Humans are social animals and have survived as a species through the construction of community. Community in our digital age now has multiple forms and meanings. From Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr, we are continually finding new ways to construct and extend communities in the cyber world. Facebook primarily allows you to maintain and strengthen connections and communities you have formed offline, but social media like Twitter and Tumblr allow you to build a community with those you’ve never met. Since we can now easily carry on conversations and build relationships with individuals around the world, how does this change our notion of community? Are we losing an essential part of our humanity when we relate to each other through an online community instead of face-to-face? Or do these tools, in fact, allow us to build different communities by letting us connect with those who share our values and interests rather than those who merely share proximity? Professors Shrikanth Narayanan and Tara McPherson, leading scholars in the field of digital technology and media will engage students on the question of virtual community and its impact on the future of humanity.
Shri Narayanan is the Andrew J. Viterbi Professor of Engineering and holds joint appointments in computer science, linguistics, and psychology. Professor Narayanan is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and Eta Kappa Nu, and he holds the first Viterbi Professorship in Engineering at USC. Professor Narayanan’s research interests are truly polymathic and focus on signals and systems modeling with an interdisciplinary emphasis on speech, audio, language, multimodal and biomedical problems and applications with direct societal relevance.
Tara McPherson is Associate Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a core faculty member of the IMAP program, USC’s innovative practice based-Ph.D., and also an affiliated faculty member in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department. Her research engages the cultural dimensions of media, including the intersection of gender, race, affect and place. Her research focuses on the digital humanities, early software histories, gender, and race, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship.
Her Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003) received the 2004 John G. Cawelti Award for the outstanding book published on American Culture. She is co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003) and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected, part of the MacArthur Foundation series on Digital Media and Learning (MIT Press, 2008.) She is the Founding Editor of Vectors, www.vectorsjournal.org, a multimedia peer-reviewed journal affiliated with the Open Humanities Press, and is a founding editor of the MacArthur-supported International Journal of Learning and Media (launched by MIT Press in 2009.) Tara was among the founding organizers of Race in Digital Space, a multi-year project supported by the Annenberg Center for Communication and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. She co-directs the new Center for Transformative Scholarship and is a fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching. With major support from the Mellon Foundation, she is currently working with colleagues from leading universities and with several academic presses, museums, scholarly societies, and archives to explore new modes of scholarship for visual culture research.