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Media Systems — A glimpse of the future?

Next week, among the redwoods of the UC Santa Cruz campus, we will host the Media Systems gathering. It will be the first joint activity of the NSF, NEH, and NEA — and we are also sponsored by both Microsoft Studios and Microsoft Research.

Some might wonder what such disparate funders, not to mention the people they are bringing together from different fields, could possibly have to say to each other. In ten years I predict we’ll ask, instead, “What took so long?”

I understand why that might be a surprising statement. The range of work that has made our participants leaders in their respective fields is pretty wide: artificial intelligence, game creation, reimagining scholarly publishing, interactive installations, art history and visual studies, software and platform studies, educational innovation, digital art, design augmentation, transmedia narrative, cultural probes, feature film production, procedural animation, and more.

But I would say one thing brings us together, something that I believe will be more and more central to our thinking about computer science, digital humanities, and digital arts in the coming years: seeing computational processes as part of culture.

The purpose of our gathering is to bring together people from different fields, who have been approaching this view from different directions, and have in-depth conversations about the ideas and projects that could take things to the next level. Of course, we’ll also be looking for ways for our colleagues, and our funders, to initiate the next level of communication and collaboration that will be needed for this interdisciplinary work to succeed.

If you’re interested in short updates, I (and perhaps others) plan to tweet to the #MediaSystems hashtag from now, as we make the final preparations, to next Wednesday (when the meeting concludes). In the future we will have more detailed information available, including a whitepaper and video of some of the sessions. You can also see the official announcement and, for further background, my Inside Higher Education editorial.

We look forward to taking a step toward a more deeply interdisciplinary future.


About the author:  Noah Wardrip-Fruin is an Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies.

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