Like other ‘middle of the road’ terms—lukewarm, just right, middling— middlebrow evokes an unfinished or even inauthentic quality. Labeling something middlebrow implies that it strives for the highbrow by distancing itself from the lowbrow without the legitimacy of either.
Some would argue that this type of linear classification of culture from low to middle to high only serves to entrench elite orders of worth. But while the terminology may have fallen out of fashion, the symbolic and material orders it once denoted have hardly disappeared.The label is even more problematic at a time when ‘everyone’, to quote Angela McRobbie, ‘is creative’. As digitally-mediated creativity becomes more common and more accessible to anyone, it seems all the more plausible to claim that creativity itself is now middlebrow.
The purpose of this project website is to explore contemporary instantiations and classificatory orders of the vernacular and the middlebrow in our post digital culture. We believe a clearer, critical conception of these issues has become all the more essential as media software and skills like coding become increasingly common, taken-for-granted, and significant in everyday life.
The questions we ask are:
- What are the symbolic and material orders of worth that underpin post digital cultural production?
- To what extent and in what ways are middlebrow and vernacular creativity valued through digital media?
- In what ways are cultural categories like middlebrow still relevant in a post digital culture?
The Middlebroware research project is based out of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. [read more]