The Department is pleased to welcome and introduce two new Assistant Professors whose brilliant research, creative activities, and exciting new courses (see below!) will add greatly to our collective endeavor.
Welcome Dr. Alenda Chang and Dr. Laila Shereen Sakr! Long may you flourish in Film and Media Studies here at UCSB!
Professor Chang’s dissertation, Playing Nature: The Virtual Ecology of Game Environments, moves beyond representational analysis of video game aethetics (e.g. scenery and other in-game pictorial components) and beyond ideological analysis of video games’ infamous proclivities (e.g. video game violence), to an expansive understanding of game environmentsas virtual worlds, certainly, but also as mediascapes nested with the broader ecologies of the built and natural environments. Concerned with the relationship between mediated “playing” and mediated “nature,” Chang examines how digital games and interactive play are “implicated in and by natural systems,” including technology’s natural resource demands, computational protocols, modeling dynamics, feedback, scale, and extra-game landscapes and systems, and social ecologies.
Her current projects include Playing Nature, an ecological approach to computer and video games, as well as new and ongoing research in documentary, sound and media studies, and environmental literature. She also maintains the Growing Games blog, http://growinggames.net, which is a resource for game studies, environmental humanities, and ecomedia scholars.
An award-winning teacher, Professor Chang’s courses slated for the coming year are FAMST 166BA: Growing Games and, at the graduate level, FAMST 242ES: Ecologies of Scale.
Her published essays appear in Ant, Spider, Bee; The Information Society; Qui Parle; and Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.
This research led her to design the R-Shief (in Arabic, “archive”) media system for archiving and analyzing content from social networking sites. The platform for a mind-boggling set of data—blogs, digital art works, and, according to Shereen Sakr, over twenty-six billion hashtag posts and “tweets”—R-Shief provides diverse groups the tools to track real-life developments and parse emergent patterns of discourse via semantic associations and circulating visual memes. Such pattern recognition mechanisms took on a pressing significance during the Arab Uprisings of 2011, as recurring hashtags like #Tahrir and #Jan25 rose to an informatic crescendo to produce discernible trends.
Laila Shereen Sakr is also a multimedia artist: working as VJ Um Amel (a video disc jockey with more than one hundred works of video remix and data visualization to her credit); as a live cinema performer; and as creator/presenter of R-Shief-related visualizations, computer applications, and media systems.
Professor Shereen Sakr’s areas of research and teaching span across Arab world and United States. She is fluent in Arabic (Egyptian dialect) and French. Her courses slated for the coming year are, in the Winter, FAMST 165DA Digital Activism and New Media in the Middle East and the graduate seminar, Data Visualization as Media Praxis, and, in the Spring FAMST 109:GA Glitch Art and Remix Cinematic Production.
She has shown her work in museums across the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, and has published extensively. Recent reviews appear in The Wall Street Journal, Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Voice of America, The Monocle, Art Territories, Digital Media and Learning, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Jadaliyya, and The Creators Project.
Film and Media Studies focuses on film, television, and new media around the world. With 400 undergraduate majors and more than two dozen graduate students, FMS cultivates critical and analytical skills through the study of media objects and practices. Majors have the opportunity to interact closely with our distinguished faculty through collaborative research projects and to engage with a vibrant mix of activities and student organizations, such as the Screenwriters' Co-op, Reel Loud Film Festival, and Media Fields Journal. The department furthermore encourages students to explore future career paths and to build relationships with our network of committed alumni, many of whom return to campus regularly to share their experiences and insights. Our rigorous curriculum of study is fostering a new generation of visionaries with a stake in producing and understanding the future of screen media.