Last night my friend Grace and I went to see Magic Mike. It’s been hovering in the high 90s this week in NYC and the air conditioning sounded fantastic, I’m a big early Soderbergh fan, and, fine, I wanted to see Channing Tatum and Joe Mangionello (Alcide!) prancing around shirtless.
I have no problem with strippers. I do think the dynamics of male strippers vs. female strippers are revealing. About a decade ago I went to Vegas for a wedding. A big mixed-gender group of us went to a strip club that had female strippers on the first floor and male strippers on the second. The female strippers performed on small, round tables with about six guys drinking and staring intently at them, a stack of dollar bills by each one’s side. Lap dances took place in shady corners and the entire atmosphere was surprisingly intense. Upstairs, the packed audience was hooting and hollering as the gigantically buff male strippers dragged bachelorettes and 21st-birthday girls up on stage where they proceeded to humiliate them (blindfolds, spanking, etc. – all very campy) for the amusement of their drunk friends. Yes, male strippers are objectified, but the group dynamic and the embarrassment of the voyeur aspect are almost entirely absent from female strip clubs.
Magic Mike didn’t say anything about this. Like most of Soderberg’s movies, it’s not a feel-good flick; it’s a slow depressing meditation on relationships. Mike (Channing Tatum) is in his 30s, a very successful stripper with a nice apartment, a giant truck (which he keeps in pristine condition for future reselling) and $13K in cash savings in a safe. He also runs three businesses and is always on the hustle; one business is a non-union roofing crew, another a mobile auto detailing business, and of course, stripping. Roofing and stripping are both corporeal professions in which the young guys have the advantage and any injury can end your career forever; all three businesses deal exclusively in cash; and of course, none of them offer health benefits, 401Ks or training. Mike doesn’t have much education (he asks his grad student fuckbuddy if she’s studying “social studies”) and no interest in working a 9-5. He claims that his dream job is making ugly custom furniture, but we never see him doing it. Instead, he continuously falls back on his charm and looks to get what he wants.
Magic Mike says a lot about the state of the “American Dream” and the current wisdom about achieving it. Mike is relentlessly optimistic and refers to himself as an entrepreneur. One of his stripper colleagues earnestly advocates the financial self-help book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Dallas, the skeevy club owner, dangles equity in a Miami club as long-term financial stability for the team. These are fantasies of success and wealth that do not rely on the drudgery of minimum-wage McJobs or under-the-table construction work. People like Tim Ferris and Gary Vaynerchuk advocate living your passion, but none of the passions of the strippers have any possibility of creating financial stability, and Mike’s furniture business seems an unrealistic pipe dream. He has a passion because he’s supposed to have one, because a thousand magazine articles and movies have shown us the person who gets rich quick from their cupcake shop or dog-walking business, but when he tries to get a small-business loan he’s jettisoned by his lousy credit score. The only person with a 9-5 job is the (very boring and miscast) love interest, who processes Medicare claims at a doctor’s office. She lives in a drab apartment and seems resigned to her lower-middle-class lifestyle.
The characters in Magic Mike aspire to wealth, but lack the education or stable jobs that would allow them to build up savings or retire comfortably. They’re falling through the cracks, and buy self-help propaganda in lieu of union jobs, training, or structural safety nets. Notably, the film is set in Florida, which has been hit hard by the financial crisis and sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Entrepreneurialism is a fantasy which they want to buy into but which has little potential to benefit them.
The success of tech entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and the constant stream of self-help books promoting self-promotion has created a climate in which the path to wealth is the hustle. But that’s simply not true. The tech millionaires who get funded are part of a closely-knit network of founders and venture capitalists. The capital needed to launch successful companies is simply not available. And the failure rates for small business are astronomical. Magic Mike shows the other side of the myth of the American entrepreneur, and how it fails the people with the most to lose in our current era of neoliberal capitalism.
My wonderful postdoc at the social media collective at Microsoft Research has ended, and in the fall I’ll be a freshly-minted Assistant Professor at Fordham University’s Department of Communication and Media Studies.
As a result, my microsoft.com email no longer works! You can reach me at amarwick at fordham dot edu. My gmail and NYU addresses will always work.
So I finally went ahead and updated tiara.org for the first time since 2008. It was sort of embarrassing. Now it has a shiny new look– aka “All the HTML I remember from my last job hand-coding HTML which was in 2003″ — and several new pages.
FINALLY, I am very pleased to announce that my group’s research blog, the Social Media Collective, has launched. This is my baby, and I’m very proud of it. Learn more about danah boyd’s group at Microsoft Research, what we’re working on, what we’re interested in, what we’re reading and where we’re speaking.
As you can all probably tell, I’m procrastinating from working on my book. (My officemate claims it’s not procrastinating if you’re being productive, but I know better at this point. Writing a dissertation makes you an expert on procrastinating.)
Danah and I just released a new article draft. Here’s danah’s introduction to it:
In the fall, danah boyd and Alice Marwick went into the field to understand teens’ privacy attitudes and practices. We’ve blogged some of our thinking since then but we’re currently working on turning our thinking into a full-length article. We are lucky enough to be able to workshop our ideas at an upcoming scholarly meeting (PLSC), but we also wanted to share our work-in-progress with the public since we both know that there are all sorts of folks out there who have a lot of knowledge about this domain but with whom we don’t have the privilege of regularly interacting.
Please understand that this is an unfinished work-in-progress article, complete with all sorts of bugs that we will need to address before we submit it for publication. But… we would certainly love feedback, critiques, and suggestions for how to improve it. Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of this kind of research, it’s also quite likely that we’re missing out on all sorts of prior work that was done in this space so we’d love to also hear about any articles that we should’ve read by now. Or any thoughts you might have that might advance/complicate our thinking.
I’m trying real hard not to be a biznatch about this, but for the second time in two years, Dreamhost got hacked and now I have to comb through my WordPress install and figure out where this “Canadian pharmacy” spam that shows up in my Google results comes from. It’s going to take me a few days, and of course Dreamhost has been no help at all. I’ve been using them for more than a decade and I think I’m going to have to move to a different host. Rant rant. I hope to have this fixed within the next week.
Believe it or not, I do stuff besides talk to the press. This year I think I’m attending a record number of conferences! Some I’m presenting dissertation work, and some on my new fashion blogger project. I hope to see lots of new friends and colleagues this spring and summer.
February 16-20: Privacy and Security in Victoria, BC, moderating the social media panel.
March 3-5: Digital Media and Learning in Long Beach, CA. I’m on a panel about activism and agency, where I’ll be talking about my fashion blogger project, and another one on networked public life where I’m presenting some dissertation/book work.
March 9-10: TechFest, Redmond, WA: Internet Famous: Status and Attention in Web 2.0
This is a Microsoft-only event, but if you are an MS FTE, I’d love to see you here! It’s at 3:30 at the Conference Center.
In the mid-2000s, journalists and businesspeople heralded “Web 2.0” technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as signs of a new participatory era that would democratize journalism, entertainment, and politics. By the decade’s end, this idealism had been replaced by a gold-rush mentality focusing on status and promotion. While the rhetoric of Web 2.0 as democratic and revolutionary persists, I will contend that a primary use of social media is to boost user status and popularity, maintaining hierarchy rather than diminishing it. This talk focuses on three status-seeking techniques that emerged with social media: micro-celebrity, self-branding, and life-streaming. I look at two communities of practice—fashion bloggers and San Francisco Web 2.0 workers—and how they mark status and visibility using technology. I examine interactions between social media and social life to show that Web 2.0 has become a key aspect of social hierarchy in technologically mediated communities.
March 11-15, South by Southwest Interactive, Austin, TX
Unfortunately, my panel on academic research was canceled, so I’m now appearing with Anastasia Goodstein on a panel called Can the Internet Make Us Happy?. Spoiler: I’m voting YES.
“His girlfriend, Brittany, cheated on him and she went and partied really hard and got drunk and cheated. And then it was all over Formspring. A lot of people are like, “You can do better than that slut” and stuff. And people would write on hers, “You’re such a cheating whore” and blah, blah, blah. And so, that was like drama and stuff. And like, I know Brittany Martinez. If I saw her, I’d be like, “Hey, what’s up?” But I don’t know her personally. And so, I wouldn’t go talk to her about it. But I read that and I could know about it. So it was kind of just like drama I could [see] and stuff.”
- Victoria, 15, Nashville
While teenage gossip is nothing new, for many American teens today, gossip plays out through social media like Formspring, Twitter and Facebook. The resulting arguments and conflicts, and their digital traces, are colloquially known as “drama.” In this paper, we trace the similarities between today’s teen “drama” and discourses of celebrity, particularly in relation to reality television and soap operas. Shows like The Hills are predicated on relatively mundane interpersonal conflict; for teens, sites like Facebook allow for similar performances of gossip in front of engaged audiences. We frame drama as a form of publicity. While many teens profess to hate drama, others enjoy or even encourage it. We use recent ethnographic fieldwork to examine what drama means to teenagers and its relationship to visibility and privacy.
May 12-15: Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life workshop in Toronto. The full paper is due in April, and I have a LOT to do to get it ready for workshopping! It’s called “The Public Domain: Lifestreaming and Social Digitization as a Way of Life” and will be based on my life-streaming dissertation chapter.
May 26-30, International Communications Association Conference, Boston, MA: “Information-Sharing, Communication, and Interaction on Social Media: Emergent Practices and Evolving Theory” with the fabulous Nicole Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Bernie Hogan, Jessica Vitak, danah (of course) and Nancy Baym.
…Not all teens use Twitter, and those who do don’t all use it in the same way. The sense of what’s appropriate on Twitter varies wildly by social group and locale – is it OK to break up with someone on Twitter? To tweet a hundred times a day? Similarly, young people use Twitter in different ways. Some primarily follow celebrities, enjoying the glimpses into their lives, sending @replies to their favourites in the hope of a response and chatting with other fans. Others like getting coupons and freebies from Twitter-savvy brands. Still other teens use Twitter to play hashtag games, like #lessambitiousmovies (think “The Devil Wears Payless” and “The Above Average Four”), where their bon mots can be retweeted or commented on by thousands they may not know. There are also countless teens who use Twitter primarily to engage with people they know from school, summer camp or after-school activities. Who teens imagine reading their tweets very much shapes their style of participation.
We turned this piece around in a weekend, and I think it’s a breezy, yet nuanced, view of the topic.
Alice Marwick, a social-media researcher for Microsoft Research, predicts that the stereotype of young people oversharing online may be starting to fade.
“I think that, a few years ago when this concern was really at a peak, the people who were judging young people for their online information practices weren’t really using social media themselves,” she said. “As we see more people in their 40s and 50s and 60s get involved … I think we’re going to see much less of this generational schism than we do today.”
Marwick is quick to point out, though, that age might not be the best way to judge attitudes, and aptitude, regarding digital privacy.
“Someone’s level of education, their access to technology in the home — those types of things are going to have more of an effect on their comfort level than their age,” she said.
This is part of my campaign to eradicate “generations” rhetoric, which I truly dislike. It encourages moral panics about what the “kids” are doing, it paints extremely diverse populations with a single brush, and it often takes educated, middle-class experience and universalizes it. You tell me all young people are super tech-savvy and I’ll show you a class of NYU students where 50% didn’t know you could edit Wikipedia, and one asked me what a browser was; and you tell me all young people are lazy, video-game addicted social deviants and I’ll show you a kid from a working-class family who’s addicted to 4Chan, very active in his church, and aspiring to be a US Marine. We do young people a disservice when we make broad claims about them and then attempt to regulate their behavior based on this. Tip of the hat to article author Doug Gross for acknowledging this diversity.
Whenever I start a new project, I end up floundering around, investigating various fields and subfields until things start coalescing. I’m definitely in the floundering stage with this fashion blogger project.
So I’ve been uncovering things that are familiar. One of these areas is copyright law, and the general theories of free/participatory culture. On one hand, we have Johanna Blakely, giving a great TED talk on how the lack of copyright in the fashion industry enhances creativity and innovation.
On the other, we have Scott Hemphill and Jeannie Suk’s article “The Law, Culture, and Economies of Fashion” (Stanford Law Review 61, 2009, available at SSRN here), which argues for greater legal protection of fashion designs.
Hemphill and Suk make a distinction that I really like, that between “differentiation” and “flocking.” They write:
In fashion we observe simultaneously the participation in collective trends and the expression of individuality. Consumers have a taste for trends– that is, for goods that enable them to move in step with other people. But even in fulfilling that taste, they desire goods that differentiate them from other individuals. Fashion goods tend to share a trend component, and also to have features that differentiate them from other goods within the trend.
Hemphill and Suk argue that what should be regulated are direct copies of garments–something where if you squint, you can’t tell the difference between a good. I tend to disagree with this, both in terms of harm (does it really hurt Gucci if Steve Madden knocks off their sandals for $100? They’re not the same customer base) and innovation (hasn’t stopped fashion designers from innovating yet). But in order to make this argument, Hemphill and Suk have to argue against the top-down model of fashion trends.
This argument, which runs throughout a lot of early sociological theories of fashion (e.g. Veblen, Simmel), maintains that fashion is the province of the elites, and the masses try desperately to emulate them. By this logic, allowing copyright protection of specific items of clothing by high-end designers would make it only available to the elites, disadvantaging the masses. By arguing that people don’t want exact copies of things, they want to differentiate themselves within the trend, Hemphill & Suk side-step this argument.
In studying fashion bloggers, I’ve realized that people interact with fashion in a hugely diverse number of ways. This should be one of those academic insights that makes anyone interested in fashion roll their eyes, but often I find in these articles a holistic theory of fashion, which just doesn’t jibe with what I’ve discovered. Some of my interviewees are passionately dedicated to thrift-store or vintage fashion. Some love High-End Designer for Target collections. Some want only couture originals, or the newest “it” shoe the day it’s released on Net A Porter or Nordstrom. Some are into “shopping their closet,” or re-combining stuff they already have to create new looks. Some sew their own clothes. Some are bargain hunters, sharing tips with other fans of a particular store to get their favorite items at the cheapest possible prices.
Does this language sound familiar? It should. It’s the same rhetoric of mashup/remix culture that academics have been writing about for years with regards to “transmedia storytelling,” media properties, music, and film. But what’s interesting is that fashion has ALWAYS been a remix culture. The point of fashion IS the remix. And fashion blogging makes that very, very obvious.
This idea of fashion as the ultimate “culture of copying,” repurposing, re-framing, remixing is something Blakly brings up in her video, above. And unlike things like remixing songs, fashion doesn’t require any special talents. “Style” is an ephemeral quality, and it can certainly be developed and learned (may Bourdieu strike me dead if I imply that “style” is inherent), but it’s practiced by almost anyone interested in clothes, at least a little bit. And it mostly goes unrecorded and unnoticed, which is the appeal of the ‘outfit a day’ fashion blogs: they record and they codify.
This looks terrific! I’m going to submit something on my fashion bloggers project. Although I’m very tempted to submit something on the Gaga.
The Urban Catwalk: Fashion and Street Culture, April 23 2011 | Yale University | New Haven, Connecticut
Keynote Address: Caroline Weber, Barnard/Columbia
Please email all questions and abstracts to madison moore, firstname.lastname@example.org
What is street style, and what is the relationship between style, “the street”, and popular culture? How have the Internet, digital cameras and other technologies impacted how we understand the way we dress? How old is street style, and why do so many people care about the way other people dress? In what ways does street style engage with broader issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality?
The Urban Catwalk: Fashion and Street Culture, a one-day symposium at Yale University, aims to investigate and openly discuss the relationships between street style and identity. We are interested in papers that approach street style from a contemporary lens, but also encourage papers with more of an historical perspective.
Every character in a work of fiction tells a story, and more often than not, the clothes they wear are as crucial to their personalities and interests as to their internal development in the plot. Whether high end or mass market, fashion is a daily performance of identities and subjectivities. Street fashion tells a personal narrative about one’s dreams, fantasies, fears and struggles. From Marie Antoinette to Lady Gaga, and from Napoleon Bonaparte to Prince, fashion is used as an instrument of rebellion and commentary on social norms.
Over the course of a single day, The Urban Catwalk will partner 20 minute academic presentations from a range of disciplines. We are committed to a conference that blends the intellectual with an ear to the ground. In this way, we will hold a panel discussion with editors from a number of major fashion publications about how they understand the intellectual work street style does. We close the conference with a special street style fashion show at Artspace Gallery in Downtown New Haven, where real-people models will showcase their street style.
We solicit rigorous, 20-minute presentations treating various aspects of street fashion.
Topics may include:
- Street style and Contemporary art
- The flaneur
- Style blogs and the Internet
- Urban versus suburban style
- Hipsters and neo-bohemia
- Goth, punk, and skate culture
- Street style and hip hop culture
- Fashion magazines and the street
- Male androgyny; men in high heels
- Street style in media
- How to figure out a style persona; rules and boundaries
- Lady Gaga, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Andre J., and other pop icons
- Japanese street fashion
- Street style in literature
- LGBTQ identity and street style
- Street style in the 19th century
- Fashion designers
- Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and trend spotters
- Vogueing, ball culture
- Sex and the City and street style
300 word abstracts and bios due by: November 26th, 2010
Visit: www.theurbancatwalk.com for up-to-the-minute info.
Alice E. Marwick (alicetiara) is an Assistant Professor at Fordham University in the Department of Communication and Media Studies, where she teaches classes on social media and digital culture. Previously she was a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, MA, where she worked closely with danah boyd studying social software. She received her PhD from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU in 2010. Her new book, Status Update: Celebrity and Attention in Social Media (Yale University Press 2013), examines how people use social media to boost social status, focusing on life-streaming, micro-celebrity, and self-branding. This blog focuses on academic work, technology, pop culture, communication, and media studies. (I spend more time on Twitter than anywhere else.)