Charlie Hebdo’s Clash of Civilizations Script

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…

Cut Off


Reflection on the Mütter Museum’s Civil War medicine exhibition that features an arm amputation simulator.

Hope in the Grey Parts


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.

Precisely Imponderable

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.

Walter Annenberg and The Black Power Mixtape

opening screen

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…

The Simplicity of Strangers

pica strangers

I took a break from talking about the intersections of art and communication at the Cultural Studies Association conference in Chicago recently to look at some contemporary art in situ. Something about Strangers (2008) by Amalia Pica (pictured here) made me linger. A string of multi-colored flags lays limp on a wall, as if the detritus from a family party in a midwestern garage. As I tried to quickly make sense of it, my thoughts vacillated between the private and the public, dismissing it as overblown kitsch aesthetic and allowing its simple, haunting elegance to pique childhood memories wrapped in saccharin, nostalgia, guilt, and the fear you have when you are too young to know…

Osmotic Networks and the Ekphrastic Death of Archive Fever


The Digital Humanities Summer Institute kicked off this morning in an auditorium chockablock with wide-eyed geeks. Not long into the welcoming remarks, one of the event organizers explained, quite plainly, that what you take away from the Institute is only 12% what you learn in the course you’ve chosen. The other 88%, he said, is about the people sitting around you. What followed in this opening ceremony was a series of Harry Potter analogies employed to describe the various objectives of the different courses (the “dark art” of databases, the unconference sessions in the “room of requirement,” the “muggle-oriented” multimedia design) and a deep sense, in reading even the smallest gestural cues in the room,…

The Ableism after UMD Delta Gamma’s Ableism

ableism facepalm

In case you haven’t heard the news about an email that circulated among the University of Maryland chapter of Delta Gamma, let me give you a roundup of links about it. The Most Deranged Sorority Girl Email You Will Ever Read (Gawker) Delta Gamma Sorority Girl Email From University of Maryland is Insane and Amazing (Huffington Post) Being ‘Sweet and Nice’ is Driving the DG Sorority Sisters at Maryland to Madness (The Atlantic Wire) UMD Delta Gammas “LITERALLY” Lay Down the Law in Psychotic Email (Guest of a Guest) Should we even dwell on the vile email? From the assumption of compulsory heterosexuality (“I would rather have 40 girls that are fun, talk to boys,…

Less Method, More Research

Firehouse research is a kind of investigation that begins with a researcher at-the-ready, prepared to slide down the greased pole and head into the field. Some have attributed the term to Everett Hughes in 1970, though tracking down exactly where the term originates is surprisingly difficult. Gladys Lang, while being interviewed for a documentary called Women of the Film, gladly notes a different definition of the term, given by Elihu Katz referring to her famous 1953 paper on the MacArthur Day in Chicago that she co-authored with husband Kurt Lang. Katz labeled their work “firehouse research” because they looked for fires and tried to put them out (McCormack & Simonson, 2007, p. 23).

For Aaron Swartz, A #pdftribute


Disability and hacking share much beyond their need to be emancipated from their negative connotations. They both have emancipatory potential, by – as McKenzie Wark would have it – creating abstractions in the world. Hacking and disability are about seeking out borders, transgressing them when we need to, and imagining new worlds. It’s about thinking vanward.

Culture Lab @ ASC.

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.
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