A multilayered image of forms and text.

A screenshot from Fox Harrell’s Loss, Undersea, an artificial intelligence-based interactive narrative.

Recently we wrote about the power of the humanities at MIT.  The innovative new media work of Professor Fox Harrell, as profiled today in MIT News, exemplifies what can emerge from an education that synthesizes humanities and technological disciplines. Prof. Harrell “studies self-expression in online media and creates tools to help developers add depth to their work.”

…[He] occupies an unusual spot in academic research, with an appointment in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as well as in its program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing. In his research group, the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (ICE), Harrell and his students take formal analyses of thought — developed in cognitive science, psychology, sociology, and other fields — and develop computational programs that can be applied to computer games, social media, and other forms of emergent media.

The idea is to imbue such media with the same opportunities for self-expression and social reflection that are present in literature, film, and other areas of culture. The programs Harrell develops take many forms, but often add layers of nuance to, say, interactions between characters in games, or social media experiences.

“We try to make works that can engender critical thought, conceptual change, or even social change,” Harrell says.

Read more…

Check out some of Prof. Harrell’s teaching in his course CMS.405 Media and Methods: Seeing and Expression.