Organizers: Devon Powers, Drexel University and Melissa Aronczyk, Carleton University
Keynote Address: Don Slater, London School of Economics
Confirmed Senior Scholar Presentations
Sarah Banet-Weiser, University of Southern California
Aeron Davis, Goldsmiths, University of London
Alison Hearn, University of Western Ontario
Matt McAllister, Pennsylvania State University
Liz Moor, Goldsmiths, University of London
Joe Turow, University of Pennsylvania
BEYOND THE BRAND
A vital shift in contemporary communication is related to the ways in which interpersonal and public communication have been (re)located and transformed in increasingly promotional contexts. One index of this transformation is the ubiquity, polyvalence, and assumptions of branding. The “work” of the brand is to act at once as representation and object, communication and control, market and media.
As concept, metaphor, technology and communicative logic, brands are part popular culture and part commerce, part personal and part collective, part rationality and part affect. They appear to be everywhere even as they effectively seek to hide their origins.
What resources do scholars have to get “beyond the brand”? How can we come up with more effective and trenchant definitions and analytical tools to overcome brands’ seeming ubiquity, and to defuse the apparent power of branding in language and in practice? The goal of this preconference is to develop resources and strategies in four thematic areas: brands and methods/critique; brands, knowledge, and surveillance; brands and communities of resistance (locally and transnationally); and brands and industrial/institutional change.
Participants in this one-day preconference should plan to take part in one of four working groups:
1. Brands and Scholarly Methods/Critique
How shall scholars develop critical assessments of brands (and of the promotional industries more generally)? Is it desirable, possible and/or necessary to develop specific mechanisms and processes by which brand logics and practices are understood? Does the broad concept of “promotional culture” help or hinder specialized academic critique? What role, if any, does the academy play in promoting “brand literacy,” and what might that literacy look like? Finally, how can scholars overcome the promotionalization of their own work?
2. Brands and Communities of Resistance, Locally and Transnationally
This working group will investigate the notion of resistance from two standpoints: First, what forms of resistance, activism and contention toward brands are currently taking place; and second, what forms of resistance, activism and contention have recently made use of brand logics and practices to be effective? How do these forms of resistance play out in domestic, transnational and global contexts? In what ways might this research contribute to the recent spate of social movement formation and activism worldwide?
3. Brands, Knowledge and Surveillance
What do brands “know” about consumers? And how can we find out what they know? How can scholars access the various forms of data collection that industry professionals use to generate brand loyalty (e.g., surveys and indices, online tracking, crowdsourcing, algorithmic formulas, affective research, cognitive measurement techniques [psychographic, neuroscientific, biometric])? Can/should we collaborate with industry players to obtain the latest information? Can/should we create a repository of this data for collective academic study and codification?
4. Industrial and Institutional Change in Brand Environments
How does branding interact with other promotional professions, such as advertising, public relations, lobbying and marketing? Are the distinctions between these areas simply semantic, or are there more profound tensions or synergies at work? As new skill sets (e.g. data analytics, machine learning), job positions (e.g., Artificial Intelligence Officer) and business models (e.g., payment systems that pay agencies by the idea instead of by the hour) are implemented within promotional industries, how can we understand the evolving economic, social, cultural and political role of these professions? And, perhaps most importantly, how is the growing power of these professions challenging and changing traditional institutions, such as government, the university, etc.?
HOW TO APPLY
Interested applicants should submit a 350-500 word abstract detailing the relationship to their work to one of the above working areas. Submit abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org before 1 February 2013. Accepted participants will be notified by March 1, 2013.
We encourage applications from graduate students. Four graduate students will be selected to serve as editorial assistants, charged with the task of writing an analytic summary of the working group proceedings.