The international conference “Rethinking Cultural Journalism and Cultural Critique in Digital Media Culture”

This conference marks the closing of the research project From Ivory Tower to Twitter (FITT): Re-thinking the Cultural Critic in Contemporary Media Culture, funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark from 2015-19.

This conference marks the closing of the research project From Ivory Tower to Twitter (FITT): Re-thinking the Cultural Critic in Contemporary Media Culture, funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark from 2015-19.

In the FITT-project we – eight scholars from five Danish research in-stitutions – have looked into how media institutional and technological developments have enabled advanced public participation in debates about arts and culture during the past decades.

Furthermore, we have studied how the very same changes have challenged established notions of cultural authority, enlightenment and expertise and de-stabilized the position of traditional critical institutions, such as academia and the news media, in the cultural information and valorization circuit. These transformations are also key topics of the conference.

During the conference we will engage with, among other things, how journalistic authority and critical expertise within the cultural field is being reconfigured in the digital media landscape and by means of digital media, as the boundaries of ‘cultural journalism’ and ‘cultural critique’, and who may be labeled a ‘cultural journalist’ or a ‘cultural critic’ blur. The conference addresses, more specifically, the shifting relations between specialists/generalists, producers/users, public/private, objectivity/subjectivity, highbrow/popular, emotionality/rationality in cultural journalism and cultural critique in the digital age.

The conference language will be English.

Participation is free of charge. However, registration is mandatory.


Karin Wahl-Jorgensen: “Emotionality and Subjectivity in Cultural Criticism”

This talk will consider the role of emotionality and subjectivity in cultural criticism. On the basis of research charting the “strategic ritual of emotionality” in Pulitzer Prize winning journalism during the period from 1995 to 2018, the talk examines the distinctive ways in which the authority of cultural critics is established and maintained through the routinized use of emotion and subjective judgement. This, I argue, marks out cultural criticism as a unique genre in terms of the basis of its claims to truth. The distinctive practices of award-winning cultural criticism also serve as a way of maintaining the authority of critics in mainstream media in the light of incursions from amateur reviewers. At the same time, it highlights the complexities of the balancing act achieved by the genre, which negotiates tensions between objectivity and subjectivity, “hard news” and “soft news,” as well as competing conceptions of journalistic professional identities.

Karin Wahl-Jorgensen is Professor of Journalism and Director of Research Development and Environment at School of Journalism, Media and Culture, University of Cardiff. She has published extensively about citizenship, democracy and the media. Her current work focuses on the role of emotion in journalism and political life as well as digital citizenship and surveillance society.

Susanne Janssen: “The Art of Comparison: Features and Findings of Comparative Research in Cultural Journalism”

The past decades witnessed a growing attention to comparative studies in media and journalism research, as part of a more general trend in the many subfields of the communication discipline. Not only has the sheer amount of comparative studies steadily grown, but also significant progress has been made in terms of both theoretical and methodological sophistication. Relative to subfields such as political communication and news journalism, the comparative study of cultural journalism is still in its infancy. An important reason for this backlash is that the study of cultural journalism itself is a relatively new research field, which only in recent years gained increased scholarly attention. For a long time, journalism scholarship reflected the central position of political reporting in Western journalism, which in the course of the twentieth century came to dominate both journalistic practice and journalism education. However, simultaneously, especially during the second half of the twentieth century, soft topics such as arts, culture, and lifestyle became increasingly important parts of news production and are today covered intensely.

In recent years, the significance of cultural journalism has been acknowledged by a growing number of scholars in different countries, rendering cultural journalism research as an emerging and thriving field of study, in which the comparative approach has also become increasingly salient and has clearly progressed.

The growing scholarly attention to cultural journalism is not only a matter of media and journalism scholars getting more interested in the subject. Scholars from other disciplinary 6 backgrounds, notably sociologists of the arts and culture, and to a lesser extent cultural economists, (art) historians, and literary, music, theatre and film scholars, have also discovered and contributed to cultural journalism as a field of study. Although the boundaries between the contributions from various disciplinary backgrounds are not very clear cut, some division of labour can be observed in terms of the topics and issues covered. One important line of research focuses on the professional identities, values and status of cultural journalists, and has been primarily developed by media and journalism scholars. A second line of research, which is mainly the work of sociologists of the arts and culture, is concerned with the role of cultural journalism and criticism in the formation of artistic reputations and in processes of cultural consecration and cultural legitimation. A third major research strand examines developments in the amount, form, and contents of cultural coverage in media. Changes in cultural coverage have been studied in relation to and/or against the backdrop of developments in the fields of journalism and culture, notably processes of professionalization, commercialisation, digitalisation, globalisation and shifting culture tastes and lifestyles associated with wider societal processes of de-hierarchization and individualisation in Western countries. Such research has been conducted by both media and journalist scholars and cultural sociologists, although their starting points tend to be somewhat different as are their focal points This lecture reviews these various lines of research in the study of cultural journalism, highlighting key findings and methodological features of exemplary studies, and considering how they employ or could benefit from a comparative approach.

Susanne Janssen is Professor of Sociology of Media and Culture and Chair of the Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam. She has published extensively about the role of critics and other experts in the cultural field, and issues of cultural globalization. Her current research focuses on the consequences of increased diversity and digitalization for agents, institutions, structures, processes and practices in the fields of media, culture, education, and politics.