re:constructions is an on-line resource and study guide,
designed to spark discussions and reflections about the media's
role in covering the events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath.
As millions of people around the world sit glued to their television
sets, even as we write, we feel it is important to encourage critical
analysis of the words, images, and stories which fill the media
- as well as the ones we are not hearing or seeing. We hope this
site will be used to help inform discussions in schools, places
of worship, union halls, civic gatherings, and homes as people struggle
to make sense of what is happening and to sort through their competing
emotions about these events.
We are not offering answers here so much as encouraging people
to ask hard questions before they rush to judgement and action.
We do not present these essays as the work of experts - although
in some cases we have included pieces from important commentators,
past and present. Most of us are still learning how to think critically
and theoretically about the media ourselves. All of us are too torn
apart by these events to have any certainty about the adequacy of
our words and our knowledge to respond to such a situation. But,
we want to share what we know and what we think and what we feel.
We want to see if these ideas might be useful in helping someone
else begin a similar process of exploration and examination.
re:constructions represents the work of students, staff,
faculty, and friends of MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies.
It is not the work of an academic department. It is the work of
a community which felt it had to do something to make a difference.
We study media and so this is what we had to contribute.
Comparative Media Studies is committed to the goal of "applied
humanism" - translating the skills and knowledges of the humanities,
arts, and social sciences into a language which can provoke civic
dialogue and make a pragmatic difference in the world beyond the
university. We see this site as an illustration of "applied humanism"
We come from many different parts of the world, yet we have all
been touched by this tragedy. One of our central goals here is to
broaden the range of images and ideas found in the American media,
in order to foster a better understanding of the global response
to these horrific losses and the global concern for what will happen
next. The events of 11 September were not only an attack on America;
they were an attack on humanity. In the age of the internet, it
is possible to read news media from all parts of the world and to
reach out, through e-mail, to see what other peoples are thinking
We also built this site out of a concern for the racism that is
already erupting in communities across America, as national unity
gives way to mutual suspicions and fear. As the week progresses,
you will hear more and more voices of international students from
MIT and elsewhere in the greater Boston community, students of many
races, faiths, and nationalities.
This site was designed to start a dialogue. It doesn't speak with
one voice. Each writer speaks from their own perspective. Few of
us would necessarily agree on any one position, but there needs
to be a space where a broad range of voices can be respected and
The name, re:constructions, implies an act of rebuilding.
On one level, it refers to the creation of this site itself, much
of which was written and erected in the course of one long and largely
On another, re:constructions refers to the process of
working through challenges these events have posed
for our traditional ways of thinking and acting.
, and of building new ties across communities historically
divided by misunderstandings.
On a third level, re:constructions refers to the process
of rewriting the scripts by which our media is encouraging us to
make sense of this tragedy. When we refer to news as constructed,
we don't mean to imply that these events are not monstrously real,
only that the feelings and meanings which we associate with these
events have a larger history. We need to understand that historical
context so we can decide for ourselves what should be done next.
Some respected members of the CMS community have expressed reservations
about this project, suggesting that what separates scholarship from
journalism is the act of prolonged reflection and that we run the
risk of simply repeating the rush to judgement we are, at least
implicitly, criticizing here. We respect these concerns and have
struggled with these questions ourselves. Yet, in recent days, we
have seen many respected scholars write letters, speak on radio
and television, and hold public lectures because they felt it would
be irresponsible for the scholarly community to remain silent. For
us, the web is a medium of choice. What public intellectuals can
offer at such a moment is not scholarship - though it draws on our
scholarly background and knowledge - and not journalism - though
it strives to be immediate and accessible. We hope that history
will recognize that these are provisional statements written in
uncertain times for a fluid medium and subject to recall, rethinking,
and revision at any time.
Please be patient with our own construction process. We are certain
you will find plenty of proof-reading errors and broken links on
this site. If you think the site looks ragged, imagine how we look
and feel right now. We are going to clean up after ourselves over
the next few weeks.
Watch this site for more content. We put up as much as we could
before launch, but more is coming. And we welcome submissions from
our readers. We can't promise to publish everything that is sent,
but everything will be read closely and we will share what we can.
Finally, if you'd like to mirror the site, please send us your URL
and we'll include it in the appropriate section.
Let's think this through together.
The re:constructions Editorial Team
Henry Jenkins III
Henry Jenkins IV
Sarah P. Rotman
Philp Tan Boom