First, you've probably noticed that I haven't written in close to a month. Though I'm not the most frequent blogger by any means, I do try, when possible, to let no more than about two weeks elapse between posts. The last month has been--it would be an understatement to say--incredibly busy, so I've had to forego writing new material for D&R. I appreciate your patience as the semester winds way, way up for me before it starts to wind down.
But my "what a trip" comment also refers to something much more enjoyable--my recent visit to the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. There I had the good fortune of presenting my paper, "Harry Potter and the Culture of the Copy (Warning: Not Endorsed by J. K. Rowling!)," which looks at the Potter phenomenon, authorized and unauthorized works "derived" from the series, and clashes over intellectual property resulting from the boy wizard's global popularity. (The piece I presented is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Late Age of Print.).
What made the trip to Iowa memorable, though, beyond the hospitality and engaging dialogue I had there with faculty and grad students, was my getting to see some of the creative media/cultural activism going on. And in that vein I got to screen a rough cut of Kembrew McLeod's forthcoming documentary, Freedom of Expression®, which is based on his outstanding book by the same name. Mark Andrejevic, meanwhile, sent me link to a great audiovisual mash-up he's put together on the perils of watching too much Fox News. And last but not least, Kembrew alerted me to a recent intervention by a graduate student with whom he's working, Peter Schaefer, who's concerned by how all the championing of the Apple iPod has tended to eclipse the company's sometimes problematic relationship to workers' rights. Check out Peter's iPod and what he's had to say about it:
I attached a photo of my iPod with the inscription of "Apple exploits workers in Longhua, China." It's pretty amazing that Apple was willing to accept a message that is critical of their own suspect iPod labor practices. Working conditions at several sites in China were exposed by the London-based newspaper the Daily Mail last year. Yet Apple rejects inscriptions that condemn the Recording Industry Association of America, refusing messages such as "Rip, Mix, & Burn Down RIAA Headquarters" and "Screwing The RIAA One Download At A Time."Or, as Kembrew put it to me: "Once again, we are reminded that, for the culture industry, copyrights are more important than human rights."
Like I said, what a privilege to have been privy to such smart and punchy work and to have shared the company of an engaging group of people.