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Recent work by Frank Kessler (unpublished seminar paper) suggests that Foucault’s notion of the dispositif may be a fruitful concept to use in understanding the new media scene.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.