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Mark Dery

Related: American literature - cultural criticism - subversion - counterculture - underground - subculture - dark culture

Coined the term: Afrofuturism

I'm as weary of the politicization of aesthetics as I'm wary of the aestheticization of politics. The Walter Benjamin in me is trying to make peace with my inner Georges Bataille. ... Aesthetically, however, I'm interested in the unlit, unfrequented corners of society, the nethermost regions of the self: freaks, forensic pathology, true crime, conspiracy theory, cannibalism, madness, medical museums, Art Brut, weird science, sexual deviance, soft tissue modification (by tribal peoples and postmodern primitives), creature features, alien abductions, insects, Situationism, Surrealism, science fiction, the gothic, the grotesque, the carnivalesque -- in short, extremes and excess of every sort. I want to induce, in my reader, the vertigo that comes from leaning too far over the edge of the cultural abyss. -- Mark Dery http://www.levity.com/markdery/inform.html


Mark Dery (born 1959) is an American author, lecturer and cultural critic. He writes about "media, the visual landscape, fringe trends, and unpopular culture"[1] and teaches media criticism and literary journalism in the Department of Journalism at New York University.[2]

He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, Lingua Franca, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Spin, Wired, Salon.com, Cabinet, and others.

An early writer on technoculture, Dery helped inaugurate cyberstudies as a field of serious inquiry with the anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture (1994), which he edited. Flame Wars kick-started the academic interest in techno-feminism and Afrofuturism, a term Dery coined in his trailblazing essay "[Black to the Future]" (included in Flame Wars) and a key theoretical concept driving the now-established study of black technoculture.

Dery is also known for his 1993 essay "[Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of the Signs]," in which he popularized the term "culture jamming," a form of "tactical media," or guerrilla media activism, with roots in Situationism, '60s street theater, the agit-prop photomontages of John Heartfield, pirate media, punk 'zines, and the media hoaxes of Joey Skaggs. Widely republished in print and on the Web, "Culture Jamming" helped spark the media activism movement associated with Naomi Klein and Adbusters magazine (to whom Dery, as a columnist, introduced the concept). It remains the definitive theorization of this subcultural phenomenon. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Dery [Nov 2006]


Nettime-l is a mailing list started in 1995 as a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism, collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets. Founded by Geert Lovink and Pit Schultz, it covers media, arts, and technology. Nettime.org points to mailing lists that do net culture. Usual suspects are Bruce Sterling, DJ Spooky, Kenji Siratori, Lev Manovich, Mason Dixon, Mark Dery, Manuel de Landa and Alan Sondheim. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nettime [Nov 2006]

The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink

  • The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink [Amazon.com]
    Like many essays on pop culture of contemporary America, Dery's collection is an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink view of the end of the millenium (including comparisons of the Warren Report to Finnegan's Wake, and the author's fascination with the Edvard Munch painting The Scream). Occasionally, Dery's ruminations on our Nike-obsessed, Jim Carrey-imitating, X-Files-paranoid culture are hilarious; at other times, they definitely are not. But his point is well taken, that as we approach the next century, the U.S. is more of a culturally aware, and thus more culturally consuming, country than ever before. The author's previous take on cyberspace, Escape Velocity, seeps in here as well: the information age pushes the bits and pieces of pop culture further in our faces every day. The title is an old term used to promote New York's Coney Island amusement park, and a more appropriate monicker for 1990s culture can't be found. With no war to distract us as in previous decades, the culture itself has become a focal point for societal anxiety, and Dery's insights into the whys of this upheaval are most illuminating. -- [...]

    Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture

  • Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture [Amazon.com]

    Essays on electronic communication, cyberpunk culture, and rants and flames in cyberspace consider subjects such as the magazine Mondo 2000, the typewriter, virtual reality, feminism, comics, and erotica for cybernauts. Includes blurry b&w photos and illustrations, and an interviews with science fictions writers Samuel R. Delaney, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose.

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