2010. Cultural Farming: Critical TV Ethnography and Civic Mediaturgy

How TV/media is produced conditions much of our communication, thus what I am mostly concerned with today is the profound lack of reflexivity and critical craftsmanship throughout professional and “social” media production because, whether apparent or not, choices made during production are expressions of power and thus political.  Much of my work is an attempt to “shock” into public awareness the notion of tools and techniques as an originating “mouthpiece” of ethical media communication.  Here, I offer McLuhan (1968), “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”   Likewise I submit in 2010, that despite growing TV/media production proficiencies, we continue to neglect how we become both what we behold… and hold.

2009.  Cultural Farming, Copyright and Fair Use-Dealings

The purpose of this paper is to address liability concerns of appropriating U.S. media (and Internet) content, while living in Canada and pursuing critical research for a PhD at an Australian university.  Where appropriation, remix and dissemination of common media content could be construed as both ethically and legally troublesome, this paper argues that alongside ongoing confusions, debates and fear surrounding copyright restrictions, existing international legal language actually protects and even encourages (although this has yet to be fully contested) Cultural Farming’s brand of research.”

  1. 2009.  Cultural Farming, TV, Visual Methods and the Ethics of Failure

1st International Visual Methods Conference, University of Leeds, UK

“Contrary to recent obituaries, television is not going away anytime soon.  Indeed, TV remains the ‘fattest’ visual and rhetorical ‘pipe’ into most western homes today, and so its potential for learning and teaching are almost boundless.  Television’s influence is increasing not decreasing, providing the richest resource for visual data-mining we have today.  However, too many visual scholars marginalize TV.  It is dismissed as ‘old-school’ and seen as considerably less ‘sexy’ than ‘new’ media, the internet or virtualites like Second Life.  Today, writing about television is ‘horse-and-buggy’”.

2009.  Cultural Farming and Montage

“Where montage extends beyond mere expressive editing, its relevance lays within the explosion of new meaning created between and amongst intentional collisions; this is something more than simple juxtaposition.  And within Cultural Farming these explosions are thoroughly more formidable than mere quick-editing, surrealism or bricolage alone.  Indeed, Russian montage collisions implore viewers to actively participate liminally, politically, reciprocally, making an excellent tool-method for critically examining TV news production and presentation -- exactly at the intersections of interpretation.“

2008.  Framing Cultural Farming: U.S. TV News and/or Journalism

“In this paper, I clarify which non-fictional journalistic TV-media is targeted for study and why by tracing TV’s historical evolution as framed through Cultural Farming’s appropriation and remix research interests.  The varieties of video research in Cultural Farming represent experiments for challenging and provoking television practice, production, and presentation.  Through a variety of investigative techniques one begins to value the import of appropriation as a recuperative means of communicating back to TV using its own language and technique.  This approach to television ‘talk-back’, however, is grounded most specifically in a particular genre of non-fictional journalistic moving imagery: U.S. TV News.”

2008.  Cultural Farming and Critical Ethnography

“For Cultural Farming:  Critical purpose is emancipation of cultural members from ideologies that are not to their benefit and not (necessarily) of their creation.  Critical thinking attempts to break open power, oppression, taken-for-granted 'realities’, and ideologies.  In this way, critical ethnography (a genre of cultural writing) goes beyond much quantitative and qualitative description of our culture by also ‘action-ing’ for change; by challenging false-consciousness and ideologies exposed through investigative examination.”

2008.  Cultural Farming: Interpretation, Reflection, Reflexivity

“It took time for Cultural Farming to come to terms with these scholars’ claims for reflexivity and demystification.  Not only is reflexivity considered anathema to art and design’s historical (and self-perpetuated) claim to production as something akin to a ‘mysterious’ process; within previous iterations of Cultural Farming, I typically balked at even the slightest inferences of ‘personal stance’ fearing this alone could be construed as a kind narcissistic advancement of ‘celebrity’ so pervasive throughout contemporary social media.  After 35 years of performing backstage, comfortably beyond the limelight, it took a considerable amount of convincing to understand the ethnographical importance of claiming true public authorship and ownership by stating one’s (sometimes uncomfortable) personal position within one’s case.“

2008.   Cultural Farming and Anthropological Film

“With anthropological film more ‘lenses’ of theory and methodology are drawn into Cultural Farming’s research composite.  While much has already been said of anthropological film elsewhere, this section provides wider guidance for media research situated within an established field with established practice; albeit a visual practice that carries with it its own internal controversy in today’s camera-screen world.”

2008.  Cultural Farming: Bricolage, Surrealism and Parody

“Without question, I've been performing bricolage throughout my professional life.  Trompe l'oeil, assemblage and juxtaposition as means of textual visualization are second nature to my theatrical and television careers -- and they have been entirely so since 2004 with my initial video experiments in Cultural Farming.  Indeed, even my extensive usage of quotations within the body of this confirmation proposal is but another example of my natural predilection.  Likewise, it is reminiscent of Walter Benjamin's obsession with collecting quotations.“


Too much block text?  Try understanding all these words another way.


2007.  Is Google smarter than Sociology?: How a farm boy learned to stop worrying and enact the visual.

“The import of sociology is to study in our culture, not around it, or after it.  TV could, I suppose, be seen as some exotic, tribal Other, but it remains the fattest visual pipe into most homes today.  And while none of us can predict the future, contrary to recent obituaries, TV ain't going anywhere.  Ruppert Murdoch knows it, and so does Google.  In fact, it is hard to find any newscast that does not regularly include unattributed video from so-called “social media” venues - like YouTube and FaceBook - aired as legitimate news content.  Today, we're witnessing a critical rupture in traditional communication, with every man for himself.  Media rules and regulations - like copyright - are in stunning free-fall on all fronts.”

2005.  Hurricane Katrina: A TV News Disaster (and scholarship disaster)

“The Visual Communication Quarterly editorial statement reads that it is a “peer-reviewed journal of theory, research, practical criticism, and creative work in all areas of visual communication.”  And that “Methods range from tightly controlled quantitative studies through critical analysis, essays, qualitative scholarship and creative art.”  Additionally, the call for submissions included, ‘All approaches to scholarship or visual expression are welcome’.”

1996.  Provoking a Plugged Planet.

“I don't have to tell you that the (media) infrastructure is already in place - and that we are people who will make those images.  We are the designers of this new universal language.  We are designing the future modes of communication.  And language is the central component of any cultural structure.  Don't get me wrong here.  I'm not a Luddite.  I'm not preaching the evils of technology, nor espousing the return to some agrarian civilization.  My concern instead, is that - in our haste to fill this new insatiable desire for more images - are we designers taking the time to evaluate our role in the new world?”

  1. 1996. Lecture Series:  German Design Universities

“I have a curious relationship with television. You've seen some of that already in my approach to my work.  But now, I want to speak briefly about my grave concerns for the "idea" of television.  American television.  For those of you not who have not traveled in the states during the past 3 or 4 years - and have not witnessed the recent and profound changes in American television - comprehension of our fast-mutating media environment may be vague at best.”

  1. 1996. Teach Your Children

I doubt the very possibility of a correct way to teach digital art for the broadcast environment...because, we are trapped into emphasizing output, instead of process.  The only real responsibility in teaching - any teaching - is overcoming every student's suckling expectation of getting spoon-fed answers of truth, in tiny, bite-size...crispy times two... morsels.  But the ‘reality’ is there can be no truths when teaching today’s embryonic digerati, particularly when the Holy Grail of computer design education is the endless chase for more and faster technologies.”

  1. 1995. Light and Structure

“Early on, I learned two simple rules about light.  One: You can't stop light.  Two: Light does not turn corners.  That may sound simple - but, it took me a long time to discover that.  Then, the next semester, I learned that light cannot exist without shadow.  It was only by the third year that we learned light really does just three things:  Light illuminates.  Light colors objects.  And light invokes emotion.  Hey, grad school was tough.”

1993.   TV’s Big Lie

“As television designers, we are the mercenaries... video witch-doctors.  Our waking hours are spent creating new addictions - impossible to hold, feel, taste or smell.  Bombarding visions screaming to be the better exception.  We are the purveyors of these new graven images.”

1990.   Big Risk Set Design

“How is it you can travel from coast to coast and see the very same news set - time, after time, after time?  That big bulky anchor desk, the phony newsrooms, chromakey, monitor walls, graphics-boxes, photomurals of the city skylines, bad weather maps..., all of that thin metallic gold striping around the edges of everything.  The "Eyewitness... ActionNewsCenter" stuff.  It really blows my mind.  Even all the music sounds the same.  Where did all of this come from?  Is that the best we can do?


The notion of tautology in propositional calculus was first developed in the 20th century by Charles Sanders Peirce, a major logician and a founder of Pragmatism and Semiotics.

The name tautology, however, was introduced by one of the founding fathers of Linguistic Analysis, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who argued in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) that all necessary propositions are tautologies and that there is, therefore, a sense in which all necessary propositions say the same thing—in other words, nothing at all.

In rhetoric, a tautology is an unnecessary or unessential  repetition of meaning, using different and dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing twice... as the above words do for the videos found throughout Cultural Farming.



An American, living

in Canada, now spending his life experimenting with new forms of critical media ethnography.