Current Research

Main Areas of Research and Interest:

  • Remix Theory
  • Philosophy and Religion in Popular Culture
  • Media and Critical Theory
  • Ironic Activism
  • Pirate Politics
  • Religious Dimensions of Alcohol Production/Consumption
  • Apocalyptic Zombie Narratives
  • Absurdist/Existential Fiction
  • Animal and Environmental Ethics

Much of my recent work engages the emergent field of remix studies with a particular focus on forms of remix that are critical and subversive, but also the metaphorical extension of the concept outside audio-visual applications into culture at large. This has informed work I’ve been doing on new religious movements like The Missionary Church of Kopimism that embrace remix as a sacred act, and trends in certain religious traditions that aim to get back to an “original” form. This is also the focus of my dissertation: in brief, I’m developing a conceptual metaphorical model with remix theory for studying religious traditions, their developments, and practices. The project is currently titled, “Righteous Remixes, Sacred Mashups: Rethinking Authority, Authenticity, and Originality in the Study of Religion.”

A chapter demonstrating some of my dissertation project will be included in the forthcoming The Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities: “Versioning Buddhism: Remix and Recyclability in the Study of Religion.” Here is a preliminary abstract of the chapter:

As part of his larger body of work concerning early Buddhist texts and their contemporary relevance, Buddhist writer and teacher Stephen Batchelor conceived of a basic “software” analogy to distinguish between and categorize the varying forms of Buddhist thought and practice. This chapter builds upon and extends that initial analogy as it further frames the development and evolution of Buddhist traditions through notions of remix, recyclability, and versioning – indicating how Buddhist “programs” interact with each other in an “operating system” to create different and future iterations. While this analysis more narrowly concerns Buddhism, the framework presented here can be ported to other religious traditions as well. Thus, this chapter 1) emphasizes how inherently dialogic developments are within religious traditions, and that points of origin must be reconsidered in light of such cultural dialogue; 2) shows how authenticity within traditions is measured based on what has been legitimated with cultural value and cycled back into an archival space of acceptable remixable data; and 3) indicates how authority operates in relation to ideas of originality and authenticity, and how such operative authority might be challenged when these two concepts are problematized and subverted. Rethinking the development of religious traditions in terms of datasets being remixed and versioned as they evolve and manifest in different times and places demonstrates not just a unique application of remix theory to the study of religion, but how the networked processes underlying cultural traditions at large can be more clearly and critically recognized through concepts and tools unique to a digital age as well.

I am giving a presentation at the upcoming Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) National Conference in June 2021 on a panel with other remix scholars. Our panel explores the area theme of “iteration” in digital communication and media practices through a unique engagement with remix theory. An abstract of the paper I will be presenting is copied below: “Meet The Beatles: Memorizing and Memorializing in Yesterday.”

Versioning is predicated on the fact that an archival legacy of iterative data exists from which subsequent creations can source material as they make adjustments to what has already been created, and music cultures provide some of the best examples of this through the constant processes of sampling, mashing up, and recreating found within them. Such archival legacies signal the ways in which remix practices are intimately connected to memorizing and memorializing – in the necessity of the former to retain elements of a given tradition, in the particular ways the latter captures and presents moments of the past, and in their reciprocity when they become more noticeably conflated. There is perhaps no other musical group as culturally pervasive as The Beatles, and this paper specifically considers how processes of memorizing and memorializing manifest in the film Yesterday (2019). The film revolves around an alternative reality wherein The Beatles suddenly never existed, and the main character, a struggling musician named Jack, is somehow able to remember them when no one else can. Jack spends a brief, wildly successful musical career reproducing (for him) their songs for the very first time (for everyone else), but one of his main struggles is the difficulty he finds in remembering the exact lyrics and arrangements. Since he cannot consult any “texts” and is forced to only draw on what he remembers, the film also uniquely engages with critical discussions surrounding orality and writing across cultural traditions. Thus, this paper draws on the plot of Yesterday in order to demonstrate how iterative processes of remembrance and preservation intersect with questions and concerns over authenticity that emerge amid versioned media.