Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN05_03b_H: Structural and Institutional Conditions of Consumption
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Konstantinos Theodoridis, Manchester Metropolitan University
Location: HA.2.9
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 2.

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Looking for Home in Consumer Culture

Anastasia Seregina

Aalto University, Finland

We build and define the places we exist in, but those places also define us. Most significantly, the places we are from give us understanding of where we belong, providing a basis for identity-development. One's home emerges as a central place of being for individuals in contemporary consumer culture. Home seems to be natural and self-evident, yet it is an extremely complex concept that has emerged quite recently as the private, personal place that we naturally understand it as. It is the result of historical, industrial, and technological developments that have shaped individualized and consumption-driven Western culture. Home becomes a central place for consumption: we consume the home itself and its elements, but the home is also tied into individual and communal consumption practices. Moreover, home becomes a central part of consumer culture through ties to various power structures. Yet, through globalization and fragmentation, we may soon be all facing homelessness. The aim of this research is to explore how individuals understand and build up the idea of home through exploring the various aspects it is tied to, such as physical space, family, community, nation-state, as well as political and cultural settings and relations among them. Moreover, I reflect on groups, for whom home is not natural or straightforward, such as migrants, refugees, and third-culture kids. The aim is to gain a better understanding of home as part of contemporary consumer culture, and map out ways in which individuals lacking a feeling of home may become assimilated into their context both through their own and others’ practices. This becomes especially important to understand in light of recent economic developments and increasing migration within Europe.

The need for speed: The roles of households, government and industry in data consumption

Janine Morley

Lancaster University, United Kingdom

The volume of data flowing to and from households across Europe is growing. In the UK, average monthly data usage over fixed broadband connections rose from 17GB in 2011 to 132GB in 2016 (Ofcom). In the midst of a ‘digital revolution’, manifest in large scale investments in digital infrastructures and services, this growth of an inconspicuous form of consumption may seem neither surprising nor problematic. Yet it has important implications, both for equity of access to online services and for the environmental sustainability of the ‘digital economy’. This paper argues that sociological research can make a useful contribution to debates on how to responsibly govern and shape burgeoning forms of digital consumption. It presents findings from interview and diary research with UK households to explore how demand for faster bandwidth is experienced and enacted through a range of everyday practices, most notably streaming TV programmes. Whilst such demand is realised through household practices, it is clear that industry and governments play important roles in shaping the services that are used and the expectations attached to them. These roles are traced through analysis of UK broadband policy and the design of particular services. Overall, this develops an account of how the demand and consumption of digital services are collectively and iteratively constructed, in the inter-relations between practices and at the intersection of systems of provision, policy and consumption. This contributes to a timely and urgent debate, as new and ever-more data intensive technologies and services emerge.

The role of politics in the making of cultural hierarchies: A longitudinal comparison of newspapers from Turkey and Spain

Irmak Karademir-Hazir1, Carlos J. Fernández Rodríguez2

1Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom; 2Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Views on culture and art are particularly influenced by the political field, since models of governance, hegemonic ideologies and power relations within a society all shape cultural policies and establish specific cultural hierarchies. While the realm of politics and cultural hierarchies seem to be deeply intertwined, the study of this interaction is often neglected in research on culture and arts. We aim to fill this gap by exploring the ways in which the field of politics influences the making of cultural hierarchies, focusing on the cases of two Mediterranean countries: Spain and Turkey. We draw our sample from data collected during the fieldwork of CUDIGE, which was a longitudinal and comparative project that analysed the cultural coverage of major newspapers from six European countries during the period 1960-2010.The analysis of the Turkish case reveals that the state-led westernization policies of the early years and the neo-liberal turn of the 1980s have major influences on what is included in the cultural pages as well as how the cultural products are evaluated. Meanwhile, the Spanish case shows how the country departs from a right-wing dictatorship where conservative National-Catholic ideology shapes cultural policy to a democracy where new values come to the fore, helping to rearrange the cultural hierarchies and even modifying the own status of culture in Spanish society. In our conclusion, we open up a discussion on how national political contexts can be incorporated to the study of cultural fields and hierarchies.

Nation branding and fashion in Finland

Olga Gurova

Aalborg University, Finland

This research approaches fashion from the point of view of nation branding. In previous research we developed a concept of “place-making,” which means collective and collaborative efforts aimed at constructing and representing national identity globally through creation of artifacts and meanings (Chun, Gurova, Niinimäki 2017). In that previous research we focused on “bottom-up” approach and looked at the efforts of Finnish fashion designers to implement place-making and contribute to nation branding. In this current paper the attention is given to “top-down” approach. I look at the state and governmental bodies and their efforts of nation branding “from above”. The research draws from the literature on nation branding as “soft power”, which is used to attract attention to the nation with the purpose to sell the brands and commodities that the country offers (Kaneva 2011, 2015, Volcic, Andrejevic 2015, Castello, Mihelj 2017, Foster 1999). The research also draws from the scholarship on fashion, creative industries and cultural policy. This scholarship considers state as the most powerful agent that can facilitate or hinder the development of fashion industry through various strategies (McRobbie 1998, McRobbie 2013, Entwistle 2009). As a result, I develop category “fashion policies” as a set of implicit and explicit tools of governance through fashion. Using the data collected from document analysis and semi-structured interviews with state officials and experts from various governmental bodies I show how nation branding is implemented through fashion in Finland.

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