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 By the decade’s end, this idealism had been replaced by a gold-rush mentality focusing on status and promotion.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.
“The teenagers and 20-somethings we talk to — a huge aspect of their social life goes on online,” Marwick said. “Not participating in online life is like not having a phone or not going to parties — it’s choosing to opt out of an important part of their social community. It’s not really a choice for many young people.”
You’ll notice that I relay an anecdote that danah blogged about: a pair of girls we interviewed who used the “super logoff” and “whitewashing” methods. “Super logoff” is deleting your account upon exiting Facebook; “whitewashing” is deleting comments, pictures, and Wall posts after they’ve been up for a few hours. While we’ve only interviewed a few teens who’ve exhibited these behaviors, they’re part of a continuum of creative privacy-protection strategies that includes maintaining multiple profiles, “social steganography,” or posting coded messages that are meant only for a select group, switching from Facebook to SMS when appropriate, deleting one’s Facebook account, and a host of other permutations and possibilities. I’m glad that people are beginning to understand that participating in online social life doesn’t– at all– mean the participants “don’t care about privacy.”
This is the first of a series, and I’m very curious to see where CNN goes with it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first paper that danah boyd and I wrote together based on our research at MSR last summer has been published!
Social media technologies collapse multiple audiences into single contexts, making it difficult for people to use the same techniques online that they do to handle multiplicity in face-to-face conversation. This article investigates how content producers navigate ‘imagined audiences’ on Twitter. We talked with participants who have different types of followings to understand their techniques, including targeting different audiences, concealing subjects, and maintaining authenticity. Some techniques of audience management resemble the practices of ‘micro-celebrity’ and personal branding, both strategic self-commodification. Our model of the networked audience assumes a many-to-many communication through which individuals conceptualize an imagined audience evoked through their tweets.
If you have access to a university journal subscription, you can access it here. If not, you can download it here [PDF].
I am very proud of this paper and would love to hear feedback on it.
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.)