Since the age of 14, Georgia Carroll has been captivated by Taylor Swift. Now, 15 years later, she is recognized as the only person in the world with a PhD on the pop superstar. Dr. Carroll believes that Swift is one of the most influential figures globally, which is why she is among many experts who have gathered in Melbourne for an international academic symposium to discuss Swift’s impact.
The event, the first of its kind, precedes the Eras Tour in Australia and has received over 400 submissions from various academic disciplines and institutions worldwide. The symposium, humorously dubbed ‘Swiftposium’, began as a joke on Twitter but quickly gained international attention when it was officially announced and backed by seven universities in Australia and New Zealand.
Despite the fan-like enthusiasm surrounding the event, organizers stress that it is not a fan convention but an academic endeavor to seriously examine Swift’s influence. The conference covers a wide range of topics, from Swift’s impact on economies (dubbed “Swiftonomics”) to her influence on young people and her role in cultural debates.
Swift’s global popularity continues to rise, with her earning Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2023 and dominating recent headlines with her Grammy wins and Super Bowl appearance. Her influence extends beyond her music, with even her cats, publicist, and childhood friends gaining recognition and a loyal following.
The symposium also explores how Swift’s lyrics are used in political discourse, with men more likely to use them for mockery or attack, while women tend to use them to support debate topics. Other discussions include Swift’s role in conspiracy theories, her fanbase’s intensity, and her music’s reflection of colonialism.
Despite her immense popularity, not everyone is captivated by Swift. Some people struggle to understand her appeal or influence. However, Dr. Carroll believes that Swift’s relatability and her ability to form a strong connection with her fans contribute to her power.
Throughout the symposium, comparisons have been drawn between Swift and other influential artists like Elvis, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Beyoncé. While it’s challenging to compare artists from different eras, Swift is undoubtedly a significant figure in the current music scene. Dr. Carroll believes that Swift’s influence extends beyond her fanbase, which sets her apart from other artists.
The recognition of Swift’s influence marks a shift in academic interest, which Dr. Carroll finds gratifying. She believes that studying Swift can provide valuable insights into broader societal trends.