Site Object Experience: Designing Material Media Spaces (2011)

Presentation at the 2011 International Communication Association Conference (which, I must admit, also functioned as a workshop for the personal statement in my tenure dossier)

For decades scholars and critics have been examining design as communication. Their work has addressed the symbolism of the manufactured object (Barthes 1957; Candlin/Guins 2009), the means by which a built space communicates its function (Venturi 1966; Eco 1968), even the communicative action of the design process (Alexander 1987; Mattern 2003). Methodologies emerging from the relatively new field of design studies, as well as new theoretical approaches—including the “new materialism” (Gumbrecht/Pfeiffer 1994; Miller 2005), “thing theory” (Appadurai 1996; Brown 2001), and media archaeology (Huhtamo 1997; Zielinski 2006)—offer models through which communication scholars can study the design of communicative objects, from codices to ebooks, from pencils to joysticks. In my own work for over a decade, I’ve drawn on these various traditions, focusing specifically on the relationships between media and communication and spatial design practices – at the interior, architectural, urban, and, occasionally, national scales. In what follows I’ll provide a brief overview of the projects I’ve undertaken in an effort to highlight the concepts and theoretical frameworks, the methodologies and interconnected scales of analysis, that I’ve developed for this work. And then for the last few minutes I’ll home in on a recent article that focuses on an under-the-radar 1000 square-foot room in a library not far from here: the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard’s Lamont Library.

You can find the full presentation, including text and slides, here.