This dissertation traces the development of media research within a single organizational context. Such research includes high-speed photography systems, design theories, scientific visualization methods, and early computer graphics software. I argue that as MIT shifted from industrial ancillary to one of the centers of the military-industrial complex, visual media research was crucial to the construction of MIT’s anti-instrumental and networked approach to science and engineering. Visual media allowed the Institute to traverse previously rigid boundaries between art/science, public/private, and theoretical/applied knowledge. In doing so, MIT broadened the purview of institutionalized science and technology and played a key role in embedding media technology across all areas of American life.

(image description: A black and white photo shows two American soldiers during WWII examining a large photography flash apparatus. The flash is sitting on the group in front of an airplane. Source: Harold Edgerton papers, MIT Archives. )

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