metaLAB views teaching and research as intimately coupled. For us, every research project is a teaching occasion at one stage or another in its development and every teaching experiment is itself a form of research.

metaLAB understands tools, technologies, and media not as ready-made tools to be deployed according to instruction manuals or as commercial products to be consumed. Rather it understands them as opportunities for creative/critical use, adaptation, and recombination, and as occasions for making arguments, producing knowledge, and posing questions about the world.

In collaboration with colleagues across (and outside) traditional disciplines, the lab is committed to a project-based, object-oriented pedagogy that affirms the value of humanistic inquiry in a networked age.


Cold Storage: An interactive documentary project
Spring 2014, Jeffrey Schnapp with the metaLAB team
Humanities Studio 1 :: Tuesdays 8:30-11:30 am (GUND 522)
:: cross-listed as GSD 09134
Libraries are not mere repositories, but sites breeding strange hybrids of knowledge, people, and material things. Building on the strength of two years of work in the Library Test Kitchen, this studio will research and produce an experimental documentary exploring library hybrids, with special focus on the Harvard Depository, where nine million of the documents that make up the university’s collections are stored. Students will explore the cultural and technical dimensions of libraries, depositories, and storage facilities; produce ethnography, oral history, and other writing; practice video production and editing; and engage in website design and development. Students with interest in the history of libraries or with media production or technical skills are particularly welcome.

Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance:
A hands-on curatorial experiment

Spring 2014, Jeffrey Schnapp with the metaLAB team
Humanities Studio 2 :: Wednesdays 1:00-3:00 pm (BOYLSTON 335)
plus workshop/section meeting
Amidst the archives that Bernard Berenson bequeathed to Harvard is a collection of 16,000 photographs of Renaissance paintings classified as “homeless”: works documented by photographs whose location is unknown. The studio will explore the curatorial possibilities of this corpus and develop an “animated archive” using the web-based Curarium platform. It will identify, describe, and interpret objects in the collection; reconstruct the stories of lost or destroyed works; and investigate the historical and cultural dimensions of lost art, including the role of dealers, market forces, and desire; the ephemeral nature of art; and the photographic documentation of treasured objects.

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Proseminar in Art, Design and the Public Domain
Spring 2014, Yanni Loukissas and Krzysztof Wodiczko
In this course, students will develop independent art and design work and explore possible subjects for final projects in the Art, Design and the Public Domain concentration. The proseminar will serve as a space for student experimentation, intended to foreground the emergent interests and methods of participants. Through readings, precedent studies and critique sessions—all student-led—the course will build towards a shared set of questions about the changing meaning and importance of public realms—physical and/or virtual. In the first half of the proseminar, students will select and share relevant examples of theory and practice as a means of framing their own intellectual and artistic interests. In the second half, students will focus primarily on the development of art and design experiments, with opportunities to test these projects with outside critics, practitioners and publics. The structure of the proseminar will be creatively interrupted by invited talks and workshops from significant artists and designers whose work contributes to the discursive life and well-being of the public domain. In order to encourage the broader GSD community to engage with the critical themes and questions of Art, Design and the Public Domain, sessions with invited guests will be open to the entire school. The proseminar will also be occasionally diverted by field trips to important sites of public art and design practice as well as prominent working studios.

Connections (Undergraduate Studio in Architecture Studies)
Spring 2014, Yanni Loukissas
In this course, students will explore the urban context through experiences developing critical media projects in Boston. Student projects will integrate a combination of graphical, analytical and narrative methods to illuminate the city’s often overlooked non-human actors, such as spontaneous vegetation, feral animals, local building materials, transportation infrastructure and communication technologies. Seeing these “things” as part of the social life of the city helps us understand the urban context as a space of active relationships, a place that is always in the making. Selected readings in urban theory, viewings/listenings in critical media practice, field trips through Boston, and visits from guests across the Graduate School of Design will supplement project-based work. (Image credit: Saadia Mirza and Gabriel Villalobos)

Design Learning Workshop
Fall 2013, Yanni Loukissas with Jessica Yurkovsky
As part of a long-term initiative at the Graduate School of Design to develop new spaces for design learning, this course will explore nascent technological possibilities for project-based education. The Design Learning Workshop will examine both historical and contemporary examples of educational technologies and environments for design. Moreover, the workshop will serve as a setting in which to develop and evaluate new ways of positioning design—both materially and pedagogically—across disciplines. The course is open to graduate-level students from departments across the GSD and the entire university who have an interest in the future of design learning.Course Website

Mixed-Reality City
Fall 2013, Yanni Loukissas with Matthew Battles
The contemporary city is constituted by multiple overlapping, intermixing realities articulated across built form and imagined space, individual experience and collective memory, embodied sensation and digital mediation. Often, these multiple realities are invisible or illegible, with certain narratives dominating particular environments. However, realities always leave traces, to be excavated and reconstructed. The Mixed-Reality City is an exploratory research seminar and workshop in which students pursue studies of urbanism-in-the-making through means and methods emerging in the digital arts and humanities, including: data narrative, digital ethnography, adversarial design, and critical technical practice. The course focuses in equal parts on unpacking discourses and developing interpretative digital artifacts.Course Website

Hist/Anth 1923: Japan’s 2011 Disasters and Their Aftermath: A workshop in digital research
Fall 2013, Theodore Bestor and Andrew Gordon with Kyle Parry
The course explores the historical and ethnographic contexts of Japan’s compound disasters of March 2011. As people sought to survive and make sense of the disasters, social media as well as photos, videos and websites played critical roles. We examine these and subsequent records, using a participatory digital archive developed by the Reischauer Institute with metaLAB and CGA. Student teams will develop research questions, collect digital material, and create multimedia narratives. Students will complement their research with critical reflection on digital memory practices, digital scholarship and the emerging practice of “crisis archiving.”Course Website

The Mixed-Reality City
Fall 2012, Yanni Loukissas, Jesse Shapins + James Burns
The contemporary city is constituted by multiple overlapping, intermixing realities, articulated between built form and imagined space, individuated experience and collective memory, embodied sensation and digital mediation. Often, these multiple realities are invisible or illegible in physical space, with certain narratives dominating particular environments. However, realities always leave traces, to be excavated or constructed.Course Website

Biblioteca II: The Library Test Kitchen
Spring 2012, Jeff Goldenson with Jeffrey Schnapp
What form should the Harvard Library of the 21st century assume? Should it simply vanish into virtual desktops and merge into a timeless and placeless universal database? Should it alter its identity and become a workshop, a laboratory, an innovation incubator where emerging and future forms interact and dialogue with the relics of the past? Or should it simply merge with the university itself as a place of knowledge production and reproduction?Course Website

Curatorial Innovation Workshops
Fall 2011, Matthew Battles with Jeffrey Schnapp and Jesse Shapins
This spring, we will continue holding a regular workshop series open to fellows in the GSAS/GSD curatorial innovation program and admitted undergraduates. Undergraduates who are interested, please email matthew [at] metalab.harvard.edu to set up a time to learn more about the workshops and to discuss your interest in curatorial and design practice. For GSAS and other graduate students, the workshop series is currently only limited to this year’s Fellows class.metaLAB Curation Website

Lit 110: Introduction to Experimental Criticism
Fall 2011, Dennis Y. Tenen with Jeffrey Schnapp
What can literary analysis tell us about emerging textual practices: cooperation and co-authorship on Wikipedia, the usage of Twitter during protest movements, self-fashioning on Facebook, review culture on Amazon.com, and fundamentally, about the deluge of information that accompanies the advent of the information age? In this course, taught in conjunction with a graduate seminar sponsored by Harvard’s metaLab, we will learn to think big about digital archives, information architectures, live data, and large-scale textual corpora.Course Website

Digital Humanities 2.0 Seminar
Fall 2011, Jeffrey Schnapp + Dennis Y. Tenen
A seminar and workshop for the development of semester-long projects, the course provides an introduction to new scholarly models in the arts and humanities via readings, case studies and conversations with expert practitioners.Course Website

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