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Art and Technology Reconfigurations: Presentation by Asuncin Lpez-Varela Azcrate

(For a lovely, succinct abstract of the presentation, please refer to the Google Wave discussion for this program, linked to from here.)

Drawing from a diverse range of disciplines, including media theory and neuroscience, Professor Lpez-Varelas presentation gives us a theoretical reading of the potentialities of media in individual and community subject formation in the specific context of a project that implements a special web environment for students. Part of a larger research project, Studies on Intermediality as Intercultural Mediation, a joint international venture developed at the Universidad Complutense Madrid, funded by the Universidad and Comunidad de Madrid, Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, and using material by George Landow at Brown University, the project looks at various types of media in a web platform and the their relevance for processes of translation in different forms of communications: These operations rearrange conceptual and semiotic borders considerably given the material, linguistic, and cultural constraints imposed on them (1:30). The online environment itself is meant to combine both on- and off-line methods to foster interculturalism and to develop and track empathy as it emerges through the study of literature and art. (Please correct me if I mis-identify any of these points in regards to this project).

Perhaps the most significant theme that appeared throughout the presentation was that of borders and boundariesgeographic, temporal, interpersonalthat exist, that can be crossed, and that can be viewed simultaneously. These border metaphors further highlight the importance of hybridism, inbetweeness, and third spaces in practices of knowledge acquisition (13:40). What this discussion signals is the significance of shared experience and human interaction in processes of learning, and in this particular instance of language acquisition. Art and media then, can become a communal experience that draws individuals together by allowing for a shared intersubjective experience.

This project, as evidenced by the Google Wave discussion, resonates with educators who use various forms of media in their classes. As Kelly Searsmith noted: I've been thinking lately about whether we sometimes confuse tech interfaces for interacting with research or learning with interdisciplinarity. The material nature of that border crossing and the different social interactions and information exchanges it affords matters. But is, for example, the use of a virtual classroom in a literature course a form of interdisciplinary education as such? 

That comment prompted a short discussion on intedisciplinarity (one Id love to extend further, possibly here) and the role of technology. I responded with examples from my own home department: From our dept. at UCSB, at least, virtual components aren't considered interdisciplinary so much as they are seen as extensions of the classrooms and technologies that further extend and mediate the learning environment and experienceWhat makes some of new humanities research interdisciplinary, and Prof.Asuncin's work falls into this, is that it draws from disciplines seen normally so external from the humanities (like neuropsychology.)

Searsmith, in turn, responded with: In a recent issue of Leonardo, Roger Malina argues for the growth of the hard humanities, those that incorporate the philosophy of culture with social science theory and methods. I'm intrigued by this myself, as a humanist, and I do think our increased incorporation of media means that theorizing their nature and impact becomes part of our study -- as with the means of production, so the means of transmission and engagement.

These exciting trajectories in the development of the humanities can clearly be witnessed in this presentation and the accompanying discussion. Sadly, the discussion (thus far) ends there. It would have been wonderful Professor Lpez-Varela and others on HASTAC to engage in discussion as well, but that need not limit us. Perhaps we can further cross some subjective, geographic, and temporal boundaries by continuing the dialog here. ;)

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