The Collaborative Media Commons is designed to serve several purposes: First, it acts as a collaborative space for interdisciplinary dialog regarding a wide range of theoretical and practical issues in such areas as data visualization, theories of modernism and postmodernism, technology and society, artistic and self representation, trans- and post-humanism, and aesthetics. The CMC not only provides a space for collaboration and conversation, but also serves as a repository and archive of these dialogs.

If ideas are the CMC's inputs, its media objects are its outputs. This includes visualizations, artwork, and narrative films. One of our major ongoing project is "Swerve," a dramatic motion-picture narrative in the form of a broadband feature film loosely defined by the "cyberpunk" genre (see sidebar). Chapters will be posted on this site as they are finished, and we will provide the means to log feedback from other academics and the general public, thus initiating a cyclical flow of information that seeks to bridge the standard boundaries between disciplines within academia, between intellectuals and artists, and between academia and the public it serves.

Our project is designed to address several weaknesses that we perceive in the standard paradigm of humanities research: First, that interdisciplinary work is often hampered by a lack of unifying goals, and indeed a lack of incentive or perceived purpose for combining disparate threads of inquiry. The CMC hopes to rectify this by melding the ethos and methodology of media production collaboration with academic research, providing a concrete goal (the distillation of academic research into a publicly-accessible narrative form) that is also a challenge; that is, a reason to collaborate as well as a platform that encourages mutation and recombination of research in ways normal models of humanities collaboration don't. We believe that exciting and unexpected research combinations can and will emerge from this model, just as they do in traditional film and video production. Second, we believe that this platform provides a powerful tool to connect research with pedagogy, instantiating the abstract in the concrete for teaching purposes as well as directly uniting faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students under its umbrella. There is no limit to how many students, and at what level, can participate in this extensible initiative, and we believe that its unique (and fun!) opportunities will encourage many students to take part. Finally, we hope to help breach the walls of the ivory tower by making our work directly accessible to the general public, as well as generating feedback from the public that we believe will prove valuable to the academics involved in the project. Very few mechanisms currently exist to effect this scale of public exposure and feedback to our research.

The CMC is based at the Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara. It is directed by Zach Horton.



The Dancer from CMC on Vimeo.

The CMC has worked to integrate a media production component into several undergraduate courses taught within the Department of English, UCSB. This involved facilitating group-structred projects, running parallel workshops in basic videography and editing, coordinating post production with campus facilities, and developing a self-reflexive evaluation protocol to facilitate grading and feedback. Students were asked to collaborate on short film projects and produce individual written reports on the process of media production and how they translated core course themes into a creative product. These projects served as optional final projects in the courses, replacing traditional final papers. This pilot project was run in three courses:

Women and Representation. Professor Maurizia Boscogli. The video above was produced in this course.

Literatures of Technology: I/Robot. Postdoctural Fellow Scott Selisker (now at Arizona State University).

Literature and Life. Professor Enda Duffy. This large course was extremely successful, leading Professor Duffy to institutionalize it as a signature course, continuing to integrate media production into its structure. Latest version here.



Our first long-form film, whose production is represented as the example in the circuit diagram above, includes a number of elements deliberately derived from the “cyberpunk” subgenre of science fiction, blending them together into a partially experimental visual exploration of theoretical, philosophical, and aesthetic dimensions of virtualized life.

View the film and production information at www.swerveinterface.com.