The Collaborative Media Commons is designed to serve several purposes: First, it acts as a collaborative space for interdisciplinary dialog regarding a wide range of theoretical and practical issues in such areas as data visualization, theories of modernism and postmodernism, technology and society, artistic and self representation, trans- and post-humanism, and aesthetics. The CMC not only provides a space for collaboration and conversation, but also serves as a repository and archive of these dialogs.

If ideas are the CMC's inputs, its media objects are its outputs. This includes visualizations, artwork, and narrative films. One of our major ongoing project is "Swerve," a dramatic motion-picture narrative in the form of a broadband feature film loosely defined by the "cyberpunk" genre (see sidebar). Chapters will be posted on this site as they are finished, and we will provide the means to log feedback from other academics and the general public, thus initiating a cyclical flow of information that seeks to bridge the standard boundaries between disciplines within academia, between intellectuals and artists, and between academia and the public it serves.

Our project is designed to address several weaknesses that we perceive in the standard paradigm of humanities research: First, that interdisciplinary work is often hampered by a lack of unifying goals, and indeed a lack of incentive or perceived purpose for combining disparate threads of inquiry. The CMC hopes to rectify this by melding the ethos and methodology of media production collaboration with academic research, providing a concrete goal (the distillation of academic research into a publicly-accessible narrative form) that is also a challenge; that is, a reason to collaborate as well as a platform that encourages mutation and recombination of research in ways normal models of humanities collaboration don't. We believe that exciting and unexpected research combinations can and will emerge from this model, just as they do in traditional film and video production. Second, we believe that this platform provides a powerful tool to connect research with pedagogy, instantiating the abstract in the concrete for teaching purposes as well as directly uniting faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students under its umbrella. There is no limit to how many students, and at what level, can participate in this extensible initiative, and we believe that its unique (and fun!) opportunities will encourage many students to take part. Finally, we hope to help breach the walls of the ivory tower by making our work directly accessible to the general public, as well as generating feedback from the public that we believe will prove valuable to the academics involved in the project. Very few mechanisms currently exist to effect this scale of public exposure and feedback to our research.

The CMC is based at the Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara.




Our first film will include a number of elements deliberately derived from the “Cyberpunk” subgenre of science fiction, blending them together into a partially experimental visual exploration of theoretical, philosophical, and aesthetic dimensions of virtualized life.

The film is set entirely within a “contaminated zone,” an area in the U.S. Southwest affected by a biological weapon and thereafter fenced off. It is a crumbling ruins, abandoned by all but a small group of individuals willing to absorb the daily contamination into their bodies in order to jack in to its online grid (“going Over”), affected by an analogous barrier of data corruption that isolates the shared virtual worlds within the Zone from the larger global network outside it. Thus the main characters in the series are all within the Zone either to escape the reaches of the globalized commodity economy (the “real” world) or the globalized information economy (the virtual, networked world). Most of these Zone denizens are either members of an information Underground engaged in a nebulous campaign against the militarization of information by U.S. Corporations, agents working for those corporations, or members of a neo-Luddite cult searching for salvation in the dissolution of mediating technology.

The central character of the film is Kaja, a young neuro-therapist in training and programmer of neural “software” interfaces to allow therapists and others to actively access, organize, and rearticulate “orphaned” data in patients' minds. She ventures into the Zone in search of her only close friend, Adelle, who has disappeared―-perhaps kidnapped. Taking up temporary residence, she is confronted by a radically alien world, stripped to its core elements of food, water, and shelter (in the “real” world) and bare information (in its virtual analog). She will meet, in her search for her friend, gender bending mercenaries, an electrical engineering savant who lives alone on a farm and only barters information for food, a virtual scientist collecting scanned brains for a mad mass mind simulation, an aging professor attempting to formulate his last, late, anthropological magnum opus, a host of cultists, misfits, hackers, and corporate scientists attempting to build a nanofabricator capable of reformulating matter with the right information... It is a world of hallucination simulation, raw binary affect, cadaverous and carnivorous data, surreal materiality, harvested fantasy, and liquid temporality.