How much is enough? Who has enough and who is deprived of it? What is the use of limits – and of pushing past them? For this special section, we encourage more reflection about the notion and meaning of #enough and invite media scholars to problematize the notion from aesthetic, industrial, environmental, historical, economic and (socio)political perspectives.
Like other industries, the media sector runs on overproduction. Whether in news journalism, the music industry, or print magazines, media companies often put out large volumes of content or copies to maintain a competitive presence in the market. At the same time, these new releases are programmed to become obsolete in short seasonal cycles, requiring more production and faster consumption. Content libraries are constantly expanding and require bigger, more efficient data centres, pushing at the limits of storing, archiving, and accessing media. Between an increasing library of media content and an awareness of the environmental cost of hosting digital content, thinking about #Enough also connects the material and immaterial dimensions of media consumption. Is there ever enough content?
The critique of growth-based economic models and the emergence of perspectives such as degrowth (cf. Hickel; Coyle), circular, or ‘doughnut’ economics has started to resonate in cultural policy and media sustainability discussions. How can these ideas transform media studies and industry research in particular? Are regulations like, for instance, carbon budgets for media productions viable ways to determine how much is enough? What could be the specific contributions of media, and of media studies, to broader discussions about limits and sufficiency?
#Enough is necessarily also a question about justice. Global inequality extends to media representations and industries, where minoritised voices and experimental approaches struggle to break through the volume of repetitive content. This question also connects to practices of remaking, rebooting, and reusing existing narrative and formats, something Martine Beugnet has referred to as Hollywood’s ‘potential exhaustion of its own form’ (2017). In a more frugal media landscape, what spaces would open – or close – for new visions and underrepresented voices?
On the other side of overproduction, concerns about overconsumption underpin common anxieties about media and wellbeing. Digital technologies and social media have been held responsible for widespread mental health issues, prompting several European countries to attempt to curb media use, for instance by banning smartphones in schools. In doing so, the notion of enough traverses the line discourses of excessive media consumption and the construction of a sufficient – healthy – ‘media diet’. Can a notion of enough help media scholars articulate critical stances towards these developments?
Questions of excess trouble the border between morality and aesthetics, in representation and form. From Triangle of Sadness to White Lotus, The Menu to Succession, critically acclaimed and highly successful films and television series of the past years have highlighted themes of excessive wealth and luxury, while also centering characters that do not – but aspire to – belong to these worlds of privilege. In doing so, these media examples also challenge their own industrial conditions of possibility, in turn resonating with larger political discussions about taxation and the (re)distribution of wealth. Can enough become too much?
Contrasting this mediated excess, the idea of a more ‘minimalist’ way of living resonates through diverse media examples. From television shows like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo to highly popular YouTube channels like Clutterbug, the mediation of decluttering and (re)organising constructs the idea that ‘less’ might be more than enough. At the same time, the suggestion to ‘own’ less is looped back into cycles of consumption and commodification through products, services, and media promoted as crucial in achieving a minimalist lifestyle.
Approaching enough from a labour perspective – beyond but entangled with questions of industrial production and consumption – also points to emerging strategies and structures of feeling that question the drive for endless self-optimisation and productivity. Individual interventions like the ‘Email Charter’ by Chris Anderson and Jane Wulf and public guidelines like France’s ‘Right to Disconnect’ move the discursive framing of work between expectation and exhaustion. Widely reported social media trends such as ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘lazy girl jobs’ are pitched against the ‘hustle’ or ‘grindset’ as forms of individualised resistance to unrealistic expectations and absent structures of support. Rejecting (over)work opens up discussions about current economic practices and fits into broader reflections on the political value of refusal, recently affirmed by feminist scholar Bonnie Honig. At what point have we worked enough?
Enough – with an exclamation point – can also be a resounding political statement, drawing a line against the perpetuation of systems of violence, exploitation, dispossession, and extraction. It can draw attention to historical injustice and start to imagine a different future beyond it. How have social movements and activist media understood this call? At the same time, the notion of #enough has also become entangled with the populist call for more (national) control of economies and borders.
For this special section of NECSUS we welcome contributions that engage with the theme #enough in varying media forms. As an interdisciplinary journal, we are interested in critical discussions on film, television, (audio)visual art, digital and social media, and other media, approached from different theoretical, academic, and methodological perspectives. Potential topics include but are not limited to:
- (Over)Production in the media industry
- Aesthetics of enough, for instance minimalism, reused/found footage, re-/upcycle aesthetics, repair culture, small-file media
- Practices of excessive data collection and storage
- Excess and restraint as aesthetic modes
- Media and consumer culture (e.g. advertising)
- Representations of excess and luxury in different media forms
- (Over)consumption and its connection to mental health, for instance through information overload, choice fatigue, fear of missing out, and shortened attention spans
- Alternative economic models, economies of enough
- Degrowth and (un)sustainability in cultural sectors
- Labour and exhaustion, for instance through discourses on overwork and ‘quiet quitting’ or the ‘right to disconnect’, downshifting
- Politics of refusal, civil disobedience, protest
We also invite submissions on the intersection between academic research and artistic practice – especially ones drawing excess and scarcity conceptually or methodologically. We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 5 March 2024 via this online form. On the basis of selected abstracts, authors will be invited to submit full manuscripts by 15 July 2024 (5,000-8,000 words) which will subsequently go through a blind peer review process before final acceptance for publication. Please check the guidelines at: https://necsus-ejms.org/guidelines-for-submission/
NECSUS also accepts proposals throughout the year for festival, exhibition, and book reviews, as well as data papers and proposals for guest edited audiovisual essay sections. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration without an invitation.