Open to the public:
Short lectures & panel discussions

Observation through the Senses
Oct 13, 12-1.30pm | Details

Observation through Specialized Instruments
Nov 3, 12-1.30pm | Details

Observation through Speculation
Dec 1, 12-1.30pm | Details

In the face of an administration that is trying to "Make America Great Again" by shaking the very tenets of US democracy, we are asking ourselves anew — as teachers, as citizens, as researchers — what is America? Who and what does it stand for and what does it mean?

The Observational Practices Lab, Parsons, (co-directed by Pascal Glissmann and Selena Kimball) launches a multi-phase project and investigation, OBJECT AMERICA, to explore the idea of “America” through everyday objects. The aim is to use comparative research and observational methods—which may range from the scientific to the absurd—to expose unseen histories and speculate about the future of the country as a concept. The contemporary global media landscape is fast-moving and undercut by “fake news” and “alternative facts” which demands that students and researchers build a repertoire of strategies to assess and respond to sources of information. For the first phase of OBJECT AMERICA launching in the fall of 2017, we invited Ellen Lupton, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, to choose an object for this investigation which she believed would represent “America” into the future (she chose the Model 500 Telephone by Henry Dreyfuss designed in 1953). Researchers will investigate this object through different disciplinary lenses — including art, climate science, cultural geography, data visualization, economics, history of mathematics, medicine, media theory, material science, music, poetry, and politics — in order to posit alternative ways of seeing.

Ellen Lupton curated an object from the archive of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, which will be observed by a group of transdiciplinary researchers through the lens of each of their disciplines.

Ellen Lupton

Ellen Lupton is a writer, curator, educator, and designer. She is Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Recent exhibitions include Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (with Andreas Lipps), How Posters Work, and Beautiful Users. Lupton also serves as director of the Graphic Design MFA Program at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in Baltimore, where she has authored numerous books on design processes, including Thinking with Type, Graphic Design Thinking, Graphic Design: The New Basics, and Type on Screen. Her next book, Design Is Storytelling, will be published by Cooper Hewitt in 2017. Lupton earned her BFA from The Cooper Union in 1985.

Research Panel
Observation through the Senses

Short Talks and Discussion
October 13, 12-1.30pm

Parsons School of Design
Theresa Lang Center, I Arnhold Hall
55 West 13th Street New York

Please RSVP here

Michael J. Barany
Historian of Modern Science and Mathematics

Michael J. Barany is a historian of modern science and mathematics and a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College. In his work, he attempts to find the connections between the dust on blackboards, the line items of budgets, the words in letters and journals, the conversations over tea and coffee, and the seemingly eternal truths that mathematicians spend their time creating and using in modern societies.

Fernando Kawai, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine

Dr Kawai is a Geriatrician and Palliative Care physician and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. His research interests include: Medical education, Hospital Medicine, Inpatient Geriatrics and Palliative Care, Mindfulness and Contemplative Care, Medical Care of Ethnic minorities.

Cindi Katz
Professor of Geography in Environmental Psychology and Women’s Studies

Cindi Katz is Professor of Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her work concerns social reproduction and the production of space, place and nature; childhood and social insecurity; and the consequences of global economic restructuring for everyday life. .

Katie Merz
Visual Artist

Brooklyn-born Katie Merz is a visual artist influenced by her home borough, cartoons, architecture, and silence. Her recent works are site specific murals developed in response to working on-site in a community. Architectural in scale, Merz’s large scale “glyphs” are hand drawn interpretations of the stories and histories she encounters in each place.

Research Panel
Observation through Specialized Instruments

Short Talks and Discussion
November 3, 12-1.30pm

Parsons School of Design
Wolff Conference Room
6 East 16th Street
New York

Please RSVP here

Roarke Menzies
New York City-based Artist and Composer

Roarke Menzies is a New York City-based artist and musician who incorporates his voice, mouth and body with audio hardware and software, as well as other tools and toys, to create electronic and electroacoustic performances and sound works.

Sumita Chakravarty
Associate Professor of Media Studies, The New School

Sumita Chakravarty is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the New School. Her research interests include media theory, media and globalization, film and national identity, digital cultures, and the history and philosophy of media technologies. Sumita is currently working on a book on the intersections of media and migration with the working title, Unsettled States: Towards a Media History of Migration. She is also the curator of the website, devoted to extensive archiving of news, information, and multimedia resources on the subject of global migration.

Victoria Hattam
Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research

Victoria Hattam is Professor of Politics at New School for Social Research with longstanding interested in political economy and inequality in the United States. Hattam is currently working on two projects at the intersection of design and politics: the first explores political economy across the US-Mexico border, and the second examines new manufacturing in Shanghai and New York.

Mara Mills
Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU

Mara Mills co-directs the Center for Disability Studies at NYU. Her first book, forthcoming from Duke University Press, examines the history of speech and hearing research in the Bell System. She is currently working on the history of optical character recognition and, with Jonathan Sterne, the history of audio time stretching technology.

Lisa George
Associate Professor of Economics at Hunter College

Lisa M. George is an empirical applied economist specializing in industrial organization and political economy. Her research focuses on the economics of media markets, spanning traditional and new media. Professor George has published in top economics journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy and Journal of Industrial Economics. She is Associate Professor of Economics at Hunter College, and a member of the Doctoral faculty at CUNY’s Graduate Center.

Research Panel
Observation through Speculation

Short Talks and Discussion
December 1, 12-1.30pm

Parsons School of Design
Starr Foundation Hall
University Center, U L102
63 Fifth Avenue
New York

Please RSVP here

Anuja Bagul
Senior Material Scientist, New Technologies

Anuja Bagul is a Senior Material Scientist, New Technologies at Material ConneXion. In this role, she is able to use her diverse background in core material science to provide innovative and strategic material solutions to clients from Fortune 500 companies. Prior, Anuja worked as the Material Specialist at Material ConneXion, assisting members in the library, conducting research, and creating content for the extensive online materials database. Additionally, Anuja served as an assistant editor for Material Innovation: Packaging Design, published by Thames & Hudson. She is a frequent speaker on various topics relating to materials, most notably the idea that “Every Idea Has a Material Solution.”

Marco Tedesco
Research Professor at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University

Marco Tedesco is Research Professor at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of the Columbia University and Adjunct Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS). Dr. Tedesco’s research interests concern remote sensing of the cryosphere, regional climate modeling of the Polar Regions and high-latitude fieldwork.

Benjamin Rubin
Director at Center for Data Arts, The New School

Artist and designer Ben Rubin was named Director of the Center for Data Arts in January, 2016. Rubin’s innovative applications of media and information technology have been seen at museums, public spaces, and performance venues around the world. Rubin’s best-known work includes the media installations Moveable Type (2007), a permanent artwork for the lobby of the New York Times building, and Listening Post (2002); both installations were created in collaboration with Mark Hansen.

LB Thompson
American Poet and Creative Writing Instructor at The New School

LB Thompson has received awards from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Her poems and essays have been published in The New Yorker as well as other literary magazines and websites. Her collaborative works with visual artist Ellen Wiener have been exhibited recently at Vanderbilt University and The Center for Book Arts. She teaches writing and literature at The New School, and at Suffolk County Community College.


The 2-day experimental workshops, co-taught by Pascal Glissmann and Selena Kimball, combine artistic research practice, critical design thinking, and experimental pedagogy, to disrupt habitual ways of looking at everyday "American" objects. Training in observational methods-from the scientific to the absurd-will be initiated by guest researchers and also explored in short personal projects.The three 2-day workshops can be taken as stand-alone 1-credit intensives or as a suite of two or three.

10/13/2017 - 10/14/2017 | 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

11/3/2017 - 11/4/2017 | 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

12/1/2017 - 12/2/2017 | 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

The Observational Practices Lab’s mission is to create dialogue about observational practices across disciplinary boundaries; we are focused on the questions of how observational practices work, what different disciplines might learn from another’s approaches to observation, which methods are best suited to which subjects and why, and how observation itself can create communities and initiate a new view of our everyday reality.

Selena Kimball
Co-director Observational Practices Lab

Selena Kimball is a research-based, interdisciplinary visual artist whose work—large-scale collage, installation, and book projects—examines visual perceptions of history. Selena is a recent recipient of the Pollock-Krasner award, the Jerome Foundation grant, and a MacDowell fellowship, and is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art Practice at Parsons.

Pascal Glissmann
Co-director Observational Practices Lab

Pascal Glissmann is Assistant Professor of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design. His research electronic-life-forms inhabit the intersection of technology, art & science to explore the shifting transition from smart objects to autonomous subjects through digital and electronic craft. New technologies in combination with modern storytelling open new questions of how we perceive and observe the characteristics of life.