Umi Hsu

Graduate Media Design


W.F. Umi Hsu (pronouns: they/them) is a strategic designer and public humanist who engages with research and organizing agendas for equity in arts, technology and civic life. Hsu leads design strategy and digital initiatives at the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. A former ACLS Public Fellow, Hsu advises Arts for LALA CountsCultural Research NetworkCenter for Cultural Innovation and Society of Ethnomusicology and teaches as an adjunct professor at ArtCenter College of Design and University of Southern California. Hsu has received fellowships and awards from National Endowment for the Arts, American Council for Learned Society, Shuttleworth Foundation, GovTech and LA Metro.

Hsu has published on digital ethnography, sound-based community practices, public humanities, open access publishing, Asian American indie rock, Yoko Ono, Taqwacore and Bollywood. Their academic research on street sound cultures in postcolonial Taiwan focuses on the urban underclass experience of mobility and low-resource technology. Their civic sound data project LA Listens explores the sensory, social, and ecological aspects of Los Angeles streets by providing a creative and engagement platform for community-oriented artists, planners, and organizers. Most recently, Hsu led the maker collective Movable Parts through Movable Karaoke, a Metro-funded project that evokes and explores the collective mobility experience in LA.

Since 2007, Hsu has designed and taught undergraduate courses in music, gender studies, media practice at University of Virginia and Occidental College. Currently, Hsu teaches digital analytics strategy at USC Marshall School of Business and leads graduate workshops on design research and advises MFA students in Media Design Practices at ArtCenter. They completed Mellon Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center of Digital Learning + Research of Occidental College where they researched and taught ethnographic methodology, digital pedagogy, digital sound studies, and community-based participatory research.

Hsu holds a PhD in the Critical and Comparative Studies in Music program at the University of Virginia. Their ethnographic dissertation details the identity articulation and community formation of Asian American musicians in indie rock music scenes.