"Communication, Consumers, and Citizens:
Revisiting the Politics of Consumption"
In October 2006, Faculty and students at the UW organized an international conference entitled “The Politics of Consumption/The Consumption of Politics.” The meeting provided a forum for leading scholars from Europe and North America to discuss the intersection of consumption, citizenship, media, and marketing.
Given the success of the previous event, the current coonference will reconvene many of the scholars whom we gathered in 2006, as well as bring in new voices in the field.
By creating a venue for discussion and collaboration across disciplines, this conference will allow leading and rising scholars to address questions which have arisen from the original conference, as well as advance the development of a subfield. Questions to be addressed include:
- The consumer critique: didactic and moralistic.
What do we still have to learn from consumer critiques as scholars concerned with the politics of consumption and the consumption of politics? How do these critiques inform and suggest avenues for action regarding the challenges of the current political and environmental climate? Are there elements of this critique that are moralistic and demand rethinking? What is the value of complicating the consumer/citizen contrast?
- The power to create change: the citizen and the state.
What is the role of the state and corporate interests in the politics of consumption? Should we focus our scholarly attention and activist agendas on the state-corporation over the citizen-consumer, given the centrality and power of the former? How can citizen-consumers and social movements influence nation-states and corporations?
- A hyphenated public: consumers, citizens, or citizen-consumers.
What is the promise and perils of a hyphenated conception of the public as a group of citizen-consumers? Do politicians and the state increasingly view citizens as consumers and approach them in this manner? Can citizens ever escape the market and would this even be a desirable end? Is there hope for a commons, where sharing is the norm rather than the exception? How can citizens exercise their power through consumption?
- The marketing of politics: candidates and social movements
How has branding come to dominate the public face of political candidates and political parties, as well as the formation of issue publics? How have other marketing principles been applied to political campaigning? Is political branding a tool for legitimate change or simply another way to dupe the voting consumer?
- The nature of civic participation: thick versus thin engagement
Do political consumerism and logo politics represent new forms of civic participation? Are these forms of participation displacing conventional modes of participation? Are they comparatively thin forms of political participation, or equally robust for sustained democratic engagement? How are social and networked media changing the notion of the coordinated civic action? Is this sort of action individual and erratic or collective and coordinated?