Contemporary technology demands that memorials step into the 21st century.
School of Media Studies students and faculty bring to life the AIDS Memorial Quilt for the digital age. At The New School, where histories are precious resources, we collaborate to transform static monuments into engaging treasures of tomorrow.
Coined by Dr. Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Media Studies, the term public interactives names the broad category of media experiences on offer in public spaces — and points to the future of memorials as groundbreaking dynamic public archives. Dr. Balsamo; Dale MacDonald, the School of Media Studies' director of
Creative Technologies; and The New School’s
Public Interactives Research Team (PIRT) focused their attention on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, an astonishing 1.3 million-square-foot quilt made by families and friends of people lost to AIDS, the largest ongoing piece of community folk art in the world. Constantly on exhibition and traveling across the world in portions, the
AIDS Memorial Quilt has never been seen in its entirety and cannot continue to withstand the physical contact it’s endured since 1987.
Seeking solutions, the critical minds of PIRT revolutionized the quilt, and public interactivity, by developing
AIDS Quilt Touch, a comprehensive digital experience. Powered by emerging media and collaborative processes — design and technology, cultural theory, media studies, and interface design — AIDS Quilt Touch will never unravel. Sprawling across a tabletop touch-screen like the world’s
most humanitarian Chuck Close painting, the quilt can finally be seen in its entirety; viewers can zoom in and out of all its panels at a finger’s touch. AIDS Quilt Touch also excels at uniting users. For the first time, it invites them to search the quilt for their loved ones by name, add comments to their
patches, and generate new narratives with a community of like minds. This feature opens up thoughtful discourse about the ephemeral memories we all hold dear.
This project won PIRT and The New School a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an entry in SIGGRAPH 2015, a national convention for cutting-edge computer graphics and interactive techniques. PIRT’s next challenge is to take AIDS
Quilt Touch out into the world, asking users for their critical feedback, welcoming them as collaborators, and moving the digital quilt out of its beta version and into the future.
The New School, where an orientation to the future is tradition, is a monumental force of design, progress, and innovation. Be a Force of New.