Announcing BCNM's Fall 2023 Faculty Seed Grants

04 Nov, 2023

Announcing BCNM's Fall 2023 Faculty Seed Grants

This semester, the Berkeley Center for New Media was thrilled to support four faculty members in their scholarship through seed grants that will help catalyze their research in new media. We are excited to congratulate these amazing artists and scholars!

Luisa Caldas

Biometric Evaluation of User Physiological Responses in a Social VR Platform

Virtual Bauer Wurster (VBW) is a social VR platform based on the digital twin of Bauer Wurster Hall at UC Berkeley. It offers a cloud-based publishing platform for 3D environments, a 3D authoring tool, and a multiuser collaborative space for shared experiences. VBW has been used in several UC Berkeley courses and provides both screen-based and immersive VR modes. One unique application involves healthcare facility design, where biometric data collection and VR are used to assess the impact of design alternatives on patient preferences and physiological responses.

The BCNM Faculty Seed Grant will support VBW's development and integrate biometric evaluation methods into the platform. This would enhance our understanding of the effects of avatar-based social VR interactions on users and could have applications in designing virtual support rooms for long-term disease patients. VBW's development has been a collaborative effort involving students from various academic backgrounds, offering a promising avenue for expanding our knowledge of social VR interactions and their potential applications in healthcare and other domains.

Eric Paulos


BrightBlue is a newer body of research themed on radical approaches to technology and the environment with sustainability at its core. It is an homage to Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech about a tiny Earth imaged by Voyager 1 in 1990 when it was over six billion kilometers away. Space exploration and its tie to the environmental moment have a long history. Prior to the “Pale Blue Dot”, there was the1968 Apollo 8 “Earthrise” photo and the 1972 Apollo 17 “Blue Marble” image. These photos changed how humans related to our planet, environment, and each other. Released during a surge in environmental activism during the 1970s, these images became symbols of the environmental movement, as a depiction of Earth's frailty, vulnerability, and isolation amid the vast expanse of space. Now decades later we are seemingly more connected, living in a digital milieu of ubiquitous data, interactive artifacts, and new materials. Inspired by the powerful imagery of our Earth, BrightBlue seeks to imagine, image, and create radically new chemical-bio-electric interactive experiences that serve humanity while honoring our planet and environment. The focus of Eric Paulos and team is on the research of “semi-permanent” technological designs that leverage biological and decomposable materials. BrightBlue prioritizes the decomposability of materials in our designs to create technologies, artifacts, and interfaces that are durable and have enhanced functionality without sacrificing the convenience of responsible disposability and a focus on environmental sustainability and our climate. Now more than ever we need to develop sustainable and environmentally focused designs for powering our future interactive systems and for insuring that many of those such interactive systems also embody a materiality that is sustainability and in harmony with our ecologies — this is the core of BrightBlue.

Jacob Gaboury

Screens Shot: Mediating the Interactive Interface

Screenshots are one of the most pervasive visual forms in circulation today, but their application is wildly variable and largely dependent on the cultures of use in which they are situated. To understand the screenshot as a unified technique for the mediation of computational systems, this project traces the multiple and competing histories of the screenshot and its evolution alongside the graphical computer throughout the long 20th century. Ultimately Gaboury's goal is to examine the screenshot as a window into the mundane and vernacular cultures of everyday computing, asking how we mediate computation through existing visual forms, and how this mediation transforms the ways we use and understand the computer. Beginning with the practices and technologies that enabled computer scientists to extract the work of visual computing from the screens and paper output of early experimental computers, Gaboury plans to trace the screenshot across a range of communities of practice including early video game cultures, computer art preservation, and contemporary social media circulation. Gaboury is also interested in how screenshots have transformed the way we as scholars do our own work with new media, from the documentation of network cultures to the way screenshots have come to replace earlier disciplinary media forms such as the film still or the art history slide. Gaboury's goal in examining the history of the screenshot is to explore the role of computer images in moving the work of computing beyond the moment of its execution so that it can begin to act on the world, asking how this pervasive but largely unexamined visual form has shaped the way we use and understand computing today.

Asma Kazmi & Jill Miller

Missing Objects

The Missing Objects Library (MOL) is a web-based archive and a large-scale sculptural installation that subverts the form of a Western historical cabinet of curiosity and offers viewers a close up, interactive experience with taboo, erased, and ignored cultural objects. Kazmi and Miller received BCNM Seed Grant funding to develop the MOL website. They are now building a sculptural installation at Gray Area San Francisco, to open in Spring 2024. The research explores how the widespread adoption of virtual and augmented realities (AR/VR) is reinforcing marginalization and erasing diverse voices and cultural objects within commercial 3D object marketplaces. This perpetuates a media landscape that upholds a "mythical norm" favoring certain identities. To counter this, the MOL project seeks to subvert the historical curio cabinet by creating a new form that challenges contemporary and historical models of knowledge production. It takes the shape of a web-based repository of diverse 3D models available for free use and a physical art installation featuring taboo objects such as tools for disabilities, hospice medications, extinct flower species, and digital cloud storage infrastructure. With the support of the BCNM Seed Grant, an installation at Gray Area aims to offer an immersive experience that prompts viewers to rethink how museums and academic institutions construct knowledge.