A few years ago I wrote an essay about the history of powerviolence, an obscure sub-subgenre of punk rock that originated on the West Coast but has since spread to all corners of the world. It’s part of “The Punk Reader: Research Transmissions from the Local and the Global,” an edited collection published in November by the University of Porto in Portugal, and it’s a truly international collection. Happy to see this essay in print, but I am a little embarrassed by my preamble, which I clearly wrote while I was still in grad school. Who the hell in their right mind uses words like “prolegomena” in a normal sentence?
As a subgenre of rock ’n’ roll, punk rock has itself spawned various sub-generic musical and subcultural followings – or cults, of a sort. While many of these sub-generic reinterpretations of punk rock – Oi!, crust punk, skate punk – can be connected to a single musical group or geographically collectivized group of musicians with an associated coterie of cult adherents, the way in which these sub-generic movements impact or affect the greater punk rock ‘scene’ is far more difficult to quantify. It is with this prolegomenon in mind that this essay will investigate the phenomenon of ‘powerviolence’ (Man is the Bastard, Infest, Mind Eraser, Iron Lung, etc.) by first tracing the musical and social provenance of the subgenre and then analysing it in its present form, which is both sub-subcultural (and localized as such) and internationalized (Yacøpsæ, Fuck on the Beach, Merda, etc.) in its sub-subculturalism. There is little documentation and no accessible scholarship on powerviolence, either as a musical and cultural genre or as an instantiation of punk rock. As such, this essay will compile and analyse the current documentation available regarding powerviolence, and perhaps not surprisingly, most of this documentation is available almost exclusively online. Varied in both form and articulation, that this material is primarily accessible through online avenues is also telling of the way powerviolence has not only survived as a genre but also how it has grown in its reception and realization.
Check out the full book here, and if you’re curious what powerviolence sounds like, here’s one of my all-time favorite cuts:
My newest “Outside Art” column is up @ Quiet Lunch, looking at Alok Vaid-Menon’s recent performance in Chicago.
I’ve got a new article posted at the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy: “Facebook is a media company, but what’s a media company?”
When Facebook says that it’s a tech company and not a media company, a silent shudder echoes across the internet.
It’s like the reaction that, say, Morton Salt would get if the C-suite was to declare that it’s running a logistics company, not a salt company. The audience might nod and applause (as they often do whenever Facebook makes a public statement) but under their breath, they’d be laughing. How can we not be a salt company? That’s literally part of our name.
The same irony applies to Facebook, a company synonymous with social media. Key word: media. But this didn’t stop Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg from putting her foot in her mouth last fall when she went on record with Axios, confidently declaring that Facebook is not a media company. “At our heart we’re a tech company,” Sandberg said. “We don’t hire journalists.”
When I completed grad school in 2015, I was awarded a Media Studies Award from Oxford Bibliographies (Oxford University Press) for my work in cult cinema.
After nearly three years (because academic publishing moves at a glacial pace), Oxford finally posted my bibliography for cult cinema. Here’s the intro:
Though relatively young in the world of film studies, the research and analysis of cult cinema and cult film culture continues to grow as a robust, interdisciplinary field of scholarship that crosses critical theory, media studies, sociology, psychology and even theology. While some scholars see this scholarly versatility as an advantage for studying cult film, others suggest that it is symptomatic of cult cinema itself, which has no universal definition.
Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik, two of the leading scholars of cult film, suggest that these films are unified by their shared transgression of “common notions of good and bad taste.” Other scholars and historians, such as Umberto Eco, suggest that that for a film to earn cult status, it must merely have “some archetypal appeal.” For even others, such as Bruce Kawin, cult films are best understood as generic subcategories, subdivided into broad “programmatic” and “inadvertent” categories. Under this rubric, cult films on one end of the spectrum are deeply exploitative or blasphemous, while others are experimental, reverent, or just plan “bad”—or, colloquially, “so bad it’s good.”
By fundamentally defying simple categorization or consensus, cult film studies are equally as diverse and often conflicted. Similar to how the appeal of cult cinema is the result of a sophisticated and well-read media diet, affective scholarship of the field must be similarly liberal, requiring a deep background ranging from classical film and media studies to philosophy and theology and, ultimately, industry and economics. This bibliography should serve as a broad entry point to the field, representing scholarship that either directly or tangentially complements an understanding of cult movements and countercultural media while remaining applicable to an even broader range of cultural research, criticism, and conversation.
My first entry is on Chicago’s Intuit Museum of Outsider Art.
Compared to the usual culture-media pipeline, I’m not writing this series from New York City or L.A., but from my home city of Chicago.
With this series on outside art, I’ll continue exploring the cacophonic sounds, conflicting visions and crude manifestations of occluded culture, past and present. This applies just as much to the identity politics of America’s flyover country (and its capital cities) as it does to the economic and intellectual ebbs and flows of pop-culture dialectics.
Hey! Check out this promotional video I scripted for World Business Chicago. Voiceover by Bill Kurtis.
Like any other industry, media is an amalgamation; a pulsating admixture of anxiety, ideology, cacophony and pure green envy.
The products churned out by the Media Machine—everything from Twitter posts and Instagram stories to long-form features and investigative reports—are often the end result of thousands of hours of labor and trillions of dollars of research, development, designers, and endless platoons of white- and blue-collar peons.
The Machine needs these armies, too. If there’s a screen in your life, you’re part of an audience of seven billion-and-counting. That’s a lot of minds to feed and, more importantly, a lot of behaviors to exploit. Those who do it well can convince you that Coke has health benefits, or that $100 is a good deal for a t-shirt, or to elect a fascist president.
This is why I’ve become an advocate of media IQ; or, the degree of your ability to understand that your opinion is manufactured – and to interpret how this actually happens.
In a media age dominated by fake news, conspiracy theories and nuclear dick fights, your media IQ can literally mean the difference between life and death. And whether you’re a journalist, writer, videographer, PR agent, publicist, or just an everyday user, a strong media IQ help you become both a competent communications professional and a conscientious consumer.
So to help build your media IQ, I’ve assembled this list of media, journalism and PR newsletters worth a few minutes of your daily time. Together they form an inside look at the trends, tactics and tricks the machine uses to make you think that you’re thinking for yourself. (Listed alphabetically and linked directly to the sign-up forms, so you don’t need to click around):
American Press Institute: Need to Know
If you only subscribe to one newsletter on this list, make it this. A daily newsletter with inside takes on trending news, and outside views of journalism’s inner workings.
Columbia Journalism Review: The Media Today
“A daily look at the biggest stories in journalism” from one of the top journalism schools in the country. Always well written and packed with original research.
A twice-weekly newsletter from the European press review, with content categorized into debates and dossiers, both about the state of European journalism and major news.
Institute for Public Relations: Research Letter
The IPR is a half-century old PR research organization, staking claim on “the science beneath the art of public relations™. A strong (and occasionally stuffy) trove of valuable research.
Journalism.co.uk Daily Newsletter
Though technically a UK jobs site lacking a clever name, Journalism.co.uk also serves as a center for media tips, guides, events, training and other services. Not a must-read, but useful.
Journalist’s Resource (Harvard Kennedy School)
Similar to the CJR newsletter, but with more Ivy League pretense. Lots of original research, studies-of-studies, and “tip sheets” loaded with journalism advice and resources.
Muck Rack Daily
Muck Rack is one of the top PR and journalism platforms and this newsletter is a handsome bit of content marketing, but it has a lot of smart insights and pontifications on trending topics.
Nieman Lab: Daily Email Updates
Hands down the best way to understand the ever-evolving state of modern media media is continually evolving. A must read for anyone, regardless of profession.
Pew Research: Media & News Briefings
Data nerds already know about Pew Research, but their media and news briefings always give you a first-hand look into major news trends, usually before they hit the headlines.
Poynter Institute: Morning MediaWire
Another newsletter from another journalism school. API will often pick up Poynter stories and vice-versa, but it’s informative background a smart way to start the day.
PR News: The Skinny
PR News is the main trade rag for the PR industry, but The Skinny is weekly, so it doesn’t overburden. Covers the trends and conversations around social media, marketing PR.
PR Week: Weekly Online Edition
Similar to PR News, PR Week covers a lot of trade topics, but also offers a PR view of major news topics. Relevant for people working on the politics and public affairs side of PR.
Ragan’s PR Daily: News Feed
If you subscribe to any of Ragan’s newsletters, you might get ten emails per day. Lots of “thought leadership” from budding professionals, but sometimes the advice is useful.
I’m excited to announce that I’m now a board member for High Concept Labs! We’re an arts service organization based in Chicago with a mission to support artists and facilitate dialogue between artists, audiences, and staff. This increases access and transparency to the artistic process and fosters transformational experiences in an environment of experimentation and discovery. Check out the full press release at BroadwayWorld.
It’s my first-ever board position and one made possible by the OnBOARD training and matching program of the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. OnBOARD not only provides you training for what’s involved in being a board member at an arts organization, but it also matches you with small- and mid-sized nonprofits looking for new members.
This is just another way for me to continue serving both the arts and business sides of culture in Chicago. Check out the HCL website to stay updated on all the great stuff we have coming up.
Got another call from MEL Magazine based on some of the first-person narratives I provided last year regarding how my wife and I worked our way out of $100,000 in student debt. The writer, Adam Elder, asked for my contribution to “The Normal Person’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions: Spending Less and Saving More.”