Liz Losh has a Sixth Sense

Liz LoshElizabeth Losh, more easily found by her alliterative LizLosh handle, has moved to a new location. No, her award-winning blog, VirtualPolitik has not abandoned Blogspot, but Liz herself has moved from UC Irvine to UC San Diego. Fortunately the move does not take her out of the magical corridor she’s mapped out.

Liz has been engaged in robust blogging for several years now, posting almost daily for the bulk of that time. Her wry and thoughtful posts are generously sprinkled with references and links to the community, constructing constellations of colleagues as she composes. The blog led to and extends a book of the same name, Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (MIT Press), which came out last year to very strong reviews. Perhaps it’s no surprise that after she wrote the book on the field she helped to form, she took on a new academic position that whose job desription seems to have sprung from Liz’s head. In that transition, she moved from Director of writing in UCI’s Humanities Core to the Director of Academic Programs in
UCSD’s newest college.

On her blog, you will find find several strains of interest, including electronic literature, remix culture, even Critical Code Studies, but her most long-standing and deepest drilled wells are in the area of civic and educational use of digital technologies and what she calls “digital rhetoric.” In her words:

When I first started studying political and educational institutions as digital media-makers, not many people were interested or excited by my research. My first articles were about digital libraries and government websites that at the time were mostly used as repositories for documents and online forms. Digital rhetoric became a lot more interesting after the 2006 and 2008 elections. Since then I’ve written about political blogging, government YouTube channels, military videogames, and virtual worlds that are used for disaster simulation. I have been fortunate in attracting a much broader audience interested in my work. I have even been on the radio and television talking about why institutional regulation and digital content-creation don’t always mix well.

Sixth College at UCSD offers Liz a chance to institutionalize curricula about the digital discourse she has been theorizing. A child of the new millennium itself, Sixth College, which is apparently still waiting a capital donor to receive naming rights, “aims to prepare its students to become effective citizens of the 21st century—innovative, interconnected and aware.” Culture, Art, and Technology, its flagship sequence, “is about cultural participation, making things happen, and new forms of literacy at a research university” and “about our shared commitment to active, hands-on, integrated learning.” Hard to imagine a more appropriate spot for Liz, whose next book focuses on early adopters of new technologies in their pedagogy.

Sixth College’s ambitious master plan seems, again, written for Liz,

The theme of Sixth College was motivated by the rich intellectual challenges inherent in the intersection of technology, culture and the arts. The academic plan exploits the college theme to create a curriculum that will prepare students for a future that demands ethical integrity; team-work skills; ability to adapt to rapid change; aptitude to think abstractly; the competence to acquire, process, and evaluate new information critically; and the proficiency to communicate across disciplinary boundaries. To achieve this goal, Sixth College will create a learning environment, both inside and outside the classroom, that will emphasize collaborative learning, pattern recognition, deductive reasoning and creative imagination and the ability to hypothesize, interpret, and express thoughts and ideas through the effective use of communication tools that include the digital medium. Sixth College will provide the skills necessary for lifelong learning, including information and computer literacy, paired with the crucial ability to seek out and learn from experts

Losh has recently turned her attention to academic early adopters of new technologies, a book project that, like VirtualPolitik, will shape her work at Sixth College. As a generous teacher and colleague and early adopter herself, she is certainly well positioned to respond to Provost Naomi Oreskes’ call “to provide a learning community that is nurturing and stimulating, while equipping our students to face the challenges that lie ahead.” No doubt such language will be percolating through many a Provostial pronouncement across higher education, but Sixth College, featuring the likes of Liz, Lev Manovich, and recent MacArthur Genius recipient Carol Padden, has a team poised at the edge of the academic frontier. Oreskes, who has won awards from NSF and NEH, has a knack for new media of her own, tallying almost 200K views on her YouTube video on climate change deniers.

In addition to her work developing programs, Liz is teaching courses in Digital Rhetoric and also Digital Poetics and a Modern Art History course, provocatively titled “Art and the State.” No doubt these courses will exude the same vitality as the ones she taught at UCI, stacked and packed full of definitive readings and internationally known guest speakers from Ian Bogost (who chooses his guest spots carefully) to James Kotecki.

Liz Losh may have moved farther toward the corner of the country, but her new position places her at the center of interdisciplinary scholarship at UCSD, pioneering the frontier of university interdisciplinary digital research.

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