Blog Post

Creating a Visual Studies Interdisciplinary Space

Over at Duke this summer we have been working on the new Visual Studies Initiative Space in the old Smith Tobacco Warehouse building on Buchanan Boulevard. The process really highlights the materiality of this kind of collaboration, and the extent to which even the most virtual of communities depends on the physical infrastructure. Yesterday I spent a lot of time in a meeting talking about the number of power outlets and network jacks we need in the office spaces, common spaces, and studio areas. Too many and we go painfully over budget; too few and we start stringing spaghetti. We need to know voltage, bandwdith load, heights, how flexible we anticipate the space to be, whether/when we can rely on wireless (the demise of wired connections seems not quite immanent), whether we need our own subnet, whether we are allowed to set up our own routers and switches (and if we don't what the process will be for getting stuff set up in an organization that has more than one support structure associated with it), if we should rely on remote, virtual, or local servers, and whether our fancy new HVAC can accommodate our last-minute addition of a 3/4 length wall in the computer lab. Will the wall we are painting chroma-key green actually be usable given the lack of control over the overall lighting of the space (skylights, overheads at on/off/50% only)? Who gets to persist in which spaces, versus who has to clear out when their isolated use-incident is complete? Where will we store things, and who gets a lock? Should we consider a white-noise generator to control the background hum with add-back frequencies -- even though we are all worried about the ambient noise generated by the exposed HVAC? Which tables and chairs should get casters, and who is responsible for erasing the whiteboard wall? Should we try to image the machines for flexibility, or individual accounts for flexibility? How many people will rely on laptops? Should we get a wide-format printer here, and if so, do we want to attempt cost recovery? (Or will it be too loud?) Does 24 hour access mean 24 hour entrance and exit? Are they going to replace the barbed wire?  If we built it, will they come? If they come, will they collaborate?


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