In this series, we will be introducing you to key faculty at the New School who teach courses that complement design studies, and will be available to our students as registration permits. This week we introduce Shannon Mattern. Shannon is Assistant Professor at the New School for Public Engagement. This division of the New School underscores the core values of democratic citizenship, social action, and cultural engagement and fosters interdisciplinary practice. To see more about Professor Mattern’s work, visit her website, Words in Space. Below are her responses to our questions:
Can you talk a little about your work and the ways in which it intersects with design?
My research and teaching have focused on relationships between the forms and materialities of media and the spaces (architectural, urban, and conceptual) they create and inhabit. I’ve written about libraries and archives, media companies’ headquarters, place branding, public design projects, urban media art, media acoustics, media infrastructures, and material texts.
To put it another way, I like to say that my research and teaching focus on media and design in various “prepositional relationships”: the various media technologies in the design process; the design of spaces and objects for media production and consumption; and designed objects, spaces, and systems as forms of mediation or communication.
What sort of relationship does your discipline have with design and the field of design studies?
Media studies overlaps to some degree with, but still has much to learn from, design studies. Much work in this field focuses on media content: the text on the page, the imagery on the screen, the sounds emanating from the speakers. All of these objects (and our experiences with them) are designed — by graphic designers, set designers, costume designers, interaction designers, sound designers, and a host of other professionals from the design fields. I’m encouraged by the recent growth of interest within my field in subjects that call for a deeper familiarity with design history and theory; people are paying more attention to the materiality of our media objects and infrastructures, the design of media spaces, and the meaningful integration of design (or production) practice with media theory.
Which of the courses you teach might be of interest to students in the design studies program?
Archives, Libraries and Databases
Media and Architecture
Media and Materiality
Sound and Space