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Investigating Cultural Expertise: The Changing Roles of Programme Makers, Artistic Directors, Curators and Critics

Posted: October 2nd, 2016 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Call for papers for an international conference organised by the Groupe d’Études sur la Prescription at the MSH de Dijon (France) on 5, 6 and 7 April 2017.
With the support of the Université de Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (UBC) and of the CIMEOS (UBC), and GERIICO (Lille 3) laboratories.

Keynote speakers: Philip Schlesinger (University of Glasgow), Tia DeNora (University of Exeter, by videoconference), Ghislaine Chartron (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris)

A Little HiStory…

Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries provided the stage for what is commonly referred to as the Scientific Revolution, which was at once a new way of approaching knowledge, social organisation and how we relate to the world. One of the most significant expressions of this cosmogony was the rise and increasing professionalisation of the scientific sphere, and its corollary: the disqualification of popular forms of knowledge. At the same time, the different variants forms of Enlightenment philosophy, whether they were Cartesian or more experimental, stressed the importance of education, the ineluctability of progress and the reliability of scientific knowledge. This process of a body of professional experts being constituted and legitimised developed further throughout the 19th century, in particular within what is usually known as the cultural sphere or the arts. The production, circulation and consumption of cultural goods, which took place in the public space and on dedicated markets, coincided with the rise of a host of organisations (the state, libraries, schools, foundations, galleries, musical editions, press, media etc.) and individuals (critics, art historians, librarians…) responsible for advising and educating art audiences (and markets).

All of this formed a vast galaxy that must be viewed as a continuum along which are positioned both experts and consumers involved in relationships that are incessantly being reconfigured. Throughout the 20th century, at least in countries which had access to these resources, the rise of the performance and music industry, of radio, cinema, television, museums and more generally of communication networks led to a strong diversification of the modes of cultural expertise and their circulation. While this progress promoted the development of expert professions and networks, it also involved lay forms of expertise, approaches involving more or less mediation of knowledge and culture, and an informal world of advice between peers. As a result, amateur-consumers learnt to develop and organise their artistic universes and to make choices by combining various forms of expert recommendations – professional criticism, academic literature, media, participation in collective forms of evaluation, fanzines, advice from friends etc. The development of the communication tools offered by the Internet and the ways in which they are used have reconfigured, disseminated and multiplied mediations and forms of expertise. This entire set of practices thus blurs the traditional boundaries between professional and amateur practices of expertise.


This conference aims to describe, discuss and analyse various forms of cultural expertise, be they traditional or emerging ones, within the present context of increasing globalisation and of a crisis of expertise. In order to do so, we are putting forward a series of questions and hypotheses aimed at approaching cultural expertise in a wide-reaching and open manner:

First of all, how should we define cultural expertise? Is it more of an exchange of information, of knowledge, of specific forms of expertise, of journalistic or academic criticism, of normative recommendations or commercial injunctions, of actions and techniques that promote reputations or even brands? Can we articulate (or not) these various ways in or stages? What can we learn from these various definitions of the very perimeter of culture? How do approaches from different academic disciplines – information and communication, media studies, sociology, art history, digital humanities – contribute to informing us about these processes?

Then comes the question of knowing who issues these expert recommendations and within what spaces? Are they institutions, companies, media, particular individuals, social groups (the fans of a TV series coming together online), technical instruments (a theatre season programme, search engines, online algorithms recommending particular purchases), artistic productions (a film, a TV series, a David Bowie record)? How can we describe and quantify the specificities of these various entities? Can we identify particular languages, objects, information channels or discourses that might be privileged by such or such a type of expertise? Are we essentially dealing with gatekeepers whose function would be to select the “right products”, and therefore eliminate the “wrong ones”? What about the efficiency of these various experts, and can we compare them with each other?

Thirdly: what of the relationship between experts and the recipients of their expertise? How can we describe the interactions, forms of appropriation, and uses of expert recommended contents at the individual or collective scale? How should we evaluate the role played in this generation of expertise by groups of fans, communities of users, and more generally by forms of knowledge sharing, both on and offline? Can we take the view that these interactions have an impact on the very forms of expertise? Can a comparative analysis of systems of expertise dating from before and after the internet allow us to identify changes in the cognitive or decision-making process? What forms of resistance, misappropriation and autonomy are displayed by the consumer/amateur/general public in the face of these various systems?

Next, in a world of cultural hyperchoice, what strategies do consumers employ to identify the experts who might be able to direct them? According to what standards do users place their trust in particular experts? What types of information practices and what objects are thus mobilised on and offline? Within the context of an expanding Internet, how can we analyse the respective positions of professional and amateur practices on the one hand, and the relationships between them on the other?

Finally, given these practices and their transformations, what does cultural expertise tell us about culture, its modes of dissemination and consumption, and about its various incarnations?


Based on these various leads, we are looking for papers that will illustrate and help us to understand what we might call the chain of expertise, meaning the entire set of players, techniques, discourses and the interactions between all of these that give rise to one or several expert recommendations. For example, a cultural blog does not just involve a blogger, a blogosphere and internet users, but also comments, links, recurrent content, a lay-out, an access provider, indexing sites, measuring the audience and the online reach etc. Viewing expertise as a series of interactions will probably lead us to also interrogate the way in which experts are (in)formed and to examine the ways in which users analyse and talk about their own relationships to artistic products. We might also examine local and common forms of “word-of-mouth”, which constitute more or less formalised modes of expertise and should be taken into account in an analysis of the chain of expertise.

Furthermore, might we not view cultural expert recommendation as a trial, meaning not just a situation where the efficiency of the expert and the trust of the user are tried anew each time, but also a space within which values and convictions are mobilised – a trial whose consistency and meaning bring into play practices, relationships, and action sequences taking the form of moments of unproductive trial and error? In this sense, we would welcome papers investigating the specific temporality of cultural expertise.

Generally speaking, we would welcome any comparative approach aiming to contrast forms of cultural expertise with other forms of expertise (legal or medical, for example). Finally, and still within a comparative perspective, works dealing with the differences in terms of articulation and practices in various countries would certainly enrich the perspectives opened up by this symposium.

Of course, this is not intended as an exhaustive list of suggestions, and the committee will take into consideration any other proposals.

Proposals for panel discussions or posters are also welcome.
The symposium is open to all disciplines and to transversal or even indisciplinary approaches.


Proposals should take the form of a summary of a maximum of 3000 characters in French or English, to which should be attached a short presentation of the author (status, connection to an institution, laboratory, email address). The proposals must outline the issues examined by the research project, the main lines of thought and the main bibliographical sources. They must be sent before 25 November 2016 to the following addresses: [email protected] and [email protected]

The organising committee will respond via email by 15 December at the latest.

The symposium will be held in French and in English, and each speaker is requested to produce a Power Point-type presentation in english for his/her paper, which must include at least the titles of the various sections of his/her presentation.

We are planning to publish some texts based on the papers presented during the symposium in a peer-reviewed journal.

Organising Committee

Groupe d’Études sur la Prescription (GEP): Brigitte Chapelain, Émilie Da Lage, François Debruyne, Pierre Delcambre, Sylvie Ducas, Catherine Dutheil-Pessin, Fabrice Pirolli, François Ribac.

Scientific Committee

Chris Atton (Edinburgh Napier University), Andy Bennett (Griffith University), Jérôme Berthaut (UBC), Mélanie Bourdaa (Université Bordeaux 3), Brigitte Chapelain (Université Paris 13), Émilie Da Lage (Université Lille 3), François Debruyne (Université Lille 3), Pierre Delcambre (Université Lille 3), Sylvie Ducas (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense), Catherine Dutheil-Pessin (Université Grenoble Alpes), Carles Feixa (Universitat de Lleida), Sylvette Giet (Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin) Frédéric Gimello-Mesplomb (Université d’Avignon), Éric Heilmann (UBC) Matthieu Letourneux (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense), Jean-Marc Leveratto (Université de Lorraine), Sophie Maisonneuve (Université Paris-Descartes), Isabelle Moindrot (Université Paris 8), Fabrice Montebello (Université de Lorraine), Nanta Novello Paglianti (UBC), Fabrice Pirolli (Université du Maine), Philippe Poirrier (UBC), François Ribac (UBC), Paola Sedda (UBC) Sarah Sepulchre (Université catholique de Louvain), Élodie Sevin (Université Lille 3), David Vandiedonck (Université Lille 3).

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