The Culture Lab is a forum for researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania committed to exploring, enriching, and elucidating the contours of culture and communication. We are interested in culture as it is, as it takes shape, and as it is remembered. We are interested, in other words, in culture anywhere that it exists. We bring a panoply of methods, perspectives, and tools to understanding culture so that culture is both expansive and modular, with large stakes and conspicuous entry points.
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This week’s issue of the Germany’s prestigious Spiegel magazine claimed as a starting point for their discussion that “the attacks in Paris were targeted against Europe’s values.” Like so much of the coverage, this framing takes for granted that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was an attack on the free speech itself. To violently attack journalists because you disagree with what they publish is reprehensible. But to understand it as necessarily a serious threat to free speech is a logical jump that I think deserves critical assessment. I think that part of the reason this logic appears so self-evident, is that the way has been paved for it by stories that have become part of…
Reflection on the Mütter Museum’s Civil War medicine exhibition that features an arm amputation simulator.
Disability is a way to move, a shifting landscape, uncharted territory. It is hope — not in trim categories but in exactly the opposite. Disability is hope in the grey parts.
The other night I was telling some folks at the start of our first Think ‘n’ Drink that I was getting “wisty” as I transcribed some field notes from a summer project. I was reading my early notes and getting a bit sad that the project was over. I did not mean to say “wisty” because this makes no sense. I meant to say either “misty” or “wistful” and instead I said neither. I’m interpreting this now as a cautionary tale, in which I have myself started to lose track of where precision ends and imponderability begins.
Last Tuesday, I watched the The Black Power Mixtape (currently streaming on Netflix) to tend my soul after the disastrous Supreme Court ruling on voting rights protections. The film is a fascinating look at media representations of the Black Power Movement through Swedish eyes. The footage was gathered from 1967-1975 by Swedish journalists but was not produced and released until 2011 by Swedish director Goran Olssen and U.S. co-producer Danny Glover. The film starts with a disclaimer: “it does not presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power Movement, but to show how it was perceived by some Swedish filmmakers.” And this is exactly its strength. (For a much more thorough historical analysis…