For Real?

Volume 17 September 2018

Bo Allesøe, Jørn Bjerre, Bent Sørensen og Ole Ertløv Hansen

In recent years a skeptical consciousness has evolved, criticizing the monopoly of scientific and critical discourses’ truth-claims about reality. Newspapers have, for example, been accused of producing fake news, science has been accused of being politicized and expressing ideological rather than truth claims, and ethnic and minority discourses of identity have been contested. The criticism seems to be grounded in something like the following principle: whatever I or my fellows believe is right or true, must be right or true – if I don’t believe in climate change as man-made, it cannot be true, and if I lie about something, it doesn’t matter if people call it a lie, it is a belief which is true to me. No responsibility towards the justification and content of the beliefs is accepted as a significant, or worth addressing. In this issue of Academic Quarter, we have asked if this is For Real? Picking up this question and with it the question of realism today, this volume presents reflections based on such diverse subjects as territorial stigma in media, counter-historical narratives, strategic design, fake news and the public sphere, the notion of facts, fake art, and social realism within educational theory.

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Territorial stigmatisation and the negotiation of place
Tainted locations in Danish television documentary
Jørgen Riber Christensen and Kim Toft Hansen

The article addresses the negotiated meaning of notorious places through a consideration of a recent tendency in Danish TV documentaries where marginalized, often peripheral, places are portrayed and debated. Based partly on sociological research about territorial stigmatisation, partly on location studies as a method, the article stresses that inhabitants often contest and contradict the mediated stigmatization of their towns from an ambivalent position. On the one hand, participants in the programs are aware of the stigmatizing gaze of others, but on the other they also express a degree of local pride. The ambivalence of place meaning established through TV representation and the participants’ attitude towards their ‘real’ places reflect a mediated doubling of place, where the inhabitants are in “the event-as-broadcast” and in “the event in-situ” simultaneously. As a result, such ‘tainted locations’ may be contested directly from within documentary representation.

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“Memoir” as Counter-Narrative
Reimagining the Self in Roth’s The Plot Against America
Howard Sklar

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America famously imagines what America might have been like had the aviator Charles Lindbergh, a Nazi sympathizer, won the 1940 election for President of the United States. That alternate history is focalized through the experiences of Roth as a young boy – or those that the author-as-character has conceived within this radically altered world, with the real-world Holocaust as backdrop. By identifying a genuine counter-historical potentiality – one that is grounded in actual anti-Semitic insecurities that prevailed at the time, even in the relatively tranquil American context – Roth’s counter-narrative reimagines his actual past by redefining the significance of his identity as a Jew. At the same time, rather than presenting a portrait of “the American Jewish experience” of the period by conceptualizing Jews and Jewish experience monolithically, Roth manages to embrace the complexities and ambiguities of his search for self-definition, of which his Jewishness remains an enigmatic but essential part.

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’Fake news’
Forestillinger om offentlighed i deliberativ belysning
Anders Horsbøl

Notions of fake news and post-truth have recently gained attention in public debates in several countries. To a large extent, these notions have been employed to criticize forms of communication and alleged deficits in political debates. The current article examines how the notion of fake news has been articulated in the Danish mass media in a selection of texts from autumn 2017. On the basis of this brief analysis, the article critically discusses the (implicit) understandings of the public sphere and its problems associated with the notion of fake news. To cast a constrastive light on these understandings, deliberative perspectives on a democratic sphere are drawn upon. As a result, the article points to limitations of the notion of fake news when it comes to addressing key challenges of a modern public sphere.

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Strategic Design Fiction
A Plausible Reality & its Implications
Thessa Jensen and Peter Vistisen

This article aims to discuss the role of the dominant critical tradition of design fiction, as well as defending the merits of a pragmatic and strategic view on design fiction, as potentially real solutions. By adapting one of the most prominently referenced models for speculative design (Auger 2013), and using Ryan’s (1980) concepts of factual, non-factual, and fictional statements, we propose a way of clarifying how the ‘realness’ of a given design fiction places it as a speculative design or an actual pragmatic vision for the future. Our contribution is a differentiation of pragmatic strategic, and speculative critical design fiction, based on their plausibility as well as their realness. This creates a clear agenda for distinguishing between different design research agendas of design fiction, potentially applying it in widely different practices.

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As a matter of fact
Patrik Kjærsdam Telléus

In this day and age, facts seem to be equally relevant and irrelevant, depending on your view of the so-called post-factual society. In this article, I look closer at facts by using the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, supplemented by J.L. Austin and others. I analyze facts in terms of a) true and real, b) a propositional trait and a narrative trait, and c) independent and dependent on the knower/teller of facts. The analysis forces facts to be viewed not as definition in themselves but as appearing under particular circumstances. These circumstances are characterized by being induced by a profound form of skepticism and calling for objective certainty, a term I borrow from Gunnar Svensson.

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Goodman and Cavell on fakes
Bo Allesøe

What is a fake artwork? This is seldom asked in aesthetics even though judging an artwork as excellent or original implicitly posits criteria for fraudulent or dubious artworks as well. This article presents Nelson Goodman’s proposal of how we are to understand fakes. It will criticize his predominantly cognitive approach for failure of incorporating a sense of aesthetic value, thereby leaving the possibility of artworks which are fakes but nevertheless originals unexplained. Instead Stanley Cavell’s writings on aesthetic judgment are explored establishing a better frame for understanding these artworks.

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Viden, virkelighed og curriculum
Michael Youngs pædagogiske sociologi
Jørn Bjerre

Within sociology "Social Realism" refers to a theoretical position based on the assumption that social reality is non-reducible to the experience of an individual. Within pedagogical sociology, curriculum theory and educational theory have used this theoretical position in their examination of what knowledge is, and why certain forms of knowledge have become, in the Michael Young's term, powerfull knowledge. This article presents Young's notion of powerfull knowledge, critically discussing its implicit assumption about the relation between knowledge and reality.

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Viden og kampen om det virkelige
Jørn Bjerre og Bo Allesøe

In this final article we will reflect on the contributions to this volume, relating these to positions within philosophy of science, realism, constructivism, critical and social realism, and discuss relativism and critique of ideology as well. The article commences by examining a battle of what is to be understood as the real currently underway in politics and everyday life. Subsequently, the article tries to show how a parallel battle takes place in philosophy of science.

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