An Xiao Studio
the virtual studio of an xiao mina




last bio update: Sept 2013

Curator Herb Tam once called me a "poet-ethnographer", which sounds about right to me.

I'm an artist, designer, writer and technologist. My overall interest is looking at and shaping how we use technology in creative and surprising ways to build communities and express ourselves socially and politically, in both local and global contexts. I am interested in new modes of storytelling and cultural translation where citizen-created media take center stage. I take a multidsciplinary approach, engaging in this area through research and writing, social media art and photography, and design and design strategy.

I'm currently working with Jason Li to found The Civic Beat, a global research group and consultancy focused on intersections in internet culture and civic life. I also work as a designer and product lead at Meedan, where we're building a social translation platform for social media. And because I have too much free time, I also write, lecture and consult, and I serve as a consulting editor for the award-winning arts blog Hyperallergic. My master's is with Art Center College of Design's Media Design Practices program, in partnership with UNICEF Uganda and the award-winning Designmatters. My research there was supported by a grant from Intel's Vibrant Data project. I will soon be starting an arts journalism fellowship with USC Annenberg and the Getty Center.

I like tofu, chickens and colorful scarves. I don't get enough sleep.

The Short Story

An "An Xiao" Mina (www.anxiaostudio.com) is an American artist, designer, writer and technologist. In her research and practice, she explores the intersection of networked, creative communities and civic life. Calling memes the "street art of the internet", she looks at the growing role of internet culture and humor in addressing social and political issues in countries like China, Uganda and the United States. Her writing and commentary have appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, Wired and others, and she has lectured at conferences such as the Personal Democracy Forum, the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium and Creative Mornings.

The Longer Story

An "An Xiao" Mina (www.anxiaostudio.com) is an American artist, designer, writer and technologist. In her research and practice, she explores the role of networked, creative communities in civic life.

Calling memes the "street art of the internet", she explores the intersection of internet culture and humor in addressing social and political issues in countries like China, Uganda and the United States. Her writing and commentary have appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, Wired and others, and she has lectured at conferences such as the Personal Democracy Forum, the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium and Creative Mornings.

In 2009, An helped kick off the Brooklyn Museum's 1stfans program, the museum world's first socially networked membership. The inaugural artist on their new Twitter art feed, she used Morse code to explore the history of telecommunications technologies. Her projects and those of her collective, @Platea, challenge notions of social media art, with co-created works in art spaces such as the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Xindanwei (Shanghai), 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art (Sydney) and others.

An's art and design essays, covering broad topics like ethnographic research, coworking spaces, and networked creativity, have been cited frequently in popular magazines, blogs and academic journals. She serves as a consulting editor for the award-winning arts blog Hyperallergic and is a 2013 USC Annenberg / Getty Arts Journalism Fellow. Her master's is with Art Center College of Design's Media Design Practices program, a partnership with UNICEF Uganda's Innovation Lab.

Find her online at @anxiaostudio on both Twitter and Sina Weibo.

Working Assumptions

Communications technologies present new ways to build unique global and local communities and to empower individuals to educate themselves, express their beliefs and explore their creative potential.

We need an expanded definition of design to encompass design's role in building systems and strategies. Design is both aesthetics and problem solving, and it has a powerful role to play in making technologies that are accessible and impactful.

We cannot effectively design without knowing deeply the persons, cultures and contexts we are working with. Thoughtful research and people knowing are essential to any creative practice.

Artists and artistic practices play a vital role in modern society and deserve promotion, funding and recognition. By placing art within digital media, we increase the possibilities of collaborative creation and participant engagement.

Our work can and should coexist with the pursuit of financial security and emotional well-being. Conscientious consumption and sustainable business are welcome buzz words when meaningfully put into practice.

With only about a third of the world's population now online, all of us speaking different languages and living within different cultural contexts, we still have much work to do in building a truly global community. It's people, with the help of machines, who start the important process of bridging linguistic, cultural and geographic divides.

Technology doesn't replace face to face interaction; online and offline worlds complement each other. This is why coworking spaces, hacker collectives, professional conferences, casual meetups and other collaborative/group events are becoming increasingly important.

The more we share, collaborate, collude and co-create, the closer we get to a sustainable, just and happy world.

Wholesome, delicious, scrumdiddlyumptious meals devoured alongside lively conversation and/or quiet reflection are essential fuel along the way.

Personal Bio

I grew up in Manila, Los Angeles and on the internetz. My early life was an odd intersection of the People Power Revolution, gang wars and the 1992 riots, and dancing hamsters.

My given name is simply "An", and I began using "An Xiao" as my artist name to honor my heritage. It means "peaceful dawn," and the name stuck. I'm ethnically of Filipino and Chinese descent and grew up in a Latin American neighborhood with a culturally diverse family and set of friends. I identify as queer, and I like how danah boyd defines that term: "To this day, i identify as queer and have never identified as either lesbian or bi; the former is simply not true and the latter implies a binary gender segmentation that is not true of my experiences."

I'm doing my best to achieve conversational fluency in Mandarin and Spanish; I read both better than I speak them. I have a soft spot for the American Southwest, China's Northeast (东北), northern Uganda along the Nile, and the small islands off Palawan, Philippines. When I'm not working, I love hiking, swimming, cycling and cooking. I enjoy travel, for business or pleasure. I miss sleep.

You can call me "An" or "An Xiao". If you speak Chinese, that's 米娜 安晓.

What the Heck is a Virtual Studio?

When I was living in New York, people constantly asked me where my studio was. I didn't really have one, but that didn't stop me from pursuing a career in art and design. As most of my work is digital, my studio is in my computer and anywhere I set it up. But there's more to it than that. Here are a few definitions of "virtual" from Merriam-Webster:

* being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted
* being on or simulated on a computer or computer network
* occurring or existing primarily online

An Xiao Studio, then, exists primarily online. Projects can happen anywhere, and the possibility for collaboration is any time. I have no brick and mortar studio--that space could be a coworking space, a cafe, an airplane, a tent in the desert. But I've engaged in a number of design, art and research projects in concert with many people scattered around the world. The studio exists in essence; it's virtually a studio. It's a virtual studio.