Scholar Spotlight: Marilia Kaisar

Why did you apply to HASTAC? 

My work and research focus on the intersection of art practice, theory, and technology. I have been seeking spaces to engage with those ideas in theory and as a pedagogical tool.  When I learned about HASTAC scholars through a departmental email, I decided it would be great to connect with other scholars and graduate students working on similar domains beyond my institution.

What has been your favorite course so far as an instructor or student? Why?

As an instructor, my favorite course so far was teaching a small film production class I designed this Fall called “Experimenting with Small Media.” In this course, we studied the environmental impact of streaming media, Internet aesthetics, new media art, and video art. We engaged with those ideas through three filmmaking projects: a media recycling project, a loop film, and a final project engaging with the ideas of the course. During the quarter, the students’ films got smaller and smaller in file size, but the ideas were more and more profound. The final projects and the artist statements were tailored so the students could participate in the Small File Media Festival. My favorite part of this course was using media and texts as stimulants and asking the students to produce creative work while collectively sharing, reviewing, and revising. It was very experimental, but the students created fascinating and vulnerable films. 

What do you want to do after you graduate?

I hope to stay in academia and continue to bridge theory and practice, humanities, and technology through my writing, teaching, and art practice. I came to my Ph.D. journey for research and the freedom to work on what I am most passionate about. However, during my tenure as a Graduate Pedagogy Fellow in the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at UCSC, I discovered that I am also passionate about teaching and finding ways to completely restructure the practice of learning in college classrooms. How do we think by making? How can we transform learning from a passive listening, writing, and reading practice into an active involvement in sharing and engaging with ideas and experiences? How can we think, theorize, participate, and engage with our technologically mediated environments? 

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

Practicing in Tinos, Greece, at my favorite open-air yoga shala of Yoga in Tinos

I am balancing academia and heavy reading/writing with a persistent yoga and meditation practice and a very unhealthy reality TV addiction. I do not go anywhere without my yoga mat, and I am completing my first 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training this June. 

What are some things that you wish you had known before you got into graduate school?

I wish I better understood how academic institutions and universities operate in the US. I came in without having any idea, and it was often assumed that I had some insight. I never knew who to ask questions to, so I  pushed myself too hard to get on track, working without knowing where I was going. The Ph.D. path is enriching, fulfilling, and engaging, but it is also a lonely and often challenging journey with many low and high points. But ultimately, it is a marathon and not a sprint. 

How do you envision HASTAC and higher education in 10 years? Where do you fit in?

I hope that higher education and teaching will be completely transformed within the following years, engaging with inclusive and active learning pedagogies instead of just relying on the traditional model of the lecture/discussion where students are being talked at. Our world has been transformed by how we engage with digital technologies today, and so should our educational systems. I hope we can find ways to create a more just, inclusive, and equitable university where students are active participants and not just observers/thinkers/readers. 

How does digital scholarship fit into your research or teaching?

Image from the videoclip Moro Mou by One

My work directly explores body, desire, and technology and how those relationships are designed, represented, and experienced. From both an art practice methodology and in my theoretical explorations, I discuss how we represent the virtual and the digital but also how we relate intimately to technologies. In my research and teaching, I repeatedly bring up this question again and again: how do we relate intimately to technology? How can we think of our digital worlds differently? How can we play, experiment, ask bold questions, and imagine how we shape technologies and are shaped by them ? 

What do you hope to accomplish with your research or teaching?

I think in my research, I am invested in placing the body in the center of my research, in exploring experience as the site where body, desire, and technology meet. Similarly, in my teaching, I try to incorporate questions about technology and digital tools to imagine, critique, and empower students to design their learning, and their futures and think hard about our current mediated environments. 

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

Current book stack

As an avid reader, I am caught amid many things at once. 

For fun, I am reading two books: the novel A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers. telling the story of a food critic turned serial killer, and No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh.

I am reading The New College Classroom by Cathy N. Davidson and Christina Katapodis, as I am participating in the HASTAC Scholars Collective Book Review. 

For my research, I am re-reading Anne Friedberg’s Virtual Window, Margaret Morse’s Virtualities, and Linda Williams’ Hard Core: Power Pleasure and the Frenzy of Visible while I am working on my dissertation chapter on VR porn that I will be presenting in my upcoming talk “The Embodied Male Gaze in VR Porn” at SCMS on April 11th in Denver. 

Also, in a similar vein, I just watched Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Conceiving Ada with Tilda Swinton and getting ready to watch I.K.U, which was recommended to me by one of my dissertation committee members. 

TV-wise, I am watching The Last of Us on HBO and, of course, the 4th season of Love is Blind on Netflix. 

As I am perpetually missing home, I usually listen to Eleni Foureira and traditional greek island music and dance while walking around.