Anne Balsamo Appointed Inaugural Dean of ATEC School
Dr. Anne Balsamo has been named as the inaugural dean of the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas.
Balsamo is a scholar, educator, entrepreneur and designer of new media whose research and interactive projects explore the cultural possibilities of emergent media technologies. Her recent book, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work, offers a manifesto for rethinking the role of culture in the process of technological innovation in the 21st century.
Balsamo moves to UT Dallas from the New School in New York City, where she served as dean of the School of Media Studies. Prior to her appointment at the New School, she held tenured faculty appointments at the Georgia Institute of Technology and, later, at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism of the University of Southern California.
The Board of Regents of The University of Texas System authorized the creation of the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) in February of 2015. The programs and faculty of this new UT Dallas school, now based in the new Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, were developed as a visionary initiative of Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, in collaboration with the founding director of the program, Dr. Thomas Linehan.
Their vision was of synergistic collaborations between scholars of animation, game design, and communications mediated though new technologies, engineers and computer scientists, artists and scholars of design, and faculty in the many dimensions of communications. Over the last decade, this vision has been embraced by students and faculty alike, and the dynamic growth of ATEC enrollment and program faculty led to the creation of the new school.
“The creation of our new School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication provided us with the opportunity to recruit a new dean, and in so doing to bring additional administrative and scholarly expertise to UT Dallas,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, president ad interim of UT Dallas. “A search committee, chaired by Dr. Andy Blanchard, dean of Undergraduate Education, and assisted by the executive search firm of Korn Ferry, solicited, reviewed and interviewed an impressive array of outstanding scholar-administrator candidates as we searched for our inaugural dean. Dr. Balsamo emerged from this process as the leading candidate, and after an intensive recruitment process she accepted the challenge and opportunity to lead this dynamic, still rapidly evolving, diverse community of faculty and students.”
Balsamo has been a leader in the growth of digital humanities in the United States, having served on the advisory board of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) since its founding in 2003. She and her research team have received several grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of the Digital Humanities to create interactive experiences for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. This research is widely considered as a model of digital humanities research that expands public awareness of important works of cultural heritage.
“ATEC is a bold experiment in thinking differently about the future of STEM education that asserts the importance of the arts and humanities not only in the creation of new technologies, but also in the production of new knowledge that will be required of citizens of the 21st century.”
“ATEC is a bold experiment in thinking differently about the future of STEM education that asserts the importance of the arts and humanities not only in the creation of new technologies, but also in the production of new knowledge that will be required of citizens of the 21st century,” Balsamo said. “So informed, we seek wisdom from our cross-disciplinary conversations about how best to navigate dynamic and uncertain futures. This, to me, is the promise of ATEC. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead and help shape it so that we may realize this promise.”
Balsamo received her PhD in communications research in 1991 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she completed a dissertation that examined the cultural implications of emergent biotechnologies. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in 1981.
Balsamo has pursued her career in a diverse array of environments. She left her tenured faculty appointment in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia Tech for a position as principal scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Subsequently she worked with the Stanford University Humanities Lab and, with former PARC colleagues, co-founded, Onomy Labs Inc., a Silicon Valley company providing technology design and fabrication to develop cultural technologies and signature interactives as narrative platforms for engaging storytelling.
In 1994, Balsamo joined the faculty of the University of Southern California as professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and in the Interactive Media Division of the School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC, she also directed the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, where she developed one of the first academic programs in multimedia scholarship across the curriculum. An expert in developing innovative pedagogies, Balsamo co-developed an alternative MOOC offered by an organization she co-founded called FemTechNet. The distributed learning experience, called a DOCC (Distribute Online Collaborative Course), now in its fourth year, involves dozens of instructors who collaborate to create learning activities addressing issues of women and STEAM, feminism and technology, and race and diversity in digital culture.
Her books have earned her prominence in the emerging field of digital humanities and public interactive technologies. In addition to her 2011 book Designing Culture, she is also the author of the 1996 bookTechnologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women.
Balsamo’s current work focuses on what she terms “public interactives,” and investigates the history and proliferation of interactive experiences in public spaces. She will establish a new lab at ATEC called the Public Interactives Research Lab that builds on the interdisciplinary strengths of the school. This lab will engage artists, designers, computer scientists and engineers in the design of new public interactives that will be available for use in various public spaces in the ATEC building.