Faculty Seed Grants

Faculty Seed Grants

Applications are due October 1, 2024

The Berkeley Center for New Media is an interdisciplinary research center that studies and shapes media transition and emergence from diverse perspectives. Through critical thinking and making, we cultivate technological equity and fairness in our classrooms, in our communities, and on the internet.

As a focal point for research and teaching about new media, we are led by a highly trans-disciplinary community of 120 affiliated faculty, advisors, and scholars, from 35 UC Berkeley departments, including Architecture, Philosophy, Film & Media, History of Art, Performance Studies, and Music; the Schools of Engineering, Information, Journalism, and Law; and the Berkeley Art Museum.

BCNM’s seed grant fellowship program aims to identify innovative research incorporating questions of new media, and to support this work across campus.


This year, the Center has $10,000 to distribute. We will award a single grant of between $10,000.

Interested applicants should apply with a one page research proposal here.

Work proposed for the fellowship can be a new extension of existing research, or new research grounded in the applicant’s interest and experience. Collaborative applications are allowed and encouraged. Applications should address the urgency and impact of the research, as well as make clear how questions of new media—historic, contemporary, or both—are relevant. While a detailed budget is not necessary, we ask that you make clear what specific activities are likely to be supported by the fellowship funds.

Applications are due October 1, 2024.

Proposals will be assessed by the current Executive Committee according to the following criteria:

  • relevance to new media
  • academic rigor

Past Awards

Spring 2024

See award list here.

Greg Niemeyer

Predicting the Sacramento River

Hydrocolonialism hinges on predicting river flow, crucial for resource extraction. "Crystal Geyser" bottled water derives from Mount Shasta, its yield linked to winter snowfall. Those wielding advanced prediction tools like TimeGPT and CatBoost shape extraction, marketing, and pricing. Yet, balancing this with Indigenous water knowledge is vital. Leveraging prior research, this project aims to contrast predicted and observed water flows via a paper and three artworks. It prompts reflection on water flow determinism, given models' error-prone nature amid climate change. TimeGPT leans towards mean flow, diverging from Sacramento River's extreme fluctuations, while CatBoost offers accuracy at higher labor costs. Indigenous wisdom and river history highlight the inadequacy of both of these extractive models. Niemeyer will collect oral histories, notions of water futures, and photographs at three sites: Lake Siskiyou, Cliff Lake, and the Delta, CA station. This will be paired and compared with the data, establishing a bi-directional circulating reference from data to source and back again.

Clancy Wilmott & Emma Fraser

Documenting California Forever

Documenting California Forever seeks to better understand the actors, tensions and geographies of the proposed city, with focus on analyzing the emergence of tech-led investment into city imaginaries, and the increasing entanglement between digital technologies and material spaces, asking the questions:
1) In what ways do the urban-, digital- and techno-imaginaries of Silicon Valley inform the production of a purpose-built city in California?;
2) What roles do geographic media and geospatial data representations play in shaping discourses and processes surrounding California Forever?;
3) How will California Forever’s backers and associated developers produce value and manage risk in the development process?
Their methodological approach identifies key stakeholders and areas for research across two key strands:
1) Building an archive of news media, recordings, development proposals, site assessments, parcel data, photography, community meetings and other materials which document the rapidly evolving geographies of California Forever, as well as undertaking geospatial and new media analysis;
2) Undertaking ethnographic and qualitative interview-based research.

Fall 2023

See award list here.

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.

Spring 2023

See award list here.

Alex Saum-Pascual

AI Critical Infrastructures

Alex's current book project, Earthy Algorithms: A New Materialist Approach to Climate, Capital and Digital Literature, examines the imbrication of digital technologies in literary production, looking at its engagement with concepts of environmental crisis, through a new materialist lens. Alex focuses on the work of ten digital artists from Spain and the Latin American Diaspora to examine digital materiality in relation to its physical and signifying strategies, as well as regarding modern abstract binaries that separate the Earth from its human and non-human inhabitants. Earthy Algorithms argues that digital technologies are the consecration of the Cartesian dualism that has propelled modernity’s exploitation of the Earth, and proposes digital literature as a means to imagine more liveable (digital) futures.

A key aspect of the project is to expose how algorithmic processes mediate every aspect of contemporary material life, yet they do so by incarnating the paradoxical binary framework above. They promote their existence as virtual, immaterial forces floating in a cloud of bodiless information, cleanly separated from the very material infrastructures that sustain them, which are, in turn, sustained by the destruction of natural resources and human life.

Alex is collaborating with one of these artists, Mario Santamaría, in the designing of a digital infrastructure tour of the Bay Area, looking in particular at AI infrastructures in October 2023. The rapid development of AI, and its massively popular adoption make this a timely experience that will bridge the gap between technology, infrastructures, environmental issues and art.

Apart from the intervention in the area’s art and technology scene, as well as campus intellectual debates, creating this infrastructure tour will produce important outcomes for her own scholarly project. It will inform the writing of Earthy Algorithms as it provides hands-on experience and research on the physical infrastructures needed to support our digital environments. Furthermore, it will also help her produce a poetry chapbook in collaboration with the Arts Research Center, where several area poets will engage with site-specific writing, addressing the relationship between land, (digital) technology, and poetic expression and experience.

Asma Kazmi and Jill Miller

The Missing Objects Library

In their research as new media artists and educators, Asma and Jill have found that commercial 3D image libraries (virtual storefronts with digital assets used in game design, Hollywood special effects, etc) almost exclusively sell depersonalized and culturally non-specific 3D objects for mass consumption and mainstream use. Employed across many domains, from VR experiences to corporate marketing, these models are conservative in form and structure, and anchored in a capitalist studio production mold. The limitations of the commercial asset libraries create a media landscape that reinscribes notions of false neutrality, reaffirming Audre Lorde’s “mythical norm” postulation, privileging representations of a material culture for the “white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure”.

The Missing Object Library (MOL) is a web-based curated repository of hand-made digital objects that fill a void in the existing offerings. The MOL disrupts historical gatekeeping by these “neutral” marketplaces by offering 3D modeled objects with an intersectional lens.

Arjun Appadurai asserts that human actors encode objects with significance, and that things retain the magic of their makers, handlers, and users. The encoded objects of the MOL are context specific, charged, and imbued with meaning because they are curated by invited artists, designers, architects, anthropologists, historians, and students who are asked to imagine a collection of objects drawn from their knowledge base, culture, kin, and life experiences.

Unlike the commercial websites, MOL is an open platform with downloadable models that accurately represents the world we inhabit. The project is not only meant to critique existing 3D model databases by providing an alternative, but is also set up in an economic system of reciprocity, as a gift, and as an event where technological representations of things are exchanged to produce effects. Finally, the MOL website will host a virtual 360 Gallery of Missing Objects with rotating thematic object displays/shows curated by Jill Miller and Asma Kazmi.

This grant seeks to cover the first phase of the project's study identifying gaps in current offerings.

Fall 2022

See award list here.

Celeste Kidd

Truth, lies, and misinformation during cognitive development

Our proposal collects empirical data on interventions designed to give children a greater ability to discern truth from falsity in online materials. Our objectives are to conduct foundational empirical studies on two types of interventions designed to facilitate children’s ability to discern fact from fiction in new media. The first set of interventions target factors external to the child relating to the information ecosystems in which they are making judgements. The second set of interventions involve investigating internal mechanisms children may have available for helping them detect misinformed opinions.

Clancy Wilmott

Rematriating the Map: Alternative Cartographies for Alternative Futures

Reorienting the Map: Alternative Cartographies for Alternative Futures focuses on the ever-present question of the colonial legacies in cartographic media, and the impact that this has on Indigenous efforts to decolonize the map, and fight for alternative futures (c.f. Rose-Redwood et. al, 2020). Working with the Sogorea Te Land Trust, Reorienting the Map proposes a series of interlinked collaborative cartographic works, which gradually scale up from the experimental to the infrastructural. They include a large scale paper wall map and a digital mapping media platform for the general public. Sogorea Te and studio.geo? have an established relationship via the Berkeley Center for New Media’s Indigenous Technologies program, and have already completed a collaborative digital map.

Spring 2022

See award list here.

Emma Fraser

As companies, including Facebook and Google, seek to develop future virtual environments that will come to mediate our engagement with the Web, including expanding the capacities of multiplayer online spaces, and moving into projected ‘metaverse’ productions, there is a particular urgency to questions of the representation of space. How can the historical context of spatial navigation and play in games help us to understand future directions in game design, but also the implications for VR, architectural modelling, and urban design and development?

Emma's research concerns digital space and visual materiality in video games, specifically the multimedial and corporeal ways in which urban space is represented, navigated, and configured through play in virtual worlds. She also investigates the use of physical hardware as a means to educate students on the historical contexts that have shaped the representation of space in games (for example, the use of peripherals like controllers, light guns, and joysticks).

Greg Niemeyer & Lisa Wymore

Greg and Lisa are spearheading a community-led VR immersive experience reflecting on the impact of recent California Wildfires on local Northern California communities - creating a space for mourning, learning and healing.

The 2017 Tubbs fire burned 36,807 acres of land, destroyed over 5000 homes, and claimed the lives of 22 residents of Santa Rosa, CA. The flames, sparkled by a downed power line, burned for almost a month.

Fire Time is not only an artistic Virtual Reality project utilizing the enormous amount of data collected during the Tubbs fire - from air quality, to fire speed and spread, to maps and images, and collected stories - it is also a community-led artistic process that will be used to address the fire from multiple perspectives.

Fall 2021

See award list here.

Celeste Kidd

In "The Effects of Cognitive Load and Theory of Mind on the Emergence of Political Polarization Online", Celeste tests how cognitive load in online environments may increase rates of polarization. From the neverending news feed of Twitter to Reddits limitless conversations, online environments offer individuals access to multiple information streams, thus increasing cognitive load. Celeste hopes to answer how we might expect this stress on cognitive systems to affect people’s ability to represent and judge the minds of others, and what this might tell us about the recent surge in political polarization in online environments such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.

Beth Piatote

Decolonial Conversions is a project with the purpose of reclaiming old media, namely a nineteenth century mission printing press, for new use as a tool of Indigenous language revitalization. Beth submitted this proposal on behalf of the Nez Perce writing group, luk’upsíimey/North Star Collective, of which she is the co-organizer, for a project to repurpose the mission press. Together, Beth and Nez Perce writers and language activists carry out this project of “decolonial conversion,” which has symbolic and material significance to the Nez Perce language community and to Indigenous language revitalization work more broadly. The press will get a new mission: to support rather than attack Nez Perce culture.


See award list here and here.

Eric Paulos

This proposal leverages preliminary work through a series of semi-structured interviews with 15 expert creative practitioners across a diverse range of domains including performance, craft, engineering, science, art, and design, and their use of artifacts generated throughout their creative processes. We examine the shifing roles that artifacts play, and identify strategies used across a range of creative practices. Informed by these studies, we have initiated an early prototype of a new creative, education, and (hopefully) transdisciplinary creativity support system that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Our tool is called Kaleidoscope and is modeled afer the busy, messy, but inspiration workspaces we inhabit. It supports a range of “artifact” types from text, google docs, websites, videos, images, Figma designs, 3D models, various online collaborative repositories such as GitHub, etc. Rather than to only showcase final work, Kaleidoscope is focused on capturing process, sidesteps, pivots, and all the beautify and valuable messiness that goes into any creative process. It is a new approach to documentation of creative work. Within a classroom setting, it allows for elements of assignments to be submitted for critique and feedback by other classmates, teaching staff, or outside domain experts.

Jill Miller

Parts without Bodies is a new series of digitally fabricated sculptures that combine 3D printed creature corpuses with embedded audio systems, which form a tangible object that plays audio files when touched. The creatures are designed by digitally scanning detritus and “dead” objects - for example, a tree branch with burrows left from termites, a sand dollar shell, and a titanium hip removed post-mortem. The objects are manipulated in a CAD program, then “reborn” in their freaky new state: sculptural objects the size and weight of a newborn baby, responsive to touch when held or caressed. The three objects are reanimated by the audio tracks played while they are touched. The audio files reflect a moment of magic and fantasy - when the object is reanimated with the sounds of its former self: the creaking of tree branches in the wind, the sounds of the ocean where the sea urchin once thrived, or the sounds of the circulatory system that once surrounded the hip implant when it was inside a human body.

Asma Kazmi

After Jahangir is a photographic project of self-portraits based on Islamic Mughal miniature portraits, which explore questions around the built environment, consumerism, and ecofeminist thinking. The Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569-1627) was given the name “World Seizer” for his preoccupation with collecting. He enthusiastically acquired plants, animals, minerals, and rarities from different parts of the globe. During his reign, Jahangir commissioned many royal portraits where he was often pictured with his arm lifted up to his face, holding up a distinguished object to ruminate on its properties. In these paintings dynamic architectural details and/or natural settings were thematized to reflect Jahangir’s love of natural/manmade materials, architecture, and the environment. In Asma's series After Jahangir, she performs Jahangir’s gesture of carefully gazing at a household consumer object placed in her palm to contemplate her relationship to material goods that she consumes. Her self-portraits will be taken at various locations in San Francisco and Karachi, representing the uneven urbanization of the two cities. In addition, she will create sculptural objects inspired by Islamic architectural forms and Mughals gardens to be placed in the photographic frame, engendering multiple spatial and temporal orientations. By creating a series of images depicting entanglements of historical representations and placing herself within this system, she is interested in imagining new and unique possibilities of thinking about matter, materiality, and the ecology.


See award list here.


See award list here.


See award list here.


See award list here.