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2023 Abstracts Stage 2

Dungeons & Dragons or Enlightenment and Play

This project socially critiques the tabletop fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. To this end, I engage with game studies to clarify notions of play and Joseph P. Laycock’s account of meaning production within D&D specifically. For these thinkers, play provides a space constitutively separated from and opposed to external life. This is an imaginative activity. Laycock highlights quasi-religious function of engaging in imagined worlds through a sacred order in D&D. I critique these accounts for their undeveloped social theory, which foreshortens their analysis, taking play or the religious sentiment as historically invariant rather than as social and historical products. As a background to this critique, I engage with the critical theory of Adorno and Horkheimer. For them, the self-defeat of the Enlightenment characterises the contemporary social world. The former failed to realise its promise of liberation and instead continued the domination it sought to overcome.
I go on to unfold the historical dialectic of D&D. From its inception, it has been a product of bourgeois society which serves its work process, despite its ostensible separation from external life. Play and narrative, in the form of the novel, both have utopian possibilities in turning against the world as it is; I contend that D&D regresses from these into an appendage of the work process which disappoints the existent possibilities of games and novels in truly opposing the ruling order. Rather than overcome magic, D&D mimics the magical practice of sacrifice in sacrificing the player’s own prohibited desires which would contradict the social process. Yet it does so in a form thoroughly characteristic of the Enlightenment; therefore, it can only be classed as regression.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Mass Media of Repression within the Culture Industry

For my stage 3 dissertation, my object of study is mass media, specifically on the subject of repression within the culture industry. I will firstly mention philosopher, Theodor Adorno’s concept of the culture industry, explaining his belief that those who govern society have purposefully caused a standardisation of the media. This creates a domino effect of standardisation in both leisure and work time, that results in a submission to capitalist ideals. I will clarify, that this submission is apparent to Adorno, as during the reign of capitalism, creativity and pleasure have grounded to a halt, preventing new ideas or realisations, which consequently has led to a submission to the political regime.

In response to Adorno, I will discuss Astra Taylor’s concept of repressive technology in her book ‘The Peoples Platform’. Taylor, much like Adorno, argues that the culture industry has led to a growth of capitalist control and power, however, unlike Adorno, Taylor’s focus is on technology.

I will lastly explain Walter Benjamin’s concept of the aura. I will discuss how Benjamin believes that in order for a piece of art to have an aura, it must be authentic and original. Benjamin confesses that the aura of art has depleted as a result of technological advancements, as art can be reproduced easily, thus the original piece has lost its uniqueness. Benjamin, agreeing with Adorno, argues that this, in turn, causes a depletion of creativity. However, I will then reflect on his claim that, if used correctly, this new technology can be an opportunity for a political movement. He says this, as the reproduction of art allows it to be experienced by not just the bourgeoise class, but by all of society, as art has now become a form of mass media. As the opinions of those in power are now not the only ones being heard, the political regime can be challenged, and cultural homogenisation is prevented.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Separating Art from the Artist: An Investigation into the Commodification of Art and its Effects

The issue of whether we can, and should, separate art from the artist is perennial. This project considers the question of separating art from the artist and assess the effects of commodification of art in respect to it. Looking at competing ideas of artistic interpretation and focussing on the approach of historical materialism, this project presents a Marxist view of art and places commodification at the centre of the issue. This project considers Adorno and Horkheimer’s contributions to the subject in the form of their theory of the Culture Industry.

This project found that the effect of the commodification of art was the separation and alienation of the artist from their art. It suggests that this separation and alienation is a necessary feature of production in capitalist societies. The concept of autonomous art is presented as a potential solution to this problem, being defined by its functionlessness and the idea that it cannot or is not commodified.

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2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Dance Music as Culture

Territory: Music, Culture

Object:
Dance music, in its authentic form, with Disco as it’s predecessor — authenticity established by a continuum from Disco to electronic dance music, cultivating ideological resistance, sonic variation and club cultural context.

Methodology:
Unlike most art forms, dance music achieves its ultimate potential in only a moment of euphoria shared by the cumulative joy of a crowd of people. I aim to prove that in these moments, all aspects of authentic dance music come together to form a unique autonomy in the context of the culture industry. I will do this by identifying, using critical analysis, weaknesses in the theories that will be discussed and presenting dance music’s unique ability to exploit these.

Theory:
The Social Theories of Theodor Adorno in The Dialectic of Enlightenment and G.W.F Hegel in The Philosophy of Right and Philosophy of Mind. Hegel’s theory reinforces the concept of an artistic freedom restricted by the Culture Industry.

Application:
Adorno engages in the idea of ‘autonomous art’ against the culture industry. To an extent, this will remain the position of authentic ‘dance music’;ideologically resistant to the culture industry in the way that Adorno idealises. However, a study into Adorno’s own perception of authentic art, a result of his complex, often pretentious Aesthetic Theory, demonstrates why he doesn’t actually believe autonomy can be anything other than illusory in relation to its social context — Adorno is too negative.

Conclusion:
I have thus presented ‘dance’ music’s authentic features as holding the potential to actualise Adorno’s illusory ideal. Whilst I also understand this cannot be maintained, in brief moments, dance music is at least the perfect representation of Hegel’s utopian union of the subjective and objective, yet also, can achieve an independent utopia.

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2017 Abstracts Stage 3

Sexuality in the modern era is a social construct

Michael Foucault
– The repressive hypothesis
– Changes in sexual practices over time
– Mode of power within society

Theodore Adorno
– Enlightenment
– Culture Industry
-Standardisation of sexual categories

Do sexual categories define individuals?
Has sexuality always existed?
How does sexuality function within society?

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2017 Abstracts Stage 3

Everything Now, as Result of Creativity or Commercialism; Reading Arcade Fire with Adorno’s The Culture Industry.

Money + Love
Can artists make a statement about consumer culture without falling into it themselves?

Territory: Arcade Fire’s album Everything Now

Object: Consumer Culture
Philosophy: Adorno’s The Culture Industry

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2017 Abstracts Stage 3

A Defence of Disco: exploring the power and value of disco with reference to Adorno’s theories of music and the Culture Industry

The values of disco are often seen to tie neatly into consumerist culture and represent a false, materialistic and escapist attitude to life. In this project, I seek to provide a defence for a genre that had significant power and value for marginalised communities.

I will be referencing texts that discuss popular music and popular culture, focusing on Theodor Adorno, Richard Middleton and Simon Reynolds predominantly, in order to assess how a musical movement can be valued, what disco music can tell us about ourselves, and whether disco music should be taken seriously as a musical genre.

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2014 Abstracts Stage 3

How Can We Learn from the Holocaust? A critical evaluation of the pedagogic value of responses to the Holocaust and art in law.

Artistic responses:

Adorno: didactic art and mass culture. Holocaust art has the ability to misrepresent victims’ experiences, undermining the pedagogic value of art. Mass culture threatens society’s understanding of the Holocaust by dictating standardized moral messages to its audience.

Schindler’s List is an example of Holocaust art that is not appropriate for education because it dictates a moral message through in scenes of gratuitous violence.

Maus consistently reminds the reader of the dangers of misrepresentation in Holocaust art and does not dictate a message, allowing readers to critically engage with the subject matter and form their own opinions. It is educational without being didactic.

Legal responses:

Holocaust denial: Irving v. Lipstadt set the precedent for how liberal societies can maintain their commitment to free speech whilst protecting the collective memory of the Holocaust from deniers.

Who’s accountable? Society must accept that strategic reasoning pioneered by modernity contributed to the implementation of the Final Solution, rather than assigning Germany sole accountability.

The trial of Adolf Eichmann highlights that individuals have a duty to humanity above the need to follow the orders of their government.Artistic responses:

Adorno: didactic art and mass culture. Holocaust art has the ability to misrepresent victims’ experiences, undermining the pedagogic value of art. Mass culture threatens society’s understanding of the Holocaust by dictating standardized moral messages to its audience.

Schindler’s List is an example of Holocaust art that is not appropriate for education because it dictates a moral message through in scenes of gratuitous violence.

Maus consistently reminds the reader of the dangers of misrepresentation in Holocaust art and does not dictate a message, allowing readers to critically engage with the subject matter and form their own opinions. It is educational without being didactic.

Legal responses:

Holocaust denial: Irving v. Lipstadt set the precedent for how liberal societies can maintain their commitment to free speech whilst protecting the collective memory of the Holocaust from deniers.

Who’s accountable? Society must accept that strategic reasoning pioneered by modernity contributed to the implementation of the Final Solution, rather than assigning Germany sole accountability.

The trial of Adolf Eichmann highlights that individuals have a duty to humanity above the need to follow the orders of their government.

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2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Philosophy of the Commercialisation of Football and the effect this has on the supporter

Thinkers:
Adorno- The notion of ‘Mass Culture’ and ‘Culture Industry’, authentic industries dissolving

Taylor- The concept of identity, commercialisation lowering club affiliation, atomism

Hegel- The consciousness of the individual, and our need to act according to the ‘good’

Marx- The exploitation of the working class within a capitalist society, the revolution of the working class

Key Concepts:
 A study into whether football in the professional era, has taken advantage and alienated the supporters
The passive nature of football supporters “There’s a mentality among supporters. They expect to be treated badly and accept it”
Why in times of recession would people spend hard earned money when it was in such short supply? Abiding to the consumer mentality that the corporate control has created

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2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Set Guitars to Kill: a Musical Examination of Post-Rock

The aim of my project was to examine Post-Rock music and to answer the question ‘is post-rock a philosophically sound musical genre?

To answer this question I looked at the Aesthetic Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer using his work The World as Will and Idea primarily. I applied his thought to the music by a number of the bands from the Genre such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, 65daysofstatic, Explosions in the Sky, And So I Watch You From Afar, Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Slint among others.

I also looked at the social and cultural philosophy of Theodor Adorno found in his works Dialectic of Enlightenment and The Culture Industry. I applied this philosophy to the general attitude of the genre, a genre that tends to be antilabel, anti- capitalist and anti-corporate. I used a number of interviews with bands and also with the founders of Record labels who sign a number of post-rock bands such as Constellation Records.

‘Cause this music can put a human being in a trance like state and deprive it for the sneaking feeling of existing. ‘Cause music is bigger than words and wider than pictures. If someone said that Mogwai are the stars I would not object. If the stars had a sound it would sound like this. – Mogwai – Yes I am a Long Way From Home (Opening Monologue)

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2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Magazine Industry: are We Truly Free to Live an Authentic Life?

I aim to look at the effects mass culture has on society, particularly the influence of the magazine industry, and assess whether we are able to live authentically in keeping with the ideas of Adorno and Heidegger.

The evolution of magazines and the explosion of mass media has influenced individuals greatly.
Magazines have played a part in producing a set of standardized ideals for society to obey. Are we able to live authentically in spite of this?

Theodor Adorno; The Culture Industry
Popular culture in capitalist society is nothing more than a factory of mass produced goods which manipulate society into passivity and obedience.

Martin Heidegger; Being and Time
As humans we are thrown into a culture and society which we have no control over.

If we are all stroked with the same brush of culture then how is it possible to live an authentic life?

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2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Is Moral Photojournalism Possible?

This project looks at photojournalism and the role it plays in our culture. Whether or not photojournalism is ethical and, if it isn’t, what is the function of it?

Focusing specifically on the work of Kevin Carter in the Sudan in 1993, this project explores these topics through critical examination of Theodor W. Adorno’s discourses on Culture as mass deception and Martin Heidegger’s essay On the Origin of the Work of Art.

It will explore the idea of the roles played in society by the photograph, the photographer and the media, and bring to light the idea of the ‘icon of outrage’ as a necessary feature, both for our society and culture and for ethical realisation.

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2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Should Drum and Bass Be Valued as Art?

To determine whether or not drum and bass is a legitimate art form I have looked at the publications of four men; two philosophers and two artists.

Schopenhaur – Music is a representation of the will. Good music accurately depicts the will.

Adorno – music is good insofar as it is innovative and revolts against the bourgeoisie culture industry.

Goldie – Don’t think about art just enjoy it!

Wilde – Art Is good insofar as it is beautiful – as simple as that.

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2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Exploring the Influential Powers and Effects of Social Media

My project aims to demonstrate how manipulated we have become by social media. It questions, in what ways and how much does modern social media affect our lives? Is it a harmless distraction, or has it become too ingrained within our daily lives?

Social media is in my opinion, part of a popular culture that as modern individuals, we desperately want to fit in with. Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. In my project I shall also explore the need we feel as modern individuals to be a part of mass culture and to avoid alienation. Consequently, I shall argue, social media holds a great influence over even the smallest parts of our daily lives. The things we observe and gain from social media in all its forms affect and influence us in a number of ways, occasionally positively but also negatively. Its influence promotes a certain way of life, a life by which we are largely consumed and engulfed by the internet. I shall use Adorno’s concept of mass culture to support my investigation into social media as deception, along with Deleuze’s view on new technology. To conclude I shall use Van Dijk’s view that social and media networks are indeed shaping the prime mode of organisation and stand as the most important structures of modern society, adding to this that we have become almost too dependent on social media, and that we must be aware of the dangers of social media as a whole.

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2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Social Luck versus Social Mobility. Is it OK to be Told the World isn’t Fair?

– Objective/Territory: The ‘American dream’: What is the ‘American dream’ and is it just a product or propaganda process of the capitalist society in which we live? 

– Sources: Karl Marx, Deleuze and Guattari, Charles Taylor and Adorno. 

– Project Outline: Leaving education and entering the ‘real world’ in a time where one’s ideals and ambitions are centred on seeking wealth; why is it that we think this way? I hold the belief that to succeed, it is about whom you know not necessarily what you know. So, I want to prove that wealth is down to social luck. My territory is society and culture and I am trying to show that our basic intuition (one gets what one deserves) is a herd mentality in order for a specific class to benefit. If we think everyone has what they deserve, then we don’t think that it could be redistributed.

Through a method of hermeneutics, I endeavour to seek why it is we think the way we do and why it is we desire wealth. E480

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2011 Abstracts Stage 3

The Problem of Authenticity in Postmodern Society

The aim of my project is to look at the influence of postmodern society and postmodern culture on our experience as authentic, autonomous selves. I hope to unearth something about the true nature of authenticity, if it indeed exists at all, and through the course of this investigation I also hope to obtain a better understanding of my own self. The main question I wish to resolve is: In this postmodern society can anyone really become an authentic individual and consider their experiences to be authentic? The foreseeable problems are centred on the condition of the postmodern world, which promotes inauthenticity. I shall be considering the views of Adorno: The Culture Industry; Heidegger: Being and Time; Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, whilst also investigating The Truman show.

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2010 Abstracts Stage 3

Art as Free Expression under Capitalism

My overall aim: To determine whether art can be free expression or whether it is always constrained by capitalism’s effects.

My objects: The works of; Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and the film Fight Club.

Philosophy: Heidegger, Vattimo and Adorno.

The concepts I wish to explore include…

Alienation – Does a film that can be bought and sold provoke, as a result, alienation from its message?

Truth – Can a work under a capitalist agenda still give us the semblance of truth? I will contrast Adorno with Heidegger and Vattimo in addressing this.

Is it necessary to adopt Artaud’s methods of enveloping an audience as described in The Theatre of Cruelty in order to freely express under capitalism? And is this compatible with Adorno’s critique of culture?

By the end of the work I will answer the question of the possibility of resistance of capitalism by art. I will have taken into account the postmodern views of Heidegger and Vattimo and contrasted them with the philosophy of Adorno. At the end I will have determined whether any of the artists mentioned have produced any works of originality or if, under capitalism, this is merely an illusion. I will also determine whether a film like Fight Club can be seen as original in its criticism of capitalism.

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2010 Abstracts Stage 3

Consumer Culture. What’s in It for Me?

Territory.
The consumer culture/Modernity /Postmodernity/Commodity and the role of the individual experience. Essentially the current capitalist world in which we live.

Object.
The various theories brought forward by philosophers and sociologists such as Horkheimer and Adorno, Giddens, Lyotard, Marx, Featherstone, Slater, Baudrillard, Debord and Bernstein. The theories of Modernity and Postmodernity, their consequences when related to the concepts of Consumer Culture and a world of Commodity.

Change.
I am to chart the change from traditional world view through to modernity. The extent to which capitalism is affected by the culture industry and its movement towards postmodernity. Mass culture and the effect of industrialisation. The Influence of the Media industry, and the various problems we associate with advertising and marketing culture in contemporary society.

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2010 Abstracts Stage 3

The Relation of Advertising and Branding to the Rise of Capitalism in Britain

My third year project presentation is on the rise of capitalism in Britain by means of advertising and branding with reference to Theodor Adorno’s The Culture Industry and Dialectic of Enlightenment and Naomi Klein’s No Logo. I will evaluate the rise of capitalism in Britain, and what led to the individual’s willingness to conform to this particular type of industry. I will analyse the techniques of the colossal chain companies that engage individuals to consume, these being advertising and its origins and the increase of companies starting to produce „brands‟ instead of concentrating on the production of the product.

This leads my dissertation on to the work of Theodor Adorno, Adorno subscribed to many of Karl Marx’s about the economy and the exploitative relations of capitalism and advertising. Adorno argued that capitalism fed people with the products of a „culture industry‟ the opposite of „true art‟, to keep them passively satisfied and politically apathetic. The strength of his theoretical contribution owes a great deal to the originality with which he traced pathways between the central themes of German idealist philosophy, Marxist sociology and Freudian psychopathology.

I will discuss his ideas about alienation, the regression of listening, fetish consciousness and the domination of nature, in relation to our capitalist society today. The repercussions on society of Adorno’s notions are colossal; such as the ideas of brain-dead docile populations hence, I will explain these.

My case study focuses on the rise of Tesco’s as a business; I will show how it exploits individuals through capitalism at its purest. Many of Adorno’s theories on domination and the way Tesco’s sucks us into a cycle of fetishizing commodities that we will never need or use.

Naomi Klein’s No Logo is seen as the Das Kapital of the anti-corporate movement. The basic perspective is that multinational corporations have become so big that they have superseded governments and have become the ruling political bodies of our era. Unlike governments, multinational corporations are accountable only to their shareholders and there are no mechanisms in place to make them “put people before profits”. Klein takes a modern perspective that Adorno is not here to see. I shall then contrast ideas from both Klein and Adorno to gain a modern perspective of the problems of capitalism and how it affects our society and the individual.

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2009 Abstracts Stage 3

The Class System: is it Evident at Newcastle University?

Do we still live in a society that is dominated by issues of class? • If so why do certain sectors of society refuse to discuss it and others believe that it no longer exists? • Why do we force social issues, in the desperate hope not to show a class divide? Aim: These were some of the questions I wanted to try and tackle this year. With the ever increasing topic of class being raised, I decided to question Newcastle students on their perspectives. Whether they felt that Universities were a key part of society’s social engineering, or whether they believed that there was a social divide at the University. Philosophers: Focusing on the work of Karl Marx and Theodor Adorno to illustrate the concept of capitalism, and whether we still live in a bourgeoisie and proletariat state.