More than media

Dr. Alessandra Renzi Speaks at UB as part of the PLASMA series

After being introduced, Dr. Alessandra Renzi turned red. Flustered, the professor slowly approached the microphone and began to speak with a thick Italian accent. Her eyes were bright and she was readyto discuss her life's work.

Renzi was the fifth speaker in the Department of Media Study's PLASMA (Performances, Lectures and Screenings of Media Art) series, which has run throughout the semester. Her three-part lecture discussed repurposing media, connective media activism and how people's newfound ability to connect with others without being in the same place at the same time affects politics and social structure.

Renzi is an assistant professor in emergent media for the Department of Art and Design and for the program in Media and Screen Studies at Northeastern University. Her work explores the linkages between media, art and activism through ethnographic studies and media art projects.

The professor's example of "Telestreet," an Italian media jacking movement, was the center of her thesis. In Italy, the government controls most of the media in an attempt to control the population, according to Renzi.

"Telestreet" is an underground television network that intercepts government television signals and gives citizens an opportunity to watch different channels. This network is also used as a platform to voice political views and to have these views reach the public.

While explaining the concept of "Telestreet," Renzi's intense methodology became clear. She explained this as a form of repurposing media, or a set of practices that are specific in their use to conduct research. She focused on the details of the movement and explained that its relevancy is due, for the most part, to its origins during a time when YouTube and other Internet videos did not exist.

"She was more scholarly than the other speakers," said Yulia Gilithinskaya, a media studies graduate student. "Before the event, everyone was given a manuscript of her work so everyone could understand her lecture better. It helped, and her work and effort is inspiring."

The professor continued by discussing the idea of connective media activism - producing reality while presenting it. The idea is to present the world with things that are happening as they happen by utilizing media as not only a forum to present ideas, but a research tool.

Renzi explained that the idea is essentially how social media works. She said that knowledge stems from our ability to understand power relations and this knowledge has become easier to acquire through social media.

For her final part of the lecture, Renzi explained how media is connective, not collective. The idea is not always about gathering as much information as possible, but presenting it in a manner in which people are easily able understand it and remain informed.

Renzi refers to media as an entry point.

Media enables people to broadcast ideas around the world. She discussed some of the struggles encountered during work, but she said they did not stop her from pursuing her research.

There was an hour for questions following the lecture. Conversation about the Renzi's work around the world helped the audience gain a better understanding of why the professor uses her specific methodology.

"Her worldliness is what's led her to avoid generalizations," said Paige Sarlin, assistant professor in the Department of Media Study. "She uses historical, non-national examples to prove her point, and it's because she's experienced so many different populations and social structures that her argument is validated."

Renzi said media study is more than what it may seem on the surface - it is a field in which art, politics and social structure interact with each other.

The next and final speaker in the series is Tony Oursler on May 5 in Center for the Arts, room 112. He will discuss the connection of his works to pop culture.