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Podcast, Thomas Allen Harris: “Collective Wisdom” Keynote

Thomas Allen Harris with 8mm camera
Thomas Allen Harris

Critically-acclaimed filmmaker and artist Thomas Allen Harris reveals his process, experiences, and unexpected outcomes working with communities in online and offline shared spaces and places.

Thomas Allen Harris is a critically acclaimed, interdisciplinary artist who explores conceptions of family, identity, environmentalism, and spirituality in a participatory practice. Graduate of Harvard College with a degree in Biology and the Whitney Independent Study Program, member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and published writer/curator, Harris lectures widely on the use of media as a tool for social change with a keen recognition for its potential to organize social movements and impact the biological body. He currently holds a position at Yale University as a Senior Lecturer in African American and Film & Media Studies, where he is teaching courses titled “Family Narratives/Cultural Shifts” and “Archive Aesthetics and Community Storytelling”. He is also working on a new television show, Family Pictures USA, which takes a radical look at neighborhoods and cities of the United States through the lens of family photographs, collaborative performances, and personal testimony sourced from their communities.

Family Pictures USA uses methodologies Harris and his team developed with Digital Diaspora Family Reunion, LLC (DDFR), a socially engaged transmedia project that has incorporated community organizing, performance, virtual gathering spaces, and storytelling into over 60 unique audio-visual events in over 50 cities. Harris will talk about his trajectory as a media artist that led to DDFR and his documentary film work, including Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, his 2015 film that was developed in tandem with DDFR. Through A Lens Darkly features leading Black cultural figures, scholars, and photographers sharing their archives with Harris in an exploration of the ways photography has been used as a tool of representation and self-representation in history, garnering an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary film, the Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award, and an Africa Movie Academy Award, among others.

In conversation with MIT Professor Vivek Bald, Harris reveals his process, experiences, and unexpected outcomes working with communities in online and offline shared spaces and places.

Rachel Thompson
Written by
Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Her honors thesis explored literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of an online literary magazine. She also co-founded and directed the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, a network of eight volunteer groups that tutor in prisons across Massachusetts and work on advocacy initiatives relating to mass incarceration and education.

Before joining CMS, Rachel worked in Boston-area art museums — the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Essex Museum — with a focus on developing teaching curriculum for makerspaces as well as integrated digital media experiences for visitors.

At MIT, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab under the direction of Lisa Parks.

Thesis: Incomplete Sentences: Exploitation and Empowerment in American Incarceration Media

Rachel Thompson Written by Rachel Thompson