new essay forthcoming in “the chicago neighborhood guidebook” from belt publishing

Cover of the Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook from Belt Publishing

After a couple of years of hard work on the part of its editor and authors, Belt Publishing today opened pre-sales for its new Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook, due to hit shelves this fall.

Based on the success of its “idiosyncratic” guidebook series for Cleveland and Detroit, the Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook aims to explore community history and identity in a global city through essays, poems, photo essays, and art articulating the lived experience of its residents.

I’m pleased to have provided the essay for my first and favorite Chicago neighborhood, Albany Park (which is also where I teach at Northeastern Illinois University). The essay is based on the writing I’ve done about the LaBagh Woods and the intersection of the natural and the urban on the city’s northwest side.

Pre-order the book here.

the ethics of digital face-swapping

I’ve published a new essay for the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy on the ethics of digital face-swapping, or the technology used to supplant different faces on different bodies and put them in digital spaces where they don’t belong.

As suggested by the pied ethical reportage of digital face-swapping, deepfakes lack the charm of more classic cons, because they require no build-up; no cunning. We’re predisposed to trust the visual, because our ethicality (and our culture as such) is fundamentally visual.  Like fish that can’t comprehend water, we can’t practically comprehend an ethics based in either pure intuition or a priori abstraction. So when the visual deceives us – especially when that deceit is impelled through human agency – it’s easier for us to denude the con through policy or law than to pause and consider the root of the issue; to “see” the plank in our own eye.

Read the article here.

how to market in the manufacturing industry

Last week I spoke about marketing trends in the manufacturing industry with Hubstaff, a time-tracking and productivity platform (and digital innovator that has emerged from the nascent Rust Belt innovation space).

Manufacturing is a complicated industry in the U.S., with its human capital increasingly threatened by automation. That’s why it’s important for manufacturers to tell the human story behind their products. These communications efforts might not tie directly to the bottom line, but will be invaluable for building a company’s reputation as an employer of choice for new manufacturing talent.

Read the article here.

everything your new year’s resolutions will do to your brain and body: spending less and saving more

The good folks at MEL Magazine reached out to me at the beginning of this year to follow up some other conversations I’ve had with them the past few years about saving money and spending less. According to the writer, I’m a bona fide “super saver.”

When asked about how my habits and health started to change once I was able to start saving more money after college, I said, “Even though I was already living frugally, I felt like I definitely gained some psychic confidence. There was a calming sense of assurance in knowing that I’d reached a more economically stable place. I was actually able to start thinking more about the future beyond simply surviving the present.”

I’m joined in the article by personal finance expert John Karaffa, who has a lot of great things to say about smart spending.

Read the article here.

where B2B marketers are winning in social media

I was recently quoted at CMSWire talking about social media strategies for B2B marketing. Not sexy, but necessary.

The problem with a lot of marketing coverage and education is that it focuses strictly on consumer and product marketing. But these sectors represent only a slice of the whole pie of marketing services and outreach. The majority of marketing initiatives, especially in a more traditional economic region like Chicago, are strictly business-to-business. Which is why B2B matters.

Read the article here.

comment (newsletter #02)

Last weekend I spent a few days in and around Joshua Tree National Park. I planned the trip several months ago, before I knew that the U.S. government would be in the midst of one of the stupidest shutdowns in geological history.

Fortunately, the park was mostly open during my visit (despite the apparent flood of assholes that had spilled into the park throughout the previous weeks), and none of my flights were delayed by security or air traffic issues. But that didn’t stop Trump’s tantrum from casting a pall, especially with the Mexico border just a few miles south. There was a sense of dread hanging in the air (much like the botulistic haze of the Salton Sea, another toxic testament to American superiority and great fodder for #ruinporn). This must be how the villagers in the Dark Ages felt whenever the king came down to the town square and publicly executed another editor from the Failing New York Times.

This constant, latent dread adds the suspicion of superfluity to intellectual exercise. What’s the point of reading a book, asking a question, suggesting an idea, or sparking a conversation, if the garrote twists tighter around the throat of common sense every fresh day? What’s the point of feeding the mind if sensibility, like history, becomes nothing more than a myth agreed upon?

Exercise is about knowledge, and in dark times, knowledge is the lodestar. Even if the accrual of knowledge leads to the revelation that true knowledge is unattainable, it at least teaches us towards humility, which some say is where wisdom begins.

That’s Proverbs, by the way. From the Bible, which has more to say about where wisdom begins but less to say about where it ends. Which brings us to the beginning of this week’s #linkdump:

What People Actually Say Before They Die
Insights into the little-studied realm of last words
By Michael Erard @michaelerard

“Famous last words” are the cornerstone of a romantic vision of death—one that falsely promises a final burst of lucidity and meaning before a person passes. “The process of dying is still very profound, but it’s a very different kind of profoundness,” says Bob Parker, the chief compliance officer of the home health agency Intrepid USA. “Last words—it doesn’t happen like the movies. That’s not how patients die.” We are beginning to understand that final interactions, if they happen at all, will look and sound very different. (Read the whole, fascinating essay in The Atlantic.)

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joshua tree, january 2019 (photo essay)

In January 2019, my wife and I took a long-planned trip to Joshua Tree, not knowing that Trump’s idiotic government shutdown would be happening at the same time. The fear was that flights would be delayed and that Joshua Tree National Park would be a wasteland. Fortunately, neither was the case. We stayed at a great AirBnB in Morongo Valley, hiked the park, drove across the Mojave Desert (including a stop at the Kelso Dunes), and explored the ghost towns of the Salton Sea before spending the last night at a hotel in Palm Springs. Then we came back to freezing Chicago, because that’s the life we’ve chosen for some reason.

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trying something new(sletter)

When I started teaching communications last fall, I had one goal for the class – to explore how ideas move through the world.

On paper, my class is about public relations. But when you strip away the myths, pseudo-sciences, and caricatures of the field, PR – and strategic communications, more broadly – is about self-awareness, creative thinking, and creating connections between disparate ideas.

These are the same values that have helped me build my own career in communications. I didn’t have the fortune (or maybe the curse) of coming into my profession through a standard pipeline. I didn’t go to a big state school and get a degree in marketing or journalism. I didn’t have any internships. I didn’t have well-connected family or friends. I didn’t even like communications – or the little I knew about the field, anyway.

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failure and the fast track to cult success

Cultism has evolved throughout history in the bacterial space between symbiosis and parasitism. It is not an extraterrestrial phenomena, but always contingent on the boundaries of the cultural present. Whatever the dominant culture deems to be heretical or subversive, in any given age, is the place where cultism congeals.

The location of the fringe constantly mutates under the humid politics of power respired by the dominant culture. Decorum looks different from one generation to the next, but culture always has a place for dissent. Orthodoxy needs heterodoxy, and heterodoxy needs orthodoxy.

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