Humanistic Perspectives in a Technological World, 2.0
Version 2.0 of Literature, Media, and Communication’s Book-Length ‘Calling Card’ Debuts
Article by Michael Pearson, originally published by Ivan Allen College
Much has changed since the School of Literature, Media, and Communication debuted Humanistic Perspectives in a Technological World, its book-length “calling card,” back in 2014. Successive upheavals and setbacks have rocked the nation and the world while raising awareness of social justice issues and questions of gender equality, social resilience, and more.
So it’s only fitting that the second edition, which is now beginning to make its way across campus, looks different as well.
That new look begins with cover art created by LMC alumna Nettrice Gaskins, known for her work to expand opportunities for underserved communities in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEM). The essays inside also reflect the growing and intentional focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion among the School’s faculty and in its curriculum.
The volume includes new contributions from Joycelyn Wilson, André Brock, and Susana Morris, who were hired to create a Black Media cluster in the School.
“The best LMC is the most diverse LMC,” Chair Richard Utz said. “To be the best we can be, to offer the full range of cultural, intellectual, and social opportunities to our students, faculty, and staff, we need to be the most inclusive we can be.”
The new essays cover a range of topics. Wilson, an assistant professor who uses hip hop as a lens to frame her research into teaching, creativity, and more, discusses the art form as a design issue.
“What if,” she asks, “the learning science that is fundamental to the overall hip hop aesthetic was framed as a design issue? What kind of world would such a framing allow a user to inhabit or experience?”
Susana Morris, a noted expert on Afrofuturism, discusses her work to “illuminate black women’s engagements with Afrofuturism and feminism as one particular way black futures are being reconceived and imagined.”
The relationships between communication, writing, and technology also find an airing through essays from Melissa Ianetta, director of the Writing and Communication Program, David Young, and Ute Fischer, a research scientist who has made a career of exploring how aerospace crews communicate.
In Young’s essay, he discusses the pressing need to tear down the walls between engineering and rhetoric to help prepare future leaders.
“The engineer of this decade seems to implicitly understand the multiplicity of engineering work. It is technical. It is scientific,” he writes. “It is rhetorical. How then do we facilitate this understanding for the engineer of 2030? Of 2040? Understanding the activity of engineering is critical to this goal, and we as humanities scholars must begin prioritizing our own interdisciplinarity as well. We should not do this from a colonizing approach that seeks to place our work as the foundation for all activity, but in a truly interdisciplinary sense that enrolls the agents working in these disciplines as co-researchers.”
‘Art That Provides Us With an Open Road’ Another area of increased emphasis in the current volume is media arts, an essential focus in LMC’s new Futures Plan.
“More and more of our undergraduate students — mostly in the LMC major, but also some in Computational Media — express their desire to have more work that is related to the arts,” Utz said. “That doesn’t mean they don’t want to do technology. They do. But they see the value of their degree at Georgia Tech in that creative intersection of the arts, technology, and science.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that the new version includes essays from faculty members such as Gregory Zinman, who teaches film. He relates his experience showing a disorienting experimental film, The Flicker.
“’But what does it mean?’ ask my utterly bewildered and occasionally delighted students once the lights come back on and their overwhelmed sensorium once again achieves equilibrium,” Zinman said. “Eventually, students realize that The Flicker doesn’t have a meaning — it has many. This is the central value of teaching experimental media at an institute of technology, where many students become accustomed to the expectation that there is one correct answer to a question.”
Poetry’s connections with Georgia Tech’s roots and mission also get new attention in this edition, the first since poets Katie Farris and Ilya Kamisky arrived on campus. Farris discusses “The Importance of Art in a Technological World,” and Kaminsky revives an ancient description of poets as “technicians of the sacred” to mull the idea of poetry as “a machine made out of words,” one that can take us places with the emotion it expresses.
“Yet what kind of emotion drives the words determines where we are going. And poetry is a kind of art that provides us with an open road,” he writes.
Humanistic Perspectives is available online at https://leading-edge.iac.gatech.edu/humanistic-perspectives-2021/. The print version is available at amazon or your favorite book store.
Humanities at Universities of Technology and Science