Andrew Mall graduated in June 2003 with a Masters of Arts in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. His previous academic work in music composition, theoretical computer science, educational technologies, and graphic design has fostered an interest in intersections between cultural anthropology, critical media theory, and popular ethnomusicology. His MA thesis, “Building nothing out of something: constructing trans-local community through independent music subcultures” is the result of readings in cultural theory and punk rock discourse that serve to contextualize a series of interviews with musicians and record label owners, case studies of independent zines, and ethnographic observations within independent music scenes in Chicago and elsewhere.
If we take independent music subcultures (as identified by Hebdige) and recognize that they truly encompass many facets of life (in addition to simply music and fashion, as Hebdige asserts), we see that many portions of scenes do not rely on the music itself, and sometimes aren’t even informed by music qua music. Instead, interactions (and here we may term them mediations) such as weblogs, zines, vegan cafes, publishing houses, and so on are rooted in the post-punk scene via a do-it-yourself aesthetic and a political ethos essential to maintaining a vibrant and valid community in the face of the corporate music industry. It is this observation that leads Andrew to believe that further ethnographic and theoretical study of these forms of media (specifically including audience interaction) is necessary to come to a full understanding of independent music scenes and their place within society at large.
Andrew’s current work includes a refinement of his thesis for workshop and later conference presentation, expansion of interviews and case studies for various non-academic publications, and smaller essays on media nostalgia, unfamiliar recontextualization of familiar media, and the semiotics of musical notation. He is also currently looking for a job. Inspirations include Roland Barthes, the Birmingham School, Aaron Cometbus, the Frankfurt School, Larry Grossberg, Tim Kinsella, Ian MacKaye, Rainer Maria Rilke, Henry Miller, Jack Saturn, Tim Taylor, Irvine Welsh, and a little-known record released in 1987 entitled Appetite for Destruction.
Chicago School Media Theory: Reading List
Media Theory Keywords Glossary: analog, digital
Taxonomy of Media: model
Theories of Media Annotation: R. L. Rutsky’s “Technological Fetishism and the Techno-Cultural Unconscious,” in High Techne
Theories of Media Guest Presentation (2004): “Community, Authenticity, and Independent Music”