Welcome to Figure/Ground! We are an interdisciplinary research website investigating central problems across the university environment today through a myriad of approaches in the fields of education, technology and media studies, and the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Figure/Ground was initially a personal blog founded by Laureano Ralon in the context of the Marshall McLuhan Centennial as a means to gather preliminary data for his doctoral research. Since these modest beginnings Figure/Ground has grown into a student-led collaborative project comprised of over 25 contributors ranging from senior undergraduates to PhD candidates. We are first and foremost a volunteer, not-for-profit, para-academic organization, and the variety of the site’s content reflects in large part the research interests of our collaborators. Today, Figure/Ground has a monthly readership in the tens of thousands, has been endorsed by a number of key academic figures from various fields, and has recently been nominated for a number of social media and online publishing awards.
Figure/Ground began with the aim of bringing philosophers, historians and critics of media, literature and technology into a conversation. The site today is a direct inheritance from this aim: we are a virtual salon or coffee house – creating a democratic space for a multitude of disciplines to discuss the university environment in the spirit of interdisciplinary studies and methodological pragmatism. Our hope is that this space will give rise to a new ever evolving interrelated dialogue giving action to our creed that the meaning of meaning is relationship.
Figure/Ground organizes our discussion around four central problems across the university environment today: academic capitalism, the university in the information age, the sovereignty of disciplines and mentorship and pedagogy. All four of these problems are either timely or timeless and can be better understood through multiple perspectives from education, technology and media studies and the humanities and social sciences. The method Figure/Ground employs to understand these problems is academic journalism. We are journalism for academics by academics. Therefore, we do not act as reporters from without, but as writers and researchers from within. We understand this to be a two-fold task: on the one hand investigating the political and cultural conditions of academia today, and on the other, attempting to understand the current research being done in the university.
Our main avenue of practice is the scholarly interview series, featuring in-depth conversations with academics and intellectuals from all walks of life that are teaching and working within education, technology and media studies and the humanities and social sciences. The series is a platform for academics to openly discuss their thoughts and opinions on the university environment today as well as giving them an opportunity to voice their current research to a uniquely pitched audience.
In the scholarly interview series, we attempt to practice the democratization of education and technology by seeking out interviews with up and coming innovators alongside well established figures like Noam Chomsky, Simon Critchley, Douglas Kellner, Alphonso Lingis, Eric McLuhan, and John Searle. Our collection now contains over 120 interviews with more added each week. Each interview allows for the contemplation of our four central problems and strengthens the cross-dialogue of interdisciplinary conversation; not only across disciplines but also across experiential thresholds, where a senior undergraduate can interview an established figure without fear of intellectual disparity.
Collaborators are the heart of Figure/Ground. They are the workers in this virtual salon, pursuing new interviews either through recommendations from past interviewees or pursuing their own research interests through internal consensus with the editors. They also keep the conversations flowing by keeping a finger on the pulse of upcoming conferences, conventions and book releases, as well as giving up-to-date information on various scholarships, fellowships, awards and call for papers. We are happy to promote and publicize events from persons and institutions that fall within our three main disciplinary axes. Please submit your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about our project, download Laureano Ralon‘s recent feature article, Figure/Ground Communication: The Meaning of Meaning is Relationship, published by the University of Southern California’s International Journal of Communication.
Your feedback is welcome and appreciated! If you like what you see, please consider commenting or donating to help us grow. For specific suggestions regarding future/potential interviewees or to obtain permission to republish any of the interviews already on the site, write to email@example.com.
Meet the team
Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief:
Figure/Ground scholarly interview series
Humanities and Social Sciences section
Technology and Media Studies section
Figure/Ground artist interview series: