New Criticals

First Five with Phillipa Chong

Phillipa K. Chong is a cultural sociologist who specializes in how we define and evaluate worth: this includes the value we assign to social objects (e.g., books, paintings, knowledge, opinions, etc) and social groups (e.g., experts, artists, minority groups, etc). To date, her empirical focus has been on book reviewers as market intermediaries in the cultural market.

Her present work explores how fiction reviewers engage in the dual project of constructing (i) the value of new novels in the absence of objective indicators of aesthetic quality, and (ii) the legitimacy of their professional judgments given the accepted subjectivity of taste.  She is currently writing a book exploring the boundary between expert and public opinion given recent changes in the mediascape. She has written a book on these topics, entitled, Inside the Critics' Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times, forthcoming with Princeton University Press.

She currently works as an Assistant Professor in Sociology at McMaster University.  Before arriving at her current post, she earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. 

I like keeping my writing social and accountable (#NCFDD).  I have regular writing session with other academics almost everyday.  We meet online, set our goals, and then come back together after a designated time (pomodoro style).  This website is great because you can have up to 4 people in a room and no one has to download specific software or log in to anything.  Just input the url.  And it’s free!

YouTube or Netflix

I wasn’t sure if I should admit to this one... but, I can’t write in silence.  So I go on youtube to generate background noise: it can be sitar music, ASMR, or coffee shop sounds.  Or on Netflix, I will put on old shows/movies that I’ve watched many times and functions as white noise. or

I’m a writer and I read lots of other smart people’s work for a living. And I often find myself looking for the right word to express something or learning new words through reading other people’s writing.  This includes work by sociologists as well as hundreds upon hundreds of book reviews as part of my research. The last word I was searching for was “descry”.

As my first book has just been released, I’ve been thinking about public sociology and how I can update my website to operate as an online magazine for anyone interested in the study of creative fields. I want non-academics to find and make use of my findings.


I’m part of the Communications team for the Communications, Information Technology, and Media Sociology (CITAMS) section of the ASAs (along with Deana Rohlinger and Sarah Sobieraj).  I’ve been responsible for the twitter account and try to update regularly.  Join us @CITAMS_ASA for news about events, research opportunities, and news about cool things our members are doing -- like this blog!