Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools


Critical Commons is a public media archive and fair use advocacy network that supports the transformative reuse of media in scholarly and creative contexts. Critical Commons is also part of the technical and conceptual architecture of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture and the electronic authoring/publishing platform Scalar.


Steve Anderson is an Associate Professor in the Media Arts + Practice and Interactive Media & Games divisions of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His research focuses on the history, theory and cultures of digital media and its impact on teaching, learning and regimes of intellectual property. He is the author of Technologies of History: Visual Media and the Eccentricity of the Past (2011) and Co-Editor of Vectors Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular. He is also a co-Principal Investigator of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, developer of the electronic authoring and publishing platform Scalar. He is the Principal Investigator and an active user of Critical Commons.

Holly Willis serves as Chair of the Media Arts + Practice division in the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Her current research centers on the intersection of media art, graphic design and rhetoric, and the ways ideas and formal strategies from each might inform contemporary media-rich scholarly practices. Willis oversees the IML’s research in pedagogical technology and promotes the use of online tools for scholarly production and research. Willis is also the editor of The New Ecology of Things, on design and pervasive computing, and author of New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image, which chronicles the advent of digital filmmaking tools and their impact on contemporary media practices. She is a Co-PI on Critical Commons.

Philip J. Ethington is Professor of History and Political Science at USC, North American Editor and Multimedia Editor of the journal Urban History, and Co-Director of the USC Center for Transformative Scholarship. An interdisciplinary historian, Ethington's scholarship explores the past as a cartography of time. His recent published work include theoretical work on a spatial theory of history; sociological studies of residential segregation; large-format maps of urban historical change; Online interactive tools, archives, and publications for urban studies; and museum exhibit collaborations. He is co-PI of the HyperCities project (funded by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC). He is a co-PI on Scalar and Critical Commons.

Tara McPherson is Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She is a core faculty member of the IMAP program, USC’s innovative practice based-Ph.D., and also an affiliated faculty member in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department. Her research engages the cultural dimensions of media, including the intersection of gender, race, affect and place. She has a particular interest in digital media, focusing on the digital humanities, early software histories, gender, and race, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship. She is PI on Scalar and co-PI on Critical Commons.

Erik Loyer is Critical Commons' Creative Director and Information Architect, and a media artist who uses tactile, performative interfaces to tell stories with interactive media. He is the founder of the design studioSong New Creative, develops story-driven interactive entertainment under the Opertoon label, and is Creative Director for the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture.

Anna HelmeAnna Helme is a filmmaker, video artist, and developer of social change media and technology projects. She is a co-founder of EngageMedia who train video makers in online distribution, network media activists, produce free software video technology and distribute video about social justice and environmental issues in the Asia Pacific. She has been project managing development of Critical Commons since its inception.

Site developers
provides innovative information systems addressing real world problems. We deliver user friendly and highly secure applications. We support our clients during the entire life cycle of each product. We love free & open source software and agile development practices.

Infinite Recursion is a bespoke software services company that was responsible for developing and maintaining Critical Commons from fall 2009 through Summer 2012.

EngageMedia is a video sharing site focusing on social justice and environmental issues in the Asia-Pacific. It is a space for critical documentary, fiction, artistic and experimental works that challenge the dominance of the mainstream media. The EngageMedia Collective developed the initial launch version of Critical Commons using the free, open source content management system, Plumi.

Original Graphic Design by Alex Louie

Critical Commons received generous funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of the 2008 Digital Media and Learning initiative and is an ongoing project of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Seed funding for this project was provided by USC's James H. Zumberge Research and Innovation Fund and additional development funds were provided by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (ANVC) and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).