I grew up on the edge of Pennsylvania Amish Country, watching plain-clothed people transport vegetables to the farmers market by horse and buggy. And I've lived in far-flung milieux from the Bouches-du-Rhône and Beijing to Bloomington and Brooklyn. Acclimating to diverse lifestyles, languages and landscapes became my modus operandi. I learned to view cultures from the outside, to question the logic of how things “should” be done, and to understand that another way of living is always possible.
Before earning a Ph.D, I considered myself a soup-to-nuts journalist, contributing to a wide range of mediated endeavors. I worked variously as a writer, editor, photographer and page designer for the American Red Cross, China Daily, and Philadelphia City Paper, among other publishers and publicists. I managed the photojournalism lab for Temple University's School of Media and Communication and administered Lehigh University's Office of Media Relations for a while. I also hosted dozens of radio shows as a college/community deejay at WMUH-Allentown and spent some time interning with Tony Michaelides, a British music promoter who plugged for 4AD, Factory and other influential independent labels.
These experiences helped to shape my perspective as a scholar and educator. I began my academic career with an interest in the dialectical relationship between mainstream and alternative conceptions of media. For more than a decade, I’ve been studying alternative media, audiences, social activism and popular culture from critical and cultural perspectives. I also teach courses that weave together popular culture, activism, ethics, interviewing, and social media with a strong emphasis on writing, creativity, civic engagement and critical thinking. I have guided seminars, independent studies and thesis projects looking at topics such as YouTube, The Daily Show, print and analog media, unplugging, teenagers' use of digital devices, and rock criticism.
In studies of the U.N.'s Inter Press Service, Independent Media Centers, and self-published zines, I explored how certain media sources and communication models might constitute “alternatives” in terms of their content, practices, uses of technology and engagements with the public. My work includes an article on “Activists as Interpretive Communities” for the journal Media, Culture & Society, a chapter for the Blackwell book Audience Studies that relates theories of ritual and reception to activist media research, and the very last entry to the International Encyclopedia of Communication: “Zines.” In addition, I am contributing a chapter about Slow Media and fans of printed zines and vinyl records to the new Routledge Companion to Alternative & Community Media.
You might say that my interests have expanded from "alternative media" to "alternatives to media." I created the blog “Slow Media” in 2009 to reflect on living a less-mediated life, and I began curating the online guide “Unplug Your Class” in 2012 to share tips, news, videos and other educational resources for class experiments in digital detox. I’ve talked about unplugging in interviews with the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Radio National program, Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and German public radio as well as newspapers in the United States and Canada. I participated in a streaming panel discussion about social-media addiction with Michael Chiklis (The Shield!) on Huffington Post Live. National Public Radio also featured me in two segments of its Marketplace program focusing on my yearlong project of taking an offline sabbatical.
In new projects, I am examining media business practices and popular unplugging activities from the viewpoint of cultural and environmental sustainability. I derive inspiration from the media ecology perspective of Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, et al. as well as the cultural environment movement of George Gerbner. James Carey, Walter Benjamin and Robert McChesney have left indelible marks, too. Another great theoretical source for me is Slow Food, where I've found a framework for thinking about the influence of media on the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
I live now in New York City with my husband, Michael Fanuzzi, a gardener and wine enthusiast who moonlights as a technologist. We're endlessly entertained by our cats, Quincy and Violet, as well as Repecca, the downy woodpecker who regularly visits our backyard feeder. She's like part of the family and she doesn't know it.