Institute for the Study of Culture & Society


Welcome to ICS! We are an interdisciplinary research institute that promotes the production and dissemination of original work in traditional disciplines within the humanities, arts, and social sciences; in established interdisciplines; and in newly emerging fields of inquiry. We hope you will join us at one of our lectures, conferences, or seminars/workshops that take place throughout the academic year.

Tara McPherson, Designing for Difference: The Gendered & Racial Epistemologies of Electronic Media

Tuesday, November 18th, 4-5:30 pm in the McFall Assembly Room

How did a feminist film scholar trained in post-structuralist and critical race theory end up running a software lab? In answering that question, this talk engages various histories in the development of computational systems in order to argue that we need more humanities scholars to take seriously issues in the design and implementation of software systems. Humanities scholars are particularly well suited to help us think through such topics as the status of the archive as it mutates into the database, the possibilities for less hierarchical computing, and the cultural contexts of code. In short, this talk argues that neither theorizing media nor building new technologies is sufficient onto itself; we must necessarily do both. As a concrete example of the relationship of theory to practice, McPherson will discuss the work her USC team has undertaken over the last decade, including the digital journal, Vectors, and the new multimodal authoring platform, Scalar. Their research has always been in direct dialogue with key issues in the interpretative humanities, including discussions of race, gender, sexuality, social justice and power. How can such a dialogue come to shape the practice of software design?


Tara McPherson is Associate Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a core faculty member of the IMAP program, USC’s innovative practice based-Ph.D., and also an affiliated faculty member in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department. Her research engages the cultural dimensions of media, including the intersection of gender, race, affect and place. She has a particular interest in digital media, including the digital humanities, early software histories, gender, and race, as well as the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship.

She is the author of Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP, 2003), editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected (MIT Press, 2007), co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture(Duke UP, 2003), and co-editor of the anthology Transmedia Frictions (University of California Press, 2014).  She is currently working on a manuscript examining the digital transformation of the archive as it mutates into the database.

Tara McPherson Seminar: Scalar Workshop

Tuesday, November 18th, 1:00-2:30 pm in 308 BTSU

During this informal seminar, Dr. McPherson will discuss the genesis of her current research, which is concerned with developing new modes of scholarship for visual culture research and new tools for interdisciplinary collaboration. In addition, she will demonstrate the new multi-modal authoring platform, Scalar. All seminar participants should bring a laptop to the session.  (For more information on Scalar and the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, visit scalar.usc.edu.)  To participate in this seminar, please RSVP to Stephanie Rader (srader@bgsu.edu).