In NYU Shanghai’s interactive media arts (IMA) program, students study the intersection of technology, art, and society in one of the world’s most exciting and technologically advanced cities. For NYU Shanghai assistant professor of contemporary global media Anna Greenspan, it’s the perfect place for students to explore the impact and ramifications of technology and new media. “This moment in this place is incredibly intellectually fascinating,” she says. “The story keeps changing, and it’s a gripping place to be. Shanghai is currently going through one of the fastest, most intense periods of urbanization that has ever taken place.”
Emerging Media in Shanghai
Professor Greenspan, who was trained in philosophy, raised in Canada, and educated in the United Kingdom, was drawn to NYU Shanghai in part because of its compelling location. “I’m interested in thinking about the future,” she says. “And because of that I became interested in urban Asia and new technologies.” Professor Greenspan and her IMA students explore how our rapidly changing relationship with emerging media affects our lives and our communities. “We live surrounded by invisible waves that are growing more intense. All of our mobile machines are trafficking in these vibrations that are not perceptible to the human eye,” she says. Her courses ask: What is the impact of those machines and these new technologies?
Street Food and Urban Farming in Shanghai
In her course Street Food and Urban Farming, students explored how the quickly modernizing architecture and economy of the city affect the livelihoods of the street vendor population. Equipped with video cameras and questions, they went out into the markets of Shanghai. There, they conducted interviews with consumers and vendors to hear firsthand about their experiences.
Urban Ecology of Shanghai
In her course The Cultivated City, students researched how Chinese philosophy regards nature by tracing the evolution of the urban ecology of Shanghai. That course is part of Zaanheh: A Natural History of Shanghai. This larger project at the University that builds on Eric Sanderson’s Mannahatta Project, a decades-long initiative that explored the ecological history of the Island of Manhattan, from Henry Hudson’s initial landing there in 1609 to today. In the Zaanheh project, IMA students collaborate with faculty. Together, they use modern digital tools to look back at the development of the land through environmental studies and historical records and imagine the future’s urban nature.
Cultural Diversity in Shanghai
For Professor Greenspan, NYU Shanghai is the perfect place to study the city and country as it evolves. “I think one of the things that’s really exciting about NYU Shanghai is that it’s a culturally diverse environment that is very China-centered, but we have the opportunity to think about these things from different intellectual heritages,” she says. “China has a real sense that it is engaged with the future. It has an optimism to embrace the future that is hard to see elsewhere.”