Featuring a wide assortment of interviews and event archives, the MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing podcast features the best of our field's critical analysis, collaborative research, and design -- all across a variety of media arts, forms, and practices.
You can learn more about us, including info about our faculty and academic programs and how to join us in person for events, at cmsw.mit.edu.
Reworking the Archive: The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project
What are some unexplored ways that online environments can help us rethink “the archive”? How might i-doc storytelling tools expand what an archive can be as well as public engagement with history itself? This presentation explores these questions through a demonstration of the online Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project. The project is based on a collaboration with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum, a small volunteer-led museum in a diverse former steel mill region. The digital archive highlights objects saved and donated by community residents, what those items meant to donors, and the stories told around and through these objects. The website uses a variety of online storytelling techniques to help viewers connect with the objects and the histories from which they emerge. It also highlights how the historic conflicts found in this multi-racial working-class community – including those around labor, immigration, racial, and environmental struggles – continue to resonate in the contemporary moment. The website helps diverse working-class histories come alive for viewers through both objects and the spoken word in ways that are simultaneously striking and reflective of everyday life. Presenters include creative director and i-doc pioneer Jeff Soyk and the project directors, anthropologist Chris Walley and filmmaker Chris Boebel.
Jeff Soyk is an award-winning media artist with credits as creative director and UI/UX designer on PBS Frontline’s Inheritance (2016 News & Documentary EMMY winner and Peabody-Facebook Award winner) as well as art director, UI/UX designer and architect on Hollow (2013 Peabody Award winner and News & Documentary EMMY nominee).
Christine J. Walley is a Professor of Anthropology at MIT. She is the award-winning author of Exit Zero: Family and Class in Post-Industrial Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2013) and a co-creator of a documentary film Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story (2017).
Chris Boebel is Director of Media Development at MIT Open Learning, where he oversees media production for professional education and explores the uses of media in education, including VR and interactive media. A filmmaker by training, he has produced and directed feature films, documentaries, and television. His work has been shown on many networks around the world, including PBS and the BBC, and at more than 50 film festivals, including Sundance.
#BlackInTheIvory: Academia’s Role in Institutional Racism
For many Black scientists and researchers, working in academia means weathering systemic bias, micro-aggressions, and isolation. Dr. Shardé M. Davis, a communications researcher at the University of Connecticut, created #BlackInTheIvory this past summer as a platform for discussing the experiences of Black academics. Dr. Davis joins Dr. Mareena Robinson Snowden, a nuclear engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and Dr. James Mickens, a computer scientist at Harvard University, to examine academia’s role in perpetuating institutional racism and efforts to change those systems. Tanya Ballard Brown, an editor at National Public Radio (NPR), will moderate.
Dr. Shardé M. Davis is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut and the creator of #BlackInTheIvory. Dr. Davis’s research examines the way Black women leverage communication in the sistah circle to invoke collective identity, erect and fortify the boundaries around their homeplace, and backfill the necessary resources to return to white/male dominant spaces in American society. Dr. Davis also serves as the Immediate Past Chair of the African American Communication and Culture Division (AACCD) of the National Communication Association.
Dr. James Mickens is the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University, where his research focuses on the performance, security, and robustness of large-scale distributed web services. Prior to his work at Harvard, Dr. Mickens spent six years at Microsoft Research where he worked in the Distributed Systems Group. He is currently on the Board of Directors at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Dr. Mareena Robinson Snowden is a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Prior to taking on her current role at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Snowden completed fellowships at the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Nuclear Policy Program. She is the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT.
Moderator: Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor at National Public Radio (NPR), where she’s worked on stories about families of shooting victims in New Orleans, the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting, and sexual assault against people with disabilities. Ballard Brown was a 2019 Nieman Foundation for Journalism Fellow where she studied how comedic journalism — the intersection of humor, satire, and journalism — can help journalists connect with their audiences and build community. Projects she has edited while at NPR and The Washington Post have been awarded Peabody, Murrow, and Gracie awards, among others.
BORDERx: A Crisis In Graphic Detail
In 2018, the United States enacted a “zero tolerance” policy which criminalized the act of seeking asylum. In June 2019, the inhumane conditions in detention camps across the border were revealed, and several weeks later the BORDERx project was established.
BORDERx: A Crisis In Graphic Detail is a comic anthology that examines the border crisis from a variety of points of view and narrative formats, featuring 70 contributors from all over the world. Proceeds from the project go to South Texas Human Rights Center. Why address the issue with comics? How did we accomplish this enormous project in months instead of years? What were the financial considerations? What are the next steps for BORDERx? How can this platform serve other social issues?
This talk will walk us through the project from origin to completion. Mauricio Cordero, the project founder, will discuss the journey with Prof. James Paradis, offering insights and examples from the work.
= About Mauricio Cordero =
Mauricio Cordero has worked in the arts and underground scene since the 1980’s. He established the fanzine, CAUTION! and served as the education coordinator and program director at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (ICA). In France, he opened his own art gallery in Tours. Returning to the U.S. he served as executive director at the Revolving Museum and was also a founding co-director of Mill No. 5, an indoor Victorian streetscape.
Cordero now teaches comics primarily and is a part-time lecturer at MIT. He is currently teaching Making Comics and Sequential Art and lecturing in The Visual Story-Graphic Novel.
His work has been published in Double Nickels Forever, Dollars and Sense, MIT’s GradX Comix series and Fashion Institute of Technology’s Black Stories Matter. BORDERx: A Crisis In Graphic Detail is available at all major online retailers and through the website www.border-x.com.
Video and transcript also available: https://cms.mit.edu/video-mauricio-cordero-borderx-crisis-graphic-detail
Beyond the Living Dead: Treasures from the George A. Romero Archive
Warning: contains spoilers and strong language.
With his 1968 debut Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero helped to inaugurate a new era of both horror film and independent cinema, and introduced the world to the zombie as we know it today: re-animated corpses, stumbling towards the living in search of flesh, a ghoulish new kind of monster that has, in the subsequent half-century, become an essential part of the world’s cultural imaginary. From that moment on, Romero would become known as the maker of zombie movies, directing 5 more films set in the Living Dead universe, an artist completely identified with that initial monstrous creation.
Romero is a complex figure in American cinema. He worked outside the normal systems of financing and distribution for most of his career, choosing to live and work in Pittsburgh, where he built an industry and a community. But while being far from Hollywood ensured that access to funding for his projects would be severely limited, and often contingent on his branding as the director of the “Dead” movies. The immense, global impact of Night of the Living Dead ensured he could have a career, but it restricted the scope and range of that career.
However, Romero’s archives paint a different picture. The University of Pittsburgh has acquired the George A. Romero Archival Collection, a massive archive that includes materials from the full span of his career, from his earliest short films to his final projects. There are drafts of genre classics like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead that show their evolution throughout the process of pre-production, supplemented by boxes and boxes of documents detailing their production and reception. But the largest and most revelatory component of the archive is the hundreds of projects that Romero never got to make. He only made 16 features in his lifetime, but he was a hugely prolific writer, with dozens and dozens of complete screenplays and many many more proposals, treatments, and partial works.
This talk will give a brief overview of the material in the archive, focusing on what the unfilmed and unpublished projects tell us about Romero’s larger themes, with pictures and clips of work from the archive that has rarely or never before been publicly viewed, and how that work recontextualizes his genre films. It will then focus on the specific case study of his early approaches to “found footage” mockumentary horror, which he tied to multiple projects about Bigfoot and other pre-human creatures and communities, before incorporating it into his 2006 zombie movie, Diary of the Dead.
== About Adam Charles Hart ==
Adam Charles Hart is the author of Monstrous Forms: Moving Image Horror Across Media (Oxford UP). He has taught at Harvard University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently a Visiting Researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Library. His writings on horror films and video games and on the American avant-garde cinema have appeared in Discourse, The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Imaginations, Studies in the Fantastic, The New Review of Film and Television Studies, and the edited collections Gothic Cinema (Edinburgh UP) and Companion to the Horror Film (Wiley-Blackwell UP). He is currently at work on two monographs: a critical study of the work of George A. Romero and a history and theory of handheld cinematography in film, television, and video called The Living Camera: The History, Politics, and Style of Handheld Cinematography from 16mm to GoPro.
Video and transcript available at: https://cms.mit.edu/video-adam-charles-hart-living-dead-george-romero-archive.
Patricia Saulis, “Two-Eyed Seeing in Environmental Justice and Media”
Two-eyed seeing has been a contemporary concept by two Indigenous Mikmaq Elders in Cape Breton Canada. Through the use of Indigenous Oral Tradition, Elders Dr. Albert Marshall and Dr. Murdena Marshall have participated in many recordings of their concept and teachings. Their appearances at conferences across Canada and the United States provided many venues to share their work. In this presentation, Patricia Saulis will feature clips of the Elders speaking and provide some perspective on how their work could be brought forward in discussions of Environmental Justice and Media.
About Patricia Saulis
Patricia Saulis is Executive Director of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council and a member of the Maliseet tribe of Indigenous people, whose lands lie along the Saint John River watershed on both sides of the US and Canadian border in Northeast Maine and Southern New Brunswick. Ms. Saulis is an experienced tribal policy administrator, environmentalist, and educational planner, and has a very extensive background working in tribal organizations on matters of social well-being, education and environmental sustainability.
In the midst of a highly fluid environment of changing political, economic, partnership, and financial circumstances, Ms. Saulis keeps the mission of restoring Wolastoq/St John Watershed in accordance with Maliseet rights and cultural stewardship squarely in her sights.
Ms. Saulis also has an impressive background in public health issues and policy surrounding First Nations communities throughout Canada. These experiences cover the breadth of important and current issues that impact Indigenous communities and represent her strong background and commitment in ensuring the betterment of not just her own Indigenous community but those of the entirety of North America.
Transcript available at https://cms.mit.edu/video-patricia-saulis-two-eyed-seeing
Lana Swartz, "New Money: How Payment Became Social Media"
Lana Swartz, ’09, is joined by Aswin Punathambekar, ’03, to discuss Swartz’s new book New Money: How Payment Became Social Media (Yale University Press). New Money frames money as a media technology, one in major transition, and interrogates the consequences of those changes.
Lana Swartz is an Assistant Professor in Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia and a 2009 graduate of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies master’s program. Prior to New Money, she published Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff (MIT Press). Aswin Punathambekar is Swartz’s colleague at UVa’s Department of Media Studies, where he is an Associate Professor. He graduated from the Comparative Media Studies program in 2003 and is co-author of the upcoming (provisionally-titled) The Digital Popular: Media, Culture, and Politics in Networked India.
Video and transcript also available: https://cms.mit.edu/video-lana-swartz-new-money-how-payment-became-social-media/