The Right to Look is more our duty than a “right”

Book Cover: The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality by Nicholas Mirzoeff

“RSVP for the Book Launch for Nicholas Mirzoeff’s
The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm at 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, New York, NY

Space is limited and reservations are required. To RSVP, please visit:

Register to attend a reception celebrating the publication of The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Duke University Press, 2011), by Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU.
In The Right to LookNicholas Mirzoeff develops a comparative de-colonial framework for visual culture studies, the field that he helped to create and shape. Casting modernity as an ongoing contest between visuality and countervisuality, or “the right to look,” he explains how visuality sutures authority to power and renders the association natural. Encompassing the Caribbean plantation and the Haitian revolution, anticolonialism in the South Pacific, antifascism in Italy and Algeria, and the contemporary global counterinsurgency, The Right to Look is a work of astonishing geographic, temporal, and conceptual reach.”This event is free and open to the public.


I studied with Nick during a semester “abroad” at NYU, yes, venturing beyond the 14th street divide counts as abroad for many New York City graduate students! (joke). That spring, I took a class in visual culture called “Modernity and Climate Change” in the Media Culture and Communication Studies Department. The class was simply amazing, with the range of discipline and perspectives represented. Our group conversations were candid, intense, exciting and enriching. Nicholas was a confident leader and didn’t overly direct the conversation or derail fruitful trains of thought.

I invited him to speak at the Ninth Annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium where he delivered a talk “Islands of Justice: Imagining Climate Change. He made a big splash with they way he integrated images, and audience assumptions and cultural readings of climate change images and information, specifically that of islanders around the world whose lives are changing at the prospect of climactic shifts and sea-level changes.

He was a truly welcome addition to our roster, a major coup, I might add, and  he represented the start of a rich relationship between NES and NYU. I found him to be an engaging speaker, brilliant thinker, witty, real and personable!

I definitely recommend that people who grapple with visual studies and / or use digital media (as a theoretical foundation, for data collection, analysis or presentation) should attend. If you tell him I sent you, it’ll elicit a smile!

Let me know if you decide to go, I’d love to hear about it!


Speaking Engagement: New Media and the Academy

On Friday December 2, 2011, I will be presenting at the City University of New York Information Technology Conference at  John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019 from 9:30-11:00 am, Room TBD

One view of Dallas "Giving Face"!

I am very excited to travel to my hometown to connect with my colleagues and friends, after two months away in Dallas, Texas (city of rainbows!). Technically I will play part in two panel discussions by preparing comments and visuals, however I will only be able to *physically attend one because unfortunately, the sessions were scheduled concurrently. Both panels will discuss highly innovative, student-focused digital ventures at the Graduate Center, and I feel honored that my vision, work  and enthusiasm warranted the invitations to present and take part. And I have enjoyed preparing the slides and thinking about various approaches to the two projects.

I worked in the CUNY New Media Lab for two and a half years on digital project to supplement my doctoral research. I continue to put finishing touches on the project – such as filling in the digital archive or car ads, and upgrading the website template once the New Media Lab installs the newest version of WordPress. Over the years, I’ve cultivate a unique expertise which allows me to conceptualize digital and visual interventions for academic research, presentations and pedagogy. As a result, my role in the New Media Lab morphed to allow me to share my knowledge with incoming and fellow College Assistants within the lab. I have been fortunate that Managing Director Andrea Vasquez and Project Advisor Aaron Knoll respect and support my creative ventures and solid knowledge base in the practical digital humanities.

This panel is scheduled for December 2 at 9:30am – 11:00am at John Jay College 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019, room TBD

Digital Technologies and Academic Research: The New Media Lab a Dozen Years Later
A roundtable of CUNY Graduate Center doctoral students, faculty members and administrators will reflect on the changes in digital technologies and the impact they have had on academic scholarship that has been developed and nurtured at the Lab. A series of short presentations, copiously illustrated, will explore such topics as building digital tools, the relationship between pedagogy and technology, the effect of new technologies on academic careers and what we envision for the Lab’s future.

Andrea Ades Vásquez, NML Managing Director, CUNY Graduate Center
Aaron Knoll, NML Student Advisor, CUNY Graduate Center
Shawndel Fraser, NML Doctoral Student Researcher, CUNY Graduate Center
Claire Fontaine, NML Digital Research Fellow /and Doctoral Student, CUNY Graduate Center
Wendy Luttrel, Professor of Urban Education and Social Personality Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center

The Second (concurrent) panel presentation offers a look at Student-led initiatives, specifically through the Doctoral Students Council (DSC). The Doctoral Students Council is a dynamic, highly participatory and forward thinking, policy-making body which represents all the graduate students at the CUNY Graduate Center. Three years ago, the DSC implemented the WordPress based system OpenCUNY, of which I was an early adopter for my research blog. Later I adapted it to publicize the highly regarded, annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium, for which I was co-organizer. Back then, we were unable to get access to the original domain and host server assigned to us by CUNY. The lack of access stemmed from the lack of a methodical methods for passing on institutional knowledge, and the steep learning curve for html and other coding languages, which that particular website required. The WordPress-based OpenCUNY site was the first of many steps toward a more democratic group website and group functioning.

The panel will consist of student group representatives who will discuss the ways they use OpenCUNY. The purpose, all toward a deeper conversation about the strengths and growth opportunities inherent in student-led digital initiatives.

Fostering Student-based Media: A Look at The Academic Medium
For three years OpenCUNY has worked with Graduate Center students to develop open-source environments for their courses, conferences, research, organizations, initiatives and activism. This roundtable brings together the coordinators and participants of OpenCUNY to explore the benefits and challenges of fostering student-based participatory media. An overview of OpenCUNY’s development, participatory governance, technological configuration and plans will be provided. A sample of participants’ media projects will also be discussed.

John D. Boy, Participant,
Morgan Buck, Participant,
Gregory Donovan, Coordinator, OpenCUNY
*Shawndel N. Fraser, Participant,
Margaret Galvan, Coordinator, OpenCUNY
Keirsten Greene, Participant,
Keith Miyake, 2010-11 Board Member, OpenCUNY
Monique Whitaker, Participant,

*Since I won’t be able to present in this panel, fellow Nature Ecology Society Co-Organizers Bijan Kimiagar and Jennifer Pipitone will present our website, innovations and challenges.

I hope to see you there! If you attend, do come by and say “hello”!


The Dawn of a Digital Storytelling Career?

Contribute to the INDIEGOGO campaign

Yes, indeedy, I am translating my skills gleaned in the academy and at the CUNY New Media Lab and the Center for Digital Storytelling  into a marketable trade in the Performing Arts.  I am the New Media Consultant and director of all things technical  on the new indie musical “Talking to DeVon“. It is a multimedia musical with a digital trance-house soundtrack. The scene is set in the DMV, anywhere USA, where three strangers meet and learn that their paths had been leading up to that one moment of interaction. It is a funny, complex and emotional play that really speaks to my ideals of enhancing our quality of life by our receptivity to  genuine interactions with strangers.

Signature image for the Musical "Talking to Devon"

The idea behind the low-fi visuals is that the characters could be anyone, anywhere, you, me or your neighbor. In each moment, we can and do choose what energy we put into the universe. Talking to Devon explores the possibility of being your best possible self, in the company of strangers.

The play is grounded in Five Elemental Theory and includes dance, spoken word, an original soundtrack, video and sound installation and audience participation. We will open in Dallas, and our second venue will be in my beloved Brooklyn, NY! Tweet us for ongoing details!  My job as the Digital Storyteller is to work closely with the artist, Leisha LaShawn to conceptualize her ideas into something for the screen using relatively lo-tech video tools to convey organic ideals. The video will demonstrate the various emotions woven into the script, and will go with the songs to convey the meanings of Five Elemental Theory. Some of video will offer comic relief, or let the audience know when there is a transition in the story.

Overall, I think the play will be valuable for those of us who live fast-paced or hectic lives, who find it challenging to find or make time for mental and emotional rest.

We are raising funds on Indiegogo, so that we can pay for the first staging, set production, liability insurance, soundtrack mastering and all the other incidentals that bring great musicals to the stage.  I hope that you will find the story compelling enough to read more. If you enjoy the idea of spreading good energy among up-and-coming artists, then please do contribute to our IndieGoGo campaign. In addition to our gratitude, we offer fantastic material incentives in exchange for your heard-earned greenbacks 🙂

Be sure to tell me what you think about the video!

In creativity,


Archive Fever – Home of Authority

“As is the case for the Latin archivum or archium (a word that is used in the singular, as was the French archive, formerly employed as a masculine singular: un archive), the meaning of “archive,” is only meaning, comes to it from the Greek arkheion: initially a house, a domicile, an address, the residence of the superior magistrates, the archons, those who commanded.  The citizens who thus held and signified political power were considered to possess the right to make or to represent the law. On account of their publicly recognized authority, it is at their home, in that place which is their house (private house, family house, or employee’s house), that official documents are filed. The archons are first of all the documents’ guardians. They do not only ensure the physical security of what is deposited and of the substrate. They are also accorded the hermeneutic right and competence.”  ~Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever (1995)

Mushi-Shi is a poignant, visually lush and compelling anime (animated-show) that takes a alter-dimensional view of common ailments and situations we often dismiss. This particular episode conveyed Derrida’s outline of the lineage of the Archive and its relation to power, that it seems the creators of this either read Archive Fever, or Derrida studied traditional Japanese ways and means, or the concept of the Archive is so very rooted in authority that it cannot but express its true essence, even in anime. The particular connection of how these two things came to resemble each other is less interesting to me than the fact that one of my favorite shows neatly visualizes the work of one of the most opaque although brilliant minds of our time.

I’m almost famous!

Shared Spirit of NES Award goes to Shawndel Fraser and Bijan Kimiagar

Shawndel Fraser and Bijan Kimiagar receive the Spirit of NES PSC/CUNY Environmental Justice Award at the Tenth Annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium at the Graduate Center, March 11, 2011

Get your autograph now before the price goes up, I’m almost famous! 🙂 Seriously though,  I am honored to share this award with my my co-organizer Bijan Kimiagar. We won one of the first ever PSC/CUNY Environmental Justice Awards for using visual/digital media to enhance understanding of climate change at the Tenth Nature Ecology Society Colloquium.
It was a great surprise after a year of planning, and two full-days of performance, presentations, art and lively discussion,  to be called to the stage by PSC/CUNY Representatives Joan Greenbaum PhD and Jean Grassman PhD to receive this award. First they distributed the original  PSC CUNY Environmental Justice Awards: The Spirit of NES awards to the NES presenters whose work or research used visual/digital media to enhance the understanding of the impact of climate change upon nature, ecology and society, and the We’re in it Together awards to two presenters whose work strove to involve community action. Then, after the four planned awards, Bijan and I were completely surprised to hear them announce a FIFTH award! One we would share for our work organizing the Colloquium presentations, workshops, films, website and social media and the sustainable luncheon. which we composted with the Friends of Brook Park.
My biggest thanks to the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY Green WatchDogs for generously sponsoring the awards and for their unflagging support of the Nature Ecology Society Colloquium. I would specifically like to thank Joan Greenbaum and Jean Grassman along with the Awards committee for recognizing our hard work and commitment to encouraging the use of visual, digital media and other alternative methods to communicate ideas about climate change related concerns.

Bijan and Shawndel PSC/CUNY Award Celebratory Embrace

Archive Fever: Tools and Contexts

Brooklyn Museum: Cylindrical Vessel

My professional career truly began at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2002. I’d held interesting and other Arts management jobs before and since that time,  however my first AHA moment was during curatorial internship in the Arts of the Americas. I didn’t know it, but I caught the Archive Fever at the Brooklyn Museum!

My favorite internship task was cataloging ancient artifacts in the staff-only storerooms. I thumbed through the card catalog (with real cards!) to find object references and descriptions. Then I added information to incomplete records in the computer archive. The curator, Nancy Rosoff and I visited the storeroom and sorted through the Museum collection and photographed, tagged and arranged items to indicated that they needed to be professionally photographed by the Photography department. This was our archival process. I am pleased to note that the images you see are objects that I’ve handled during that time.

Brooklyn Museum: Reclining JaguarOK

I enjoy the tools and practice of archiving. From the material to the pixelated, I am drawn by the initial mystery of an object, the inquiry into its origins and meaning, sometimes surprising discoveries, and categorizing items is a an investigative and associaive process that I appreciate.  I heart the tools of the trade, be they fabric gloves to protect “pre-historic” ceramics and textiles from my skin oils, to my sleek 500Gb, 7200rpm  G-drive mini external hard drive that stores my data set and digital stories.

Brooklyn Museum: Tripod Bowl

My work with the collection was doubly special to me. In addition to my enjoyment of the tools and practices of archiving, I reveled in the ancestral resonance of working with functional items from South America because my family hails from the same continent.  Of course, the best guesses of why and how an object was used, doesn’t often convey absolutes about the “life” of the object before we encountered it. Hence the challenge of the archive as a technology, and using today’s technology.

An Archival Object

Including an image of the hard drive now archives my archive. Meta!

Archives gather items from different places, varied moments in time, separate owners and etiologies, and groups them into the same topical space while feverishly insisting that they are related. The original context and reason from whence they came or were preserved is often lost or reproduced at the barest minimum of certainty. When the objects are grouped, they then  become something different than what they were when they were separated by time, place and circumstance, nee context, as they fulfilled their original purpose.

Creating my Research Website

I am in the midst of an exciting project. I am weaving together the long years of my PhD work until this point; my exploration of visuals, my readings, along with my budding knowledge of WordPress as a content management system / website / blog to assemble my multimedia research website. I’ve had a vision for 2 years now, and finally feel that I have enough [access to] information and resources to gather everything into a coherent, aesthetically pleasing whole.

I am of course still learning and creating knowledge about my subject, myths of nature within car ads in National Geographic Magazine, however, as an experiential and visual learner, this type of immersion refines my methods, and forces me to write my methods section of my paper.  This semester I am learning more about how to use Final Cut Pro, and it is prompting me to reassess my approach to the archive, my massive data set so that I can actually get at my core idea. The plan is to make short films about them, and massage a couple of publications from writing about what I learn from the process and the data.

think. Feel. Grow! is my mantra, my process and website. The site that I am working on is the storehouse for the public view of my research data, which is of course different from the content contained here and on my tumblr microblog. When the time is right, I will of course début it here on tfg!