Tag Archives: book project

Book Project Update

So I guess I do have a book project; it’s official. –By that I mean that I’m applying for grants to fund the research. So far I’ve applied to be nominated for an NEH Summer stipend; every campus gets to nominate only two, so I have to be selected for nomination before I can even contact the NEH.

Here’s what I said :

Since the mid 90s growing numbers of cultural institutions and post-secondary educational programs devoted to “new media” (as defined by Manuel Castells) have emerged. However, there has been little organized study of their function or of their creation of knowledge about new media and of new media texts themselves. Certain cities, projects, people, or organizations have been studied in isolation by pioneers in the field such as Howard Rheingold, Geert Lovink, and Ned Rossiter, but so far no comprehensive studies have appeared. I intend to continue a study of the new media dispositif in the Netherlands over the next three years. During the award period I intend to make my second visit to the Netherlands to conduct interviews and site visits. I aim by the end of the period to have completed a book proposal that includes 1-2 chapters.
Recent work by Frank Kessler (unpublished seminar paper) suggests that Foucault’s notion of the dispositif may be a fruitful concept to use in understanding the new media scene. Foucault first defined his use of this term in 1977 as follows: “What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogenous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions–in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements (interview 1977).”
Of particular value will be a better understanding of how different philosophies, goals, and choices of new media institutions shape the work they produce and their place with local, regional, and national communities. Foucault went on to say that a dispositif arose in response to an urgent need and this will be another important question to explore: to what need does the new media dispositif respond?
The Netherlands offers a unique opportunity to extend our understanding of the complex relations among the constituents of the new media landscape. According to Peter van den Besselaar, The Netherlands has been on the forefront of both research and cultural production in new media since 1993 when the Digital City was founded in Amsterdam and because since then substantial resources have been invested in education, musea, and other cultural organizations devoted to the creation and study of new media(“The rise and decline of the great Amsterdam digital city,” Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 67). Thus it now represents a comparatively mature context to study offering at least as complex a dispositif as many geographically larger countries.
I plan to make repeated trips to the Netherlands of about two weeks each over the next few years. In each trip I will conduct new interviews and site visits, and also follow up with previous interviewees to learn the outcomes of plans they have shared during earlier contacts. I have been in touch with my current contacts who are pleased for me to continue my investigations, and I have begun contacting additional groups. Of particular interest is that all of these groups are taking some position on the development of a “creative class;” a debate that is at least several years ahead of a similar transformation in the US, and seems a good predictor of what may happen here, so I certainly will track its development.
Further, because the country is geographically compact, but diverse in both human and organizational populations, many different opportunities for interviews and site visits can be carried out in a reasonable time and at reasonable cost. Additional advantages are being able to carry out all of the research in English, and, because of prior acquaintance with some of people involved, easy access to many institutions and people central to the creation and study of new media in the Netherlands. Ultimately this research will lead to a better understanding of how new media dispostifs work, and yield a better idea of how certain organizational or personal strategies contribute to the evolution of the cultural and educational institutions involved, over time. My preliminary work with these groups and the individuals involved in them has convinced me that a more comprehensive study in the Netherlands would produce a valuable new understanding of how a variety of factors shape the new media dispositif, not just in the Netherlands but in general.

Alex Adriaansen at V2_

This afternoon I had a lengthy meeting with Alex Adriaansen, director at V2_ ; he could not have been more generous with his time or forthcoming with his views about the context for New Media studies in the Netherlands or the challenges they face. So I will note it all down before I forget!

First, V2_ has been around for 25 years and that means that by now they have established a reputation as doing interesting, edgy things and also having good practices. Alex emphasized how important it was to them to be truly interdisciplinary themselves, and this brings it’s own challenges because scientists have one way of doing things and, people concerned with business have another, and artists still another, and so on. But he felt this was something they had succeeded in working out over the years, and now these other groups respect their way of doing things.

Another characteristic of the Dutch context is the focus on projects rather than on structural funding schemes for the long term. Alex attributes this to politicians and business people tending to take a short view that always judges success by some concrete result, rather than on what is learned or on long-term possibilities. The problem for V2_, (or any organisation, because I see this in the US as well) is that you have to always follow whatever trend the funding agency is hot for, which means first that you may not be able to really follow through on ideas that need more time, and, perhaps a greater problem, you can get caught up iin the hype so that you lose your critical perspective. I’ve heard this from Florian at Piet Zwart as well, and I will be sure to check on it at De Waag tomorrow.

But Alex felt that they were navigating these challenges successfully. I think V2_ audience may be less prone to falling for hype as well, because most of their programs are aimed at the “creative class” meaning artists, designers, theoreticians, etc. Except for the DEAF Festival, they aren’t very concerned with reaching a wide audience. However, they have decided to strengthen their ties to some educational institutions. They have a pretty strong connection to Piet Zwart MDMA already, and now they are pursuing a PhD programs with some universities (he didn’t say which). I think that sounds like a great idea, and it makes me wish I had time to take on another degree!

The biggest challenge Alex sees ahead for V2_ is reorganizing itself so that it can on the one hand strengthen it’s artistic focus, but on the other build on the more “practical” possibilities suggested by their research. So I look forward to seeing what happens in the next year. –Or rather the next four, as these things go in the Netherlands.

In addition to talking about V2_, we also talked about the program under development at my school, CSU Stanislaus, and the challenges we face in being rather isolated from any big cities or cultural institutions. He suggested looking at the IAMAS program in Japan; from their website, IAMAS is:

AMAS consists of two schools: the Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences and the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. The Institute is solely a graduate school (for obtaining a Masters Degree) and has one faculty and one course, namely Media Creations. There are 20 students in each year of the course. The Academy is a vocational college accepting 30 students each year who must have at least graduated from high school.

That sounds like an interesting program to investigate.

In addition to thanking Alex for his time, and for sharing of the electronic proceedings of DEAF with me, I also have to thank him for being so gracious about my being almost an hour late! On my way there I got completely loast in the tram system and every time I thought I figured it out, I went even more wrong. Finally I just took the Metro, which I seem to understand better. Lucky for me I had already purchased an OV-chipkaart, which iis a smart card for the metro, buses, and trams. My strippenkaart would never have lasted through that maze, and then I would have had to search for a shop to buy one… But anyway, all’s well that ends well.

I may edit this later if I realize I’ve forgotten something.