Spotlight | Subjective Computing 

Building culture in digital media   

In his book Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression, MIT Associate Professor of Digital Media D. Fox Harrell argues that the great expressive potential of computational media comes from the ability to construct and reveal phantasms — blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination.

Carefully grounded in computer science, cognitive science, and media studies — and using illustrative multicultural references ranging from classic cinema to science fiction, from Ralph Ellison to Franz Kafka —Harrell’s work has been called a manifesto on how computing can create powerful new forms of cultural expression.

It provides an approach to analyzing how particular worldviews are built into computational media such as social media, e-commerce sites, and videogames, with application also to media more generally. The expressive power of computational media is not purely aesthetic, Harrell contends; computational media can express and construct the types of meaning central to the human condition.


D. Fox Harrell
Associate Professor of Digital Media 
Comparative Media Studies / Writing,
and Computer Science and Artificial
Intelligence Laboratory; Director, ICE Lab