ECREA Conference - Media, Communication and the Spectacle

Rotterdam, 26-27 November 2009
Venue: Erasmus University Rotterdam

Media, Communication and the Spectacle

"Today's wind is one of spectacle. It may not be of our making. Its origins may not be the pure lands of the Enlightenment but instead the commercial barrens of advertising and entertainment. But use it we must, for without the wind, we are becalmed, stuck, going nowhere"
Andrew Boyd and Stephen Duncombe(2004)'The Manufacture of Dissent: What the Left Can Learn from Las Vegas',Journal of Aesthetics & Protest 1(3).

Claims about the spectacularisation of different aspects of contemporary life are often heard, and the media are often blamed for the part they play in presenting spectacularised takes on political and social questions. The idea of 'spectacle' is normally presented as pervasive, as it is believed to trivialise the issues at stake, and uncritically gives oxygen to simplifying, often stigmatising, stereotypes. Now-classic works in media studies (such as Daniel Boorstin's The Image or Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves Up to Death) have addressed these issues, exercising an undeniable influence over media scholarship. Influenced by the seminal work of Guy Debord (Society of Spectacle, 1967) through which the notion of the spectacle actually transcended its media specificity, contemporary readings of Debord stress the need to re-conceptualise the idea of the spectacle in relation to the current neo-liberal consumer media culture.

Viewing the notion of the spectacle in broad terms, this colloquium seeks to bring together scholarly work from academic fields such as democracy and (new) media, as well as journalism and film studies. The spectacle provides a powerful concept able to initiate a new 'wind' in media and communication studies. It relates to theories on 'hyperreality', the 'gaze', 'performance' and the 'scopic' as well as to theories on active popular media consumption, the social meanings and impacts of communication, representation, and the relationship between media and culture, even extending to media and cultural policies. The cultural, economic, technological, social, and political conditions underpinning the society of the spectacle provide insights into the study and analysis of media production, representation and reception.

This colloquium aims to provide a broad overview of recent theories and empirical work engaging with the phenomenon of the spectacle by focussing on media and communication in relation to film studies, gender and democracy. This conference is intended to discuss a diversity of perspectives and reflections on the media as a spectacle from a wide range of approaches.

Organised by ERMeCC (Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture) and ECREA's Gender and Communication section, Communication and Democracy section, Film Studies section and the Young Scholars' Network. See URL:


On the programme pages, the names of the presenters are linked to the abstracts of their papers.

Programme Overview
ProgrammeThursday 26 November2009
Programme Friday 27November2009