MIT has long been at the forefront of fostering and tracking the creation of new documentary forms. The 2012 addition of the Open Documentary Lab to MIT’s nine other research labs affiliated with Comparative Media Studies has put its graduate students, practitioners and faculty back in the documentary spotlight.
A deceptively simple student project, ListenTree, which has its roots in multiple labs including Open Doc Lab and the well-established Media Lab, serves as both example and metaphor for what documentary means at MIT at this moment.
So what’s a ListenTree? Conceived by Media Arts and Science graduate students Edwina Portocarrero and Gershon Dublon, it’s a tree that conducts sound vibration from a hidden, remote device. Passersby must press their ears to any part of the trunk or branches to hear the broadcast by way of bone conduction.