[Air-L] ICA Preconference on Quality and Aesthetics -- extension

Jonathan Gray mrtetley at hotmail.com
Sat Jan 8 21:31:40 PST 2011

please note the extension:



Placing the Aesthetic in Popular Culture: Quality, Value, and Beauty in Communication and Scholarship

Co-sponsored by the Popular Communication, Philosophy of Communication, and Visual Communication Divisions

26th May 2011

 many within the correlate fields of media, cultural, and communication 
studies, art, beauty, and aesthetics are highly problematic, heavily 
loaded terms. Critical theory posited the evaluative schemas on which 
such terms rely as discursively constructed and as frequently laden with
 culturally chauvinistic politics, and cultural studies in particular 
offered a firm rejection of the notion that the study of culture should 
begin with a favorable judgment of the text in question. Yet aesthetics 
never went away. Even if unaware, many scholars continued to select 
research projects based around judgments of a subject matter’s aesthetic
 prowess or poverty. More importantly, though, the discourse of 
aesthetics, quality, and beauty never went away for audiences and the 
media industries, as seen in discussions of “quality television,” for 
instance, or in the valorization of “independents” and “art house” 
production in film, in the debate regarding whether videogames are art 
that is currently heading to the US Supreme Court (with the future of 
videogame regulation hanging in the balance), or in the continuing 
denigration of aesthetic forms associated with marginal groups, such as 
certain forms of hip hop.

The aesthetic in popular culture may 
even be at the center of significant cultural transformations associated
 with new media and the reconfiguration of existing mass media. For 
instance, do the commentary and rating options on popular Web 2.0 
websites represent a democratization of aesthetic judgment, or even the 
creation of a participatory aesthetic “public sphere” based around open 
discussion, advice, and support? And to what extent are such 
developments paralleled (or exploited) by the rhetoric of natural talent
 and the apparent validation of audience opinion on TV shows like the 
Idol franchise? We in communication studies may not tackle aesthetics 
head on, but it is always there, whether as discourse, rumor, debate, or
 control mechanism.

This one-day preconference will approach the 
place of aesthetics in popular communication studies. Treating it as a 
problematic, not as a given, the preconference will create room for 
vigorous debate about the actual and potential place of aesthetics in 
our scholarship. The point will not be to find yet more ways to romance 
the text, but to interrogate aesthetics and to advance popular 
communicative approaches to its observation and analysis. We will ask 
where one finds discussions of aesthetics and what they represent, but 
also consider possible ways that aesthetics might find its way into our 
scholarship in the future.

Individual panels or contributions could address:
The distinction between “quality” media and the mundane
How aesthetics is tied to specific industrial imperatives and economic models
The morality and ethics of aesthetics, and of studying aesthetics
The political uses of aesthetics, and the politics of aesthetics
Aesthetics’ relationship with the popular
Singular vs. collaborative constructions of “authorship”
Comparative contexts for the discussion of aesthetics across media
Comparative contexts for the discussion of aesthetics globally
How aesthetics are to be studied methodologically

 preconference will be designed to put discussion front and center. 
Panelists will be asked to circulate short two-page position papers 
beforehand, and will then have approximately five minutes each to 
introduce their ideas. Panelists will then be invited to discuss amongst
 each other, before opening the discussion, at the half-way point, to 
discussion with the room. Thus, while panelist spots will be limited, 
this format allows for the entire room to take part actively in the 
day’s proceedings.

We invite 500 word abstracts from 
those wishing to be panelists to be submitted to Jonathan Gray 
(jagray3 at wisc.edu) by January 31, 2011. Panels will be assembled by the 
conference planning committee, with notification to follow in February, 
2011. Remember that panelists will only have five minutes to introduce 
their ideas, and thus submissions should be tailored to the discursive 
format, not to monologic delivery.


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