Research: Media and Narrative Design

When I first entered graduate school in English, I did not imagine that I would teach and research new media. At the time, I was invested in piles of notecards, inky outlines, and profound tidbits scrawled on paper napkins. After all, what could psychoanalytic theory or William Faulkner possibly have to do with digital forms and practices? Indeed, one of the questions I’d like to ask here is, what does literary theory and analysis have in common with emerging digital forms like serious games or graphic essays?

Literary theory and digital studies (at its best) have in common a deep interest in communicating knowledge and in exploring experimental form. Literary studies is attentive to the materiality of texts, the cultural context of words and ideas, and the ways that narrative form influences meaning. Likewise, new media studies is interested in the interplay between form, content, and medium (Hayles 33). While in some cases digital media research can grossly simplify complex information and events, it also has a radical potential to present ideas in innovative ways. For example, social and political theory, historically, have been concerned with the radical potential of form for creating meaning and undermining so-called progressive economies. One of these experiments, Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project sought to discover this potential by experimenting with ways that materiality interacts with artistic strategy to create a “flash” of recognition (Thesis V, 255). Though flashes such as these are subjective and perhaps illusive, experimenting with radical literary forms pushes the way I engage with texts–both as a critic and as a producer.

RESEARCH

I work at the intersections of literary studies, border theory, and media design. My research argues that territorial conflict and the proliferation of spaces of exception emerge, in part, from the circulation of aesthetic and rhetorical forms and their associated attachment of feelings. My research examines rhetorical infrastructures across emerging media genres such as graphic narratives, hybrid storyscapes, and digital games in order to investigate the ways that media forms are shifting cultural attachments to contested territory. In particular, I  focus on the relationship between discourses of contemporary homeland and increasingly militarized and bounded spaces of imagined return and redemption in the U.S. and Israel. Through comparative media methods, I argue that many transmedial representations of  homeland have become tied to militarized and often sacralized processes of possession and retaliation. Contemporary definitions of diaspora are shifting to reflect these increasingly narrowed narratives of geohistorical memory.

Another area of interest–game design research–has provided a new way for me to think about narrative structure in an interactive learning environment. For example, augmented reality GPS-based platforms imbue location with new dynamic experiences and generate multiple meanings within a specific geographical location. The text, image, and animation on the screen, project layers of meaning onto a particular space, thus transforming a seemingly static spatial environment into a kind of palimpsest, making abstract ideas or histories immediately experiential and relevant.