Section XI: Reimagining and Reinventing Culture

Track 6: Popular Culture: Social Media and Entertainment
(Randall Auxier
)

 

In light of the mission of the conference, this track seeks to integrate the study of process thought with active effort to introduce positive social change. Such changes are informed by our cultural aims. Cultural aims include but are certainly not limited to only art, adventure, truth, beauty, and peace.

It is clear that popular culture often reinforces what is worst in our civilization. Yet, popular culture has often been a force for progressive reforms in a number of domains in society. Whatever changes today will change with the cooperation of popular culture. It is an indispensable element in seizing an alternative. In sports, music, movies, and television, especially, racial and gender stereotypes have often been questioned and counteracted; the vision of a racially integrated society and the society more sensitized of the problem of discrimination against women and other oppressed groups, has been significantly advanced by expressions of popular culture. Similarly, most of what people know about climate change comes to them by way of these media, and it forms how people think about that problem. We will seek papers and presentations that examine both the history of pop culture, for better and worse, and which seek to apply the principles and values of process thought to mobilize the media of popular culture in order to frame better prospects for the future. We aim to harness the vast reach of popular culture and put those media to work for the betterment of all.

 

Session 1 (Friday, June 5, 2:00-3:30): Television in the Present and Future

Chair and Commentary: Gary L. Herstein, National Coalition of Independent Scholars

Speakers:

Przemyslaw Bursztyka, University of Warsaw

On the (Im)Possibility of Cultural Reconstruction. Television as/and Radical Imagination”

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Have You No Decency? Democracy as a House of Cards”

Session 2 (Friday, June 5, 4:00-5:30): Sports and the Global Community

Chair and Commentary: Randall E. Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Speakers:

Matthew Pamental, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

How Football Can Change the World”

Matthew Donnelly, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Education and Style: Development of Persons in International Professional Tennis”

Session 3 (Saturday, June 6, 11:00-12:30): The Power of Virtual Environments

Chair and Commentary: Jared Kemling, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Speakers:

Charles S. Herman, Austin, Texas

Whitehead’s ‘Process’ as a Methodology Presupposing Virtual Reality and Capable of Influencing a Modal Academic Culture”

Gary L. Herstein, National Coalition of Independent Scholars

Trouble on the Borderlands: Mayhem, Madness, and Morality (and a Bazillionder Guns)”

Session 4 (Saturday June 6, 2:00-3:30): Film: Importance and Truth

Chair and Commentary: Matthew Pamental, University of Tennessee

Speakers:

Florence Wallack (F. Bradford Wallack), Independent Scholar, Berkeley, CA

Abundant Documentaries Educate us All, or Seeing is Believing”

Jared Kemling, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Presentation Problem and Causal Efficacy in Nature”

Session 5 (Saturday, June 6, 4:00-5:30): Music and Change

Chair and Commentary: Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Speakers:

Luke Dick, SONY-Little Louder Publishing, Nashville, TN

Songs to Remember / Songs to Forget”

Brian J. Stanfield, John A. Logan College

This Machine Surrounds Hate: Pete Seeger, A.N. Whitehead, and Folk Process as Cultural Meliorism.”

Session 6 (Sunday, June 7, 11:00-12:30): Race, Culture, and Popular Perception

Chair and Commentary: Eli Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Speakers:

Juan Thurmond, St. Louis, Missouri

Whiteheadian Meditations: The Intensity of Experience in Black Prophetic Thought”

Daniel J. Ott, Monmouth College

(Re)Making King an Icon of Nonviolence”

Session 7 (Sunday, June 7, 2:00-3:30) The Food Culture

Commentary: Florence Windfall (F. Bradford Wallack), Independent Scholar, Systems Science Studies the Web of Life

Speakers:

Eli Orner Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Justifying Robbery: Grounding the Slow Food Movement in Alfred North Whitehead’s Cosmology”

John August, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Cartesian Fooding: The Analysis and Composition of the Process of Food”

Session 8 (Sunday, June 7, 4:00-5:30): Cultural Heroes and Religious Consciousness

Chair and Commentary: Cheongho Lee, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Speakers:

Thurman Todd Willison, Union Theological Seminary

The Worlds We Wish For: The Cosmology of Superheroes and its Anticipation in Whitehead’s Thought”

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Church of Jesus Christ without Christ Crucified (or The Most Important Philosopher You Never Studied)”

 

Participants:

John W. August III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Cartesian Fooding: The Analysis and Composition of the Process of Food”

The myriad critiques of the modern, Cartesian method of analysis and composition did not result in modification of all of the facets of modern life that it ultimately permeated. This presentation will be an illustration of the consequence of a lack of critique of the Cartesian method in relation to political economy, food, and foodie culture. I will argue that we have lost an appreciation for the process of fooding in our analysis and recomposition of the meal.

 

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Church of Jesus Christ without Christ Crucified (or The Most Important Philosopher You Never Studied)”

 

Flannery O’Connor recognized, as early as 1952, that in the wreckage left behind by the World Wars and the Holocaust, “Jesus” was going to be up for grabs. Whoever had the best sales pitch would get the prize. She satirized the situation by creating a new kind of preacher, a war-damaged and desperate soul who has had the revelation that no one can die for anyone else. This character, Hazel Motes, preaches the Church of Jesus Christ without Christ Crucified, although the message and the name of the church keep changing as the story unfolds. The nightmare of Jesus as a process, at the mercy of popular opinion and need and greed is captured here, just as it is in Kevin Smith’s film Dogma, and a number of other presentations of Jesus that draw on the trope of irony. What all have in common is the free-for-all that depends upon the absence of the real Jesus and the omni-presence of substitutes. I will provide a phenomenology of the absence of Jesus as a salve to the sincere followers and as an appreciation of the ironists who may or may not think we need a little more of the Savior in our future. I argue that the figure of Jesus is too important to be ignored by the academics and the educated public. Philosophers and thinkers of all kinds must become re-engaged in the discussion of Jesus’s ideas. Otherwise, control of the icon devolves into the situation satirized by O’Connor and Smith.

 

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Have You No Decency? Democracy as House of Cards”

 

The new golden age of television, led by HBO, AMC and now Netflix, produces high quality serial television, falling into new temporal arrangements of 13 or 22 episodes ironically still called “seasons.” Instead of airing over a course of weeks, Netflix has tried releasing full seasons all at once, so that subscribers can “binge-watch” the entire season in a day or two. This is a new form of story-telling. It enables viewers to recognize continuities, developments, subtleties, and other characteristics that have been lost before. It also enables writers to tell stories that had been too long to tell before, in a movie or even a mini-series. This format permits a kind of moralizing and long-term thinking that can be used to good effect. The series House of Cards is a groundbreaker in this regard. I will analyze its moral importance in this paper.

Przemysław Bursztyka, University of Warsaw

On the (Im)Possibility of Cultural Reconstruction. Television as/and Radical Imagination”

The aim of my paper is to analyze television in terms of radical imagination, asking to what extent the two are factually different and why. Imagination understood in a radical manner would indicate the creative, spontaneous and original mode of apprehending the reality. It would mean that the latter is always based on the essential mixture of what is usually called the real and the imaginary or fictional. Or to put it more radically, it even precedes such a distinction. As such, it is a power of providing significant (conceptual as well as axiological) frameworks within which the construction and re-construction of the cultural reality is possible. It seems – at first sight – that television as such functions precisely in that manner. It works, by its very nature, as the imaginative creation of what is to be conceived. Although, it is based on the intention of showing or rather describing the prior reality, in fact what it does is not so much description but rather pre-scription. The latter, on the other hand, does not seem to be radically original. It sends off to certain external principles of motivation. The very possibility of cultural reconstruction which would be able to reinvigorate the most fundamental values of Western culture, is essentially connected with the principles mentioned above. The main objects of my analysis will be TV news and commercials.

 

Luke Dick, SONY-Little Louder Publishing, Nashville, TN

Songs to Remember / Songs to Forget”

I’ve heard it said that there are two varieties of song: songs that help you remember and songs that help you forget. My paper focuses on the creative impulses and motivations involved in the writing of these two categories of songs. It seems arguable that songs of remembrance require and induce a more reflective quality of everyday being and that reflection is a means to a truly open method of inquiry.

 

Matthew Donnelly, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Education and Style: Development of Persons in International Professional Tennis.”

My project is to examine the way in which individuals develop toward fully-formed persons in the international public space of professional tennis. I am especially interested in the way persons are affected by exposure to a cosmopolitan public and its accompanying resources, influences (helpful and harmful), and the development of a global (rather than national) personal paradigm.

Charles S. Herman, Austin, TX

What’s in a word? Beginning with a short look at the issues confronting analyses requiring ‘process’, ‘realism’, ‘virtual’, ‘culture’, etc., I move to a discussion ofVirtual Reality: The Essence of a Concept.” Peirce’s concerns therewith were based on philosophical realism, and a like realism is presupposed by Whitehead’s methodology. Variations on the idea of ‘virtual’ serve to distinguish machine-based and concept-based examples and uses. I conclude with a discussion of “Parent Modal Cultures” and how we can influence them. These are useful terms to contextualize efforts to influence others in a given cultural environment. I evaluate parent cultural values that influence the acceptance of novelty, with some issues stemming from a Luddite or under-informed state of those employing a Virtual Reality tool.

 

Gary L. Herstein, National Coalition of Independent Scholars

Trouble on the Borderlands: Mayhem, Madness, and Morality (and a Bazillionder Guns)”

An examination of the First Person Shooter game Borderlands 2, its use of aesthetics and irony to situate and challenge the violence intrinsic to the game, as well as the abstract model it provides for the coming to be of an actual entity’s world (with, again, its emphasis upon the aesthetic dimensions).

 

Jared Kemling, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

My paper uses the work of filmmakers to demonstrate and elaborate Whitehead’s theory of perception (and symbolic reference). Whitehead’s theory of perception will then be applied to the problem of how best to create presentationally immediate spaces which symbolize the causal efficacy of the natural world, especially in its increasingly damaged aspects (global warming, and so on). In other words, I intend to address the question of how we (as a society) should best symbolize the environment to promote positive action.

 

Eli Orner Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Justifying Robbery: Grounding the Slow Food Movement in Alfred North Whitehead’s Cosmology”

My presentation grounds and defends the Slow Movement through Whitehead’s Cosmology.  I argue that by analyzing a particular “fast food” meal as an actual entity, and a particular “slow food” meal as an actual entity, we learn how each actual entity prioritizes different relations in its actual world and then add values that will be taken up in subsequent actual entities. In other words, the Slow Food Movement has recognized that a different world is created depending upon how we choose to eat a meal, and that such decisions have irrevocable impacts on the trajectories of future meals, the way we get the food provided for those meals, the types of food production needed to get food provided in such a way, and survival of society in general. 

 

Daniel J. Ott, Monmouth College

(Re)Making King an Icon of Nonviolence”

 

Popular iconography of Martin Luther King, Jr., has largely cast him alternately as orator and martyr, thereby reducing his legacy to charisma and tragedy, and stripping it of King’s message of nonviolence. King’s own popular appeals to equality and love may yet have potential to remake King an icon of nonviolence and provide resource for work toward an ecological civilization.

 

Matthew Pamental, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

How Football Can Change the World”

Football (soccer) is the world’s game, with 198 national organizations, 6,000 clubs or leagues, and more than 265 million registered participants in 2013. It is also a massive market with a large ecological footprint. In addition, football teams, players and fans often form an intense bond, creating a tightly knit community, as recent research has shown. Those bonds are not merely national, but have become international, for example as teams from the British Premiere League have marketed themselves heavily internationally, and both teams and individual players have become recognizable global brands, such as Wayne Rooney and Manchester United. FIFA, the international organizing body for world football associations, acknowledges sustainability as a duty of world citizenship that goes beyond the game, but generally limits itself to best sustainability practices at its own events, such as the World Cup, and does not press its member organizations, such as the Premiere League in the UK or the German Bundesliga, to follow suit. Nor do any of these organizations truly “stand for” sustainability, as Cheshire Calhoun so aptly put it. In other words, while they may claim to be good environmental stewards, they do not act on that ideal, particularly in the face of the high-ecological-footprint habits of the players and their families, local leagues and clubs. However, in today’s climate—pun intended—environmental leadership is necessary if we are to change those habits and create better environmental citizens, not to mention do our best to mitigate the worst possible effects of climate change. In this paper, I will argue that, given its reach and influence, the global community of football can indeed change the world for the better. 

 

Brian J. Stanfield, John A. Logan College

This Machine Surrounds Hate: Pete Seeger, A.N. Whitehead, and Folk Process as Cultural Meliorism.”

Pete Seeger has an intimate connection with Whitehead, having informally attended one of his classes at Harvard.  Seeger was also fond of quoting passages from The Aims of Education to illustrate his more serious concerns about human progress.  Seeger’s father, Charles Seeger, is generally acknowledged the founder of ethnomusicology and as having coined the term “folk process” to indicate the transmission of cultural artifacts, such as music, art or ideas.  Seeger drew inspiration from his father’s study of folk music, and although he is known as a musician who revived the 5-string banjo as a popular instrument, he was also a musical activist for decades.  Seeger’s social meliorism comes from his belief that human conflict can be overcome if people simply sit together and face each other and talk through their differences.  Seeger used music as a peaceful tool for disarming those who would resort to violence and hate in favor of rational dialogue.  He favored the ideal of a singalong, rather than a monologue, and his meliorism is rooted in his love of Whitehead’s educational theory.

 

Juan Thurmond, St. Louis, MO

Whiteheadian Meditations: The Intensity of Experience in Black Prophetic Thought”

Alfred North Whitehead’s radical empiricism is a form of symbolic interactionism that frees its agent of the microaggression encumbrances that otherwise might spur unwitting demarcations of racial and gender subjugation. Prophetic pragmatism occupies this same space. Inscribed in the mental structures of the social scientist is the hermeneutic posturing of an orthogonal principle, which, so long as it is not explicitly taken as object, is proportionate to the doctrine of spatial reasoning relations that Whitehead lays bare in his notion of extensive connections and that which can be found in W.E.B. Du Bois’s aesthetics. This paper attempts to make explicit the process of overcoming colorblindness by explicating the pedagogical enumerations of Whitehead’s scheme of connections in Black prophetic thought.

 

Florence Wallack, Independent Scholar, Berkeley, CA

Abundant Documentaries Educate us All, or Seeing is Believing”

Whitehead is the philosopher of networking.  Documentaries show us the EVIDENCE of networking more than any other medium but they also create a hyper-network of human witnesses to documentaries on a global scale at high speed, as fast as microwaves can move (as the popularity of YouTube demonstrates).  They are changing the world more than books because images require no written language and SHOW us what cannot even be conceived in our minds when we’re reading books – they show us what we’ve likely never witnessed.

 

Thurman Todd Willison, Union Theological Seminary

The Worlds We Wish For: The Cosmology of Superheroes and its Anticipation in Whitehead’s Thought”

The superhero genre seems to operate in popular culture as a form of modern myth making in which we respond to destabilizing, catastrophic threats to our world with narratives that provide stability, meaning, and hope. This paper will look at the specific cosmologies that modern superhero myths tend to create and develop within our popular imagination. What kind of universes do our superheroes tend to live in, and what does this tell us about the kind of universe that human beings desire to live in? Whitehead’s philosophy anticipated many of the key cosmological features that popular culture has imagined for its superheroes. If one looks at the history of the superhero genre, one sees a drive to create cosmologies in which a wide variety of heroes can exist in extensive continuity with one another while still existing as independent entities with unique roles to play. Thus, comic book publishers have worked hard to develop complicated “multiverses” in which a seemingly infinite array of characters and stories can co-exist within a vast, interconnected nexus. This possibility of having multiple cosmic epochs within an extensively connected cosmology is also envisioned in Whitehead’s cosmology, and so it seems fruitful to talk about the connection between Whitehead’s cosmology and the cosmology of our superheroes. If Whitehead’s cosmology is so close to what popular culture has idealized within its modern superhero myths, then perhaps Whitehead’s philosophy has important insights with respect to how to conceive of the world/worlds we wish for.