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J.D. Swerzenski - University of Mary Washington. Fredericksburg, VA, US

J.D. Swerzenski

Assistant Professor | University of Mary Washington

Fredericksburg, VA, UNITED STATES

Dr. Swerzenski's research focuses on the effects of digital media production technology on cultural values and understanding,





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Dr. J.D. Swerzenski is an Assistant Professor of Communications and Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington. His research focuses on the effects of digital media production technology on cultural values and understanding, and draws on software studies, visual culture, film studies, critical pedagogy, cultural production, and critical media literacy.

He has over a decade of experience teaching media production including video editing, visual design, and audio mixing. Beyond technical skill-building, his pedagogy focuses on ways to use these multimedia tools for critical analysis and social change.

As a producer and creator, J.D. served as editor and cinemetographer for the documentary Finding the Words and has continued to collaborate and co-produce community-oriented video projects.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Digital Media

Film Studies

Critical Pedagogy‎

Cultural Production

Critical Media Literacy

Accomplishments (3)

Recipient of Graduate Film Studies Certificate (professional)


NCA Best Student Paper: Media Ecology Division (professional)


NCA Best Student Paper: Visual Communication Division (professional)


Education (3)

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Ph.D., Communication 2022

University of Oregon: M.A., Media Studies 2016

Trinity University: B.A., Communication 2009

Affiliations (3)

  • University of Film and Video Association : Diversity Caucus Member
  • Critical Media Project : Affiliate Member
  • National Communication Association : Visual Communication Division

Media Appearances (3)


With Good Reason  online


Photoshop recently unveiled a new function that integrates generative AI, a cutting-edge technology that can produce images from text. JD Swerzenski says we’ve reached a point where photo manipulation has never been so easy.

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When Did Everyone’s Skin Get So Damn Smooth?



James Swerzenski, an assistant professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia who focuses on media literacy, says that while the early 2000s were instrumental in shaping how we perceive our skin—largely because of the rise of technology like Photoshop, which was used by photographers to perfect the images people saw in mass media—it’s important to recognize such phenomena in context. “I think often these conversations can get an ‘okay, Boomer’ tone.

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Opinion: Minority representation and mentoring in the workplace matter

Cincinnati Enquirer  online


J.D. Swerzenski is a Ph.D. candidate in communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and specifically studied Hispanic representation in the workforce. I talked to Swerzenski about his findings to understand more. Swerzenski explained that at the labor level, like on the manufacturing floor of a place like my husband manages, you typically see representation reflective of who lives in the community. Swerzenski says, “The Hispanic labor force may be even over-represented at that level.”

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Event Appearances (3)

The AI Editor: Adobe's Reimagining and Deskilling of Video Production Practice

(2023) University of Film and Video Association Conference  Savannah, GA

The Sound of Lover’s Rock

(2022) International Conference on Videographic Criticism  Amherst, MA

Why does her head look like that? Assessing a global technocultural clash over beauty standards and image editing practices

(2022) International Communication Association Conference  Paris, France

Articles (3)

The AI Editor: Adobe's Reimagining and Deskilling of Video Production Practice

Journal of Film & Video


Formatting the Real


2023 Shortly after its 2019 debut, the social media app BeReal uploaded an ad to YouTube outlining its ethos. Atop shots of dead-eyed twenty-somethings scrolling their news feeds and photo filter options, the onscreen text prompts: “What if social media were different from this?” What makes BeReal “different” from other platforms follows next: “no likes, no followers, no ads, no bullshit.” More notable than these restrictions was the app’s key affordance, outlined in the subsequent text: “Once a day, at a random time, you have two minutes to capture and share”. That one shared post is a photo, specifically two inlaid photos using the smartphone’s front and back facing cameras, typically capturing the user’s selfie with the front camera and their location with the back.

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Enacting A Critical Media Production Pedagogy

Dissertation, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

2022 This project draws upon earlier calls—particularly in the critical pedagogy, critical media literacy, and cultural production fields—to outline a teaching approach that balances technical media production practices and critical media studies. I refer to this synthesis as critical media production pedagogy. This blending of critical analysis and technical skill, I argue, is especially important at the university level where my research is focused, as students in these courses will likely enter industry fields in which they can influence culture on a mass level. Creating opportunities for a media theory/production synthesis enables students to translate critical ideas beyond the academy and into a wider cultural discourse.

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