In Medias Res, Spring 2015

(Print copies of In Medias Res are always available by request.)

Greetings!

As I write this, the Boston area is dealing with one of its snowiest winters in history, with blizzard conditions shutting down mass transit and closing schools and universities, including MIT. As this issue of In Medias Res testifies, however, the challenging weather has not slowed the pace of activities of the denizens of CMS/W!

We are fewer in number this spring as a number of our faculty are away on sabbaticals and leaves. As a result, we have decided to postpone our biennial Media in Transition conference for one year, but look forward to organizing it for spring 2016. We also look forward to telling you all about the accomplishments of our faculty on leave when everyone returns this fall.

Our vibrant curriculum in gaming continues to be enormously popular with MIT undergraduates, and the role of games in society continues to be reflected upon by faculty and graduate students as well, as the essay by Jesse Sell (CMS ’15) illustrates.

Philip Tan, Eric Klopfer, and Louisa Rosenheck then tell us about the role of Education Arcade and MIT Game Lab in the launch of the first two courses of EdTechX, a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) dedicated to the subject of educational technology. Their narrative illustrates the enormous amount of work that goes into the creation of MOOCs, and they provide a candid account of what didn’t quite work and what worked splendidly.

Two of our most visible and active research groups are the Open Documentary Lab (ODL) and the Mobile Experience Lab (MEL). ODL is directed by Sarah Wolozin with Professor William Uricchio as Principal Investigator. Nancy DuVergne Smith of the MIT Alumni Association sat down with Wolozin to talk about the “Moments of Innovation” website, co-constructed with the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam’s Doclab (p. 9).

MEL is directed by Associate Professor of the Practice Federico Casalegno. As Steve Calechman’s article demonstrates, MEL is at the forefront of explore the design of technology aimed at enhancing people’s experiences of locations we typically experience on a transitory basis, such as a gas station, restaurant, or hotel lobby. If you want to see the future of such places, then you should check out what MEL is up to! (p. 10)

Chelsea Barabas (CMS ’15) tells us about her trip over MIT’s Independent Activities Period to Kenya, where she and graduate student Jude Mwenda (MAS, ’15) worked with wildlife conservancies to conduct a feasibility study for the use of drone technologies to support anti-poaching activities. Barabas and Mwenda conducted a series of workshops with wildlife conservation workers and local communities bordering wildlife parks in order to understand the challenges they face in deploying drone technologies in a sustainable way. The goal of their trip was to identify the sort of support needed for drones to be a sustainable component of Kenyan conservation efforts (p. 12).

We close this issue with summaries of activities by individuals and the research groups affiliated with CMS/W. The breadth of activities going on here is great.

Throughout the spring semester, CMS/W hosts an impressive series of guest speakers engaging topics as varied as comic books to hate crimes in cyberspace. Some highlights include our MLK Visiting Scholar Coco Fusco, who will preview her fall 2015 book on “performance and politics in Cuba” on the role of the state in Cuban art during the 1980s; Kevin Driscoll, who locates the roots of social media as we think of it in the bulletin board systems of the early web; and Thomas DeFranz on queer social dance in African-American communities. We’re particularly excited to have Driscoll and DeFranz here: both have roots at CMS/W, with Driscoll a 2009 graduate of our Comparative Media Studies master’s program and DeFranz a former MIT professor affiliated with us before his departure for Duke in 2011. See p. 23 for a full list of this spring’s events, and join us if you can.

Edward Schiappa

About Edward Schiappa

Edward Schiappa conducts research in argumentation, classical rhetoric, media influence, and contemporary rhetorical theory. His current research explores the scope and function of rhetorical studies, including the relationship between rhetorical theory and critical media studies. He has published ten books and his research has appeared in such journals as Philosophy & Rhetoric, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Review, Argumentation, Communication Monographs, and Communication Theory. He has served as editor of Argumentation and Advocacy and received NCA's Douglas W. Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar Award in 2000 and the Rhetorical and Communication Theory Distinguished Scholar Award in 2006. He was named a National Communication Association Distinguished Scholar in 2009. Schiappa is Head of CMS/W and John E. Burchard Professor of the Humanities.