The Chicago School of Media Theory > Members > Nick Oberly

Nick Oberly


Nicholas Oberly is a third year student in the college at the University of Chicago, and these are his words:

During the course of the last year my academic interests have become inextricably tied to the newly formed Chicago School of Media Theory, a group expanding into new questions of technology, postmodernity, and criticism. The Chicago School stands at the edge of a new theoretical frontier, beyond the old techniques of literary deconstruction and discourse analysis to the unfettered examination of a world in the midst of a media revolution. This is not to say that we will be dealing with questions limited to the structure of media apparatuses, but instead, that the Chicago School will prove that media theory must necessarily underlie all other socio-cultural studies. But enough of the School, for it is my own space within the group to which I will now turn.

So who am I? I must confess that I lack the sense of a cohesive, unified self that seems to have been implanted in most others. Nevertheless, my 'selves,' if you can call them such, have identifiable thoughts and mechanisms which can characterize me as an entity. And to avoid confusion, I can reduce those selves to a set of academic interests, relevant to my participation in the Chicago School. The topic of the split subject brings me to psychoanalytic theory, one of my primary areas of specialty. Currently I am studying the immense body of literature produced and surrounding Jacques Lacan, including a focus on the work of the contemporary theorist Slavoj Zizek. Over the summer my colleague Mal and I will be examining a series of texts selected by Professor W. J. T. Mitchell exploring Lacan's influences, in order to better understand The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis.

Yet, I must also admit to being even more deeply indebted to Lacan's critics Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Indeed, my own profound suspicion of psychoanalysis can be attributed to the success of their theoretical project. More than the works produced by both authors, I enjoy the texts written exclusively by Deleuze, undoubtedly one of the most dynamic philosophers of the last century. I am prone to agree with Foucault in his assessment that "if the next century is not Deleuzian, than it will be nothing." In relation to the Chicago School, I believe that Deleuze, especially his work on the image and on Foucault, will be essential to our project.

This, then, leads me to my first, and perhaps only, true love: Saint Michel himself. My entry into critical studies was facilitated by an admiration of Foucault; I cut my teeth on those that initially picked up on the magnitude of his work such as Said, Butler, and Chauncey. Judith Butler in particular, occupies a special place in me for her inspiring work on drag performances - a subject of personal interest to me. My pursuit of Foucault has not dwindled over the years, and I am currently concentrating in the History department in order to explore some of the questions raised in his genealogies. I plan to write my B.A. paper under the guidance of Professor George Chauncey, and perform a genealogy on the rise of sexualized media technologies and their relation to the production of new subjectivities.

My interest in media technologies brings me to my final and foremost project: media theory. The imperative to critically study media forms and mediums is obvious, for they are the distinguishing characteristic of the transformation beyond the modern age. It is here where Foucault's work ends, having established the historical advent of modernity, and where the work of the Chicago School must begin. I am fascinated by almost all applications of media theory dating back from Adorno and Horkheimer, to McLuhan and Baudrillard, and finally the more contemporary Friedrich Kittler. Personally, I am invested in my own ongoing work within media theory on the varied subjects of performance, media semiotics, the posthuman subject, and punk rock. To conclude this self description, I feel obliged to give you a little taste of my personality with a current list of my top 5 favorite albums:

1) The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground and Nico
2) David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
3) Lou Reed - Transformer
4) Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power
5) The Magnetic Fields - Get Lost


Chicago School Media Theory: Reading List

Media Theory Keywords Glossary: reality, hyperreality

Theories of Media Annotation: Gilles Deleuze's "The Movement-Image and its Three Varieties," in Cinema 1: the Movement-Image

Theories of Media Guest Presentation (2004): "Engendering Mediations"

Theories of Media Prospectus: "Becoming Posthuman, or What Does Code Want?"