Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Material Culture | American Popular Culture | Art and Design | Book and Paper | Comparative Literature | Critical and Cultural Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Hip Hop Studies | Other Film and Media Studies | Other Music | Visual Studies


Salvage Media, reads the oeuvre of the Afrofuturist graffiti writer RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑ as a theoretical framework for resisting normativizing, authorized, and white-washed forms of communication. It salvages an archive of creators who appropriate technologies to transgress the formal and legal boundaries used to control aural and visual landscapes. Popular culture artists, such as graffiti writers, hip hop groups, such as De La Soul, and comics creators, including Rob Liefeld, expose and undermine the typically unspoken demand to be clear for white audiences. In so doing, they demonstrate the powerful role that ubiquitous commercial objects play in manufacturing our political imaginaries. Further, the demand for clear and direct communication is hardwired into the design and manufacturing of the production technologies that these “techno rebels,” to borrow a term from the futurist Alvin Toffler, tactically misuse. These techno rebels resist the legacy of cybernetics discourse and its influence over technological innovation into the present day. The study of cybernetics was premised on the promise of a communicative utopia in which humans, machines, and animals could freely communicate without latency, feedback, or lag. Over time, this dream transformed into the utopian promise of the total control of information and communication that defines the Information Age and the Information Society. By the mid-1970s, the field was declared dead, and cybernetic discourse has largely been written off as dated research and a failed project. However, the legacy of cybernetics is alive and well in the dream of total control of information. Central to the technocractic desire for such control is the demand for clarity, because the more legible, understandable, and digestible information is, the easier it is to control. This project concludes by connecting the importance of collective action with a discussion of the of the tactical, which grasps hold of momentary opportunities within shifting political, cultural, and social terrains. To the extent that the constellation of techno rebels who are the focus of this dissertation can serve as models for future acts of resistance, it remains necessary to better understand the means and the ways by which they were able to produce such resistance.