I'm delighted to welcome Mark Dery as our guestblogger for the next two weeks. Mark is a cultural critic and author whose work I've enjoyed for almost twenty years. In my library, his books share a shelf with the best nonfiction by Ballard, Burroughs, and Eco. As I've written on BB before, "Mark and I have overlapping interests in subjects that, as once defined by Mark Frauenfelder's young daughter Sarina, are 'creepy, interesting, and real.' Mark Dery's take on such matters is often filled with wonderfully obscure references to history, culture, and philosophy that, more often than not, are news to me. That's one of the reasons I like reading his essays and books so much. When I finish one, I always have a great list of links and juxtapositions to follow up on." Here's Mark's "official" bio:
Mark Dery is a cultural critic. Way back in the day, he edited Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture (1994), an academic anthology that kick-started scholarly interest in techno-feminism and black technoculture (through Dery's trailblazing essay "Black to the Future," in which he coined the term "Afrofuturism"). His 1993 pamphlet "Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of the Signs" popularized the term "culture jamming" and helped launch the movement of the same name. In 1996, Dery established himself, with Suck essays such as "Bit Rot," his point-by-point obliteration of Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital, and his book Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, as a passionate, progressive critic of libertarian cyberdrool. In 1999, he published The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, an analysis of the cultural psyche of millennial America as refracted through media figures such as the Unabomber, the Heaven's Gate cult, and right-wing survivalists like Timothy McVeigh, and emerging trends such as gated communities, "safe rooms," and Jerry Springer-style freaktalk—a zeitgeist whose economic instability, social pathologies, and media-fueled weirdness seem to be back with a bang. Until fall 2009, he taught media criticism and narrative nonfiction in the Department of Journalism at New York University. Since leaving NYU, he has been a freelance journalist, book author, and lecturer. In summer 2009, he was appointed visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome, where he researched his book-in-progress, The Pathological Sublime, a philosophical inquiry into the paradox of awful beauty (images whose retinal seductions are irresistible yet whose content is viscerally repulsive or morally obscene), an aesthetic conundrum that is particularly relevant to our Age of Unreason, with its viral videos, tabloid media, and gorenography.