Academics hold 'Swiftposium' as Tay Tay heads to Australia


The Melbourne symposium echoes a course at Belgium's Ghent University last year that examined whether Swift is 'a literary genius'. Photo: AFP

Whether it is her relatable pop songs, connection with millions of fans worldwide or role as a feminist icon, the power of Taylor Swift is now too large for academics to ignore.

So much so that the University of Melbourne held a "Swiftposium" on Monday to discuss the Grammy-winning artist's influence across a range of disciplines before The Eras Tour arrives on Friday.

"It's just so incredible to see how many different ways you can unpack Taylor Alison Swift," explains Jennifer Beckett, University of Melbourne senior lecturer in media and communications.

The billionaire American is only 34 but can boost the economy of a city just by turning up.

"She's amassed such an enormous and, I think, unprecedented amount of power and influence in the industry, economically, her business models are intense," said Beckett.

"There's a lot that we can learn from her, but we also need to think critically.

"Do we need to be worried about some aspects of it? Should she be more vocal in her support for certain groups of people or issues? Is that something we should be expecting now that she has this level of power?" she said.

Swift's role as poet, feminist icon and canny businesswoman will also be discussed. The Melbourne symposium echoes a course at Belgium's Ghent University last year that examined whether Swift is "a literary genius".

'Trained and controlled'

One of the quirkier elements to emerge from the Melbourne conference is that academics believe the beats of her songs could also help in the resuscitation of hearts.

The Bee Gees song Stayin' Alive has been taught for years as a rhythm to follow in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, and academics have now identified Swift's songs that hit the right beats per minute and may better engage younger generations.

"You used to be taught CPR to Stayin' Alive but that's just not vibing with Gen Z and millennials," said Beckett.

"Swiftonomics", examining the economic effect of Swift's tour on cities, urban planning, public transport, restaurants and hotels is also being discussed.

Sociologist Georgia Carroll, a keynote speaker, has studied how Swift encourages fans to splurge on her merchandise.

"She rewards fans that spend money with attention ... It's very trained and controlled," she said.

Fans that critically examine Swift are also shunned of attention, Carroll said, yet they remain steadfastly loyal.

"Fans view her a lot more as the friend next door than they do as a billionaire superpower, which is the reality of what she is," said Carroll.

Brittany Spanos, another "Swiftposium" speaker and a writer at Rolling Stone, says Swift has excelled at engaging with fans on social media to "make them feel very seen and connected with her".

"She's been one of the smartest artists in terms of using that as a marketing tool," said Spanos.

"It's been a huge part of her identity and how she connects with people." - AFP

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