Nestled under a staircase in Social Sciences Two, the Media Laboratory holds six rooms for teaching, research and collaboration. This academic support source helps both undergraduate and graduate social sciences students further their writing and projects, much like a chemistry lab is to its corresponding lecture. However, like many small social sciences programs, funding is decreasing for the Media Lab.
Kevin Hoshiko is the sole director of the Media Lab this year, which operates on limited hours due to recent salary cuts.
“I went from a staff of three to one this year, the one being myself,” Hoshiko said. “If we get more cuts to the social sciences, bridge funding for programs like ours might not be possible. Technically we were looking at more cuts during mid-year, but they’ve rolled back enough to hold us until June.”
Checking equipment in and out on a regular basis, second-year Janet Nacarato uses the Media Lab as a resource for her field work.
“The Media Laboratory is super resourceful and easy,” Nacarato said. Nacarato is taking Multimedia Ethnography, a class that utilizes the lab as a backbone for its curriculum. “It’s essential for us, because we definitely don’t have the money to go buying professional equipment as students.”
But even as Hoshiko has come under increasing fire from the Social Sciences department to cut time and resources, he doesn’t blame the department for the funding limitations.
“[Dean Sheldon] Kamieniecki and [assistant dean Kyle] Eichen have been pretty fair about the process,” Hoshiko said. “It isn’t like they’re targeting us in particular — the entire department is suffering. Our program is certainly small, but we still don’t get a free pass.”
Still, the cuts will continue. In the 2012-13 school year, the social sciences facilities will face “restructuring,” according to the UCSC 2010-20 Capital Financial Plan.
Hoshiko said funding will remain in place until the end of the year due to carryover of previous funds from last year. However, he is concerned about the fragile future of the Media Lab and how its absence will affect students’ scope of knowledge and future work.
“[The lab] allows for writing enhancement, and unlocks a lot of potential students wouldn’t have otherwise,” Hoshiko said. “Larger schools like UCLA and Berkeley have extensive media labs because they understand the ubiquitousness of technology today and [they] desire to teach it. People might know how to use social media in the consumer sense, but to actually utilize the potential of the medium as a real tool becomes a different skill altogether.”
Second-year Edward Chow understands the relevance of sources like the Media Lab for education, but also for greater social consciousness, which he said students seemed to lack.
“I know [teaching] media is essential. That’s how people have been holding governments accountable,” Chow said. “Julian Assange is a perfect example, unraveling secrets for the public through the mobilization of technology and social media.”
Indeed, Hoshiko hoped to generate these tools for students, but found it increasingly difficult to provide sufficient resources while working understaffed. Even so, the desire to utilize technology remains prevalent among students, regardless of the greater limitations they now face.
“Resource programs and other supporting groups put meat on the bones of education,” Chow said. “Otherwise you’re just sitting in a classroom all day. You have to get out and try things for yourself.”