Ellen Sebring, PhD, has been Creative Director of Visualizing Cultures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since the project’s founding (2002-2014). She earned a Master of Science in Visual Studies degree at MIT and was a Fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies for six years. Sebring earned the PhD at the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Integrative Arts (CAiiA), under the direction of Roy Ascott, at Plymouth University in the UK in 2016. From 1995-2002, she was President of Botticelli Interactive, Inc., a company that produced interactive documentary, television, and museum designs with an emphasis on non-linear stories and content. She is a video artist and filmmaker who explores image-sound composition and deconstructed, non-verbal narrative.
Visualizing Cultures has developed over 40 units with some 20 invited scholars to explore image-driven scholarship based on the newly-digitized visual record. The project began with Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan in 1853-54 as seen through images on both sides of the encounter, and has built a nexus of content covering modern Japan and China. Visualizing Cultures received the National Endowment for the Humanities award in 2005 and MIT’s Class of 1960 Innovation in Education award in 2004, toured the US and Japan, was exhibited at Stephen Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” on Broadway, and is in the permanent collection of the US National Archive. visualizingcultures.mit.edu
Sebring was lead content developer for the first collaborative MITx/HarvardX MOOC, “Visualizing Japan (1850s-1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity.” VJx had an unusually high completion rate, and was a finalist for the 2015 Japan Prize.
Her Visualizing Cultures unit on the turn of the century theme, "Civilization & Barbarism: Cartoon Commentary and 'The White Man's Burden' (1898-1902," was published in 2014. She has participated in five conferences on image-driven scholarship co-sponsored by Visualizing Cultures, "Visualizing Asia in the Modern World," at Yale in 2010, 2013, and 2015, Harvard in 2011, and Princeton in 2012. visualizingasia.org
Sebring executive produced the MIT Visualizing Cultures spinoff site, “Visualizing Portugal: The New State (1933-1974),” commissioned by the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. visualizingportugal.com
As President of Botticelli Interactive, Inc. from 1995 to 2002, Sebring wrote and produced major interactive works, including an interactive television prototype: "StarNetwork," featuring George Takei, which received the Distinguished Award of the Multimedia GrandPrix 2000, Tokyo, and "Star Festival," an interactive documentary awarded a Best in Show at MacWorld Expo (view modified web version). The company was funded by the Institute for Civil Society to create an interactive television prototype, "CamKidz," focused on enhancing creativity in children; and produced educational media for museums, including the “Titian Kiosk,” awarded the Silver Medal at the New York International Multimedia Festival. company profile
Sebring was selected for the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women to write and direct a movie in Hollywood. TILT, a work that played with disrupting gravity under the feet of the dancers both on film and stage, was exhibited at Lincoln Center, New York, Tokyo, and Los Angeles, 2007-2009. In 2004 she received a co-production residency at the Banff Centre, Canada for a video art collaboration with choreographer Paula Josa-Jones. Other awards and grants include the Artist's Foundation Fellowship for Video Art, Canon Europa prize at the World Wide Video Festival in Holland, and PBS, NEA, NEFA, Meet-the-Composer and NEFV Foundation grants. “Aviary,” a multimedia performance at MIT’s Media Lab CUBE was funded by National Endowment for the Arts and commissioned by Public Television for national broadcast. Also for Public Television, Sebring directed a documentary on "Severe Clear," a collaboration by dancer Dana Reitz and light artist James Turrell.
Originally trained as a composer and flutist at Indiana University, where she earned a Bachelor of Music, and the Hochschule fuer Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Sebring explores the relationship of sound, image and narrative in her video artwork.