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Presentations

Media Materiality, Archaeology and Pedagogy

Scott Rodgers interviewed for the Data Materiality podcast, hosted by the Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture and the Vasari Centre for Art and Technology (January 2020) [also on SoundCloud]

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Publications

Woven Circuits

Woven Circuits: An Interview with Taeyoon Choi,” in Mike Ananny, Laura Forlano, and Molly Wright Steenson, eds., Bauhaus Futures (MIT Press, 2019): 215-23

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Publications

Scaffolding, Hard and Soft: Media Infrastructures as Critical and Generative Structures

Scaffolding, Hard and Soft: Media Infrastructures as Critical and Generative Structures” In Jentery Sayers, Ed., The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities (Routledge, 2018) [unedited draft with slides available here]

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Classes

Anthropology of Networks

Undergraduate Studio, with Greta Byrum

While we imagine an Internet that blankets the earth, providing even its most remote and marginalized inhabitants with seamless connectivity, the reality is that a sizable portion of the world’s population lacks reliable access. Here in New York, as across most of the US — especially in rural and poorer urban areas — roughly 30% of households still lack access to broadband. New York City’s just-released Internet Master Plan calls for updated next-generation digital infrastructure, with a promise to afford universal, equitable access to this 21st-century utility: the network.

Building on existing anthropological, media studies, and urban studies research about infrastructures, networks, and digital technologies, this seminar-workshop will engage with NYC’s forthcoming plan to help us better understand the interplay between technical and social network infrastructures. The laying of wires and installation of antennae involve the embodiment of politics and values, just like the buildout of telephone wires, cable systems, and even highway and postal networks. We’ll examine the evolution of networks, and use NYC’s digital master plan as a practical case to understand the equity implications of network design, suggesting ways to build on the existing work of practitioners, activists, scholars, planners, and designers to create healthier sociotechnical ecosystems. We’ll also speak with researchers and activists who’ve practiced media and network ethnography; meet with city officials and local community leaders; embark on field trips around the city; design our own speculative networks; and work with NYC’s digital equity community to formulate a response to the Plan, including proposed community benefits and impact indicators.

Spring 2020 Website

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Classes

Anthropology + Design: Objects, Sites and Systems

Graduate Seminar

Designers commonly use ethnographic methods, and social scientists often adopt design practices, economies, cultures, and artifacts as their subjects of study, focusing in particular on how design “translates values into tangible experiences,” as anthropologist Dori Tunstall puts it. The New School offers us a unique environment for studying the myriad ways in which these disciplines and practices can inform one another, and we’ll begin our semester by examining those relationships: anthropology of design, ethnography for design, ethnography as design, and so forth. We’ll then explore some conceptual case studies, taking up various anthropological concepts and concerns and observing how they’re designed — made material, experiential, affective; given form — through a range of design practices (e.g., from urban design and architecture to fashion and software design), and how anthropological concepts and methods inform those practices. Throughout the semester we’ll host guest lectures and take field trips (including some TBD!) to see these methods in action, and students will have the opportunity to conduct a final research project, which could take the form of a written research paper, an ethnographic report, or a research-based creative project. While this seminar serves as the core course for the new Anthropology and Design track, graduate students from across the university are encouraged to enroll.

Fall 2019 Website
Fall 2020 Website

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Classes

Media + Architecture

Graduate seminar elective; undergraduate lecture course

It wasn’t long ago that the digital vanguard was prophesying the arrival of the “paperless office,” the death of the book, and the “dematerialization” of our physical bodies and environments. Despite those proclamations, we have not traded in our corporeality for virtuality—nor have we exchanged all of our brick-and-mortar edifices and cities for virtual versions. In fact, many architects, urban planners, sociologists, psychologists, geographers, and scholars and practitioners in related disciplines argue that as our media have become ever more virtual, the design and development of our physical spaces—through architecture, landscape design, and urban and regional planning—have become even more important. If our media and our built spaces do not follow the same evolutionary paths, what is the relationship between these two fields of production and experience?

This course examines the dynamic and complex relationship between media and architecture. We will look at architecture as media, symbols and embodiments of particular ideas and values—and at the impact that communication media have had on the practice of architecture and the way we experience our built environments. After equipping ourselves with a basic design vocabulary and a selection of relevant theoretical frameworks, we will trace the contemporaneous development of media and architecture from the scribal era in the Middle Ages to the digital era of today and tomorrow. Along the way, we’ll explore design, history, criticism, and theory from media and design historians and theorists, media makers, and designers. In the process, we will find that underlying and inspiring these various systems of cultural production throughout history are certain foundational elements—particular value systems and kinds of experience, cultural perspectives and worldviews.

Spring 2012: Syllabus | Course Website

Spring 2009: Syllabus | Course Blog

Fall 2007 (Undergraduate University Lecture Course): Syllabus | Scavenger Hunt

Spring 2005: Syllabus

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Classes

Archived Course: Archives, Libraries + Databases

Graduate seminar elective

“There has been more information produced in the last 30 years
than during the previous 5000.”

We’ve all heard some variation on this maxim. As U.S. publishers add 250,000 printed books and close to 300,000 print-on-demand books to our libraries each year; as we find ourselves wading through over 200 million websites; as we continue to add new media – from Tweets to Apps to geo-tagged maps – to our everyday media repertoires, we continually search for new ways to navigate this ever more treacherous sea of information. Throughout human history we have relied on various institutions and politico-intellectual architectures to organize, index, preserve, make sense of, and facilitate or control access to our stores of knowledge, our assemblages of media, our collections of information. This seminar looks at the past, present, and future of the library, the archive, and the database, and considers what logics, priorities, politics, audiences, contents, aesthetics, physical forms, etc., ally and differentiate these institutions. We will examine what roles the library, archive, and the database play in democracy, in education, in everyday life, and in art. Throughout the semester we’ll examine myriad analog and digital artworks that make use of library/archival material, or take the library, archive, or database as their subject. Some classes will involve field trips and guest speakers. Students will have the option of completing at least one theoretically-informed creative/production project for the class.

I was invited to talk about our work in this course at the 2014 Digital Preservation conference at the Library of Congress (talk + slides here), on the LOC’s Signal blog, and at the 2015 New York Art Resources Consortium conference at the Museum of Modern Art (talk + slides here). Archivist Extraordinaire Rick Prelinger has also had some nice things to say about the course:

Fall 2014: Syllabus | Course Website

Fall 2013: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Fall 2012: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Spring 2011: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

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Classes

Archived Course: Urban Media Archaeology

Graduate studio elective

Today’s city is layered with screens of all shapes and sizes and stitched together with a web of wireless networks, but woven into these modern media spaces are other, older urban media networks and infrastructures – many of which have laid the foundation for our newer media. This project-based course is dedicated to excavating and mapping – both theoretically and practically – the layers of mediation that have shaped urban forms and informed urban experiences through several key epochs in communication history, from the oral culture of ancient Athens to the television age. Each student, alone or in pairs, will conduct an urban media excavation – exploring, for example, how pneumatic tubes facilitated the delivery of mail in late-19th century New York, how the rise of the film industry shaped early 20th-century Los Angeles, or how television cables served as the nervous system of new mid-20th-century suburbs. Rather than presenting this work as atomized individual projects, however, everyone will plot their sites and networks, and post relevant archival media, to a collaboratively designed interactive media map. Part of the class will be devoted to designing the platform by analyzing which presentation format is best suited for effectively displaying these layers of urban mediation and exploring the synergies between individual students’ projects. The class will lay historical and theoretical groundwork for examining media and the urban environment, and also introduce students to the fields of media archaeology and the digital humanities.  While students will participate in the creation of interactive media maps, this hybrid course will have a strong theory component.

Fall 2013: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Fall 2012: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Fall 2011: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Fall 2010: Syllabus | Student-Designed Syllabus for Final Eight Weeks | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Categories
Publications

Cloud and Field (on field guides to global digital systems)

Cloud and Field: On the Resurgence of ‘Field Guides’ in a Networked Age,” Places (August 2016).

Categories
Presentations

Scaffolding, Hard and Soft: Infrastructures as Critical and Generative Structures (2014)

On September 18, 2014, in Parsons’ “Design for This Century” lecture course — a class that’s required of all first-year Transdisciplinary Design, Design + Technology, and Design Studies students — I spoke about infrastructure as both a critical framework and a generative structure. This presentation, which you can find here, would later become a chapter in Jentery Sayers’s Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, forthcoming 2017.