California State University, Stanislaus will soon be home to a new, undergraduate classroom and research lab for the production of culturally relevant, socially engaged media.
Keck Visual Anthropology Lab was made possible by a $250,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.
According to CSU Stanislaus, the Central Valley’s cultural knowledge is “in danger of being lost”, due to the lack of preservation of the experiences and memories of elders. Led by anthropology Professor S. Steve Arounsack, the Keck Visual Anthropology Lab will engage both the university and local communities to collect, analyze, and disseminate cultural knowledge within the Valley.
“In doing so, we will enable our diverse student population to engage in cross-cultural filmmaking and ethnographic interviewing while exploring the interface between traditional research methods and new technologies,” Arounsack said. “We will create a digital archive of cultural visual media, which can then become a resource for classroom instruction and future research.”
The lab will incorporate anthropology, art, communication studies and ethnic studies, through its multidisciplinary approach. The $250,000 grant will support funding for the project for three years, paying for new cameras, editing workstations, digitizing equipment, computer storage, faculty release time for research, and student and faculty travel for fieldwork.
The Keck Visual Anthropology Lab will be the only resource within the region to provide both ethnographic and digital media training to undergraduate students, Arounsack said, and productions will be of broadcast quality and will be accessible through various outlets, such as television, the Internet, film festivals and other mass media venues.
The only other Northern California university programs already engaging in visual anthropological activities are master’s programs at San Francisco State and CSU Chico.
“More than ever, visual media are ubiquitous, powerful avenues for instruction and awareness,” Arounsack stated. “This lab responds to those trends by offering a solid academic foundation by which to study and preserve the Central Valley’s cultural heritage.”
Arounsack, a CSU Stanislaus alumnus, has spent 15 years conducting similar research in Southeast Asia. In a recent project, Arounsack used Web-based maps, graphics and videos to help educate undergrads about secret bombings over Laos during the Vietnam War. He’s also utilizing smartphones and laptops to allow students in Turlock to learn nearly firsthand about Asian rituals.
Arounsack is joined on the project by Anthropology Professor Richard H. Wallace, Anthropology Department Chair and Professor Sari Miller-Antonio, and Art Professor Jessica Gomula-Kruzic. Wallace has done extensive fieldwork in Brazil, as has Miller-Antonio in East Asia, Greece, and France, while Gomula-Kruzic is experienced in digital media and recently opened a visual arts center in Modesto.
William Myron Keck, founder of Superior Oil Company, established the W.M. Keck Foundation in 1954 in Los Angeles. The foundation has become one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, focusing primarily on science and engineering, medial research, and undergraduate education.