Humanities Forum - Jeff Thompson, "Computers on Law & Order"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 ( 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm )

Location: Morton 324, Stevens Institute of Technology

[email protected]

"Computers on Law & Order"
By Jeff Thompson
Assistant Professor, Visual Arts & Technology

Spanning 1990-2010 with 456 episodes, "Law & Order" has no peers when it comes to following cultural and political trends through popular media. Because of its particular slice of time, one of the clearest shifts during the show's run is our relationship to technology. Over the course of the series, typewriters and word processors recede while computers begin to appear in the background of offices. They move onto people's desks, then are actively used onscreen. Crimes using computers, BBS systems, email, and databases start to appear. Internet and email communication become norms, and as the show closes in 2010 mobile computing is in constant use.

This talk expands on 1.5 years of work, commissioned by new media arts organization Rhizome. Thompson will discuss the changes in technology over the show’s 20-year run, including how the physical placement of the computer has shifted, a statistical analysis of the number of computers seen onscreen throughout the show, and how anxieties about social media toward the end of the show’s run were reflected in computer use by characters.

Jeff Thompson received his BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and his MFA from Rutgers University. He is currently Assistant Professor and Program Director of Visual Art & Technology at Stevens. Thompson has exhibited and performed his work internationally at venues including the Sheldon Museum of Art, the Taubman Museum of Art, SITE Santa Fe, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the Jersey City Museum, and the Weisman Art Museum. Recent commissions include Rhizome, Turbulence, and a project on haptic and non-visual videogames from Harvestworks.

Thompson has presented his projects at the CAA, FATE, and SECAC conferences, as well as a talk for TEDx. His visual and written projects have been published by Ugly Duckling Presse, the Parsons Journal for Information Mapping, and Leonardo Electronic Almanac (MIT Press), among others. In addition to his studio practice, Thompson curates exhibitions through Drift Station, a curatorial collaboration that mounts international, experimental exhibitions.