The Interface is the Message

By Andrew Ventimiglia

Lori Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound. University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 222 pp.

In Reading Writing Interfaces, media theorist Lori Emerson demystifies the enchanted world of modern digital devices. As recent technological innovations, from the ubiquitous tablet to fully-networked smart appliances, proliferate in a seductive variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, Emerson exposes the ideological project at the heart of this digital transformation.
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Beyond the Real of Capitalism

By Derrick King

Alison Shonkwiler and Leigh Claire La Berge, eds. Reading Capitalist Realism. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014. 260 pp.

Reading Capitalist Realism is an important and timely intervention into the nature of contemporary realism and the ongoing crisis of capitalism. The editors have assembled a powerful collection of essays that interrogate the critical capacity of the term “capitalist realism” to explain both contemporary ideological formations as well as current literary and cultural forms.
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A Queer Time for Television

By R. Gabriel Dor

Amy Villarejo, Ethereal Queer: Television, Historicity, Desire.  Duke University Press, 2014. 203 pp.

In Ethereal Queer, Amy Villarejo confronts the visibility of LGBT characters featured in recent programming, and the scholarship around these representations, by rejecting the notion that today’s television operates in a particularly queer time. 
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What’s New? Boris Groys in Translation

By Joshua Synenko

Boris Groys. On The New. Trans. G. M. Goshgarian. Verso, 2014. 208 pp.

It may seem contradictory to release a translation of a work which questions ideas of “the new” some twenty-two years after the German original. Yet the belated English publication of Boris Groys’s On The New (2014), demonstrates the text’s endurance according to the very means encouraged by Groys himself: by crossing the threshold into “valorized” culture.
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Queering the Politics of Life and Death

By Christine Quinan

Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco, eds. Queer Necropolitics. Routledge, 2014. 216 pp.

In the opening to his celebrated essay “Necropolitics,” Achille Mbembe invokes a series of questions that offer a corrective to Michel Foucault’s established notion of biopower:

But under what practical conditions is the right to kill, to allow to live, or to expose to death exercised?
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Media Theory at the Limits of Communication

By Aleksandra Kaminska

Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker and McKenzie Wark. Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. University of Chicago Press, 2014. 210 pp.

“By being off the radar, you move in a different space, a jubilee zone of exception.”

—John Durham Peters, “Speaking Into the iPhone”

Like all such rare and catastrophic events, the disappearance of flight MH370 during a routine flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing in March 2014 spurred a frenzy of media coverage and public fascination.
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After the Aftermath

By Rob Coley

Siegfried Zielinski. […After the Media] News from the Slow-Fading Twentieth Century. Trans. Gloria Custance. Univocal, 2013. 276 pp.

Media theory has a problem with the new. The new is an obstacle, it is obsolete, it is yesterday’s news. Of the many responses to a late 20th century obsession with “new media,” current attempts to rethink the dominant historical narrative of media culture best encapsulate the problem.
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Popular Media and the Rhetoric of Colorblindness

By Shui-yin Sharon Yam

Catherine Squires. The Post-Racial Mystique: Media and Race in the 21st Century. New York University Press: 2014. 243 pp. 

Written in a time when public deliberation is suffused with conflicting discourses and representations of race, Catherine Squires’s The Post-Racial Mystique: Media and Race in the 21st Century deftly interrogates how the increased popularity of the post-racial narrative of “colorblindness” intersects with the material conditions of systematic racism.
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On the Uncertain Status of Text in the Digital Age: A Comparative Approach

By Marco Deseriis

N. Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman, Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 331 pp.

While comparative research is by no means new to the humanities and the social sciences, the field of media studies has been relatively untouched by explicitly comparative approaches. To be sure, influential strands of media studies such as the Toronto school of communication and the emerging field of media archeology are comparative in character.
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The Mass Reading Event and the Citizen-Reader

By Sarah Brouillette and Lina Shoumarova

Danielle Fuller and DeNel Rehberg Sedo. Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture. Routledge, 2013. 370 pp.

Reading Beyond the Book presents the results of an extensive program of research into what the authors call mass reading events (MREs). It features case studies of the Richard and Judy Book Club, Canada Reads, and a variety of One Book, One Community (OBOC) programs: from Seattle Reads, which was the first program of its kind, and went on after its 1999 launch to become the basic toolkit for OBOC programs all over the world, to Get Into Reading, a grassroots program that aims to have Liverpool’s underprivileged communities reading classic literature together.
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Under the Hood of Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology

By Liam Young

Wolfgang Ernst. Digital Memory and the Archive. Jussi Parikka, ed. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 265 pp.

The allure of the archive as a concept, space, form, and metaphor has proven irresistible for continentally inflected media and cultural studies over the last two decades. The “archive fever” diagnosed by Derrida in 1995 has only become more acute as the ever-accelerating digitization of culture, memory, and history has fundamentally reconfigured archives, both real and imaginary.
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Beware the Rays of Imitation

By Claire Barber

Tony D. Sampson. Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks. University of Minnesota Press, 2012. 235 pp.

The cover of Tony D. Sampson’s Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks incorporates the image of a flock of crows sitting on power lines, a scene with the potential to inspire the type of fear captured by films like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).
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Culture, Technology and Hyper-Industrial Capitalism

By Tai Neilson, Lisa Daily, Gavin Mueller and David Rheams

Bernard Stiegler. The Decadence of Industrial Democracies.  Trans. Daniel Ross and Suzanne Arnold. Polity Press, 2011. 194 pp.

In The Decadence of Industrial Democracies Bernard Stiegler presents a singular take on the culture industry in the hyper-industrial age and offers a radical understanding of technological and cultural change. Stiegler applies his philosophical approach developed in Technics and Time to the Americanized culture industry at the heart of industrial democracies. Echoing the Frankfurt School, he describes the willingness of consumer citizens to trade leisure time for consumptive habits.
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Low Theory

By Matt Applegate

McKenzie Wark. Telesthesia: Communication, Culture, and Class. Polity Press, 2012. 241 pp.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is the new and enduring object of political and intellectual inquiry for the Left in the United States. Indeed, like the 1999 Seattle WTO protests before it, OWS is perhaps more momentous, more impactful, or even more ‘revolutionary’ in its after-effects and in its memorialization than it was in the time and space of its production.
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A Call to Theoretical Indiscipline

By Carolyn Elerding

Jonathan Sterne. MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Duke University Press, 2012. 341 pp.

The last decade has been a truly exciting one in cultural studies of sound, largely due to the generous and catalytic contributions of Jonathan Sterne. These include several significant articles, a strong intellectual and activist web presence, and a provocative genealogy of early sound reproduction and transmission entitled The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.
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Rethinking Race and Digital Divides

By Lisa Patti

Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White, eds. Race After the Internet. Routledge, 2012. 343 pp.

In their introduction to the edited collected Race After the Internet, Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White trace the emergence of multiple digital divides in the wake of what they call at different moments the “biotechnical turn,” the “technobiological turn,” and the “techno-genetic turn”–a cultural, institutional, and scholarly transformation that “privileges the technological and specifically the digital over other forms of knowledge, mediation, and interaction”(4).
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The Culture of Urbanization in (Post)Socialist China

By Joshua Neves

Yomi Braester. Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract. Duke University Press, 2010. 405 pp.

Robin Visser. Cities Surround the Countryside: Urban Aesthetics in Postsocialist China. Duke University Press, 2010. 362 pp.

Yomi Braester’s Painting the City Red and Robin Visser’s Cities Surround the Countryside offer complementary engagements with urban transformation in P.R. China—though Braester also has a single chapter on Taipei.[1] Each takes as their focus the cultural restructuring that has shaped and been shaped by (post)socialist urbanization and the shifting designs on the city.
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The People’s Media Critique

By Nicholas Holm

Charles R. Acland. Swift Viewing: The Popular Life of Subliminal Influence. Duke University Press, 2011. 307 pp.

There is a good chance that those who have taught cultural or media theory will have, at some time or another, come up against the popular persistence of subliminal messaging: a belief that mass media can convey potentially powerful secret messages below the level of sensory perception.
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Subject of Desire/Subject of Drive: The Emergence of Žižekian Media Studies

By Matthew Flisfeder

Jodi Dean. Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive. Polity, 2010. 140 pp.

Paul A. Taylor. Žižek and the Media. Polity, 2011. 192 pp.

Fabio Vighi. Sexual Difference in European Cinema: The Curse of Enjoyment. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 256 pp.

Those familiar with Slavoj Žižek will know that a great deal of his work is bound up with later theories of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. While Lacan has long been an influential figure in media and cultural theory, the three books reviewed here demonstrate an emerging field of Žižekian media studies that is distinct from the earlier Lacanian media studies.
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No Exit? Imagining Radical Refusal

By Erin Wunker

Simon During. Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory, and Post-Secular Modernity. Routledge, 2010. 280 pp.

How do we refuse capitalism? Should we? This is Simon During’s central question in his temporally vast and historically deep book Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory, and Post-Secular Modernity. The book begins with a reflection on his experience at the Sydney Museum of Modern Art’s 2008 Biennale exhibition.
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Pattern Pre-Recognition

By Russell Kilbourn

Richard Grusin. Premediation: Affect and Mediality in America after 9/11. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 208 pp.

While visiting Amsterdam recently, I asked a friend if he had heard the weather report for that afternoon. He responded by calling up a ‘real-time’ satellite weather tracking website on his laptop, which showed us in convincing graphics that it would rain at 1:00 pm that afternoon.
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Reading Age and Disability in Film

By Dilia Narduzzi

Sally Chivers. The Silvering Screen: Old Age and Disability in Cinema. University of Toronto Press, 2011. 213 pp.

Sally Chivers’s The Silvering Screen: Old Age and Disability in Cinema is an important volume because it examines “contemporary film to ask why claims of physical and mental ability are necessary for older actors – and older people more generally” (xii).
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The Politics of Culture in The Late Age of Print

By Sean Johnson Andrews

Ted Striphas. The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. Columbia University Press, 2009. 272 pp.

With The Late Age of Print, Ted Striphas cements his place among the growing number of cultural studies scholars, including public intellectuals like Siva Vaidhyanathan and copyright prankster Kimbrew McLeod, who are interested in the contemporary problem of publishing and copyright.
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Branding in Everyday Life

By Mehita Iqani

Melissa Aronczyk and Devon Powers, eds.  Blowing Up the Brand: Critical Perspectives on Promotional Culture.  Peter Lang, 2010.  339 pp.

Blowing Up the Brand, an edited collection originating from a conference of the same name held in New York in 2009, does not so much seek to provide definitions for the brand as it does critically engage with “the increasingly central role of brands in contemporary culture” (5).
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From Virtuality to Actuality: The Power, Wealth and Ambivalence of Video Games

By Lisa Dusenberry

Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter’s Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games deftly merges a critique of Empire and its practices with the social and historical context of video games and the gaming industry.
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Smart Homes and Shrunken Visions

By Will Straw

Davin Heckman. A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day. Duke University Press, 2008.

More than anything else, Davin Heckman’s A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day is about the slow disappearance of utopian scenarios concerning everyday life from American culture.
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