Grant Bollmer

is a theorist and historian of digital culture.

I am a Senior Lecturer in Digital Media at the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland. My research investigates a wide range of topics related to digital media, including emotion recognition, selfies, memes, influencers, terrible videogames, motion capture, virtual reality and empathy, among many other topics. 

I am the author or coauthor of five books. Inhuman Networks: Social Media and the Archaeology of Connection (2016),  examines the history of connectivity in Western culture as it crosses the development of technological, biological, financial, and social networks. Theorizing Digital Cultures (2018),  provides a model for the study of digital media that synthesizes British and German approaches to media and culture. Materialist Media Theory: An Introduction (2019), attempts to update and revise the claims of Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis in relation to a variety of recent theoretical innovations, especially New and Feminist Materialisms. The Affect Lab: The History and Limits of Measuring Emotion (2023) is a history of the American psychology of emotions through the lens of specific tools used to identify and produce emotion, using this history as a critique of any neurological or biological foundations of “affect theory.” A book coauthored with Katherine Guinness, The Influencer Factory: A Marxist Theory of Corporate Personhood on YouTube, will be published in 2024, which uses the backgrounds of YouTube influencer videos to examine the infrastructures of contemporary capitalism.

Among other awards, I’ve been the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a residency at the Media Archaeology Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and was a contributor to an issue of the magazine esse: Arts + Opinions on “Empathy,” which received an honorable mention for “Best Editorial Package” from the Canadian National Magazine Awards/Les Prix du Magazine Canadien. Formerly, while I was employed at NC State, I was an NC State University Faculty Scholar, a recipient of the NC State CHASS Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in the Humanities, and recipient of the Robert M. Entman Award for Excellence in Communication Research.

This, however, is perhaps my proudest achievement. The above image is a meme by @cyborg.asm on Instagram, referencing the article “Do You Really Want to Live Forever,” which I coauthored with Katherine Guinness. The original meme can be found here and the article can be found here.


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Other Writings

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This is a list of other writings I’ve done, beginning with articles written for a popular audience and then other, occasional academic writings (such as reviews or reports).

Popular Writings

Grant Bollmer. 2020. “Culture and Anarchy, from Matthew Arnold to the Internet,” In Media Res, 13 February.

Grant Bollmer. 2019. “Emotion Detection and the Mimetic Faculty,” MediaCommons Field Guide, 8 April.

Grant Bollmer. 2019. “The Automation of Empathy,” esse: Arts and Opinions 95, Winter, 30 – 34.

Grant Bollmer. 2018. “Will Silicon Valley’s New Company Towns End Up as Failed Utopias?” The Conversation (US), 31 May. (Reprinted by Salon, Fast Company, U.S. News and World Report, and CityMetric, among others.)

Grant Bollmer. 2014. “Who is to Blame When iCloud is ‘Hacked’—You or Apple?” The Conversation (AU), 3 September.

Book Reviews

Grant Bollmer. 2018. A review of Philip Mirowski and Edward Nik-Khah’s The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: A History of Information in Modern Economics, Journal of Cultural Economy 11:2, 169-172.

Grant Bollmer. 2017. A review of Stuart Cunningham, Terry Flew, and Adam Swift’s Media Economics, Communication Research and Practice 3:4, 386 – 388.

Grant Bollmer. 2014. “Big Data, Small Media” (Review of Polity’s Digital Media and Society Series), Cultural Studies Review 20:2, 266 – 277.

Grant Bollmer. 2013. A review of McKenzie Wark’s Telesthesia: Communication, Culture & Class, Media International Australia 147, 177.

Grant Bollmer. 2010. “Review Essay: Not Understanding the Network? A Review of Four Contemporary Works” (Review of Phillip Armstrong’s Reticulations, Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks, Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker’s The Exploit, and Brian Rotman’s Becoming Beside Ourselves), The Communication Review 13:3, 243 – 260.

Research Report

Grant Bollmer. 2019. “The Hubbard Professional Mark Super VII Quantum E- Meter: Notes on the Media Archaeology of Scientology and Technological Metaphysics,” MALware Technical Report, Media Archaeology Lab, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Encyclopedia Articles

Grant Bollmer. 2014. “Avatars” and “Second Life,” Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics, Kerric Harvey, editor. Los Angeles: SAGE, 96 – 98, 1114 – 1115.