Conference Agenda

RN05_06c: Sociology of taste
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Anu Katainen, University of Helsinki
Location: BS.G.36
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road


“This One At Least Means Something”: A Quantitative Approach On Studying Aesthetic Development Of Secondary School Pupils

Mathijs De Baere, John Lievens

UGent, Belgium

The current research contrasts two views on the development of aesthetic expectations: the first is derived from socialization theories of art perception based on Bourdieu’s cultural reproduction model, the second from stage-models of psychological aesthetic development and neuroscience. Both views try to answer the question of which criteria are used to judge art, and what the interpersonal differences in these used criteria are based on. These alternative views are contrasted by studying the aesthetic development of secondary school pupils. Relevant aspects of art socialization, stage-perspectives on aesthetic development and art evaluation are combined in a quantitative multi-track model in which we disentangle complementary and superseding relations. We use survey-data of 346 Flemish secondary school pupils visiting an art museum in a school trip. This specific age category - 12 to 18 - is especially relevant to study early development in aesthetical expectations and evaluations. Aesthetic development is operationalized as three factors derived from eleven likert items measuring aesthetic expectations and evaluations: (1) a base-order track focusing on beauty, representation and harmony, (2) an emotional evaluation track and (3) a contemplative track consisting of the need for fantasy, novelty and reflection. Using MANCOVA, we, furthermore, assess effects on factor scores of sociodemographic variables, education level and prior art museum experience. The aim of this paper is to complement the class-based literature on aesthetic development by psychological and neuroscientific insights on this topic. This can deepen our understanding of aesthetic development, modes of art consumption and art education.

Is Popular Culture the “Least Cultural Denominator”? A Dual Network Approach to Analyzing Fiction Readership in Russia

Mikhail Sokolov, Nadezhda Sokolova

European university at Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

In his now-classical paper, Paul DiMaggio (1987) claimed that popular culture in modern societies “provide(s) staff of everyday sociability”. It serves to bridge cultural holes between classes and other major social groups patronizing different artistic genres. Intuitively appealing, and grounded in a long tradition of theorizing on “mass culture”, the proposition that low-brow art serves as the “least cultural denominator” was scarcely tested empirically. We developed a dual network (Breiger) approach to testing this proposition. We use data on readership in St. Petersburg, Russia, from the city’s municipal public library system (above 1.300.000 records) to reconstruct a network of 22.000 authors, through which we demonstrate that counter to DiMaggio, authors with a more educated readership are more likely to enjoy higher centrality in the cultural networks measured by weighted betweenness and weighted constraint. We interpret it as a sign that, at least as far as literature is concerned, relatively high-brow, rather than low-brow, artistic figures are more likely to serve as bridges across cultural holes providing themes for “culture talk” (Lizardo) across large social distances. We discuss three explanations of this fact: institutional (the central role of educational institutions in distribution of literature, in contrast to cultural products such as cinema), structural (arguably, centrality of high-brow tastes is implicated by Peterson’s omnivorousness model) and taste (more educated audiences prefer cultural products transgressing traditional genre boundaries). The evidence points into the direction of a combination of institutional and structural explanations.

Male and Female Nudity in Artistic Photography - Gendered Patterns in Explicit and Implicit Categorization

Michaël Berghman, Yu-Chin Ho, Koen van Eijck

Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Previous research has argued that different societal norms apply regarding male and female nudity. Both male and female viewers prefer female over male nudity. However, it has also been suggested that the circumstances in which nudity is presented has a profound impact on how it is mentally processed. When categorized as artistic, nudity is stripped (at least partially) of its sexual meaning. However, some familiarity with the prevailing artistic categories seems prerequisite to recognize that nudity is indeed artistic. This leads to the expectation that viewers with more artistic expertise will differentiate less on the basis of gender in their reaction to artistic nudity, as they are supposedly capable to look beyond the sheer erotic connotations and appreciate nudity on aesthetic grounds. By contrast, people with sexually conservative attitudes may resist an aesthetic reading. However, why does categorization differ on the basis of social background? Do people deliberately adjust to social norms that prevail in a particular situation? Or do they wield embodied categories largely unreflexively? To test this, we compare reactions to a set of black-and-white artistic nude photographs of both female and male models. Apart from viewers’ explicitly uttered response, we also explore the cognitive processing involved. Based on the argument that reflexively monitored responses take slightly more time, we measure response latency to get insight in the cognitive deliberation that informs an opinion on artistic nudity. After a successful pilot-test, we are currently collecting data. At the conference, we will report on our final results.

Passionate Consumption: Becoming a Collector

Yu Ying Lee

Yuan Ze University, Taiwan

The main concern of this paper is to investigate how a passionate consumer can transform to be a prominent collector. To become a collector represents those who can manage economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital to gain fame and fortune. In the contemporary consumer society, there are lots of collectors consume various collectibles, only a few become prestigious collectors. A wealthy collector can buy a piece of valuable art from auction house but the knowledgeable collector can enjoy the process of seeking “treasures” in the fleet market. Collection is a special form of consumption in the consumer society because most collectibles have no use value but sign value, such as antiques. Nevertheless, antique collectors are obsessed with the artifacts and eagerly want to possess them. There are so many fakes in the antique market; buying an antique is a high risky consumption practice. In order to differentiate genuine antique from the fake one, collectors/consumers have to acquire relative knowledge on antiques. Based on research of Chinese antique market and collection, this paper states that prominent collectors are those who can successfully change economic capital into social and cultural capital. In the realm of the antique collection, the knowledge/power interaction among collector/consumer, dealer, and connoisseur will be studied.

Soup Kitchens of the Written Word? Digital Divides and Dilemmas Facing Public Libraries

Adrian Leguina, Sabina Mihelj, John Downey

Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Libraries play a unique role in the UK cultural sector, providing support from cradle to the grave, as places for learning but also empowerment for those lacking opportunities at home. While library use and its benefits are often framed in terms of traditional high culture, policies recognize the importance of libraries as instruments for social cohesion, bridging the digital divide and increasing digital literacy. Libraries today are dynamic places serving multiple communities of users with different needs. However, current research and the library sector, we argue, have failed to reconcile the transformative power of new communication technologies and its impact on established and new cultural hierarchies. Our contribution, therefore, brings together the debates on digital divides and cultural consumption from the perspective of libraries. Empirically, we use British data from the Taking Part Survey (2005-17) to explore the evolution of access and technological provisions and the profile of contemporary library users across several practices. Our findings signal a broad range of potential benefits for people and communities, emphasizing the tension between in-house and remote digital engagement with library provision.