I study the representation (in mass media) and regulation (in and by law) of culture-making. I’m interested in media stories about media-making as well as in the stories that people in media tell governments about what they do as they pursue policy goals. My focus these days is on popular music making in the U.S. and I am at present working on a book that focuses on musical work – on tv, in rockumentary film, and as governed by labour and copyright law. Music makers and other producers of culture, this book argues, occupy an unusual social and political space: they are simultaneously at the extreme margin and the very heart of modern liberal society. Through the power of authorship they may own the products of their labour, but through work for hire they may be dispossessed in the fashion of any other working person. As artists, they enjoy unusual freedoms and opportunities for self-actualization, but as employees they face real limits on their political agency. These contrasting positions with respect to property and power are separated only by history and convention, but between them they embody fundamental, contradictory strains of liberal thought.
I teach in the Media, Information and Technoculture undergraduate program, the Popular Music and Culture masters program and the Graduate Program in Media Studies. I am very glad to be able to offer several courses in my area of expertise:
Political Economy of Cultural Labour
Cultural labour, creative labour – analysts from a range of disciplines tell us these are increasingly the models for all kinds of work. But what are they? Beginning with basic issues in labour and authorship, this course will investigate the social forms of work in the cultural industries, how these forms are shaped by history, law, collective bargaining, and custom, and how they are represented in popular culture.
Cartoons: Production and Text
It’s been said that animation is what happens between the frames. This course examines the world(s) of animated cartoons – the history of the medium, the artists and studios that produce cartoons, and the stories the cartoons tell. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which aspects of production processes and contexts are made visible in the texts, and the ways in which texts comment on production processes and contexts.
Cultural Labour and Music
How are property and authorship established and distributed in the cultural industries? How do these distributions correspond to divisions and hierarchies of popular cultural labour? With a particular focus on issues of property, labor and authorship in commercial popular music making, this course will investigate the social forms of work in the cultural industries - how these forms are shaped by history, law, collective bargaining, and custom, and how they are represented in popular culture.
"Privilege and Distinction in Production Worlds" in Mayer, Vicki, Miranda Banks, and John Caldwell (eds.), Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries. New York and London: Routledge, 2009.
"Sex and Drugs and Bait and Swtich: Rockumentary and the New Model Worker" in David Hesmondhalgh and Jason Toynbee (eds.) The Media and Social Theory. Routledge, 2008 (pp. 231-247).
Non-Proprietary Authorship and the Uses of Autonomy: Artistic Labor in American Film Animation, 1900-2004. LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 2005 2/4 (pp. 87-105).
"A Moment Like This: American Idol and Narratives of Meritocracy" in Chris Washburne and Maiken Derno (eds.), Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate, New York: Routledge, 2004 (pp. 212-232).