Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work
This presentation drew from Balsamo's forthcoming book that discusses the relationships among technological innovation, the technological imagination, and cultural reproduction. She describes the influence of cultural theory on the exercise of the technological imagination; to argue for the important role of the humanities and cultural sciences in the creation of innovative technologies that "take culture seriously."
Anne Balsamo’s work focuses on the relationship between culture and technology. This focus informs her practice as a scholar, researcher, new media designer, and entrepreneur. She is currently a Full Professor of Interactive Media in the School of Cinematic Arts, and of Communications in the Annenberg School of Communications, where she teaches courses in design and interactivity, communication and technology, and science, technology and gender.
From 2004-2007, she served as the Director of USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy where she created one of the first academic programs in multimedia literacy across the curriculum. As the Director of IML, she coordinated the research activities for an $8 million grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies for the investigation of the changing nature of literacy in a digital age. In 2002, she co-founded, Onomy Labs, Inc. a Silicon Valley technology design and fabrication company that builds cultural technologies. As President and interactivity designer, she was involved in the creation of signature interactives for clients such as Sun Microsystems, the Liberty Science Center, Singapore Science Center, and the Papalote Children’s Museum in Mexico City.
Previously she was a member of RED (Research on Experimental Documents), a collaborative research-design group at Xerox PARC who created experimental reading devices and new media genres. She served as project manager and new media designer for the development of RED's interactive museum exhibit, XFR: Experiments in the Future of Reading that was first commissioned by the San Jose Tech Museum. More than 4 million people saw the XFR exhibit when it toured the U.S. from 2000-2003. One of the exhibits she co-designed for XFR won a Gold Medal from ID Magazine in 2000 as an outstanding example of a Public Interactive.
Balsamo is an interdisciplinary scholar trained in the fields of cultural studies, feminist theory, philosophy of technology, and media studies. She holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communications from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Her first book, Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women (Duke UP, 1996) investigated the social and cultural implications of emergent biotechnologies such as female bodybuilding, cosmetic surgery, new reproductive technologies, and virtual reality. Her new book Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke UP, forthcoming) examines the relationship between the technological imagination, cultural reproduction and technological innovation. This hybrid print-digital publication will come packaged with a DVD multimedia documentary on the UN 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing, and links to several web applications including an interactive semantic map of a cultural model of technology.