Devon Powers

On February 9 and 10, SoundStudies@UW will host cultural studies and popular music scholar Dr. Devon Powers, who is an Associate Professor of Advertising at Temple University. She will be taking part in two events during her visit:

Trends, Inc.
Thursday, February 9, 4:00-5:30pm
Vilas Hall 3155

Trends are a pervasive aspect of everyday life. “Trend” is the name we give to changing fashions, shifting attitudes, and evolving technologies; a trend shows us the direction that our consumer culture is heading. For this reason, businesses must also stay aware of trends. How a company approaches a trend can mean the difference between relevance and obscurity, profit and loss, “hot” and “not.”

What this talk aims to show is that trends themselves are also a business. Rather than merely describe change, trends mediate cultural change so that it may be anticipated, managed, and manufactured. By critically examining the history and current practice of trend forecasting—a hidden but influential industry that trades in cultural prediction a hidden but influential industry that trades in cultural prediction and that affects music, fashion, and a number of other cultural industries—I will explore how trends evolved into powerful force in global consumer culture and a currency via which the future of culture is bought and sold.

Friday, February 10, 10:00am – 11:30am
University Club Room 212

Devon will host a seminar focusing on her work on popular music critics, and the process of sound and music criticism more generally. She will also speak to the ways in which the line between academic and popular criticism blurs, and a recent special issue of Popular Music she co-edited called “The Critical Imperative” which called for writing about popular music that placed primacy on sounds as made and heard, and which was styled in a way that foregrounds not just academic rigor, but also imaginative description, creative interpretation and daring evaluation. While criticism is increasingly marginalized in the mainstream media, many writers and readers have constructed new spaces for musical reflection online and this discourse, as sophisticated as it is public, represents a challenge to academic work on pop ensconced behind university paywalls.

Devon Powers is Associate Professor of Advertising, Temple University. She is the author of Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013), and co-editor of Blowing Up the Brand: Critical Perspectives on Promotional Culture (Peter Lang, 2010).  Her research explores historical and contemporary consumer culture and the dynamics of cultural intermediation, circulation, and promotion. Recent work has appeared in Journal of Consumer Culture, New Media & Society, and Popular Communication; she is currently at work on a book about trends.

These events are sponsored by SoundStudies@UW, a Borghesi-Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshop in the Humanities, with support from the Center for the Humanities. The keynote lecture is hosted by the Communication Arts Media and Cultural Studies Colloquium.