Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Contemporary Culture

Contemporary Culture: New Directions in Art and Humanities Research

Judith Thissen
Robert Zwijnenberg
Kitty Zijlmans
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Contemporary Culture
    Book Description:

    Are the humanities still relevant in the twenty-first century? In the context of pervasive economic liberalism and shrinking budgets, the importance of humanities research for society is increasingly put into question. This volume claims that the humanities do indeed matter by offering empirically grounded critical reflections on contemporary cultural practices, thereby opening up new ways of understanding social life and new directions in humanities scholarship. The contributors argue that the humanities can regain their relevance for society, pose new questions and provide fresh answers, while maintaining their core values: critical reflection, historical consciousness and analytical distance.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1795-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 9-16)
    Judith Thissen

    Are the humanities still relevant in the twenty-first century? In the context of pervasive economic liberalism and shrinking budgets due to a deep and prolonged recession, the exigency of humanities research for society is increasingly put into question, even within academia. Why should governments finance research that does not generate computable and marketable results? Are the immediate costs worth the alleged long-term social benefits? Similar arguments are also made about the arts and culture more generally – one of the main fields of inquiry in humanities scholarship, past and present. WithContemporary Culture: New Directions in Arts and Humanities Research,...


    • Chapter One Mediacity: On the Discontinuous Continuity of the Urban Public Sphere
      (pp. 19-36)
      René Boomkens

      Generally, cities, urban culture and the urban public sphere have often been taken to represent the source or centre of modern social and cultural life, which then is said to differ radically from social and cultural life in pre-modern, feudal or medieval times and from life in the countryside. The sociological opposition between the face-to-face culture of pre-modern villages and the abstract, mediated and complex culture of modern cities as an opposition betweenGemeinschaftandGesellschaft,introduced by Ferdinand Tönnies, has becomethecommonplace of more than hundred years of urban sociology and theory. His sociological contemporary, Georg Simmel, described...

    • Chapter Two Orkontros: Brazilian Migrants, Social Network Sites and the European City
      (pp. 37-50)
      Martijn Oosterbaan

      The boom in transportation and communication technology initiated in the last century has drastically changed the social and spatial geography of most European cities. Much in line with the work of Saskia Sassen,¹ Manuel Castells describes the new “informational city” as the “urban expression of the whole matrix of determination of the Informational Society, as the Industrial City was the spatial expression of the Industrial Society”.² Cities can be seen as hubs in the global network of people, information and goods, and – depending on their centrality in networks of finance, labour, production and information – such a position in...

    • Chapter Three Imagining the City: The Difference that Art Makes
      (pp. 51-61)
      Judith Vega

      The city is, historically and presently, regarded asthecentre and epitome of modern life. It is in the city that the various self-images of modernity (freedom, rationality, wealth), as well as the various critiques of modernity (decadence, alienation, poverty) find their exemplars. The city constitutes the focal point of many ambivalences about modern life. Still, if it is thoroughly disputed what modern urban life stands for, the dispute also evidences how the city is thought to constitute a certain way of life, to engender some or other general mode of being. As René Boomkens (in this volume) puts it,...

    • Chapter Four Body Movies: The City as Interface
      (pp. 62-72)
      Martijn de Waal

      The city would not exist as a modern urban society without the urban public domain. This is the central claim of a large number of theories of urban culture.¹ After all, urban life is defined by the fact that we are forced to share the city with a multitude of strangers from disparate backgrounds and with diverse identities and interests. For this reason it is of great importance that there are public spaces where we encounter these “others”, are confronted by them and must relate to them. In each of these theories, the urban public domain in which people negotiate...


    • Chapter Five Homo Ludens 2.0: Play, Media and Identity
      (pp. 75-92)
      Valerie Frissen, Jos de Mul and Joost Raessens

      A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of playfulness. We are witnessing a global “ludification of culture”. Since the 1960s, in which the word “ludic” became popular in Europe and the United States to designate playful behaviour and artefacts, playfulness has increasingly become a mainstream characteristic of our culture. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind in this context is the immense popularity of computer games, which, as far as global sales are concerned, have already outstripped Hollywood. According to a recent study in the United States, 8 to 18 year olds play computer games on average...

    • Chapter Six Digital Cartographies as Playful Practices
      (pp. 93-100)
      Sybille Lammes

      My neighbour recently looked up a Google Street View image of his tattoo parlour in Amsterdam. He noticed that his bicycle was parked in front of his shop, so he gathered that the specially equipped cars that made the panoramic photographs were traversing the city on one of his working days. Becoming intrigued he returned to the map and looked up the school of his children whom he always picks up on his non-working days. On the Google Street View image a crowd of parents were gathering outside the school building. So he figured that the picture must have been...

    • Chapter Seven From Gengsi to Gaul: Mobile Media and Playful Identities in Jakarta
      (pp. 101-109)
      Michiel de Lange

      How do mobile media technologies shape identities? Identity – what it is to be and have a self, and to belong to social and cultural groups – is always mediated. People understand themselves, others and their world in terms of the media they know and use. According to philosopher Paul Ricoeur, narrative is the privileged medium for self-understanding and social/cultural identifications.¹ The quick and widespread adoption of mobile media technologies prompts us to revisit this claim. In this window I look at the context of Jakarta, Indonesia, to show how urban mobile media practices shape identities in playful ways.


    • Chapter Eight Transformations in Perception and Participation: Digital Games
      (pp. 110-127)
      Renée van de Vall

      In these words Martijn Hendriks describes a crucial turning point in the video-gameGrand Theft Auto San Andreas.GTA San Andreasis the fifth in theGrand Theft Autoseries published by Rockstar in 2004. The game starts with an animation explaining how the protagonist, gang member Carl Johnson, returns home after years of living in another city. After being picked up and abused by police officers, he is left alone in a nondescript back alley. However, in this alley it is not only Carl who is left alone; it is also the player. The figure on the screen no...

    • Chapter Nine Machinima: Moving on the Edge of Rules and Fiction
      (pp. 128-136)
      René Glas

      This study deals with issues of control over the production and distribution of player-produced creative material in and around the massively multiplayer online role-playing gameWorld of Warcraft, played by millions around the world.¹ The particular form of creative material investigated here is known as “machinima”, which can be described as a combination of film-making techniques, animation production and game engine manipulation. The creative productions under discussion in this case study display free rather than instrumental play in its most outspoken form: players do not play the game to beat its goal-oriented content, but instead seek ways to expand or...


    • Chapter Ten Sound Technologies and Cultural Practices: How Analogies Make us Listen to Transformations in Art and Culture
      (pp. 139-154)
      Karin Bijsterveld, José van Dijck, Annelies Jacobs and Bas Jansen

      Since World War II, an impressive series of new sound technologies has entered the scene: the reel-to-reel recorder, the cassette recorder, the compact disk, the mp3 player, sampling software on personal computers and music-sharing facilities on the Internet. How did such sound technologies affect transformations in the cultural practices of listening to and making music in Western Europe? Which shifts did they trigger in the traditional boundaries between active and passive participation in music culture? What was, for instance, the impact of the tape recorder on the boundaries between producing and consuming music, listening and creating, copying and editing music?...

    • Chapter Eleven The Case of ccMixter: Credit-Giving within a Communal Online Remixing Practice
      (pp. 155-166)
      Bas Jansen

      The opening decade of the new millennium, especially the later part, saw a surge of enthusiasm for new digital technologies and the ways in which these enable formerly passive consumers to activate themselves and engage creatively with the culture surrounding them. Music technologies played a substantial role in this phenomenon. Nowadays, any enthusiast can home-record. Sampling and manipulating pre-existing music have become much simpler. Likewise, the distribution of music is no longer difficult and expensive. It is easy and costs next to nothing. As a consequence of these developments, the question how pop music production works no longer has a...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • Chapter Twelve On the Need for Cooperation between Art and Science
      (pp. 169-174)
      Robert Zwijnenberg

      Over the last two decades there has been an increasing tendency for artists to seek partnerships with academics and vice versa.¹ Exchange projects like artist-in-residency programmes at universities have become common practice and there are many organizations that initiate and actively promote collaboration between artists and academics.² To stimulate theoretical reflection on this development, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) launched in 2006 the CO-OPs programme. CO-OPs focused on the processes of knowledge production that take place when artists and academics work together on a common research question. On the one hand, it aimed at the formation of new...

    • Chapter Thirteen Laboratory on the Move in Retrospect
      (pp. 175-186)
      Ni Haifeng and Kitty Zijlmans

      “Is it then never enough?” a woman exclaimed, visiting the exhibitionThe Return of the Shredsin Scheltema, the contemporary art venue of Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden in the summer of 2007, when facing the mountain of nine tons of textile shreds on display. The exhibition was the largest in a series of projects organized by the Chinese-born, Amsterdam-based artist Ni Haifeng and me during our 18-month collaboration. We called our allianceLaboratory on the Move, indicating the dynamics of our research that was performed in the context of the experimental artist/scholar collaborations (the “CO-OPs”) within the TKC research...

    • Chapter Fourteen Embedded in the Dutch Art World
      (pp. 187-205)
      Judith Thissen

      When the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research invited me in 2006 to develop an art-science project about the commercialization of culture, I had no concrete idea what form such a collaborative project would possibly take, except that I wanted us to critically investigate the market ideology that over the last decades has infiltrated almost all aspects of everyday life in the Netherlands. From the 1990s onwards, large sectors of the welfare state system – notably health-care insurance, communication services and public transport – have been privatized. Education has yet been spared, but most schools and universities are nevertheless managed as...

    • Chapter Fifteen Roots and the Production of Heritage
      (pp. 206-213)
      Alex van Stipriaan

      When in 1978 African American journalist Alex Haley published his historical questRoots, it was an almost instant success.¹ The book sold by the millions and its immensely popular adaption for television conquered the world. In the Netherlands, for instance, the series was broadcasted several times and is still available on DVD. Haley had done what so many in the African Diaspora wanted: find the route back to where their ancestors came from before their enslavement in West- and Central Africa. He used stories and archives and all kinds of other tangible and intangible cultural heritage to find his way...

    • Chapter Sixteen How to Succeed in Art and Science: The Observatory Observed
      (pp. 214-224)
      Geert Somsen and Jeroen Werner

      The Observatory Observedwas one of seven CO-OPs projects – cooperation between artists and scientists or scholars – that took place over the year of 2007. As the name of the project suggests, its aim was to investigate observatories, places where astronomers observe heavenly bodies. We were the artist and scholar involved. Jeroen Werner came to the project because of his previous artwork, which consists of optical installations creating spaces of light beams and image projections that explore the geometry of seeing. Geert Somsen was involved as a historian of science interested in the shifting cultural meanings and social functions...


    • Introduction
      (pp. 227-227)

      In 2002, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) launched a large-scale research programme to explore recent transformations in the cultural field and develop new theoretical concepts and frameworks for the humanities.Transformations in Arts and Cultureran for almost a decade and consisted of seven sub-programmes involving over 30 senior and junior scholars at different universities in the Netherlands. In addition, an art-science programme CO-OPs was set up in which artists and academics explored how art and academe could mutually benefit from each other’s practices and ideas.

      The focus of theTransformationsprogramme was on three interlinked processes that...

    • Interview with José van Dijck and Robert Zwijnenberg
      (pp. 228-244)
      Marcel ten Hooven, José van Dijck and Robert Zwijnenberg

      Instead of carrying a photograph of his wife Patricia in his wallet, the Canadian neurophilosopher Paul Churchland has a scan of her brain. As passionate advocates of eliminative materialism, the couple view psychological phenomena such as belief, hope and love as constructions of the imagination. It is their contention that, in essence, the brain comprises merely the interaction between the neurons contained therein. Believing in a human mind is the same as believing that the earth is flat.

      The irony is that this act of holding on to a scan, intended to tease romantics, can also be viewed as an...

  9. About the Authors
    (pp. 245-250)