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Spigel wins Guggenheim Fellowship for project on modern living

Lynn Spigel, professor of radio/television/film and the Frances Willard Professor of Screen Cultures in the School of Communication, has been named a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The “midcareer” fellowships were awarded this year to a diverse group of 181 scholars and artists from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants from the United States and Canada. They reward exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. Two additional Northwestern faculty members, James Druckman and Steven Epstein from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, also won this year .

Spigel is studying the history of smart homes and digital technologies for everyday life for her current book project, Imagining the Smart Home: The Fabulous Future of Everyday Life.

“The smart home is a networked home where artifacts, spaces, and people interact within the home and, via the Internet and mobile technologies, from remote locales,” Spigel wrote in her proposal. “The smart home began to emerge as a semi-practical (and widely discussed) housing form in the 1980s, but its cultural form dates back to late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth century with the rise of architectural modernisms and ‘homes of tomorrow’ that were often part of world exhibitions and predicated on automation and technological gadgets…The smart house is the culmination of a history of utopian fantasies, as well as dystopian anxieties, about what it means to live in modern home.”

Spigel’s most recent book, TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television, explores the important but virtually forgotten links between the visual arts and commercial television and the cold war. She also is the author of two books exploring midcentury media, Make Room for TV and Welcome to the Dreamhouse: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs.

“It’s wonderful to embark on a project with the inspirational support of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and it’s also great to be honored among other Northwestern faculty members who have received Guggenheim fellowships in the past,” Spigel said. “Mostly I am excited about the research and discovery process this award supports.”

The first Guggenheim Fellows were appointed in 1925 and included composer Aaron Copland among their recipients.