There are multiple histories entailed by the term “transmedia,” and only some of them are worthy of contemporary artists’ affection and attention. This talk will summarize the competing claims of mixed media, new media, intermedia, expanded cinema, and transmedia storytelling, from the perspective of visual art and media theory. Sifting through the dramatic proliferation of platforms and software tools involved in today’s virtual production of the “metaverse,” I will offer an MIT-centric answer to the question posed by the talk’s title.
Caroline A. Jones studies modern and contemporary art, with a particular focus on its technological modes of production, distribution, and reception. Trained in visual studies and art history at Harvard, she did graduate work at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York before completing her PhD at Stanford University in 1992. She worked in museum administration and exhibition curation, holding positions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1977-83) and the Harvard University Art Museums (1983-85) while she completed two documentary films. In addition to these institutions, her exhibitions and/or films have been shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Hara Museum Tokyo, the Boston University Art Gallery, and MIT’s List Visual Art Center, among other venues. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (among others), and has been honored by fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies (2013-14), the Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College (2009-10), Institute national d’histoire de l’art in Paris (2006-7), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the Max Planck Institüt (2001-2), the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton (1994-95), and the Stanford Humanities Center (1986-87). Her books include Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (2005), Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist (1996/98, winner of the Charles Eldredge Prize from the Smithsonian Institution); Bay Area Figurative Art, 1950-1965 (1990, awarded the silver medal from San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club); and Modern Art at Harvard (1985). She edited Sensorium: Embodied experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art (2006) and co-edited Picturing Science, Producing Art (1998) and Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense (2016). She has published on subjects ranging from Francis Picabia to John Cage to new media art to biennial culture, in journals such as Artforum, Critical Inquiry, Res, Science in Context, caareviews online, Texte zur Kunst, and Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne. Jones’s ongoing research interests include globalism, the agency of the artist, and new media art, the focus of her latest book, The Global Work of Art (2016). She runs Transmedia Storytelling Initiative at MIT, a collaborative venture between MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P), the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS).