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Janet Murray on “Lessons Learned” (Media Systems)

At the Media Systems gathering Janet Murray made a clarion call for deeper fundamental research in computational media, moving forward interdisciplinary understanding through the creation of new genres:

There has to be someplace where you say, “How do we reconfigure knowledge?” Because that is what happens when you have a new medium of representation, as with the printing press. And we’re not making fast enough progress there, because nobody’s getting rewarded for it, nobody’s being paid to do it.

Unsurprisingly, this was an applause line in our room of interdisciplinary investigators — digital humanists, digital artists, and media-focused computer scientists. Such calls were embedded in a talk deeply grounded in Murray’s experiences as part of MIT’s Project Athena, with AFI’s experiments in the future of film scholarship and commentary, with Georgia Tech’s developments in future pedagogy and interactive television, and as the author of Hamlet on the Holodeck and Inventing the Medium. She combined lessons learned (ranging across issues of gender, copyright, education, design, and more) with often-amusing “lessons refused” (from computer scientists’ assumptions that they would swallow the humanities to humanists’ own assumptions about “the robot of death”).

Murray also outlines some of the challenges we face, and not simply those of support for research. She talks of how professions defend their epistemologies, disciplinary boundaries, and legacy rituals. She tells of fetishized artifacts — like the MIT mathematicians who didn’t want to give up slide rules in the classroom. But despite describing these and other challenges, her talk is brimming with ideas and hopeful about the future.

Like Brenda Laurel’s talk posted last week, PDF slides are available on the main Media Systems page for this talk. Feel free to discuss here in the comments or on Twitter with hashtag #MediaSystems. Also, watch for Ian Horswill’s thoughtful talk here next week!


This material is based upon a project supported by the National Science Foundation (under Grant Number 1152217), the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, the National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, or Microsoft Research.


About the author:  Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies. Read more from this author


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