Oct. 17, 2022

2022 Faculty of Arts Research Awards Recipient: Dr. Mél Hogan

Dr. Mél Hogan is Associate Professor in CMF and a recipient of this year’s Faculty of Arts Research Awards
AI-generated image of “data centers at the end of the world”
AI-generated image of “data centers at the end of the world”

Congratulations to Dr. Mél Hogan of CMF for receiving a 2022 Faculty of Arts Research Award as an Established Scholar! The Faculty of Arts Awards and Celebration of Excellence recognizes outstanding achievements among faculty, staff, and alumni across various categories. The awards were presented virtually this year on May 10.

A recognized leader in the field of environmental media, Dr. Hogan established the Environmental Media Lab (EML) in 2019. Under her leadership, the EML has gained international attention and launched new forms of interdisciplinary knowledge mobilization. She has engaged a dynamic network of scholars from around the globe at all ranks. As a mentor for graduate students, Dr. Hogan’s approach is unique and inclusive, supporting students from diverse backgrounds.

The Environmental Media Lab was launched in 2019 as part of my research profile looking at environmental media. It has been supported for three years by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Calgary, and I’ve secured two more years of support. Since 2019, I’ve worked with several students, and together we’ve generated a grad scholar in residence program, an online journal, a Twitter-based reading group, and a podcasting workshop series. (We produced a three-part series called The Data Center Industrial Complex which can be listened to on YouTube). The future of the lab will hopefully expand these initiatives and work to generate a global network of scholarship about media, tech and the environment.

For now, the EML is... an extension of my research, but I’ve been trying for some time now to make the lab more than this. Universities do not yet have strong models for making humanities labs into something that can serve a wider community, but this is what I’d like to make happen in the next two years. I think teaching students and the [broader] community to think critically about Big Tech, neoliberalism, and the media, etc., in relation to the environment especially, is essential for a future that isn’t all about destructive capitalist exploits.  

Environmental media... means looking at the environment as a kind of medium – whether that be water, heat, air and landscape or outer space, bodily cells, and so on – always complicating the boundary between what is ‘natural’ and what is constructed. This boundary is further analyzed by, for example, looking at the interplay of infrastructure and climate, or rare earth minerals and technology, genomics and self. Environmental media is more of a framework than a field, and it is gaining popularity because of scholars like Chris Russill, Yuri Furuhata, Melody Jue, Nicole Starosielski, Stacy Alaimo, Rahul Mukherjee and many many others. Environmental media is generally decolonial, queer, and feminist in its methodologies.

    -Dr. Mél Hogan

For the past decade, Dr. Hogan’s research has focused on data centers, and she has created an open bibliography and website on the topic. In September she participated in two panels, “After datasets: Big Data and the Environment'' and “Contested Data Territories: Resisting Data Infrastructure from Below,” where she discussed the role of art in data center / environmental activism. She also has an upcoming article on the topic, “‘Environmental Media’ in the Cloud: The Making of Critical Data Center Art” that will be published in a special issue of New Media & Society.

Dr. Hogan is co-Investigator on a SSHRC Insight Grant project called Genomic Media, with Dr. Deb Verhoeven (University of Alberta) and several other collaborators and student research assistants. Genomic Media seeks to explore the environmental promise of DNA-based data storage and its limitations. As a part of this project, Dr. Hogan, Dr. Verhoeven, and Maddy Mendell published the article “Matters (and metaphors) of life and death: How DNA storage doubles back on its promise to the world” in The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien.

Dr. Mél Hogan

Dr. Mél Hogan

Dr. Hogan is teaching Introduction to Communication and Media Studies this fall.

More information on Dr. Hogan’s work can be found on her personal website, and via Twitter @mel_hogan.