The Russian Modernism Project
The Russian Modernism Online group is developing prototype software and teaching materials that can be used at the University of Southern California and by other universities to offer courses electronically and to form online scholarly consortia. Done in conjunction with Slavic scholars at USC, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago, this Labyrinth Project initiative uses cutting-edge database and animation technologies to create an active, engaging educational experience for students. Once completed, the Russian Modernism project can serve as a template for e-learning courses in a broad range of subjects, from the humanities to the sciences.
The Russian Modernism project is both an experimental model for demonstrating the unique educational possibilities of interactive media, and a specific course on Russian modernism, to be released as free open-source software nationwide. By emphasizing both the cultural specificity of Russian modernism and its connections to the larger international movement, it becomes useful for a wide range of courses in the humanities. Since this historic movement generated many concepts pivotal to hypertexts, our courseware stresses lines of continuity between the so-called "new media" and "old media" that emerged at both ends of the 20th century.
Students enter the courseware through an avant-garde painting that explodes into navigable material objects, which influenced the experience of everyday life. They stroll through a material culture zone represented by a 3-D model of GUM, an historic arcade in Moscow. Here they gain access to three primary components:
Pathways - 6 interactive lectures authored by leading Russian Studies scholars. Each lecture combines a rich body of historical materials in an innovative way. They focus on Nothingness, Velocity, The City, The Bomb, and The Tango.
The Archive - Students have access to hundreds of images, texts, posters, gramophone records and other rare items from USC's Institute of Modern Russian Culture, which they can annotate and remix in their own personal electronic notebook. The pathways and game also draw on and recontextualize these vintage materials.
The Game - Montage: A Russian History Game for the Masses, is an electronic role-playing game that immerses students in dramatic historical events and ordinary daily life. It is set in the 1896 Expo at Nizhny Novgorod, which drew people from Russia and Europe who were eager to see what the new century would bring. It featured many popular attractions, including the Lumieres' new invention of cinema (exhibited to the general public in Russia for the first time). This 3-D recreation is based on hundreds of rare photographs from the New York Public Library.
Alumnus Mikhail Gronas (Ph.D. 2002) has been promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure at Dartmouth College.