Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH, USA
With the rise of cultural studies, positivism and formalism fell out of favor. But in recent years, altered versions of these methodologies have been suggested as solutions to the deficiencies of the ideological approach dominating the field. Where the ideological approach looks at the content of texts to determine their meaning, the aesthetic approach adopted by media scholars in recent years returns to the close textual readings of formalism (while abandoning its assertion that meaning resides in the text alone). Similarly, where the ideological approach tends to use textual analysis devoid of sociological empiricism, the use of “big data” in the humanities enhances interpretation by using empirical data alongside it (while rejecting positivism’s assumption that measurable data alone is probative). This article draws both methodological strands together to propose an approach to media interpretation called “grounded aesthetics.” Grounded aesthetics involves correlating sociological data with close textual reading to argue for the likely social meaning of the text, given the techniques it uses and the social reality around it. Examples of classroom activities are used to show how the approach can address the “post-truth” perspective many students share: that analyses of representation are interchangeable opinions. Grounded aesthetics greatly improves students’ ability to create well-supported textual analyses and to evaluate the persuasiveness of others’ arguments. It also models critical thinking skills that are useful for dismantling attacks on reality in the “fake news” era, especially those that dismiss analyses of inequality as ideology.
Keywords: aesthetics, big data, class, cultural studies, empiricism, formalism, gender, inequality, media studies, pedagogy, post-truth, race
Becca Cragin is an Associate Professor of Popular Culture in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University. Her research interests include gender, race, and sexuality in television and film, in comedy and crime genres.
Cragin, B. (2018). Grounded Aesthetics: Pedagogy for a Post-Truth Era. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 5(3) http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v5-issue-3/grounded-aesthetics-pedagogy-for-a-post-truth-era/
Cragin, Becca. “Grounded Aesthetics: Pedagogy for a Post-Truth Era.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2018, vol 5, no 3. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v5-issue-3/grounded-aesthetics-pedagogy-for-a-post-truth-era/