What is a Media Lab? Situated Practices in Media Studies is a resource created by Darren Wrestler, Jussi Parka, and Lori Emerson for those interested in discussing both the theoretical and the practical/infrastructural aspects of media lab. From the words of its creators:
Media labs are liminal but increasingly powerful spaces in many contemporary settings. They appear in universities and colleges, wedged uneasily between traditional departments and faculties. They’re also in basements, warehouses, strip malls and squats. They are stable to varying degrees; many have long-term addresses and an itinerant roster of occupants. Some pop up in one location for a few days, then relocate to another. Sometimes they’re even in mobile trucks in the streets, bringing tools and expertise to children in schools and the general public. As clusters of tools and talent streamlined to produce economic value, labs sometime align with the most ruthless of venture capitalists; in other cases, they are free and open for all to use, disdainful of all commercial motivations.
Despite their sudden visibility due to the burgeoning of the digital humanities, media labs have a surprisingly long history. As part of the historical avant-gardes, media arts labs were the sites where the new materials and aesthetics of technical modernity were developed. They often share a common ideology, tied not just to the neoliberal drive to privatize, innovate and disrupt, but to long-standing modernist ideas about creative destruction, quantification and the value of scientificity.
While offering a critical genealogy of the notion of the media and humanities lab, the project investigates some of the affordances it can offer for the scholarship and research in the 21st century. If you also believe in media lab’s potential to open up new possibilities for thought and action in the present join the discussion at http://whatisamedialab.com/.