Research Highlights

I. Peter Peters and Ruth Benschop (Research Centre Arts, Autonomy and the Public Sphere of Zuid University) together with Stefan Rosu (South Netherlands Philharmonic) acquired funding from the NWO/SIA Smart Culture programme for their project ‘Artful Participation: Doing Artistic Research with Symphonic Music Audiences’

In the 21st century, symphonic music institutions face challenges that endanger their traditional ways of operating. Although symphonic music is widely accessible, it has lost its former position as the leading music culture. The number of visits is stagnating. Audiences are ageing. Due to budget cuts, government funding is no longer guaranteed. Whereas symphonic music was a vital element in the cultural landscape until the 1960s, it has since become a museum art form. In an “experience society”, the social value of classical orchestral music has changed profoundly, and its identification with high culture is no longer valued. In this project, the world of the symphony orchestra is studied as an exemplary case in scientific and artistic research on cultural reproduction in the 21st century. This NWO-funded project starts from the assumption that innovation of the symphonic music practice is not possible without improving the quality of audience participation in this practice. Our project combines strategic research into reasons for the declining interest in symphonic music with artistic research to innovate this practice in an artistically relevant way. This artistic research takes place in three experiments with new forms of audience participation. In the current symphonic practice, audiences are performed as consumer, listener and amateur. We will experiment with the new roles of citizen, maker and expert, thus actively involving audiences in programming, making and assessing symphonic music. The reflection on these experiments will result in a learning model that will help to innovate the classical music practice.

The Artful Participation project started on September 1, 2017 with the PhD project of Veerle Spronck. Supervised by Sally Wyatt, Ruth Benschop and Peter Peters, she will empirically investigate how discourses on participation in symphonic practices have evolved, how the materiality of these practices shapes the possibilities for participation, and what meanings and values are given to symphonic music in practice.

II. FASoS researchers Sally Wyatt and Anna Harris win international book prize

Anna Harris, Susan Kelly and Sally Wyatt have won the 2017 Sociology of Health and Illness book prize for their book ‘CyberGenetics: Health genetics and new media’ (Routledge 2016). The award is given each year by the Medical Sociology group of the British Sociological Association for the book that makes ‘the most significant contribution to the sub-discipline of medical sociology/sociology of health and illness’.

CyberGenetics critically examines the market of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing from a social science perspective, asking: “What happens when genetics goes online?” Drawing upon empirical examples of DTC genetic testing websites (using online methods) and in-depth interviews in the United Kingdom with people using healthcare services, the authors describe the new social arrangements which emerge when a traditionally clinical practice (genetic testing) is taken into new spaces (the internet). CyberGenetics is the first scholarly monograph on the topic, and the first book which brings together the social study of genetics and the social study of digital technologies. Or as Barbara Prainsack, one of the reviewers of the book, put it: “This book is a powerful antidote to simplistic portrayals of online genetics as either empowering or harming test-takers. Using novel and innovative methodologies to explore how users and health professionals make sense of online genetics, it provides fascinating and also troubling insights into the meaning of online genetics at the personal, social, and political levels”.

Cover of the book ‘CyberGenetics: Health genetics and new media’