Tag Archives: grants

Final (for now) project proposal

Earlier this month I posted a proposal which did not get accepted for further submission and evaluation. I have to really thank Florian for being quite forthright about completely incoherent the first version was, and asking pointed questions that allowed me to see what needed to be straightened out. So I revised and revised and revised, which isn’t always my favorite thing… But this was fun.

If I hadn’t been so pressed for time, I would have enjoyed revising even more, but anyway, thanks to Mirko‘s willingness to spend hours talking me through a revision via Skype, I enjoyed it. Sometimes the hardest part of writing (for me) is just staying at the computer and continuing to write. Having a friend on the line (or in a chat window) really helps. A deep bow to Mirko for that heroic effort. After the extremely helpful feedback from Florian and help with revisions from Mirko and Betsy (one of my colleagues here) I submitted, three drafts later, this:

With the introduction of the Internet and WWW in the 1990s, scholars, artists and activists began a critical engagement with technology. These early adopters were a loose collection of individuals that came out of many fields, including philosophy, literature, film studies, sociology, computer science, and also from outside of the academy; journalists, politicians, artists, activists and business people have participated in this discourse community as well. This diverse group was united by their shared observation of and concern with the effects technology was having on their respective fields.

There were few possibilities then to reflect on new media from a scholarly perspective; instead the issues were debated in popular discourse, in the networks of the early adopters’ various fields, and were explored in conferences and festivals. For example, in 1988 Ars Electronica featured contributions from Kittler, Baudrillard, Flusser, and Weibel, each of whom was trying to elucidate what we now commonly describe as new media. But while early scholarship on new media came from traditional fields such as literature, sociology, art and art history, film and media studies (Hayles, Kittler, Castells, Uricchio, Manovich); recently institutionalization has been driven by former members of the early adopter networks entering academia (Fuller, Lovink, Cramer, Juul, Montfort, Rieder, Schaefer, van den Boomen, Terranova).

As this field and its knowledge are crystallizing, the process raises immediate questions: what is the relation between institutionalization and the people, physical things, and symbols in the networks that gave rise to new media? How are institutions constructed that critically reflect on emerging technologies? How is the fluid knowledge shared between participants becoming crystallized, being canonized, such that some groups are included or excluded? And finally, what do we gain and lose in knowledge production through this process?

Because European countries hosted the first networks and festivals devoted to a critical engagement with new media; has invested far more public funding into cultural and academic programs around it; Europe now has far larger, more varied, and more mature institutions producing, studying, and teaching about new media. This diversity makes it fruitful ground for study, but while some cities, projects, people, or organizations have been studied in isolation by pioneers such as Manuel Castells (The Internet Galaxy), Geert Lovink (Dark Fiber) and provide preliminary insight into the institutionalization of new media, no comprehensive studies have yet appeared. I intend a rhetorical analysis of the scholarly discourse on new media in Europe which I will approach as a dispositif. While Foucault applied this concept to historical archives, I propose exploring the human archive embodied in the actor-network of individuals and groups currently working on new media, beginning in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is the best starting point because some of the first university programs in new media began there, and thanks to early and extensive government funding, a wide array of other cultural institutions have developed simultaneously. The Dutch context was originally characterized by heterogenous networks of people, things and symbols that were ad hoc and informal, but now all of these disparate elements contribute to the establishment of formal knowledge, specialization, and the construction of a canon. These activities are a clear sign of institutionalization, which also inevitably involves the development of gate-keeping processes. However, while institutionalization is taking place, the cooperative polder model still shapes socio-economic relations and allows for the continued emergence of new voices and new groups. Thus the whole spectrum of development is available for study.

In addition, the development of new media in the Netherlands allows study of other important questions: how are a loose group of people, the early adopters, who were not at first members of the academy, contributing to the creation of a field, a discourse, and knowledge by running events, funding grants and supporting themselves in the process, and how are they molding what started almost as folk practice into official knowledge, bringing not only their experiences, but their networks into the establishment? New media institutions are developing rapidly and successfully in the Netherlands; which conditions are necessary for fostering and speeding this process as it has happened there?

For this study I have begun visiting and observing a variety of groups, including De Waag Society for Old and New Media, V2_Institute, Worm Rotterdam, and De Geuzen artist collective. Further visits to these institutions have been arranged for the award period, along with observations at the University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies, the Piet Zwart Institute Media Design program, among other academic institutions. Observing this network over time will allow a comprehensive rhetorical analysis, using Burke’s pentad to better understand the functioning of actors within these networks, and will yield a better understanding of how knowledge in an emerging field is institutionalized.

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.

Grant-writing or ….

Actually I can’t think of anything worse at the moment. I have (I hope to god) just finished preparing an NEH proposal. I’m the Primary Investigator (PI) but I’ve been working with four other faculty here on a variety of projects, including this one, a proposal for a year-long workshop series on bringing the digital humanities into the mainstream. I’ll post the 1-page summary shortly, but this the one that had me nagging everyone for commitment letters with almost no notice.

The actual writing wasn’t so bad, nor putting together the reading lists, or arranging the schedule. In fact that part was quite interesting in a curatorial kind of way. But, trying to extract info and paperwork from people before a deadline, especially when money is involved; well, that is really uncomfortable. It’s bad with the outside speakers because they are nice for agreeing, and then I email and say, “well, that’s not quite right, do it over this way please” …and then few days later “I really need xyz” …and then “we have to have this by noon today or…”

Worse however is having to nag my colleagues here, because they are working hard, all busy with other things (like our insane teaching load) and I nag them even more. Not just for letters and CVs, but also for feedback on drafts, meetings, etc. This is not to say they won’t benefit from our getting the grant, or that they’ve ever complained at all. I just find this aspect of leadership so …icky.

By contrast, applying for an individual grant for myself (which I am also doing right now) feels like a cakewalk! –I guess that could be considered a benefit of slogging through the more complicated group proposal process…

I’m imposing a moratorium on being a PI for the next month at least. I have to focus on my classes, a conference paper, my individual grant applications, and the proposal for a new joint MA (the upper admin. here may be getting skeptical about how committed our partners are. 😐 ) Sigh. I need a clone, 30 hour days, teleport technology, and a pile of money. Is that so hard?

And, we’re off!

The semester has started and students are starting to find their way to the Moodle site, where so far, they are managing to register and upload pictures of themselves, set up their profiles , etc. So that’s a relief. Now I just hope my grad students do as well.

Meanwhile, we are scrambling through two grant proposals and the co-I who was helping me with the one that’s due next week got food poisoning two days ago. Argh. I think we will make it anyhow, but it’s going to be close, and stressful. And, the worst thing is that we are still trying to contact potential speakers for the workshop series; if they say yes, we immediately need commitment letters, 2-page CVs, and biographical blurbs. This is a big change from the last grant cycle’s requirements, which said that the letters would strengthen your proposals, but weren’t required. So that’s been a lot of fun to deal with; I love emailing people I don’t know (and those I do) and asking for huge favors. On the up side, they’ve been quite nice about it, and two of these lovely people have said yes so far. If we get the grant and run the series, I’ll brag about who they are. 🙂

Letters of intent (LOI)

Some granting agencies encourage (or require) applicants to submit a letter of intent before applying so the agency can decide on reviewers more easily. So, OK, coming up with a 2-page letter with one inch margins, 12-point font in an NSF approved typeface is slightly tiresome, but I write so many conference abstracts, it wasn’t a big deal. Doing it while emailing drafts around with my colleagues while we are all on vacation and dealing with family stuff was a little more tiresome but still, it’s only two pages. We got it done and sent it to our Office of Sponsored Research and Programs, and Nancy, one of our devoted pre-award staff, was to submit it through that delightful online Fastlane system.

Surprise surprise, when Nancy logged in she found that the Fastlane system had a different set of requirements than the program solicitation had listed. Since by then I was offline and we were up against the deadline, she and one of my other colleagues had to improvise, and they did yeoman work re-writing the letter to fit texts fields with very limited character-counts.

–I actually like character counts in one way; they force much leaner, more elegant prose. But trying to produce that on a short deadline is trying. To paraphrase something Henry Jenkins once wrote in his blog, I write long when I don’t have time to write short.

Anyway, here’s what we ultimately submitted:

Pilot: Increasing underrepresented groups in computer science through interdisciplinary and community collaboration

Historically, women and people of color have been under-represented in Computer Science. California State University, Stanislaus, designated as a Hispanic-Serving institution with an enrollment of over 50% female undergraduates, experiences this same under-representation. Faculty from an array of disciplines that span the physical and mathematical sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities have come together to develop a new curriculum based on an inter-disciplinary and project-centered approach, and to connect with students and teachers at the secondary level in order to increase underrepresented student population in Computer Science. Our approach will emphasize creativity, teamwork, and the development of projects relevant to students and the local community. These have been shown to make computer science more attractive to women and paint a more realistic picture of the skills needed for a career in computer science. We are transforming existing courses and developing additional ones to create new routes into Computer Scie

nce for our undergraduates, and to create new connections with the community. We intend to develop a new minor in Digital Media and a variety of courses and outreach programs to attract our target student population. These will include workshops for local high school teachers and students; and visiting speakers, artists and industry professionals who will make presentations to both university and public audiences, strengthening ties to the community and to other schools. The visiting lecturers will reinforce the practical application and ethical implications of the projects that the students are learning within the minor, and will make those relationships explicit to the public.

The target population typically chooses majors in English, Art, Communication, and Gender or Ethnic studies. Our experiences in those classes and observations of other programs suggest that many of these students can learn how to use sophisticated applications and become skilled programmers if they are taught in a project-centered way and if the applications and programming skills are presented as tools rather than an end unto themselves. They are interested in the ethical, pedagogical, and cultural aspects of computer technology. Our students have strong ties to local communities, thus projects that benefit local communities will be far more compelling.

Minor in Digital Media Capstone course: The capstone project will focus on archiving regional living histories and will have a slightly different focus each year. The specific focus will be determined by the students and will be influenced by the contributing courses from other departments, allowing direct relationships between courses revealing the intricate and overlapping ways in which the interaction of technology and culture affects all parts of our community.

Computer Science will develop a method to index and retrieve the content and the programming of the presentation. Art will contribute visual material and will
guide the design of the presentation created from the content collected. English and other participating departments will contribute interpretive content.

The presentation for the capstone course will be consistent from year to year, allowing for data integration and for the project to become more robust with time,
as each project forms part of a new digital library. During the capstone project exhibition, student creators will present and discuss their projects through public

Project-based courses and workshops for middle and high school students and teachers in digital media will be a method of outreach. These groups will collaborate on archiving the previous capstone project in an online format. In addition, we plan to have an ongoing speaker/exhibit series that brings prominent speakers from industry, arts, and academia to a university audience and also to forums in the community. These community lectures will be aimed at high school students in particular, as we work to attract new applicants to the program. The local city arts commission has already expressed interest in contributing to the realization of our projects.