Put up the site today for the Research in Informatics and Networking Group. Hopefully, we can do with RING what we did with the NMRL in Washington. I have been thinking back to why that came about, and I realized that part of it was to keep me at UW. I was deciding at the time whether to jump ship and join another program, and when Diane Gromala left the program for greener pastures, she left behind a lab with an amazing amount of potential. The department basically sealed it up and pretended it wasn’t there. When building constraints made them look for places it cut, it was the first on the chopping block.

No one really wanted to have anything to do with the place, so I made a move to colonize it. Along with some other students who were central to keeping alive a sense of exploration in the lab (Verena Hess, Sean Baker, and a number of extraordinarily talented undergraduates), we got a solid (re)start of things. It seems that it has now vanished entirely, leaving a room of computers for teaching in, renamed the Media Lab.

When I took the position here at UB, it was because I saw a diamond in the rough. The School had just changed its name to the “School of Informatics,” and there was a new Masters of Informatics in the offing. I wanted to be a part of such an environment. Things have moved more slowly than I might have liked, but I still think the department and school are capable of creating something unique and cutting-edge.

I hope this group can be a part of that effort: a cadre of the best students and possibly faculty who are neophiles and are willing to push the limits. That means finding areas in which we can excel, and putting on a good face for the rest of the world to see. I came here for a reason, I came here with a mission, and I plan to take up that mission with renewed vigor.

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One Comment

  1. alex
    Posted 1/14/2003 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Aaron Delwiche emailed me to remind me that others played an important role in the lab, himself not the least. I guess I could plead bad memory, since I have a hazy feel for events a week ago, let alone a few years back. He is, though, absolutely right. All of these folks had a significant impact, in one way or another, on the shape the lab took. For some reason, I had conflated his temporary departure for Hong Kong with Diane’s departure in December. No doubt, I’ve inflated my own efforts far too much. So, for a dose of reality:

    I was intrigued by your memories of the New Media Research Lab. As you note, Diane Gromala was responsible for birthing and nurturing that remarkable space. It is true that things were never the same after she left. However, I was startled to read your comment that “no one really wanted to have anything to do with the place” after Diane’s departure. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    When Diane left, many individuals affiliated with the School of Communications continued to care about the lab as a site for education, research, and playful inquiry. I taught several new media courses in the lab, as did John Bowes, Kevin Kawamoto, Douglas Bicket, Phillip Thurtle, Steve Shaviro, Verena Hess, Sean Baker, David Winterstein, and you. (I’m sure I’m leaving some people out of this list, but I moved to Asia in 1999). John Klockner and John Bowes deserve special mention for their attempts to maintain and upgrade the machines throughout the transition.

    It was sad to see the lab moved so many times, and it’s true that the current space lacks the same sense of place that characterized the NMRL in former incarnations. Yet, this is only a temporary home. It will be moved back to the former building when the current construction projects are completed. The new new new new media research lab (N4MRL?) will serve as an enduring site for courses taught by David Silver, Kirsten Foot, Barbara Warnick, Phil Howard, John Gastil, Anthony Chan, TY Lau, and many sharp graduate students who are studying new media at the University of Washington.

    (This is from an email from Aaron, reproduced with permission–I think! If not, let me know and I’ll zap it posthaste.)

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