Pandemic Media and Emergent Infrastructures

A Virtual Event on Friday April 16th, 1-4 pm EST
Organized by the M2Lab Initiative

How have digital media technologies governed, regulated, explained, and addressed the global Covid-19 pandemic? The imperative to avoid gathering in person over the past year has led to a massive turn to online environments, accelerating existing movements toward virtual life as well as spawning new forms of sociality. Whether we are taken aback by these changes or have been anticipating them for years, our fundamental ways of being and thinking are being altered, perhaps permanently. As we try to stop the spread of the virus while also trying to make sense of it in increasingly mediated spaces, the pandemic and its mediations have become synonymous with one another. Hence the term “pandemic media,” by which we mean: (a) media addressing the pandemic; (b) media produced as a result of the pandemic; (c) media shaping attitudes to the pandemic; (d) new metaphors, languages and protocols to take stock of an uncertain reality; and (e) memes and other forms of viral communication.

As the virus has migrated, morphed, and mutated, a "culture of contagion" has come face to face with a "culture of uncertainty." Infrastructural breakdown has haunted domains of inequity (congregate spaces such as nursing homes, prisons, migrant detention centers) and categories of neglect (low income employees doing society’s essential work, poorer countries as opposed to more affluent ones). Artists and media makers find themselves unable to address significant areas of inquiry. At the same time, creative interventions by thinkers and designers are pushing the boundaries of the possible.

This event develops the critical lens of 'pandemic media' in order to make sense of some of these developments. It provides an inventory of new and emergent practices across diverse, even disparate realms of thought and action. Its aim is to elicit a lively community conversation regarding the infrastructures that have both sustained and constrained us during this pandemic.

Presentation Topics:

  1. Pandemic Media and the Hyperobject -- Rachel Pincus
  2. Pandemic Media’s Fragile Landscapes -- Isabel Munson
  3. Pandemic Media: Designing Safety -- Nick Travaglini
  4. Pandemic: A Media Maker’s Perspective - Guillermina Zabala Suarez

Moderator: Sumita S. Chakravarty

Sponsored by The School of Media Studies
The New School
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A transcript will appear after the event on this site:

Introductory Remarks -- Sumita S. Chakravarty, School of Media Studies

Session 1 (1:15 - 2:15 pm)
Presenter : Rachel Pincus, “Pandemic Media and the Hyperobject”
Rachel Pincus is a Media Studies MA student interested in how physical and online spaces facilitate community.
Respondent: Prof. Josh Scannell, School of Media Studies

Presenter: Isabel Munson, “Pandemic Media’s Fragile Landscapes”
Isabel Munson is a multimedia artist producing music, writing, and making videos examining relationships between technology, design, economics and behavior.
Respondent: Prof. Deborah Levitt, Eugene Lang College

---- Short break ----

Session 2 (2:25 - 3:25 pm)
Presenter: Nick Travaglini, “Pandemic Media: Designing Safety”
Nick Travaglini is a student in the Liberal Studies department at NSSR, studying resilience in complex systems.
Respondent: Prof. Rory Solomon, Eugene Lang College

Presenter: Guillermina Zabala Suarez, “Pandemic: A Media Maker’s Perspective”
Guillermina Zabala is a media artist, researcher, and educator whose work examines the intersection between the individual and their environment. She is the Sinha Fellow in Media Studies for 2020-21.
Respondent: Prof. Sumita S. Chakravarty

Open Discussion (3:30 - 4 pm)