GUAGE: by Jennifer LaFontaine and Camille Turner socially engaged media


Lisa Haskell speaks about MAP(Media Arts Projects) and her practice in London, UK

Lisa Haskell is the director of MAP. Since the mid 80's, she has been working in media art and her collaborative practice involves critical engagement in the politics of technology. Her projects such as: Tech_nicks, Tech_2 provided temporary meeting and working spaces for those working on small-scale independent media and technology projects, such as creating access resources using recycled computers and free software, developing wireless networks, exploring renewable energy systems and building cheap to run, self-managed communication infrastructures.

Camille Turner: Lisa, what is MAP? And why did you decide to create it?

Lisa Haskell: MAP is a micro-organisation for managing projects. I created it as I felt that some of the support stuctures that artists look to institutions to provide could be supplied from something much thinner and more open. I also wanted to collaborate with insitutions, in alliances with artists, from a position of strength. Especially in new media practice, i felt that institutions often had unrealistic expectaions of artists and weren't able to facilitate work appropriately. Most projects seemed to end in frustration. MAP has been set up to handle stuff like finances, tax, insurance and logistics, and can do so either in partnership with institutions or independently. I try to operate with an ethos of shared ownership and transparancy; in many ways MAP has become experient in these things.


CT: Lisa, describe your practice. Tell me especially about your work in communities

LH: I have been working as an organiser/project manager and fundraiser. My work bridges between arts practice, independent media production, social campaigns and some work with communities; though communities is hard to define - many artists and activists define themselves as working in communities for instance, but they're usually talking about something quite specific and narrow.
My work with communities comes through collaboration. All the work i do is collaborative and so finds its way into all kinds of places and networks, taking me with it, which is always challenging, interesting and usually a big pleasure.

CT: You recently went back to school to study computer science. How will this affect your practice?

LH: In the last few years I have been inspired by the work of many techies who are working in the networked environment to really investigate and push the boundaries of open information and sharing. I also started myself to use self-publishing and simple tools like wikis to help my projects and I believe they have had a real impact. I became very interested in software design and the idea of being able to build tools and provide services for the kinds of cultural, community and volunteer groups that i have been involved in. I also felt that I lacked some specialism and skill base for myself. I hope that my new skills will help me to work to a greater degree of detail and depth in these areas. I can see there are gains and losses in this. I would like to maintain an ability to communicate at a very human level with all kinds of people about the possibilities and function of technology, but i fear becoming mired in the detail, complexity, and burden of problem-solving, and becoming a bad communicator because of that. Developing a knowlege and practice in the more technical sides of computing does entail a huge committment of time, continual learning and investigation. That means much less time for people, for quite a few years at least.

A very concrete thing I have taken from my computer science course is a renewed committment to working with women of all ages to get feeling interested and competent with computing. Its still a huge issue i think that can only be addressed by women's initiatives, and which can contribute so much to computing and communication as a whole.