy, to critically assess this new order of things? William’s work will focus on the implications of these developments for the ways that we represent, relate to, and tell stories about the world in the form of participatory and interactive documentary.