In the wake of this summer’s Beautiful Data workshop, held at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museums, the metaLAB core team gathered together for a weekend retreat in Woodstock, Vermont. The occasion was intended as an opportunity to reflect on our first four years of work together and to craft a revised mission statement that better reflects our sense of: a) how we fit into the larger universe of experimental practice within the digital arts and humanities and b) the directions in which we’d like to see metaLAB evolve as it enters its fifth year of operation. The brainstorming group included myself, Matthew Battles, Jessica Yurkofsky, Krystelle Denis, Marshall Lambert, and Alex Horak. In the throes of eating, drinking, drone-piloting, and whiteboarding, this is what we came up with (and first posted two months back):

Digging through dark abundance of media, material, and data collections, metaLAB embraces the processual artifacts buried within the lives of digital and physical objects. As the stories of these objects constellate with a shift from the micro to the macro, they prompt research challenges and opportunities that expose common galaxies for the academy, industry, and the public sphere. To demonstrate and translate unearthed histories and unmapped patterns, metaLAB research inquiries mature as expressive provocations that strive to make invisible connections visible. With a team composed variously of scholars, writers, designers, developers, and filmmakers, metaLAB projects manifest as experiments in publication, pedagogy, and curation showcased in print, on the web, and in exhibited spaces. By combining traditional modes of practice, metaLAB research infuses scholarship with the enterprising spirit of hacking, making, and artistic investigation.

As a concept foundry

We draw inspiration from an archipelago of scholarly modes and making practices, including internet studies, comparative literature, history of the book, science, technology, & society, architecture & design, art­ making, & the study of visual culture.

As a knowledge­-design lab

We experiment with scholarship that acknowledges that there is more than one way to tell a story, make an argument, or express a truth claim about the world. From a single encounter with a site or problem, we cultivate multiple streams of meaning across a varied spectrum of media that reach beyond a single audience or approach.

As a production studio

We make not to answer questions but to ask them. Ideation, visualization, & rapid prototyping are methods to refine research queries and unveil the most promising avenues to insight.

The one-sentence version of our mission statement runs something like: metaLAB is a concept foundry, knowledge-design lab, and production studio dedicated to experimental scholarship and the modeling of new forms of practice in the networked arts, humanities, and sciences. We are still busy tweaking this formulation, so expect variants.

- December 31, 2015