8 Scholars And Critics Expanding Our Understanding Of Culture
The study of art and communications media is an opportunity to reflect on the ways that humans relate to each other and to ourselves. Scholars in these fields investigate topics like the influence of film on personal identity, or how capitalism shapes narratives about creativity. The following thinkers, writers, and researchers, listed here in no particular order, help to shed light on the ideas that permeate the collective imagination.
Leading off at #1 is Roy Christopher, a blogger, author, and critic examining science and culture. Since his early days interviewing thinkers and artists for self-published zines, Christopher has been investigating how music and communications technology shape our understanding of the world. He has contributed to works like Post Memes, a discussion of online political art, and Sound Unbound, a collection of essays on the history of music.
Christopher's book Dead Precedents argues that the distinctive linguistic techniques of hip-hop music are key to understanding the future of culture. His blog examines the history of black art and the ongoing struggle for non-white voices to be heard. It also offers in-depth reviews of movies, literature, music, and comedy. Christopher has been a guest lecturer at several universities, and works as an illustrator and graphic designer.
Next on the list is #2, Joel David, a Filipino film and media scholar teaching at Inha University in South Korea. David is an award-winning critic of his native country's cinema, offering detailed commentary on its interaction with national history and politics. His essays and articles explore topics from subversive themes in camp comedies to the public fascination with celebrity scandals.
"Many of his writings explore transgressive or subversive cinema, such as his tribute to Manila by Night, a film banned by the Marcos regime for its vivid depiction of the city's underworld."
David has authored or edited numerous books on Philippine filmmaking, such as The National Pastime, an examination of trends in genre and technique within the industry, and Fields of Vision, an attempt to interrogate the country's contemporary on-screen output through modernist critical approaches. Many of his writings explore transgressive or subversive cinema, such as his tribute to Manila by Night, a film banned by the Marcos regime for its vivid depiction of the city's underworld.
Our #3 entry is Max Haiven, the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media, and Social Justice at Lakehead University. Haiven writes extensively about the role of the imagination in politics, exploring the narratives behind capitalism and offering alternative visions of prosperity and governance. He provides a critical view of the way that money distorts creativity, scrutinizing the connections between the art world and the finance industry.
In works like his book Cultures of Financialization, Haiven argues that a capitalist understanding of wealth dominates society's collective imagination. He critiques the racial dynamics of the contemporary political economy, spotlighting the narratives of revenge underlying white supremacy. Through creative projects like the art collective The University of the Phoenix, Haiven seeks to inspire new ways of imagining culture and community.
#4 in our overview is independent scholar, critic, and filmmaker Catherine Grant. She has published widely on theories and practices of authorship, adaptation, and intertextuality, editing notable collections such as a compilation of articles on world cinema from the journal Screen. Grant also experiments with the online short video form, delving into themes and techniques of cinematic storytelling through audiovisual essays.
By juxtaposing and combining images from different films side-by-side, Grant's videos offer insight into acting or directorial styles, or illustrate the use of visual symbolism in storytelling. Other works examine the themes expressed within individual movies, or engage with the analysis of other critics. Grant also operates the website Film Studies For Free, an open online resource for media scholarship and commentary.
Coming in at #5 is David Buckingham, a writer, consultant, and scholar whose work focuses on young people's interactions with electronic content. He has produced a number of lectures and articles critiquing current approaches to teaching media literacy, and his book Media Education proposes an updated model for helping children and teens understand the contemporary communications landscape.
Buckingham writes extensively about youth culture, and the ways that society's ideas about childhood and adolescence are shaped by film, television, and the internet. His essay collection Growing Up Modern examines the impact of works like Dazed and Confused or Skins on popular narratives of youth and adulthood, while books such as After the Death of Childhood discuss how the proliferation of digital media has altered the ways young people learn about themselves and the world.
#6 on the list is Andrew Epstein, an English professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, whose writing examines poetry and modern literature. His blog Locus Solus discusses the enduring cultural legacy of New York School poets like Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, and his book Beautiful Enemies details the competing desires for individuality and community that shape their work. Epstein's articles spotlight the profound influence that these figures have come to have on contemporary music and art.
Epstein is also the author of Attention Equals Life, which traces the roots of postmodern poetry's fascination with the mundane details of everyday existence, with examples like James Schuyler's meticulous recounting of the view from his window and O'Hara's loving tributes to the bustle of New York City. Epstein points to the influence of collage artists on this style of literature, and analyzes these works as exercises in paying attention in an age of distraction.
At #7 is Patricia Pisters, a professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, whose work scrutinizes the visual language of film and video to explore the relationship between brain and screen. Pisters has written or edited publications ranging from surveys of notable developments in media theory, to in-depth looks at particular artists or filmmaking trends. Several of her books, such as From Eye to Brain or The Neuro-Image, discuss the effect of cinema on our conceptions of thought, identity, and the human mind.
In addition to her print publications, Pisters has created a number of experimental video essays, exploring topics including images of femininity in surrealist art, depictions of the symbolism of metal, and the impact of media on the subconscious. She shares her reflections about the relationship between image and thought in a variety of lectures and interviews, such as Worlding the Brain, a presentation on how art can complement neurology in understanding the mind.
Capping off our list at #8 is Emily Contois, a researcher and assistant professor of media studies at The University of Tulsa. Her work focuses on how media and popular culture deal with food, health, and identity, with examinations of topics such as the intersection of food and television as comfort mechanisms and the gendered marketing of commodities. With her book Diners, Dudes and Diets, Contois looks at the way that notions of masculinity relate to cuisine in the American imagination.
Along with her many articles and academic papers, Contois has interviewed thinkers and creators like Alexandra Ketchum, author of How to Start a Feminist Restaurant, and Garrett Broad, who writes about social justice issues in food access. She also shares thoughts on effective teaching practice, providing reflections on her own experiences in the classroom. Contois has been interviewed about food and culture for outlets including BBC Ideas and CBS.