Defining the “cool sell”

Newsflash, Internet friends and media lovers!
Your Ad Here, a new addition to our stellar Postmillenial Pop series, publishes this Friday, April 5.

The book explores the rise of guerrilla marketing (think: covert, even creepy, commercial persuasion)—and what author Michael Serazio calls the “cool sell” approach, defined for us below.

cool sell
noun, verb, pranks, stunts

  1. A way to cut through the clutter of competing information.  
  2. By definition, an allusion to McLuhan. 
  3. A financial model that could save/destroy the media industries. 
  4. The reason Heineken paid $45 million to get in the hands of James Bond. 
  5. As Kalle Lasn suggested, the opiate of our time. 
  6. How Pabst Blue Ribbon hooked the hipsterati. 
  7. Corporate street art and branded flash mobs. 
  8. Why your buzz agent friends might sell you out for a free sample. 
  9. Manufacturing authenticity; AstroTurfing the grassroots. 
  10. Scheming memes for your tweets and status updates. 
  11. The pretense of populism that comes with “going viral.” 
  12. How Blair Witch became the most profitable movie ever. 
  13. Rethinking the medium itself used for advertising. 
  14. A new book from NYU Press available April 5.

NYU Press celebrates Black History Month!

February marks the month-long celebration of the history, influences, and contributions of African American people and culture. To honor Black History Month this year, we’re offering 20% off some of our favorite books in African American studies and history. (Check out the full list, with discounted prices, here.)

The offer ends on February 28, 2013, but not the celebration! This spring, we’re publishing titles in African American studies that are sure to become classics. Take a sneak peek at the forthcoming books below.

In Ghosts of Jim Crow, F. Michael Higginbotham convincingly argues that America remains far away from the  imagined utopia of a post-racial society. Using history as a roadmap, Higginbotham arrives at a provocative solution for ridding the nation of Jim Crow’s ghost, suggesting that legal and political reform can successfully create a post-racial America, but only if it inspires whites and blacks to significantly alter behaviors and attitudes.

» READ: The book’s introduction.

Mark Anthony Neal’s Looking for Leroy is an engaging and provocative analysis of the complex ways in which black masculinity has been read and misread through contemporary American popular culture. In examining figures such as hip-hop artist Jay-Z, the late vocalist Luther Vandross, and characters from the HBO series The Wire, among others, Neal demonstrates how distinct representations of black masculinity can break the links in the public imagination that create antagonism toward black men.

» READ: Love in the Stacks: Some Thoughts on Black History Month” (Huffington Post)

In We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, renowned scholar-activist Akinyele Umoja persuasively argues that armed resistance was critical to the efficacy of the southern freedom struggle and the dismantling of segregation. He challenges long-held beliefs about the role of nonviolence within the civil rights movement and uncovers the hidden narratives of Mississippi’s black armed resistance groups.

» VIEW: “
Dr. Akinyele Umoja On Alfred ‘Skip’ Robinson

Stay tuned for more on these titles, and more, throughout Black History Month!

New-model publishing at MLA

—Monica McCormick

In January, I went to the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (MLA) for the first time. It was an illuminating and energizing few days. In my job as head of NYU’s digital publishing office, a joint effort of NYU Libraries and NYU Press, I help to develop and implement strategies for engaging with scholars who produce new-model publications. For the Press, these strategies are central to our shift, now well underway, from being solely a print-book publisher to becoming a publisher of scholarship in a variety of forms and media.

So I have paid attention to the growing emphasis at MLA (as well as at academic conferences across the disciplines) in the digital humanities (DH). Notoriously tricky to define in brief, DH is a wide-ranging field that includes scholars who employ computational methods to study traditional evidence like literary texts, historical data, and cultural artifacts, and those who use humanistic methods to understand digital media and culture. This work results not only in print and digital books or journals, but also in databases, digital archives, online maps, complex visualizations, and more.

via @robincamille

Some of the highest-profile events at MLA were focused on DH, including a presidential forum, Avenues of Access: Digital Humanities and the Future of Scholarly Communication, immediately preceded by a panel on The Dark Side of Digital Humanities that engendered considerable debate on Twitter even as it occurred. These two could be read as the ends of the continuum of arguments about DH – its potential and its risks.

During my time at the DH and scholarly communication sessions, I focused on how publishers might find new ways of engaging with such work. The takeaways: We see not only tremendous variety in publishing modes and formats (text, audio, video, games, and combinations of those) but also shared concerns about how to assess, share, cite and preserve these new publication types for future scholars. Whatever we at NYU Press build and however we distribute it, we’ll have to grapple with these issues.

The panel I was on, “Beyond the PDF: Experiments in Open Access Scholarly Publishing,” presented five different publishing projects that rely on technology as diverse as listservs, blogging platforms, and purpose-built software to publish scholarship. I discussed MediaCommons, the NYU-supported digital scholarly network, and our focus not only on providing access to the content but also on tools for collaboration and engagement with it. Though each panelist’s projects had different emphases, we are all working on how to peer review new-model publications and how to demonstrate the quality and impact of this work so that it can be evaluated for tenure and promotion.

Another key theme was the relationship between work that appears online, then in print, and perhaps back to online, addressed in the panel Rewards and Challenges of Serial Scholarship. A generative example is Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew Gold of CUNY and published by Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press. The two of them first met via Twitter, where they were part of the same loose network of folks discussing DH. At MLA 2011, they hatched the idea for this book, which assembles a series of essays, many of which originated as blog posts. The print book was published only a year later, in time for MLA 2012, following a peer-review process where the contributors read and commented on each other’s work and the Press solicited its usual reviews. Then, at this year’s MLA, they released an interactive open-access online edition. Readers’ engagement with the material online is expected to lead to a new print edition in due course. Everything about this project, from its genesis online, through its editorial development and review, to the mix of publication types, strikes me as helpful for thinking through what new-model publishing requires.

As NYU Press moves forward with new-model publishing, we will look for projects that help us to learn new skills and engage with scholars and their audiences in innovative ways, as we maintain our emphasis on quality, cutting-edge scholarship. What I saw at MLA underlines my conviction that the future of scholarly publishing will not force us into binary choices (print vs. digital, paid vs. free, “traditional” vs. “experimental”) but will, rather, require us to balance many possibilities.

Monica McCormick is the Program Officer for Digital Scholarly Publishing at New York University. Read an interview with Monica, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, here. You can also find her on Twitter @moncia.

February theme of the month: Unconventional love

Has Valentine’s Day and its sappy accounts of saccharine romance got you down? Don’t worry–the folks at NYU Press are here to offer alternative accounts of love and relationships!

Michael Cobb takes on the idea of the relationship itself in his work Single, which examines the discourses surrounding “singleness” in film, art, theory, literature, and, through his analysis of HBO’s Big Love, even television. His provocative argument challenges the notion that being in a couple is required (or even desirable) for engaging with society, and offers an alternative perspective on being without a partner. Being single, it appears, might not be so bad after all.

But if you still have relationships on your mind, then you may want to check out David Shumway’s Modern Love, which traces the development of a new language of “intimacy” over the course of the twentieth century. Shumway theorizes that when marriage lost its institutional powers of controlling and distributing property, new conceptions of and ways of talking about love had to be attached to it–all of which can be squarely located in just about every Woody Allen film ever made. Tracing the shift in emphasis (but not mere replacement) from “romance” to “intimacy” through advice columns, self-help books, Hollywood screwball comedies, and a variety of other texts, Shumway offers a meditation on what it means to love in the modern age.

While Shumway offers an account for twentieth-century love, we might wonder: what does love in the twenty-first century look like? In Love and Empire, Felicity Amaya Schaeffer examines the oddities of cybermarriage and internet romance, particularly their roles in the relationship between Latin America and the United States. Tracking the global trajectory of the twenty-first-century commercialization of intimacy, Schaeffer finds Latin American women fashion themselves through the lens of the erotic to transform themselves into ideal citizens of both their home countries and the United States. These stories not only offer us glimpses into the relationships between contemporary individuals, but also a look at the convoluted relationship between Latin America and the United States.

Offering an alternative look at marriage and traditional concepts of love and intimacy is José Esteban Muñoz, who argues in Cruising Utopia that pragmatic, assimilationist concerns such as marriage only put a halt to the radical and future-bound agenda of the LGBTQ community. Through looking to the past and examining works in queer (and not so queer) archives, Muñoz paves a way to the radical and hopeful future, one where the newly-invigorated LGBTQ community can stop being stifled by pragmatic concerns of the present and instead continue on its radically future-bound course.

These works offer a starting point for books, events and articles we will highlight throughout the month. Look forward to updates here on our blog and our Tumblr!

Dads are parents, too

—Gayle Kaufman

In a recent Atlantic piece, Alexis Coe writes about different expectations of and reactions to mothers and fathers. On the one hand, people expect “very involved” fathers to do less than “very involved” mothers. On the other hand, when fathers do the same thing as mothers they are praised, while mothers remain invisible. Coe argues for people to react to involved fathers in a way that “is not judgmental or evaluative, but still positive.”

“Look! There in the playground, with the stroller and diaper bag! It’s Superdad!”

While I agree that fathers should be as involved as mothers and engage in all aspects of parenting, I don’t have a problem with praising the actions of involved dads. Being evaluative means considering the value or worth of something. In this case, fathers who take care of their children are engaging in a very worthwhile activity. To be fair, mothers do much of the valuable work of caregiving. In an ideal world, we might not speak of “mothers” and “fathers” but of “parents”—and we might praise all parents for the important work they do. But we are not quite there yet.

Coe suggests that when people react in the wrong way (perhaps in the form of misguided praise), gender differences, rather than equity, will be encouraged. She gives the example of parents avoiding calling their daughters “pretty” or “dolls.” But the other side of this is that parents instead call their daughters “smart.” While we might not want to flip it completely by calling sons “dolls,” we should encourage more nurturing behaviors in boys and men.

Consider how much we praise women who succeed in business and politics. Think Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Sheryl Sandberg. Men in similar positions don’t receive as much attention. My point is that we want more women in business and politics and we react (mostly) favorably when they get there. I think it’s okay if we do the same for men.

I don’t want to overblow this issue. I’m sure Coe and I would agree on a lot. I just think there’s room for superdads.

Gayle Kaufman is Professor of Sociology at Davidson College and a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholar. She is author of Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century (NYU Press, June 2013).

Introduction to Spreadable Media

At long last, Spreadable Media by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green has published!

This week marked the book’s debut, along with the final roll out of web exclusive essays, all available in the enhanced online component to the book. Written by a range of contributors, from media scholars to game designers, the essays expand upon the core ideas outlined in Spreadable Media. Read them here.

To wrap up the week, we’re also featuring the full introduction to Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture for free (in the name of spreadability). Read it below. And remember to spread!

Introduction to Spreadable Media

Waiting for democracy

—Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

Last November, thousands of citizens waited for hours outside polling places to cast their ballots in the presidential election. When asked why they were willing to wait, most answered in the emphatic language of democratic pride. It is our duty. It is our right. It is our calling as citizens. We are proud to.

Every day in courthouses across America, there are other lines of waiting citizens—lines for jury duty. There are lines to get into the courthouse, lines to check in, lines before you head to the courtroom for jury selection. Yet, if you ask those jurors why they were willing to wait, the language is less emphatic, less proud.

Why do we think of voting as something more connected to our democratic identity?  Why of the twin political rights of voting and jury service—the two markers of full political citizenship—do we value the right to vote more? The answer is that we misunderstand the value and values of jury service to democracy.

Why Jury Duty Matters sets out to reframe the debate by showing the importance of jury service to our democracy. To understand the value of jury service you need to understand its history, its constitutional connection, and its personal relevance to citizenship.

First, the history of the jury is the history of America. The right to a jury trial came over on the first boats to America. Jury protections can be found in the charters that founded the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies. Juries were instituted in the constitutions of each of the Thirteen Colonies and each of the new States. In fact, the denial of the right to a jury trial made it into the Declaration of Independence as one of the grievances of the colonists, helping to spark the Revolutionary War. Not surprisingly then, the right to a criminal jury trial is the only right that makes an appearance in both the original text of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights—under Article III and the Sixth Amendment, respectively. Further, you also have the Seventh Amendment’s right to a civil jury and the Fifth Amendment’s right to a Grand Jury.

Then, as America democratized and diversified, the jury was central to the battle for equality. The civil rights movement in the South began by challenging exclusions from jury service. The right to serve as a juror was a badge of citizenship—symbolizing equality. The women’s suffrage movement (both before and well after the Nineteenth Amendment) also involved a particular emphasis on the right to serve as jurors. Equality meant voting and having the right to jury service. Today, paralleling the progress of the various civil rights movements, jurors represent a fair cross section of society, a living symbol of equality in law.

This constitutional history is real, yet most people do not appreciate it when it comes to jury service. Jury duty is the one time where constitutional history and constitutional theory become immediately relevant, because you—the citizen—are a constitutional actor. We—the people—must act, and Why Jury Duty Matters explores why you should accept the call as a constitutional actor.

Second, the jury is a teaching moment where constitutional values come alive in practice. Participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, accountability, liberty, dissent, and the common good—these are constitutional values, and they are embedded in jury service. While voting is one form of participation, jury service is an even more fundamental contribution. It requires working through those other principles, applying due process rules to achieve fairness, deliberating with others, dissenting with tolerance, and practicing equality in a microcosm of one-person, one-vote democracy in the jury room.

These values are also values that we see in other areas of our democratic practice. But in jury service the lessons are longer, the questions deeper, and the practice harder. It is for that reason that Alexis de Tocqueville likened juries to free public schools, always open to teach the civic skills of democracy.

Finally, jury service is personally meaningful. It is the one day that you are required to act like a constitutional citizen. The argument in this book is that you should treat that jury summons like a constitutional invitation. You get to experience it for a day, or more, and hopefully learn a thing or two about your country and the Constitution.

Jury duty is Constitution duty. It is a way for citizens, ordinary folks, to connect to the constitutional principles that guide this nation. Most people see jury duty as a service they do for the court system or for the defendant or parties. But in truth, jury duty is also for the citizen. Jury duty provides constitutional lessons necessary for democracy.

So the next time you are waiting on jury duty, remember you are waiting for democracy. It is just as important as your vote.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson is Professor of Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. He is co-author of Youth Justice in America and author of Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action.

NYU Press award-winning book designs!

We are so excited to announce that the NYU Press has won three design awards in the 2013 New York Book Show!

Sponsored by the Bookbinders’ Guild of New York, the New York Book Show celebrates excellence in book design and production. The event is a North American competition, with only five awards given per entry category. Thus, we have some prestigious company, including Alfred A. Knopf, McGraw Hill, Oxford University Press, Penguin, Princeton University Press, Random House, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Congratulations to our design team! Here are the winning book designs:

Winner in Scholarly/Professional Book Design
Designer: (our very own) Adam Bohannon

Winner in Scholarly/Professional Cover Design
Designer: Charles B. Hames (also from NYU Press)

Winner in Scholarly/Professional Book Set Design
Designer: Kathleen Szawiola

5 NYU Press books named Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012

We are *thrilled* to announce five (yep, count ‘em—FIVE) NYU Press books have been named Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012.

Honoring “the best of the best” in scholarly publishing, Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles list contains just over 9 percent of some 7,000 works reviewed in Choice during the past year (and less than 3 percent of more than 25,000 titles submitted during this same period). You can find the entire list in the January 2013 issue of Choice.

In celebration, NYU Press is offering 20 percent off each title. Enter promo code CHOICE13 at check out to save on all five award-winners, including The Tender Cut; Planned Obsolescence; Highway under the Hudson; A Troubled Marriage; and The Bully Society. Offer expires February 15, 2013.

Congratulations to our authors, editors, and to everyone who worked on these books!

Announcing our Spring 2013 Catalog…

NYU Press Spring 2013 Catalog is now online, featuring an exciting range of new books in history, media studies, law, and more!

Highlights include:
TWO PRESIDENTS ARE BETTER THAN ONE: Making the case for a two-party, two-person presidency, this “pipe dream of a book” presents a “novel and provocative thesis worth hearing out” (Kirkus Reviews).

A DEATH AT CROOKED CREEK: Marion Wesson, author of best-selling and prize-winning legal novels including Render up the Body, combines drama and intrigue  with cutting-edge forensic investigation techniques and legal theory in this superbly imagined historical novel.

CAPITAL OF THE WORLD: Charlene Mires tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in an extraordinary race to host the U.N. headquarters at a pivotal moment in history.

(You can also click here to access this catalog via our website, or find our catalogs available on Edelweiss.)

Soft soil, black grapes—and choice holiday wines

—Simone Cinotto

My book, Soft Soil, Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California began while I was researching for another project on the foodways of Italian immigrants in New York, 1900-1940 (The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City, forthcoming next fall).

During my research, I began to notice that almost all of the wine and wine grapes Italian New Yorkers consumed during the early 1900s were produced and shipped through the North American continent by other Italian immigrants in California. I thus set out to discover the dynamics of this vast ethnic market. The first step was to deconstruct the popular myth—as widespread in my native Piemonte (Italy) as it was in existing scholarship—that California functioned as the ideal environment to where Northern Italian immigrants could easily transplant their traditional winemaking skills. Actually, none of these pioneers had any prior training in the business, and, lacking any significant capital, had to work their way up by transforming cheap patches of land into vineyard (this made possible by the intensive labor of their fellow contadino immigrants).

It wasn’t the “soft soil” that provided Northern Italian immigrant winemakers with a decisive edge over competitors—but instead their ability to navigate the complex racial scenario of turn-of-the-twentieth-century California. The presence of disenfranchised Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican grape workers, coupled with the discrimination Italian laborers faced at the hands of Anglo winemakers, helped these immigrant wine entrepreneurs secure a skilled and loyal labor force with low social conflict. Northern Italian immigrant winemakers were then able to present themselves in the eyes of the white elites of San Francisco and Los Angeles as the last offspring of a classic culture of wine, reliable ethnic leaders, and enthusiastic believers in the gospel of American capitalism.

Perhaps because of my difficulty in reconciling with my own past, it was only at the end of my work that I realized how autobiographical my story was. My father grew up in a small village in the Alps, not far from the French border—a place where almost all working-age men, and some women, had left in search of jobs in the coal mines of Southern Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, and California. Many had later sent for their spouses or families; some had managed to raise their own farm, cultivate grapes, and make their beloved wine in their new land.

My father was born later, in 1938. In the 1950s, he immigrated to Turin, which at the time was experiencing a population boom—mostly the influx of “dark” Southern Italians—because of the expanding auto industry. As he was educated and well read despite his social extraction, he soon landed a white-collar job with the Italian National Railroads. Yet he remained a wine drinker of the working-class kind. He bought his wine in bulk from a producer in the Monferrato region who shipped to Turin. Since he wanted to have hands-on knowledge of what he drank (decades before this became fashionable) he asked his purveyor to work for him in the picking, and the first phases of winemaking, every vintage for a few years. This meant, beginning one September when I was eight or nine, he would drag me to his friend’s place in Calosso d’Asti to  accompany him as he worked in the vineyards and cellar. Against my will, for weekends after that, I kept him company in the dark, small basement of our apartment house in Turin as he transferred the wine from the demijohns into bottles—just as thousands of the immigrant consumers I describe in my book did. I dreaded the experience, which I recall also because it was down there that I got sickly drunk for the first (and perhaps the last) time, furtively tasting the bubbling purple liquid that ran through that funny plastic hose.

As you see, I am not that nostalgic for those times. Yet to this day, the wines that my father bottled during those weekends in the early 1970s (Barbera and Dolcetto) are among my favorites, and I cannot think of wines that are more representative of the story of the people who travelled half the world to recreate their wine culture in California. The wines made from Barbera and Dolcetto grapes are the most rooted in the traditional everyday cooking of the Piemonte region (much more so than the famed, complex, and sophisticated wines of the Nebbiolo family: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Gattinara). Both Barbera and Dolcetto are wines of important character, whose flavors span from chestnuts to berries, and unique tastes reflect the different terroirs of Southern Piemonte. In fact, these grapes are truly manifestoes of the cultural and biodiversity of the region. There are important differences between the two: Dolcetto tends to be more fruity and acidic; Barbera is more tannic, ranging from sparkling light to seasoned and strong. Yet again, both wines are great with homemade egg pasta or risotto and meats—from stewed and roasted beef to pork, from frog to rabbit or snails.

I hope you might consider spending some time this holiday season reading my book and tasting some nice Barbera and Dolcetto; the two will make for an interesting and pleasurable combination. I truly wish you all fantastic holidays and much happiness.

Simone Cinotto teaches History at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. He also taught at NYU as “Tiro a Segno” Visiting Professor in Italian American Studies.

New Spreadable Media essays: Week 3

We’re at week three since launching the online component of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture!

Here are this week’s round of web exclusive essays written by selected contributors who have shaped the argument put forth in Spreadable Media:

  • The Value of Retrogames“—Bob Rehak, a film and media studies professor at Swarthmore College, examines how grassroots interest in residual media and culture may coalesce online, sparking new kinds of cultural practices and production.
  • Clothing has passed between different kinds of exchanges for centuries, acquiring different meanings and values in the process—and, in “A Global History of Secondhand Clothing,” filmmaker and MIT media historian Hanna Rose Shell traces and examines those shifting sartorial roles.
  • In “Retrobrands and Retromarketing,” York University professor Robert V. Kozinets discusses the strategies through which companies engage in “retrobranding,” reviving or relaunching brands from the past in ways that capitalize on existing fandoms and provide launching points for the creation of new markets.

Check ‘em out, and stay tuned at—where each week leading up to the book’s publication (in January 2013!), a new batch of exclusive essays will be released.

(And hey! Feel free to debate/critique/trash each piece in the comments section. Expand the conversation, transform the ideas. That’s how spreadable media works.)