Call for Papers for the Interdisciplinary Conference
Rethink Participatory Cultural Citizenship
When is citizen participation socially transformative?
Aarhus University (AU), Denmark, 14.11.-16.11.2013
Keynote speakers: Leah Lievrouw (US), Femen (Ukraine), Chris Kelty (US),
David Graeber (UK) (tbc), Cathy Lang Ho (US)
In recent years studies of aesthetic, urban and digital culture have focused on and praised the political potential of user-driven production often referred to by means of concepts such as DIY urbanism and participatory culture, co-creation, produsage, creative place-appropriation, everyday creativity, participatory planning, social production and social entrepreneurship. And while the first generation of promoting the creative city was based in the ambition of supporting (and capitalizing on) individual creativity, we now see a growing interest in collective creation of cultural content. But how do we understand and support collective creation, and what new challenges does this change bring forth?
The found city, opportunistic tactics, spontaneous interventions, and the emergent process of the everyday are being broadly celebrated in studies of urban space (Cuff and Sherman 2011, Stickels 2011, Lang Ho 2012, Chase, Crawford and Kaliski 2008). And for more than a decade the internet has been invested with high hopes in terms of democratic activation and empowerment of non-institutional voices (Jenkins 2006, Fenton 2008, Bruns 2008, Gauntlett 2011, Lievrouw 2011), but also over time with concerns regarding the type of democratic interaction and citizen voicing enabled by the internet (Hess 2009, Couldry 2010). Since the 1990s with the rise of relational art (Bourriaud 1998) we have also seen a strong artistic interest in participation and collaboration as a politicised working process with artists such as Francis Alÿs, Walid Raad and the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist as its front figures. Claire Bishop has recently named this art movement “participatory art” (Bishop 2012)! In these artistic practices, the artist is less a producer of objects and more a co-producer of situations and relational or dialogical art practices (Kester 2004, 2011), often in active collaboration with what was previously known as the passive audience/spectator.
This participatory turn of contemporary cultural analysis and theory has nevertheless not always clearly addressed what “positive political change” might mean and how to evaluate the political potentials and/or impacts of a certain cultural activity including non-professional or vernacular production. Therefore the conference RETHINK Participatory Cultural Citizenship wants to address, explore and discuss the effects of projects where citizens act as agents of change in e.g. urban, digital and aesthetic spaces.
The conference focuses on a range of urgent challenges to the understanding and future development of urban, digital and aesthetic participatory civic cultures. These include:
- How do we develop frameworks to evaluate the potentials of participation, and how do we design/enable participatory processes, which have this potential to a satisfying degree?
- How can we use participatory cultural processes as an effective critical practice? And what does “effective” mean?
- To what extent can participation in itself be of political value in terms of enabling active citizenship, and is it meaningful to suggest that the amount of participation motivated by a certain event constitutes a measure of its success? Or could the increasing sum of citizen voices, for instance online, in itself threaten genuine political interaction?
- What is the trade-off between present and future participations? How can bottom-up cultural initiatives e.g. become anchored within the long-term planning of spaces, cities and institutions, and should proper political participation even result in lasting changes of spaces, discourses, policies or institutions? And if so, how should future participatory projects relate to these lasting results of previous projects
- How and to what extent is political or cultural participation threatened by institutional and/or economic strategies trying to profit from the work of users? Or could the intertwinement of fundamentally diverse agencies and agendas really be perceived as an opportunity for profound citizen empowerment?
When submitting your abstract please point out which of the above mentioned five challenges your paper is addressing. To collectively investigate them we invite papers from across the fields of e.g. cultural studies, architecture, geography, entrepreneurship, experience economy, media studies, political science, philosophy, art studies and sociology. We also invite practitioners to explore and present viable methods for individual citizens to become proactive in their involvement with their city, their neighborhood, and the surrounding world. The exploration can take place during and/or the results can be presented at the conference.
Thematically papers could deal with a range of issues and actual projects related to e.g: the formation of social movements, protest movements, creative online/offline activism, mobilization, social inclusion, artivism, urban planning, critical urban interventions, digital democracy and inclusion, the politics of aesthetic experience, relational aesthetics, contested spaces related to culture driven urban regeneration, DIY urbanism, the concept “participatory culture”.
After the submission deadline the organizers will, together with local organizations, creative activists and invited international researchers experiment with different ways of integrating the presentations and sessions in different political and cultural settings in Aarhus (e.g. by inviting a relevant audience of decision-makers or possible collaborators, by formulating a common task to be solved or discussed). In other words sessions will be staged in a way that increases their ability to affect both the academic community and the actual surroundings of the conference.
Please submit your abstract proposals (max 300 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for submission of abstracts: June 20, 2013.
The conference is funded by RETHINK 2017 and is the first in a series of conferences leading to Aarhus being European Capital of Culture in 2017: http://www.aarhus2017.dk/english
Main organizers: Louise Fabian, Department of Culture and Society, AU; Carsten Stage, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, AU; Jan Löhmann Stephensen, AU IDEAS Pilot Centre The Democratic Public Sphere, AU; Birgit Eriksson, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, AU; Dorthe Refslund Christensen, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, AU.