Upcoming Events

Media Aesthetics: Experience, Practice, and Pedagogy

May 2-4, 2024


  • Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, Northwestern University
  • Global Culture and Communication, Northwestern University
  • Center for Media, Communication, and Global Change, The American University of Paris


The media aesthetics project examines and engages the saturation of ordinary life by varieties of constant mediation, while also examining the diverse array of mediated experiences and modernities worldwide. Here we have in mind new forms of digital technology from smartphones, ubiquitous wireless networks, social media, and streaming platforms. Art forms such as literature, cinema, music, and visual art remain important here. But now, with the durationally encompassing nature of contemporary mediation, we look to aesthetic experience broadly for its power to navigate the everyday. Focusing on the aesthetic nature of mediated experience offers an opportunity to put aside the overwhelmingly negative ways in which media users are interpellated in most discourses (as neurologically addicted, as lacking attention, as victims of Silicon Valley, etc.) in favor of accounting for the real texture of people's ordinary lives. Here we are thinking of aesthetics not just in the sense of art or discourses on art but also in the Greek sense championed by Walter Benjamin in his artwork essay, namely aesthetics as aisthesis or a sensibility rooted in perception and sensation. Aesthetics in our view offers a crucial arena of investigation in its attention to sensory experience, textual form, and collective world building. Our project asks: what does it mean to regard contemporary experience by privileging the aesthetic? This conference addresses this question by pursuing the promises and possibilities of an aesthetic education specific to ordinary life in the twenty-first century. What critical language and techniques can best respond to this moment in pedagogy and scholarship? How can we mobilize crosscurrents in humanistic disciplines to navigate, endure, survive, and find pleasures in this increasingly technological historical present?


  • Fatima Aziz (Communication, Media, and Culture, The American University of Paris)
  • Clément Bert-Erboul (Digital Sociology, Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle)
  • Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric, Media, and Publics, Northwestern University)
  • Bishnupriya Ghosh (English, University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Jayson Harsin (Communication, Media, and Culture, The American University of Paris)
  • Dahye Kim (Asian Languages and Cultures, Northwestern University)
  • Joshua Neves (Cinema, Concordia University)
  • Patrick Noonan (Asian Languages and Cultures, Northwestern University)
  • Noémie Oxley (Communication, Media, and Culture, The American University of Paris)
  • Robert Payne (Communication, Media, and Culture, The American University of Paris)
  • Bhaskar Sarkar (Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Domietta Torlasco (French and Italian, Northwestern University)


Thursday, May 2:  

9:30- 10 am: Introductory Remarks: Dilip Gaonkar and Jayson Harsin

Session 1: 10am -12,00 noon: Lecture Panel: Media Aesthetics Now

  • Domietta Torlasco (Northwestern University): “Aesthetics Now”
  • Bishnupriya Ghosh (University f California, Santa Barbara): “Media Now”
  • Bhaskar Sarkar (University of California, Santa Barbara): “Media Aesthetics Beyond Aesthetic Media”


Session 2: 1:00-2:30pmMedia Theory and Media Aesthetics

  • Moderator, Chloé Galibert-lainé, AUP
  • Joshua Neves (Concordia University): “Metabolic Mediations”
  • Robert Payne (The American University of Paris), “Materialities of Desire”

Coffee Break

Session 3: Lecture Panel: 3:00-5.00pmWhat is Media Aesthetic Education?

  • Domietta Torlasco (Northwestern University): “On Play as Liberatory Practice”
  • Noémie Oxley and Fatima Aziz (The American University of Paris): "Engaging with the War on TikTok: New Imaginaries of Contemporary Conflicts"
  • Clément Bert-Erboul (Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle): "Watch Yourself
  • Work by Watching Me Work: Exploring the Aesthetics of "Study with Me" YouTube Videos"

Friday, May 3:  

Session 4: 10.00am-12.00 noonHow to Teach Media Aesthetics? Workshop on Syllabi; Pedagogical methods for Media Aesthetic Education Project

  • Patrick Noonan (Northwestern University): “Cultures of Information:
  • Neoliberalism, Affect, Media”
  • Domietta Torlasco (Northwestern University): “On Non-method: Teaching After Roland Barthes and bell hooks”


Session 5: 1.00-2.30pmGlobal Media Cultures: Platforms, Mediums, Aesthetics

  • Moderator, Eric Maigret (l’Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle)
  • Dahye Kim (Northwestern University): “The Age of Speculative Spectacle: Stock Market Gamblers and the Aesthetics of Self”.  
  • Bhaskar Sarkar (University of California, Santa Barbara): “Bollywood’s Global Gesture”

Coffee Break

Session 6: 3.00-4.30pmAesthetic Education of Citizen: Information, Misinformation, and Democracy Under Duress

  • Moderator, Zed Gao (American University of Paris)
  • Jayson Harsin (The American University of Paris): "Not About (Dis)Information: Performative Truth-Bearers and Popular Politics”
  • Dilip Gaonkar (Northwestern University): “Media Aesthetics and Political Judgment”

Saturday, May 4

Session 7: 10am to 12noonWorkshop on Key Word/Key Themes for Media Aesthetics Project

  • Conveners: Bishnupriya Ghosh (University of California, Santa Barbara), Joshua Neves (Concordia University) and Patrick Noonan (Northwestern University)

Past events

  • April 9, 2024: An evening with former AUP colleague Adrienne Russell, presenting her new book The Mediated Climate: How Journalists, Big Tech and Activists are Vying for our Future (Columbia University Press 2023). In her book, Adrienne argues that our inadequate response to climate change is intertwined with the profound challenges facing our communication environment. She will discuss her research on journalists, activists, scientists, and other advocates for climate action, how their efforts are often compromised in today’s media landscape, and what we can do about it. Adrienne Russell is Mary Laird Wood Professor of Communication and co-director of the Center for Journalism, Media, and Democracy at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is currently a fellow at the Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin. 

  • February 1, 2024: Rethinking Mediations of Post-truth Politics and Trust: Globality, Culture, Affect. Comments by contributors: Professor Jayson Harsin (AUP), Professor Bilge Yesil (CUNY Graduate School) and Professor Hannah Westley (AUP) with response by Francois Allard-Huver (Université de Lorraine).

  • October 19-20, 2023: Discourse on the Plague (1347-1600): Authorities, Experience, and Experiments, Conference at The American University of Paris. Co-organized by Brenton Hobart (The American University of Paris) and Véronique Montagne (Université Côte d’Azur). Medical treatises, historical writings and literary narratives about the plague use a common linguistic register which repeated itself from Antiquity through Renaissance Europe and which persists in today’s popular and scholarly imagination of how we envision epidemic disease – Covid language and plague language are to a large degree one and the same. The truth concerning disease is thereby molded, if not skewed, by a preconceived discourse, which the writers of such truth are (or feel) forced to revisit: to prove knowledge of and move beyond past disease; to establish themselves as authoritative; likely, to learn how to transform ineffable horror into the art form that the printed word is.

  • Wednesday, May 10, 2023: MCGC presented Book in Progress Workshop on Dr. Merten Reglitz’s (U of Birmingham) The Human Right to Free Internet Access.
  • Wednesday, May 3, 2023: MCGC’s Working Paper Series presented research in progress by AUP scholars Noemie Oxley and Fatima Aziz, with an external discussant to be announced. Imaginaries of contemporary conflicts: engaging with the War in Ukraine on TikTok.
  • January 25, 2023: Degenerations of Democracy (Harvard UP, 2022), dialogue with the authors, Charles Taylor, Dilip Gaonkar, and Craig Calhoun. Featuring commentaries by American University of Paris professors Stephen Sawyer and Julian Culp, and Ilaria Cozzaglio, Goethe University Frankfurt. The event was co-sponsored by the AUP Center for Critical Democracy and moderated by AUP professor Jayson Harsin.
  • Spring 2022 Mellon-funded Lecture Series: Comparative Critiques of Post-truth politics and theory (lecture series and edited volume). Speakers included: Jack Bratich (Rutgers U.); Ergin Bulut (Koc University, Turkey); Katherine Higgins (U Penn); Jinsook Kim (Emory University);  Alison Hearn (U. of Western Ontario); Kaarina Nikunen (U. Tamere), Lee Edwards (LSE), Bilge Yesil (CUNY). Edited volume forthcoming (summer 2023) from lecture series: Jayson Harsin (ed.) Post-truth and Trust in a Globalized Society: Popular Truth and Consequences. London: Routledge.