The Right to Look is more our duty than a “right”

Book Cover: The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality by Nicholas Mirzoeff

“RSVP for the Book Launch for Nicholas Mirzoeff’s
The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm at 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, New York, NY

Space is limited and reservations are required. To RSVP, please visit:

Register to attend a reception celebrating the publication of The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Duke University Press, 2011), by Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU.
In The Right to LookNicholas Mirzoeff develops a comparative de-colonial framework for visual culture studies, the field that he helped to create and shape. Casting modernity as an ongoing contest between visuality and countervisuality, or “the right to look,” he explains how visuality sutures authority to power and renders the association natural. Encompassing the Caribbean plantation and the Haitian revolution, anticolonialism in the South Pacific, antifascism in Italy and Algeria, and the contemporary global counterinsurgency, The Right to Look is a work of astonishing geographic, temporal, and conceptual reach.”This event is free and open to the public.


I studied with Nick during a semester “abroad” at NYU, yes, venturing beyond the 14th street divide counts as abroad for many New York City graduate students! (joke). That spring, I took a class in visual culture called “Modernity and Climate Change” in the Media Culture and Communication Studies Department. The class was simply amazing, with the range of discipline and perspectives represented. Our group conversations were candid, intense, exciting and enriching. Nicholas was a confident leader and didn’t overly direct the conversation or derail fruitful trains of thought.

I invited him to speak at the Ninth Annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium where he delivered a talk “Islands of Justice: Imagining Climate Change. He made a big splash with they way he integrated images, and audience assumptions and cultural readings of climate change images and information, specifically that of islanders around the world whose lives are changing at the prospect of climactic shifts and sea-level changes.

He was a truly welcome addition to our roster, a major coup, I might add, and  he represented the start of a rich relationship between NES and NYU. I found him to be an engaging speaker, brilliant thinker, witty, real and personable!

I definitely recommend that people who grapple with visual studies and / or use digital media (as a theoretical foundation, for data collection, analysis or presentation) should attend. If you tell him I sent you, it’ll elicit a smile!

Let me know if you decide to go, I’d love to hear about it!


In New York, if you See something, Blog something!

MTA campaign encouraging us to "police" one another.

Dear Thinkers,

Post 9/11 New York has seen an increasing level of anxiety inducing measures enforced upon the MTA Subway. From not-so-random bag searches, to machine-gun at the ready soldiers at 34th Street, to the ubiquitous “See Something, Say Something” posters with the disembodied pairs of censuring eyes that haunt you all the way home. Even  f you are innocent of wrongdoing…really, when WAS the last time you did your public-transportation based civic duty and reported your suspicions about a fellow MTA rider?

Well, I rarely encounter truly shady seeming folks on the subway, but I sure as hell see some wackiness on the streets of New York City, not the least of which are pressurized Nitrogen canisters on major thoroughfares like 34th Street and Park Avenue as  you see here. I took pictures like these over the course of 4 separate days, each time, noting that nothing is being said aboput this thing that we can all clearly, SEE. In the photo below you can see where the nitrogen leak presents as a white frost on the exterior of these 5ft tall canisters.

The white frost indicates a leak








Here is a pic of a pedestrian walking calmly by…

Somebody tell me again…why is this okay? How could it possibly be safe and why is no one saying anything?






Someone like this this Traffic Cop, he might be the best possible person to report such a public hazard…


Or maybe, Panopticon spying on fellow citizens using our preconceived notions and biases is fruitless. How about we hold authorities accountable instead of turning in other civilians.


As of November, these canisters were removed with little fanfare. The Gothamist reported in 2008 that these canisters were harmless under most any possible NYC experience. I don’t know how deeply I believe it, but I am willing to believe that most of what any frazzled, almost broke, time-constrained New Yorker could dish out would increase the danger potential of these canisters. Doesn’t it then stand to logic that the See Something, Say Something Campaign is a ruse at making us feel secure? The 9/11 attacks affected the trains but did not originate there, why make an already mostly unpleasant riding experience rife with social spying and mistrust.

The coal industry gives their two cents…

Hello Thinkers!

(Watch the latest Anti-Clean Coal ad campaign. Its short and funny!)

I know, long time no hear from! But here I am, today was a news day and I must react to the madness in my inbox! I came across a blog posting on about the coal industry’s reticence to fund and develop clean coal technology that would make possible the capture and storage of coal pollution. The thrust of the article is essentially that coal companies have admitted to incredibly low spending on clean coal research and technology. The article cites various sources that provide this information, including a statement from “the CEO of Duke Energy, a major producer of coal power:

Asked how much Duke Energy has invested in carbon sequestration technology so far,” Rogers said, “We have not invested any dollars in the technology, per say. We have spent a lot of time and money reviewing and analyzing the various technologies.” “

Well, to this, I say “REALLY?” Of course the coal companies are not going to invest in clean coal technology. It isn’t realistic or ‘good business’ for them to do so! We live in a capitalist regime which is based on models of surplus and scarcity. Usually we HAVE a surplus, but corporations and manufacturers make it seem scarce for as long as possible so as to keep prices high. For example, think about how the hottest technologies, iphones, wii’s etc begin with a short supply and premium prices. Over time, there are more of them and the price drops. From the debut date, the producers have the stock ready that they don’t make available. The pretense is usually one of scarcity or ‘rareness’ so that people will spend early and much for elite, early access to the product.

So is the same with coal production and distribution, we have been mining and burning coal SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION…at least in massive climate changing quantities, for sure. In over one century of mining, isn’t it reasonable to expect that the coal industry would have amassed a gargantuan surplus? For them to truly fund clean coal technology now, they will have lost all the potentiated surplus that is the coal that has already been mined and not sold. It will only be  when all possible coal stores are exploited that business will fully and deliberately look toward alternate forms of energy on which to capitalize. I posit, that until that day, coal companies will continue to set aside only 2-cents of every profit dollar toward clean coal technology. It is not a profitable research venture to fund right now, and this clearly shows that coal companies are not concerned with climate change as much as they are enthralled by the prospect of continued profits using their antiquated energy product.

What do you think?