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.

powerviolence, or how to play punk with a hammer

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:

New article for the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy

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.”

Read the rest here.

Cult Cinema Bibliography

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.

Check out the rest here.

New Column for Quiet Lunch

I have a new column for Quiet Lunch, “Outside Art.”

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.