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Participatory Listmaking: Encyclopedic Lists, Evaluative Lists, Playlists


Participatory Listmaking: Encyclopedic Lists, Evaluative Lists, Playlists

van der Veen, Jon (2012) Participatory Listmaking: Encyclopedic Lists, Evaluative Lists, Playlists. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Lists tend to be treated in media studies as “pre-text”, “con-text”, or “para-text”, but rarely in a focused and tailored manner as “text”. One reason for this, I suggest, is rooted in the list form’s ambiguous constitution as both the multiple individuated items in the list as well as the singular ground onto which they are drawn together, accounting for a paradoxical quality that confers upon the list form both its heady participatory capacities and more limiting “granular” semiotic capacities. Defining a list most generally as “a category, communicated”, this dissertation identifies and explores three such kinds of lists and their sites of listmaking, analyzing each through the co-ordinates of participation, selection, order, and rhetoric. Encyclopedic lists exhibit a style of listmaking whose roots I trace to the great 18th century encyclopedic projects, emphasize a mode of amateur contribution aimed at completing the list in an expanding and proliferate world, and exhibit a paradoxical rhetoric of totalization and fragmentation that, I argue, resolves through an ethic of “completism.” Evaluative lists such as Top 10 or Best-of lists exhibit a style of listmaking I trace to the history of women’s and lifestyle periodicals, and exhibit a rhetorical stance that combines the fragmentation inherent in masses of individual “subjective” experiences with the more authoritative aims of the genres to act as “arbiters of taste”, resolving in an ethic of “tacit commensuration.” Playlists across various music scheduling, personal compilation, and digital contexts exhibit a mode of listmaking focused on the artistic criteria of the playlist-maker, where the form is pulled rhetorically towards its pretentions of reflecting an artistic work in its own right and reflecting a fan-perspective that emphasizes the received identities and social existences of its items, prompting an ethic of “contingency” in an attempt to secure a fleeting authorial coherence. I conclude that we turn to participatory lists when we are committed to exploiting the participatory capacities inherent in encyclopedic completion, evaluative commensuration, and aesthetic contingency, but in an addendum to the theory of “participatory cultures” (Jenkins 2009), we may also recognize the limitations inherent in texts that describe the world by the accretion of “facts”, that never quite sustain a singular argumentative arc, and that paint pictures using the coarse brushes of others’ commercial-aesthetic works.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:van der Veen, Jon
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:5 October 2012
Thesis Supervisor(s):Buxton, William
ID Code:974950
Deposited By: JON VAN DER VEEN
Deposited On:17 Jun 2013 15:33
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:39
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