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Northwestern School of Communication

Aymar Jean Christian

Associate Professor
AJ Christian is scholar and producer exploring power in media and technology through creative R&D. He uses media/art research and development as a tool for community-building, cultural critique and experimentation. For 10 years he has explored how the new technologies have transformed the art of storytelling, production and distribution.

Area(s) of Expertise

Black studies, Cinema-Film, Digital Media, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Media production, Queer theory, Social Media, Television
Aymar Jean Christian

Aymar Jèan "AJ" Christian is an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University and director of the Media and Data Equity (MADE) Lab. His research focuses on the political economy of legacy and new media, cultural studies and community-based research. He published his first book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television, on New York University Press, and is writing his second book, Reparative Media: Cultivating Stories and Platforms to Heal our Culture, which explores how to repair systemic harm and discrimination in media, technology and research. His scholarship has been published in numerous academic journals, including the International Journal of Communication, Television & New Media, Social Media & Society, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, among other journals and edited collections.

Dr. Christian engages industry and community-based organizations as part of his research. He has given lectures for and collaborated with the Sundance Institute, Vimeo, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Black Public Media, and more. He has juried television and video for the Peabody Awards, Gotham Awards, and Tribeca Film Festival, among others. His work has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation & Field Foundation (Leaders for a New Chicago, 2019), Variety (Top 50 Entertainment Instructor 2020 & 2021), Filmmaker (25 New Faces of Indie Film, 2018) NewCity (Film Leader 2017 & Film Hall of Fame 2020), Chicago magazine (New Power List, 2021) and Seed&Spark (Filmmaker to Watch 2018).

Dr. Christian co-founded OTV | Open Television, a platform for intersectional television. OTV programs have received recognition from the Television Academy (Emmy Awards), Webby Awards, Streamy Awards, Gotham Awards, among others. Its programming partners have included the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Sundance Institute, and the city of Chicago, along with numerous galleries, community organizations, and universities. Artists supported by OTV have received offers from leading studios and distributors, including HBO, CBS and Hulu. From 2015-2020 while leading OTV’s transition from experiment to independent non-profit, Dr. Christian and Executive Director Elijah McKinnon raised over $1 million in multi-year support to sustain its operations. Building on the success of OTV, he co-founded OTV Studio with Stephanie Jeter and Lilly Wachowski, an incubator for intersectional film & television.

From 2008 to 2014 he ran the blog Televisual focused on the evolution of TV and internet.

He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.


PhD, Communication, University of Pennsylvania
MA, Communication, University of Pennsylvania
BA, American Culture, University of Michigan

Awards and Fellowships

  • Faculty Fellow, Peabody Media Center, 2017-2019
  • Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship, Northwestern University, 2015-2016
  • Searle Fellowship in Teaching & Learning, Northwestern University, 2014-2015
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, honorable mention, 2012
  • Mellon Graduate Research Fellowship, 2009-2010
  • Research Fellowship, The Annenberg School for Communication, 2010-2011
  • Fontaine Society Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2007-2012


  • Peabody Awards / Jury, 2021-
  • Chicago magazine / New Power List, 2021
  • Variety / Top 50 Entertainment Instructor 2020 & 2021
  • Pop Culture Collaborative / Fellow, 2019-2020
  • NewCity / Film Leader 2017 & Film Hall of Fame 2020
  • MacArthur Foundation & Field Foundation / Leaders for a New Chicago, 2019
  • Filmmaker / 25 New Faces of Indie Film, 2018
  • Seed&Spark / Filmmaker to Watch 2018


  • Creative & Participatory Research Methods (PhD)
  • Intersectionality & New Media (PhD)
  • Digital Television (Masters)
  • Contemporary Television (Undergraduate)
  • Power In Entertainment (Undergraduate)