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USC Annenberg Innovation Lab welcomes new research fellows

The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, a growing powerhouse launched in 2011, hosted its first Innovation Summit at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center in March.

New research fellows with interdisciplinary backgrounds in art, science, design and engineering have joined the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab (AIL), which focuses on media, culture and society.

The already diverse lab is expanding to utilize the expertise of USC faculty members in areas that it plans to research on a larger scale.

“The Innovation Lab has always seen itself as an interdisciplinary space. Inviting new research fellows from various schools just formalizes that process,” said Jonathan Taplin, the lab’s director and professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The lab’s work currently revolves around three themes: refining social media analytics, experimenting with participatory cultures and rethinking urban living.

Anthony Maddox, one of the new fellows, is a professor at the USC Rossier School of Education. He is working with Erin Reilly, creative director of the AIL and research director of Project New Media Literacies, housed at USC Annenberg.

According to Maddox, people at the AIL come together to learn and solve problems through collaboration.

“We are encouraged and allowed to play,” Maddox said. “There are very few environments like that.”

Maddox concentrates his research on informal learning spaces, such as churches, museums, libraries and homes. His studies examine how people learn on informal basis.

Seth Shapiro, a USC School of Cinematic Arts professor, is another new fellow in the lab. He is working on new ways to engage with television, using smartphons, second-screen technology and applications on laptops. Instead of passively watching a show, the audience can connect to either fans or producers during or after the broadcast of an episode. Networks can monitor what the audience experiences and foster a direct relationship between the show and its audience. They can also sell advertising and promote their own series on the application.

Kathi Berens, a USC Annenberg professor whose work involves the virtual classroom, is also new to the AIL team. She said face-to-face learning “is still the gold standard because it’s information-rich” and the virtual classroom software is heavily visual.

To enrich the experience, Berens’ virtual classroom is more auditory, and her students use the camera to capture group dynamics. Berens, who also is working on IBM’s co-browsing software, explained that her students are amazed by how natural the virtual classroom can be.

“Virtuality affords many cool things: It leaves digital traces of otherwise ephemeral conversation; it teaches us how to shift between modes very quickly; and it gives my students practice working in hybrid environments, which are increasingly how knowledge work is situated,” Berens said.

Other USC Annenberg faculty members have joined the AIL team. Sasha Anawalt, director of USC Annenberg arts journalism programs, is working on Engine30, a pop-up newsroom that deconstructs the top-down news model. Burghardt Tenderich, associate director of the Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center, is targeting transmedia branding. Susan Resnick West, a communication professor, helps to design workshops that bring in a wide range of people linked to a specific topic. The group discusses ideas that are later transformed into prototypes.

Henry Jenkins serves as chief adviser, senior research fellow and Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts. Francois Bar is a research fellow and communication professor. Gabriel Kahn leads the AIL’s “Future of Journalism” project and is co-director of Media, Economics and Entrepreneurship.

Other new research fellows are Perry Hoberman from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Brian Shepard from the USC Thornton School of Music and Shrikanth Narayanan from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Hoberman, an installation and media artist, works with various materials and technologies. His works have been displayed in international exhibitions across the United States and Europe. He has served as a Guggenheim Foundation fellow and has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Narayanan, professor of electrical engineering, as well as computer science, linguistics and psychology, explores signals and systems modeling with an interdisciplinary emphasis on speech, audio, language, multimodal and biomedical problems and applications.

Shepard, assistant professor of pedagogical technology and composition at USC Thornton, is a composer of acoustic and electronic art music. He created EchoDamp, the only audio mixing and echo-control software designed for musical videoteleconferences on advanced networks. His research into the musical capabilities and opportunities of high-performance networks has resulted in international recognition.

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