Laura FriesFirst-year Digital Media Master`s student
Why/how did you chose your major??
I am a child of the recession - a former social media strategist for newspapers who ended up flipping burgers at a beer joint when the industry collapsed. It was an unexpected blessing, as I ended up founding a number of socially-minded enterprises, including an underground supper club utilizing locally sourced ingredients, and a DIY entrepreneur network for Atlantans. I reached the point in my life when I really wanted to entrench myself within a community and see how much impact I could make, but my imagination was always far wilder than my technical abilities.
I'm a decisive person, so I chose the Digital Media program at Tech, and applied only to it. The forge-your-own-path quality of the program is irresistible.
What do you love about your major?
I love that the DM program is a place where you can pursue your passion - regardless of how different it might be. While Digital Media coursework provides a common ground in theory, the work that the students pursue individually provides glimpses into the many possible futures that lie before us. Being in this aggregated intelligence cohort is an honor.
What is the most interesting class you have taken so far and why?
I highly recommend Carl DiSalvo's Project Studio - the City as Learning Lab, focusing on speculative robotics within communities. I am now working on a growBot Symposium - creating a conversation space for roboticists and local growers to brainstorm small-scale technologies for use in organic food production. I love combining a theoretical question- how can we mediate a community's speculation about robotics - with a food system query - how can we develop an alternative to industrial food production - and distilling both of these really large questions into a project that could have a concrete impact on the Atlanta growing community.
Who inspires you?
Judith Winfrey, the leader of Slow Food Atlanta and a farmer at Love is Love Farms, who recently lost nearly everything in the Douglasville floods. Working with her to organize the Slow Food Time for Lunch protest picnic in Piedmont Park in September, I was struck by her remarkable poise and dignity as an emerging voice in the good food movement. She is graceful and professional even in times of personal hardship.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
My fellow DM student Beth Schechter and I have weekly meetings to sketch out business strategies for endeavors once we graduate. Ethical entrepreneurship, community connectivity, and developing the loconomy (local economy) are just some of our frameworks.
As a graduate senator at Tech, I've become more involved with the mechanics of institutions. It's not a role that 13-year-old me would have anticipated, so I try to remain flexible about what the future holds.
An interesting fact or story about yourself?
I spent four months living on the beach in Lagos, Portugal, working at the Rising Cock hostel and its sister restaurant Nah Nah Bah, which is where I learned most of what I know about organizing people. You can get anything you want with tacos, my friends. Nearly anything.
Laura Fries' food projects have been featured on CNN.com, NPR, Budget Travel Magazine, Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta Intown, Ralph Lauren magazine, and numerous blogs.
Prepared by Betsy Gooch