Research Statement

IMG_0060My research and media making interests embody a variety of interdisciplinary critical approaches including critical cultural studies, political economy of communication (in particular, the music industry and independent music culture), new media studies, visual studies, alternative media and media subcultures.   My research methodology is based in qualitative approaches including interviewing, ethnography and visual ethnography.  I’m also a practicing media maker with a prolific exhibition record specializing in documentary video and experimental media.

My current research examines the political economy of the music industry.  I’m investigating contemporary models of digital distribution and the evolution of music retail.  This research is featured in the forthcoming book chapter titled “Through Being Cool — The Political Economy of iTunes” (2014) as part of Randy Nichol’s and Gabriela Martinez’s (Eds.) Profit, Power, and Paucity: Janet Wasko and the Political Economy of Communication (press TBA).  The chapter critically examines the policies and monopolistic practices of the iTunes Store and describes how Apple’s dominance of the paid-for download market radically altered the market for digital distribution.

This current research is an extension of my dissertation on the political economy and cultural significance of “brick and mortar” independent music stores, “Exiled Records and Over the Counter Culture — A Cultural Political Economic Analysis of the Independent Record Store” (2010).  The project examines the political economy of the independent record store by addressing their relationship with major and independent record labels, various modes of distribution, and music industry policies and practices that led to the demise of thousands of independent retailers.  The project also examines independent stores from a cultural studies perspective as I consider how the independent record store provides an eclectic range of musical diversity, particularly independent and obscure music; caters to local music culture; is a space for information exchange, and acts as a gathering place for musical subcultures and music fans.  For this project, I employed several qualitative field methods including interviewing, ethnography and visual ethnography (video documentation).

I plan to publish the dissertation as a book along with an accompanying DVD of my documentary video on the topic.  I’m currently converting two of the findings chapters into journal or book chapters and developing a book prospectus to be submitted to academic presses.  I’ve published a book chapter on the topic: “The Independent Record Store as a Site of Cultural Resistance and Anti-McDonaldization — A Case Study of The House of Records” (2009) in Robert C. Sickel’s The Business of Entertainment, Vol. 2, Popular Music.

I also completed a feature length documentary video on record store culture.  “Walls of Sound — A Look Inside the House of Records (2012/63 Min.)” is a case study of the House of Records, an independent record store based in Eugene, Oregon since 1972.  The ethnographic video addresses the themes of the written dissertation and also captures the visual aura of the space and idiosyncrasies of the workers and customers.  In the fall of 2012, I toured the video in Oregon and Washington and discussed the work at universities, small independent theaters and micro-cinema spaces.   During some screenings, participants from the film joined for discussion regarding the social importance of independent record stores, locality and the availability of alternative media.  The video has been screened at the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival, Davis Film Festival, Consider the Alternatives screening series (SUNY Buffalo State College), the America’s Music Series (Eastern Illinois University) and several other venues.  I submitted the video to fifty film festivals and am seeking an independent distributor.

I’m further exploring the independent music industry with a journal or book chapter titled: “No Culture Icons? — An Analysis of The Thermal’s Rejection of Hummer, Punk Aesthetics and the Ambiguities of Subcultural Commodification within Television Advertising.”  This essay addresses the commodification of underground punk music (with a focus on “The Thermals” based in Portland, Oregon) in television advertising.  I’m developing other book projects including the history of music retail, the political economy of music, and media based subcultures.

From the outset of my doctoral program at the University of Oregon, I’ve actively presented my research at regional and national conferences.  I have participated at the Union for Democratic Communication (UDC), International Communication Association (ICA), Popular Culture Association (ACA/PCA), and International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) and several others.  Regular conference attendance fosters productivity by giving me the opportunity to present and finalize new research projects and obtain feedback on my work.  I typically attend at least two academic conferences per academic year.   Please consult my CV for a complete listing of my conference participation.

As noted earlier, I’m also an artist in digital video, documentary and experimental modes of ethnography.  I firmly believe traditional written research should merge with digital video and new media technologies — thus enabling the emergence of new multiperspectivist forms and representations.  My visual work is informed by critical theory, cultural studies and critical communications and my written research compliments my media production work and vice versa.  I currently have two new documentary projects in the works.  The first, a short documentary video series titled Ordinary Video Series spontaneously captures the everyday intersection of media, nature and human constructed spaces with my Smartphone.  One of the shorts from this series titled Strip Mall Nature (2013/6 min.) poetically documents a flock of geese living amongst car and consumer culture.   The second project is a documentary/video diary titled It Will Become Beauty: Two Years in Japan, a 30-60 minute project to be completed in 2014.  For another long-term documentary project, I’m interested in documenting a Buddhist pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku, Japan (in conjunction with a potential Fulbright scholarship).

In 2008, I co-curated, toured (in the Pacific Northwest) and presented a film and video collection titled Tuff Stuff From the Buff — Experimental and Activist Film and Video from the Fringes of Buffalo, NY.  A short essay “Tuff Stuff from the Buff” (co-authored with Julie Perini) and photographs from the tour are currently published in Miriam Paeslack’s (Ed.) Ineffably Urban: Imaging Buffalo (2013), Ashgate Publishing (In Press).

My interdisciplinary (merging sociology and media studies) master’s thesis at SUNY Buffalo was an experimental documentary Imperial Tourism (25 minutes) with a supporting essay “A Critical Discussion of Subjectivity, Representation, and Experimental Ethnography” (2001).  The documentary was a post-colonial critique of my experiences (and privilege) as an American English teacher in contemporary Poland, as well as a critical and poetic commentary on globalization, Americanization and traditional documentary conventions.  The end result was designed to represent “reality” as a complex plurality of images, ideas and concepts.

I screened my media work at a variety of film festivals and venues such as the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Seattle Underground Film Festival, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center (Buffalo, NY), Squeaky Wheel: Buffalo Media Resources, Pacific Cinematheque (Vancouver, Canada), Sarah Lawerence College Experimental Film and Video Festival, Trans Tech 2001: The Toronto International Video Art Biennial, Euro Underground Film Festival (Maribor, Slovenia), Super 8 Film and Video Festival (Rutgers University), From Zine to Screen, Liberty Hall (Portland, Oregon) and New Music and Video Art: Machinohana-San Gallery (Kanazawa, Japan).   Please consult my CV for a complete exhibition listing.

In sum, I have provided an overview of my research and media production interests, experience and future objectives.  If you have any further questions regarding this statement, please feel free to consult my CV or contact me for additional information.

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