rhetorician

Critical Clickbait

Cultural Analysis | Rethinking Think Pieces + Critical Clickbait

Our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds suggest that we’re witnessing an explosion of feminist cultural criticism. But do we ‘Like’ it?

This work explores the internet “think piece” as an emerging genre and mode of critical practice that shapes how we experience pop culture.

The often pejorative term “think piece” has been used since the 1930s in reference to journalism where rumination trumps reporting. While still carrying dismissive connotations, today the term points to a form of digital content characterized by clickable headlines, of-the-moment topics, polarizing arguments, and a questionable relationship to the facts.

It’s easy to deride the form for promoting bad journalism, amateur editorializing, armchair activism, and unscholarly appropriation of academic cultural studies concepts. But can we also take it seriously as a hybrid form that opens up new spaces for critical engagement with contemporary culture?

Designed for a world where social media posts are principal drivers of internet traffic even to established news sources, think pieces are built to promote sharing, liking, and reposting. Can the advertising-fueled circulation of an attention-siphoning textual commodity also offer possibilities for community and movement building? Does the form promote feminist conversation about film and other contemporary media, or threaten to take the place of it? Do think pieces circulate at the expense of, or in the service of, actual thinking?

In Media Res

In Media Res

I was invited to participate in a great exchange over at In Media Res on the theme of "Recontextualizing Pop Songs." The format of In Media Res allows for short, timely reflections by scholars, activists, and journalists. It's particularly cool to see the ideas develop in the comments as contributors respond to each other. 

Post-Prince

Post-Prince

I happened to be writing this post during the week that saw the release of Beyonce's Lemonade and the death of Prince. As was the case for many of us, my experience of those pop music events was framed primarily through headlines in my Facebook feed posted by friends. While a few of those headlines were simple news reports, most were think pieces, reflecting on broader cultural issues like race and gender. I put together a quick slideshow to illustrate the point.  

You can find my commentary and slides here: "Rethinking Thinkpieces: Pop Criticism as Pop Culture."

Critical Clickbait

Critical Clickbait

Another piece of this research was presented as a public talk at Columbia College Chicago as part of the Cultural Studies Colloquium Series.