Dr Anastasia Loukianov
Academic and research departmentsCentre for Environment and Sustainability, Department of Sociology.
Affiliations and memberships
The sociology of consumption has had a fraught relationship with aesthetics, with varying levels of interest in the concept throughout the history of the discipline. Today, aesthetics is barely mentioned at all and is not considered to be relevant to enabling transitions towards more sustainable futures. In this article I demonstrate how this is due both to the prevalent understanding of aesthetics in sociology – anchored in Kantian discourse on art – and the unwitting consequences of the disciplinary developments which have taken place following the cultural turn. Drawing from philosophy and anthropology, I then present two different understandings of aesthetics, inspired by Aristotle and Dewey, which provide more fruitful avenues for engaging with the concept. The article presents existing work taking these definitions forward and shows how reconceptualising aesthetics enables us both to grasp the specificities of the unsustainable patterns of consumption of the wealthy and unequal societies of Europe, North America and Australasia, and envision the possibility of a societal transformation beyond the consumer aesthetics of ‘the Capitalocene’. Decoupling aesthetics from art, I argue for the importance of defamiliarisation and aesthetic revisioning in the creation of fairer, more sustainable and better futures.
Background: Young people’s processes of meaning-making in relation to what it means to live well are supported by the shared understandings of the good life that are available in their particular sociocultural and historical contexts. These understandings are tied to questions of environmental impact and social justice, as each ‘good life’ entails different levels of material throughput and some may undermine the ability of others to pursue their chosen ‘good lives’. This paper draws on the insights from an exploration of Instagram posts tagged #goodlife to consider the role of Instagram in the constitution of good life narratives that are available to young people. Using network analysis tools, the researchers analyse the relationships between themes of hashtags appearing on 793 posts tagged #goodlife. The findings from the thematic approach to network analysis are used to support a thematic qualitative exploration of a subsample of 200 of the posts. Findings: The paper gives an overview of three good life narratives that can be found on the platform: the good life of the self-made affluent entrepreneur, the good life of the world-traveller, the good life as shared experience. Additionally, it highlights the differing levels of popularity of each narrative on the platform, and considers their respective implications for environmental and social sustainability. The paper then provides a conceptual reading of the platform that enables considerations relating to its place in the creation and maintenance of good life narratives. Conceptualising Instagram as a social conversation, the paper suggests that adequate participation on the platform may require engaging in less sustainable practices. Conclusions: The paper concludes by arguing that while the most popular narratives on the platform are less likely to support sustainable lifestyles, more sustainable understandings of living well are also promoted by users.
While the consumerist approach to what living well can mean permeates traditional media, the extent to which it appears in people’s own depictions of the good life is unclear. As the unsustainability of the consumerist approach is increasingly evidenced, both in terms of environmental and social impacts, looking into which understandings of the good life resonate with people becomes essential. This article uses a sample of posts tagged #goodlife and variants originally collected in 2014-2015 on Instagram (a popular image sharing platform) to explore which understandings of the good life can be found on the platform. Using multimodal discourse analysis, it highlights two different user generated understandings of the good life: ‘working on future goals’ and ‘appreciating the present moment’. We argue that neither approach is directly or necessarily congruent with the traditional consumer good life. Yet their shared photographic codes with advertisements can contribute to their framing into the consumer good life. Additionally, the temporalities afforded by the platform and currently in place through social conventions may affect the type of narratives that are mediated. While the understandings derived from the analysis are not straightforward reflections of people’s beliefs about the meaning of the good life, they constitute conversations that at once inform, and are informed by, users’ beliefs about living well. The popularity of the platform makes these conversations crucial for anyone interested in desired lifestyles and their sustainability.
We present a body of work undertaken in response to the challenge outlined by Harper et al. in their paper, ?'What is a File?' . Through a conceptual and design-led exploration of new file metaphors, we developed the 'file biography', a digital entity that encompasses the provenance of a file and allows the user to keep track of how it propagates. We explored this through prototyping and utilised it in two user studies. In the studies, we (i) asked people to sketch out file biographies for their own content, and (ii) deployed a tool enabling users to build their own simple file biographies across multiple versions of Word documents. We conclude that new file metaphors may need to play different roles for different types of digital content, with a distinction being drawn between content that is 'in production' and virtual possessions that are, in a sense, a 'finished' artefact.
- A. Loukianov, K. Burningham, T. Jackson (2019). 'Living the good life on Instagram. An exploration of lay understandings of what it means to live well'. Journal of Consumer Ethics.
- S. Lindley, G, Smyth, R. Corish, A. Loukianov, M., Golembewski, and A. Sellen, (2018). 'Exploring new metaphors for a networked world through the file biography'. Proceedings CHI 2018. Montreal, Canada.