a feminist technology blog

Month: September 2010

Preview: To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter

I’ve added a draft version of “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter,” a paper I wrote with danah boyd last summer which will be published in Convergence sometime next year.

Download draft [pdf file]


Social media technologies let people connect by creating and sharing content. We examine the use of Twitter by famous people to conceptualize celebrity as a practice. On Twitter, celebrity is practiced through the appearance and performance of ‘backstage’ access. Celebrity practitioners reveal what appears to be personal information to create a sense of intimacy between participant and follower, publically acknowledge fans, and use language and cultural references to create affiliations with followers. Interactions with other celebrity practitioners and personalities give the impression of candid, uncensored looks at the people behind the personas. But the indeterminate ‘authenticity’ of these performances appeals to some audiences, who enjoy the game playing intrinsic to gossip consumption. While celebrity practice is theoretically open to all, it is not an equalizer or democratizing discourse. Indeed, in order to successfully practice celebrity, fans must recognize the power differentials intrinsic to the relationship.

Please note that this is not the final version. But it is very close to it– we didn’t have too many edits with our peer reviewers– and hopefully it will be useful for those of you studying celebrity and/or Twitter.

This paper was a lot of fun to work on, and it inspired a great deal of the work on micro-celebrity that appeared in my dissertation. My case studies are Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, and Perez Hilton. Miley was an especially hilarious person to study as she often dragged her various Disney starlet friends and family members into her Twitter arguments. I was quite sad when she retired from Twitter via YouTube video.


Marwick, A. and boyd, danah (Forthcoming, in final review). “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.” Convergence.

Announcement: Dissertation, “Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Self-Branding in Web 2.0,” now available

Since I began my project on status in Web 2.0, people have been asking me two questions:

1) Are you done yet?
2) Can I read it?

I am happy to announce that the answer to both of those questions is YES. Today I have put my dissertation online. Please click below to download it in PDF form:

Alice Marwick: “Status Update, Celebrity, Publicity, and Self-Branding in Web 2.0” [PDF].

The citation is:

Marwick, A. (2010). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Self-Branding in Web 2.0. Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication.

I chose to Creative Commons license the dissertation and make it widely available online for several reasons. First, I want all my informants, and everyone who helped me with the project, to read my results, because without all the help I received on this project, it could not have been completed. Many people do not have access to ProQuest or other databases which will index this. Second, I want the widest possible audience for my work, because in many ways, this project is an intervention into the idea of Web 2.0 as egalitarian, democratic, and so on. I’m proud of this, and I want to share it, and hear what people think. Third, I’ll be shopping this around as a book — well, a very very revised version of this, to be written in the next year or so– and it’s in my best interest as a scholar to keep my professional profile up while I do that. Fourth, this work– especially the chapters on micro-celebrity, life-streaming, and self-branding– can, I think, be useful to other internet and media scholars, and I want to make a contribution to the discipline.

But because this is an ethnography, I am writing about people’s lives. I stand behind my interviews, my methods, and my perceptions, but inevitably I am turning people into characters and writing about them subjectively. I don’t want to upset anyone, to hurt any feelings, or to step on any toes, but it is inevitable when doing this sort of ethnographic work. But this is why disseminating this project is so nerve-wracking for me. I carefully thought through the choices I made while writing; I hope that comes through in the document itself. And I hope my informants will let me know if they feel that they have been misrepresented, and know that it was not intentional.

I hope people enjoy this dissertation and find it useful. Please mail me if you have comments or questions, blog about it, or leave a comment here.

Fashion Blogging Project Begins!

So I’ve finished the dissertation, and formally graduated. I am now Dr. Marwick. I immediately changed the prefix on my Entertainment Weekly subscription and my Amtrak frequent rider program. Very heady. The diss will be up very soon: I had to wrangle it into a hideous format to submit it to the graduate school, and I want to make it a bit more readable before I post it.

I am going into the field with danah and while we are interviewing teens about social media and privacy practices– which is going to be fascinating — I am going to piggy-back on this and try to interview some fashion bloggers and blog-readers.

If you are a fashion blogger or reader who lives in one of the following cities, please email me if you’d like to talk! I can promise you a very small stipend, and I also promise I am not scary. I love fashion myself and I’m studying fashion blogs because I find them extremely entertaining.

I want to talk about why you read blogs/blog, what you like, fashion in general, your style.. it’ll just be like being interviewed for Vogue. If it was Vogue Nerd.

Nashville, TN: Sept 22 – Oct 1
Raleigh/Durham, NC: Oct 8 – 15th
Gotenberg, Sweden: Oct 21 – 24
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel: Oct 26 – 30th (not sure exactly when I’ll be in each place)
Washington, DC: November 5 – 12th
Salt Lake City, UT: November 12 – 19

If you don’t live in one of these cities, I’d still like to talk to you over IM, phone, or email! Please email me and I’ll get right back to you.

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