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Anne Balsamo

Director of the Institute of Multimedia Literacy, USC [Keynoter]

Anne Balsamo
Anne Balsamo is one of the keynoters for the Transliteracies 2005 Conference. Her presentation is titled, “Designing Culture: A Work of the Technological Imagination.” Balsamo is Director of the Institute of Multimedia Literacy at the University of Southern California and a Professor in the USC Interactive Media Division and Gender Studies Program. Previously she was a Principal Scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where she was a member of the Research in Experimental Documents (RED) group. She was project manager and new media designer for the development of RED’s touring museum exhibit, “XFR: Experiments in the Future of Reading.” She was president and founding partner of Onomy Labs, Inc. a Silicon Valley technology design company that builds signature public interactives. Her first book, Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women (Duke, 1996) investigated the social and cultural implications of emergent bio-technologies. She is currently working on a new book entitled Designing Culture: A Work of the Technological Imagination, which examines the relationship between cultural theory and the design of new media. She and Professor Tara McPherson represent USC in the recently formed organization HASTAC: Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory.


Research Sample: “Alphanumeric Adventures: Exploring New Contexts and Audiences for Humanistic Knowledge”

A proposal for the creation of a Collaboratory at USC, Spring, 2005
PIs: Anne Balsamo and Todd Richmond
Site: Annenberg Center for Communication

The Project

Electronic technology is often said to initiate sweeping and irreversible changes in the cultural landscape. In some of the prophetic scenarios that have been offered to describe this future, books disappear, to be replaced by endlessly malleable, never definitive “e-texts”; authors shed their authorial privilege, to become co-participants with their readers in a story they make together; reading melts into viewing as multimedia becomes the rule; a technological dialect of English erases the history of all other languages and styles. With such prospects before them, commentators have often found the apocalyptic a congenial mode, reading in the widespread use of linked computers signs of an end to subjectivity, narrative, individuality, democracy, or materiality. Apocalypse being a long favored genre of humanistic discourse, scholars of language and culture have often been content to reflect on these changes as if from a distance. Fewer have asked–or tried to work out in practice–how these new technologies might offer opportunities for positive and, indeed, creative reconfigurations of the space of the humanities in the broader cultural landscape.

The purpose of the proposed collaboratory, called the “Tinkering Space,” is to create a hands-on collaboration space for researchers to explore the opportunities presented by a range of new media to make connections among humanistic knowledges, new technologies, public audiences, and non-academic contexts. Projects created within this space will explore how the humanities, and its constitutive knowledge domains might circulate in the cultural spaces made possible by the creation of networked new media technologies. In the museum, on the video game console, or in school yard playground, the sites for these projects will address audiences far removed from the traditional humanities classroom. Yet each project is built upon and deeply informed by the knowledges, scholarship, and intellectual traditions that continue to mark the “humanities” as an cultural domain of abiding value.

A Sample of Proposed projects

  • Meet Me at the Wall: An Interactive Digital Wall for Distributed Design
  • The Playground of the Future: The Physciality of WiFi Games
  • The Play between Code and Context: An Interactive Human Genome Browser
  abalsamo, 02.25.05

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