Participatory Documentary

“A participatory documentary tells a story about a community using the community’s own words. That story is disseminated back to that community via social media.”

As I began brainstorming ideas for my tactical media/participatory documentary, I initially wanted to go to an LGBT homeless shelter in Atlanta. As Atlanta is one of the most liberal cities in the South, it has become a hub for young queer people looking to start a new life. Many of them end up on the streets due to family abandonment, and physical and mental abuse. Unfortunately, the first place I found in Atlanta did not return my call. I arranged for a brief interview at another LGBT homeless shelter in New York, however, my contact did not respond when we were supposed to meet. This led me to re-brainstorm the idea of reciting a story about a community using the community’s own words. I decided that I would retell the story of an LGBT teenager who couldn’t go home for the holiday season. This story was posted on the Ali Forney (another NYC based LGBT homeless resource) website, so I’m inclined to believe that its free game to repeat the words of as long as credit is given where due. The idea would be to read aloud the story while outside in the cold, and if you couldn’t make it through the story, you would have to donate a certain amount to the cause. 

 

“Participatory documentaries bring with them their own ethical and political conundrums which each producer must face.” 

“I speak about them to you”

“It speaks about them or it to us”

“I or We speak about us to you”

Immediately after the idea popped in my head, the ethical and political conundrums followed suit. What kind of media am I creating? Am I a part of the community that I am addressing? As a member of the LGBT community, this issue is important to me, but the conditions that these youth face are quite estranged from my own. Is it wrong to assume the experience of another or is it one’s obligation to do so. Just as the seemingly innocuous “ice bucket challenge” brought its own conundrum of massive water waste (especially in California which is  in a drought), I was unsure whether reading the story of someone else’s assault was diminishing or revering the experience. Ultimately, I settled with myself that I was creating a blend of “I speak about them to you” and “We speak about us to you”. There really should be another category for this role as it seems to cause contention where ever it crops up. If you are a white person who is passionate about social justice, is it your place to speak to the experience of more oppressed people, or to magnify the volume of their message? This well intentioned standing has its drawbacks, as at the end of the video I get to go back inside to the warmth, while the cold remains a reality for many people queer or not. With that in mind, I grimaced as I set up my tripod and DSLR camera to capture me sitting on the ground pretending to be homeless, when an actual homeless person tossed and turned on the other side of the street. 

 

“The documentary is engaged with the community, and has an ethical responsibility towards it. It is dealing with an issue that the community is involved with, and therefore the community is vitally interested in the resulting work”

As social media is brought in, the stakes are higher as anything can go viral over night. I examined my digital circle and thought about how something like this would spread. First off, I’d need to take a few more tips from shooting documentary tips that are included in the “cookbook”. I’d want to diversify camera angles and lighting, and show closer face shots to evoke the gravity of the story. Then, after the production is complete, the package needs to be tied with an attractive hashtag, such as #unhappyholidays or #saveouryouth. This participatory/tactical media would be ready to enter the digital sphere in my echo chamber, but may not be so well received in others. 

Civic Engagement Final

I would like to do my civic engagement project on the Lost and Found homeless shelter. This LGBT safe haven is a halfway point that helps LGBT youth from 13-25 get back on their feet, with employment and housing. I would love to call them and see if they are interested in doing a participatory documentary with me. I would be interested in interviewing the organizers and asking them what they do, and what they need. I’d like to interview the youth as well, and will consider masking their identities.

Lessig and Barlow

This 1996 “email” declaration is both ahead of its time, and far behind its time. It describes a phenomena in which parents are immigrants into the digital world that their children are immersed in (not currently true, but getting there). The material persona has been stripped away and replaced with a virtual and ungoverned body. This article is remarkable as it predicts behaviors that had not existed yet, including anonymous chat forums (chatrooms, formspring, reddit). In this setting, an individual can be anyone from anywhere, of any gender, color, size.

 

“We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

 

This speaks to the increased visibility, and cohesion between groups of people that would otherwise be separate. Queer people who have not been exposed to any other people like them, can now google any questions they have about sexuality, and they can watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, a flamboyant celebration of gay culture. This signals a paradigm shift in which people who share similarities can gather around virtual “online campfires”. These communities allow for a world in which anyone can express themselves.

 

“Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders…It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.”

 

John Barlow has struck at a key point long before that reality came to be. The borders of the internet are constantly being expanded as the internet grows upon itself. Millions of keywords are logged everyday and media is presented by the natural (and sometimes unnatural) proliferation of attractive content. Whereas 100% of people got their news from one radio station, each individual is constantly being exposed to tons of perspectives from other online users and content creators. Young children in Gaza are able to livestream their grim reality to whoever will listen, and once the content exists, there is nothing the government can do to wipe the information from the web, or from the minds of those who have seen the videos.

 

 

 

Lawrence Lessig brings up an interesting conflict between creativity and intellectual property. He proposes that all creative work has value as produced by the artist. That value means something, whether it is an original storyline, or a beautiful painting. He also thinks that the over regulation and commoditization of creativity actually stifles other creativity. He uses the example of Japanese anime. There is a thriving subgenre doujunshi that is essentially a glorified fan-fiction. Many of the characters are the same, but there is an added twist. This is technically illegal, but because it is so popular and brings in so much money to the whole anime community, it is unwise to extinguish the creativity. Furthermore, in my experience with film, I often look for influences in movie in classical art. Many times, directors will go so far as to recreate scenes from old paintings, into living breathing moments of art. Is this stealing? Is it stealing if it is done to someone dead or alive? Does it matter?

 

Lisa Nakamura/ Scambaiting

“Memes are part of the fuel that powers the internet’s traffic in images, and an analysis of the origins and meanings of overtly racialized and sexist viral images such as these can tell us much about how racial and ethnic difference are enacted on the internet through visual means.”

“Scambaiting photographs spread virally because they require human actors to create novel and striking, and therefore valuable, images, many of which are egregiously racist.”

 

It is fascinating to examine the power of memes in the digital universe as the word / concept itself is hard to pin down. Memes float around our facebook and instagram feeds constantly, and our brains understand how to contextualize the words with the photographs almost instantly. But who makes these memes? When you take a moment to think about it, it becomes clear that of course when a person creates a meme, they inject their previous experiences and bias into them. I have been following a number of extremely conservative instagram accounts to get a sense of “how the other half thinks” and many of the memes I see are rooted in deep xenophobia and racism. The power of these memes to spread virally lies in the prejudice in those who observe it. It can be hard to separate the image from the context from which it was birthed, but it is essential in understanding the impact of the image.

 

 

“Byrne (2013) argues that pre-digital forms of anti-black vigilantism such as lynching produced strikingly similar artifacts, such as postcards, that were designed to spread from person to person.”

“Many of these images depict black people as sexualized, nude, debased,

and queered figures (see Figures 2 to 5). Photographs that depict African

men posed with bananas or pickles in their mouths invoke a mockery of the

homoerotic, mimicking oral sex.”

“US audiences have a long history of compelling Africans, Filipinos, Aborigines, and other subaltern groups of people to perform themselves as primitive”

 

I have paired these three quotes together as they all speak to the way in which a group of people can be imprisoned by an image. I am currently enrolled in Black Images in the Media, which has urged me to take a closer look at the ways in which black people are portrayed, and the history behind that. Interestingly enough, these tactics are far from new. The group in power (most often white Christians) creates a framework from which to view these minority groups. They most often follow the same pattern. The Native Americans were portrayed as “libidinous”, violent, and savage people. After that, the Irish were slandered as lazy, sleazy and stupid. Today, black people are imprisoned by an over sexualized, lazy and aggressive image. All of these tactics to slander the minority have been used whether in a printed newspaper in the 1800s or in a meme. It comes as no surprise that these images employ the same tactics, but an ignorant onlooker would have no understanding of the context of the image. The exploitation of the black body has become so ingrained in our expectation of the media.

 

http://laurenguliasi.com/blog/

 

S”econd, I was reminded of the early days of entertainment in the US: the era of vaudeville. In the 1800s, a popular form of comedy was ethnic personations. If it wasn’t a white person mocking a minority, white people were putting minorities on display as an act for entertainment. Nakamura says on page 264 that the scambaiting photos portray Africans as a “sideshow oddity”, which is extremely reminiscent of vaudeville, dime theaters, and circus acts. Related to this form of entertainment throughout history is something that Nakamura paraphrased from Fusco & Wallis on page 206: race is spectacular.”

 

I really liked Lauren’s point about the “spectacle” of racism. In most cases, these scambait photos have an underlying punchline of – look at these dark skinned Africans and what we have convinced them to do in front of a camera. Their humanity has been ripped from them, and they stand before the camera as a form of ethnic entertainment. This is no different from when English imperialists captured an African and toured him around the world like a circus pet. They drew large audiences with claims of the uncivilized cannibal from Africa. In both cases, the humanity is taken and replaced with a spectacle for entertainment purposes.

Only Software/Cultural Theory of YouTube

“Accepting 
the 
centrality 
of 
software 
puts 
in 
question 
a 
fundamental 
concept
 of
 modern 
aesthetic
 and
 media 
theory
– 
that 
of 
“properties 
of 
a 
medium”

 

“Depending
 on
 which
 software
 you 
use
to 
access 
it,
what 
you
 can
 do
 with 
the
 same 
digital 
file 
can 
change
 dramatically”

 

There is only software is an unexpected take on the digital universe, which is often perceived as fluid and manageable. I would have never thought that the programs that we use to manipulate photographs (such as photoshop or Picasso) were simply lines of code created by a cohort of coders in a room somewhere. These programs give such a sense of control- as though we are the ones manipulating and controlling the product (which I guess is true to a certain extent).

 

 

“The 
appearance

 of 
particular
 techniques 
in 
applications 
can 
also 
be 
traced 
to
 the 
economics
 of 
software 
industry
–
for
 instance,
 when
 one 
software
 company 
buys 
another
 company,
 it 
may 
merge 
its 
existing
 package
 with 
the
 software 
from 
the 
company 
I t
hought.
”

 

Now that my eyes are open to the language behind everything that makes up our digital world, I wonder about the ownership of ideas or lines of code. For example, snapchat is successful for its rapid photosharing capabilities, and introduced Snapchat Stories. Snap stories are particularly powerful at communicating information as they are short, succinct, and different filters, text and emojis can be added to give further meaning to the video/photo. This idea is valuable and was a key ingredient that instagram lacked. Instagram (for most people) was a more stiff space of formal posts that last forever and represent your page until you delete them. Snapstories succeeded as they only lasted 24 hours, thus giving a snapshot of a person’s day. This idea was more or less stolen by instagram, who now introduced instagram stories. Honestly, I don’t know their formal name as they are such a cut and dry copy of snapchat. This begs the question- did instagram steal lines of code? Or can lines of code that contain ideas be patented?

 

 

“ YouTube represents the kind of hybrid media space described by Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks — a space where commercial, amateur, nonprofit, governmental, educational, and activist content co-exists and interacts in ever more complex ways”

 

It is fascinating that the nature of YouTube has changed so much, and yet stayed so similar in the 9 years since this article was written. The relationships between these spheres has only gotten more complex as the amateur is morphing into an authority that commands the influence of millions. These mega- youtubers are crossing over into mainstream media in every sphere. Chescaleigh makes educational videos on social justice and activist issues and recently secured a segment on MTV. Phillip DeFranco has 4 million subscribers and delivers raw unfiltered news 4-5 days a week. YouTubers have even interviewed politicians such as Obama.

 

 

“YouTube represents a site where amateur curators assess the value of commercial content and re-present it for various niche communities of consumers”

 

This is also more true than ever as YouTuber’s begin to incorporate more and more seamless advertising into their videos. The value of an advertisement on TV or in a newspaper is weaker than ever as our eyes are trained to identify and disregard advertisements in seconds. Now, beauty bloggers are being sponsored by big name brands and the viewers actually engage with the product as they trust the source it is coming from.

 

 

“ If we want to see a more “democratic” culture, we need to explore what mechanisms might encouraged greater diversity in who participates, whose work gets seen, and what gets valued within the new participatory culture. “

 

This also is unfortunately still true, though less and less. Young white boys and girls flood the home pages of youtube, while dark skinned people are either less common, or less successful in terms of views/subscribers. As more and more people engage in YouTube, more diversity is brought onto the platform and communities form of likeminded individuals.

Its Complicated

This chapter was quite thorough so it was tricky parsing out only a few relevant paragraphs. I will respond to a number of quotes scattered throughout the source.

 

“Students find themselves in particular classrooms—or on academic tracks—based on test scores, and these results often correlate with socioeconomic status. Friend groups are often racially and economically homogenous, which translates into segregated lunchrooms and segregated online communities.”

 

“If it comes down to it, we have to supposedly stick with our own races. . . . That’s just the unwritten code of high school nowadays.”

 

I have discussed many of these topics recently as I am enrolled in Black Images in the Media. One of our first assignments was to write an ethnic reflection and discuss how we believe race has impacted our lives/ its presence in our lives. I was born in New York City, which I am proud to say is one of the most accepting and diverse places in America. With that being said, there are still huge divides that exist from the lunchroom to the subway. I went to a private high school that prided itself on its diversity and held many assemblies on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Most kids had friends or acquaintances of every race, but the lines were drawn in certain locations. All of the Indian kids knew each other and many of them were family friends. The same was true for the Koreans. The black kids were the most alienated at my high school. I took the subway to school everyday instead of the school bus and many of my best friends in middle school and onward were black. There was a large scholarship program, but there were seemingly insurmountable barriers within the school that segregated the white and black kids. Most of the black kids were on financial aid, so when senior year came around and the whole grade was organizing a massive trip to the Bahamas, only one or two of my black friends could come. Friend groups were often divided by money as the wealthiest kids who had been at the school since kindergarten hung out together. If you asked them about diversity in the school, many would likely be blind to the institutionalized organizations that segregated our campus (model UN / debate team leaders chose new leaders largely based on homophily).

 

“As I describe throughout this book, the mere existence of new technology neither creates nor magically solves cultural problems. In fact, their construction typically reinforces existing social divisions.”

 

“The internet may not have the power to reverse long-standing societal ills, but it does have the potential to make them visible in new and perhaps productive ways.”

 

While the internet does not cure people of ingrained prejudice, it does a fantastic job of documenting it. Social justice and politics were heavily debated on facebook, and whenever someone made an ignorant comment, you could bet that at least 4 people had screenshotted it. These pictures were sent around, and kept as evidence of a person’s prejudice. The mere existence of these images causes shame to some, but is a source of pride to others. I read an article a while back called Red Feed Blue Feed* which speaks to how our social media largely reflects back posts from like-minded individuals resulting in echo-chambers of our own beliefs. In my efforts to find some “red feeds” or conservative social media presence I discovered a few shocking instagrams. My favorites include guns_are_fun_ and 1776reborn. These accounts prove that social media does not magically eliminate prejudice- in many cases it gives a platform that can validate these sentiments. One could argue that Trump’s meteoric rise to in the polls is because he is giving a platform/voice to people with ingrained and suppressed prejudice. One could argue that indeed J. Perhaps in another blog post.

 

http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/ *

 

 

“Studies have accounted for homophily in sex and gender, age, religion, education level, occupation, and social class. But nowhere is homophily more strongly visible

in the United States than in the divides along racial and ethnic lines.”

 

Self-segregation is a logical response to the systematized costs of racism. It is simply impossible to erase the history that our country has endured. Many of our parents were alive when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed while peacefully protesting for equality. While we have made strides in our legislature since then, many black people are still treated as second-class citizens and have been conditioned to live in fear of the police. The fact that my mother never said to “be polite when you speak to an officer” or “don’t walk around in a hoodie late night” means that there are stark differences in the way that our children continue to experience race in this country. Honestly- I believe this stems back to slavery as the history of black people in America is one of terrible torture and subjugation, but again that is a blog post for another day.

 

 

“Taste is not simply a matter of personal preference; it is the product of cultural dynamics and social structure.”

 

“In constituting an “us” in opposition to “them,” teens reinforce social divisions through their use of and attitudes toward social media.”

 

These two quotes speak to the way that we slip into comfortable boxes of homophily. Many of my white friends from school will say that it is hard to make black friends as they can’t afford to do the activities they enjoy (soulcycle fitness classes, going to expensive restaurants etc) and while that may hold some truth, most of the time homophily prevails. I really like what Rosie wrote in her blog post- “the dual nature of homophily as both a safety net and product of prejudice”

http://rosieditre.com/home/blog/

I think this really speaks to title of the article. Its complicated because when all the black girls hang out together in the cafeteria, it is in part because they can talk about much of the same music, fashion, boys or other cultural happenings, but also because they don’t feel safe sitting with the rich white kids.

The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me”

“Selfies make us aware about a particular method of self-fashioning and communication that is historically time-specific in the sense that it could materialize only in the moment when several technologies have reached a certain level of development and accessibility”

 

The discussion of selfies must start and end with an acknowledgement to the technology that makes it possible. To be quite honest, I don’t experience the hub-bub that people seem to experience when they write long passionate articles about how millenials are doomed to narcissism. It may be hard to place yourself if my shoes if you were not born in the same year as I, but think about this- the first phone I ever owned was an iPhone. This means that my concept of communication is irrevocably interlaced with imagery. This falls in deep contrast to generations before, who largely relied on television (limited access to imagery), newspaper (mostly text), or radio (solely audio). This really speaks to the point that http://tpierrejean.com/blog/ Tameka made in her blog post. She shared a personal anecdote about her photography class, which I will excerpt below-

 

“On the first day of my photography class, my professor asked, “Who here has never taken a photograph?”. My classmates and I looked around to find that no one’s hand was raised. The production of an image use to require complicated technology and highly skilled technique, but now it has become part of our everyday lives; anyone can take a photograph.”

 

If you asked a classroom full of our grandparents or great-grandparents how many of them had operated a heavy and extremely expensive camera, most of them would shake their head no.

 

 

“The selfie is treated as a form of self-expression of individual Instagram users as well as a communal and social practice.”

 

My personal conflict with selfies lies at this crossroad- is a selfie an innocuous way of expressing oneself or is a tribute to an arena style slideshow in which each of us judges each other based on our social media presence. While I am fully for a woman’s right to reclaim her sexuality and would love to support a place for women to proudly build their confidence by posting selfies, I find it a little bit hard to reconcile the imagery that bombards young women and girls in magazine and on billboards with what I see on instagram. Earlier this summer, I was biking down 5th avenue in New York when I saw a poster/billboard that looked to be about 15 stories long and spanned the width of multiple store fronts. The advertisement displayed 4 tall thin models wearing absolutely nothing other than shoes. They stood strategically so as to cover their “private parts” but were unmistakably naked save for the stunning Stuart Weitzman heels they wore. I thought to myself- how is this possible- that the imagery that young women see is of their bodies being used to sell shoes. This is not to say that similar tactics are used for men (think Abercrombie) but not nearly to the same degree. So when Kim Kardashian posts a naked selfie on twitter or poses naked for a magazine and tweets out “feeling so proud of my body! #proudmom” I sense an underlying exploitation of the female form for clicks/views. Whether is it done consciously or not, Kim has commodified her body so as to attract as many views as possible. http://cbschramm.com/blog/

Cecilia argues that “Many young women these days constantly feel self-conscious or cannot see the beauty in themselves, so I enjoy how the trend of the selfie has taught girls to be proud of their looks again and to not be afraid to show it.” While I believe that selfies can be used to this end- I maintain that too often women post these pictures because that is what they have been taught is what is valuable or expected of them.

 

“We now all behave as brands and the selfie is simply brand advertising. Selfies provide an opportunity to position ourselves (often against our competitors) to gain recognition, support and ultimately interaction from the targeted social circle. This is no different to consumer brand promotion.”

 

This commodification of self intrinsically places people on a hierarchy of desirability, which can be based on a number of problematic factors. If we behave as brands, each vying for the favor of the consumer, products will be chosen based on innate biases such as race, age, or sexual orientation. Sure, Instagram can be a great place to build confidence if you are a straight white female who was born with Eurocentric features such as straight hair or nose. Unfortunately in today’s society, a transgender black man with kinky hair will be less able to successfully brand/gain support or recognition from a greater social circle. Luckily, the internet has been able to create communities for people who would otherwise not be able to meet, which gives them a place to have a more “targeted social circle”. This includes chatrooms, gay apps, and other lgbt themed content.

 

 

“On one hand, this phenomenon is a natural extension of threads in the history of photography of selfportraiture and technical innovation resulting in the increasing democratization of the medium. But on the other, the immediacy of these images – their instantaneous recording and sharing – makes them seem a thing apart from a photograph that required time and expense to process and print, not to mention distribute to friends and relatives.”

 

“Photographs have become like talking. The rarity of imagery once made it a separate part of life. Now it’s just life. It is just part of the day.”

 

 

These two excerpts seem to answer each other so I have left them next to each other. Now that technology is being created at an exponential rate, there will be unfounded sociological changes that will accompany these changes. Whether that means we will all become virtual representations of ourselves or that we will have access to cheap and ubiquitous plastic surgery- things will chance for the better or worse. Photographs/ imagery have become hugely integrated into our lives, I would say for the better. They communicate information better than audio, and soon will be usurped by video which communicates information better than the two combined.

Competitive and Non-Competitive Photography on Instagram

This reading offered a new way of looking at the unique type of photography that has re-emerged with the popularity of instagram. This article was a pleasure to read as it (as well as the micro-celebrity reading) are highly relevant to the social media that I use and interact with on a daily basis. These readings give me a new way of looking at the activities that seem almost second nature to our generation. My best friend created an instagram page dedicated to food pictures in July 2014. She and her family are a bunch of foodies and she just decided that she needed a place to put all the pictures of the delicious food she was eating. As I read this article, I remembered and related the growth of her page to the techniques that the article discussed.

 

Comparing the photography found on your instagram discover page to the photography you would find in a gallery or museum is a difficult ordeal. If you ask the content creator, some take highly saturated, beautiful pictures with their $4000 dollar cameras and self-identify as social media influencers, while others identify as photographers, or “creative individuals” etc. Declaring that “instagrams aren’t art” or that the photography found on instagram is somehow less valid than professional photography is limiting and honestly misinformed. Last summer, I went to the Frieze art fair in New York City, and one of their major exhibits was a room with blown up massive instagrams (with accompanying like count and comment list). The curators of this exhibition would argue that these photos are valid forms of photography and the viewers of the piece enjoyed the self-aware commentary the exhibit seemed to suggest. Instagram and photography in general is evolving as technology is evolving. I’m sure that the first graphic designer takes great pride in the years of forming his craft. Technology has progressed such that there isn’t just one graphic designer using a massive old computer, now every single snapchat user can add filters and draw directly upon the screen and instantly disseminate the image to all of their friends in the form of a snapstory. Are these people graphic designers? Perhaps not, but to say that the “Snapstory” is an unviable artistic form of expression is a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the new technology changes.

Now- to the point of competitive photography, I will go back to the example of my friends instagram account. For the first year and a half, my friend posted pictures of her food as they appeared on her camera roll. She might slap a filter on it and increase the saturation, but the photos that she posted were not too aesthetically pleasing. Even though she was eating delicious food, her skill of photography and editing was weak and her follower count reflected that. Slowly, as she continued to immerse herself in the field of instagram food blogging, she picked up new editing techniques, such as whitening targeted areas of the photo and taking “flat lay” (a style of instagram post) photos. Her feed began to look more professional and the quality and artistry of the overall account skyrocketed. Other food instagrams began reposting the pictures that she posted (giving her credit for the photos of course) which in turn drew more traffic to her account. Now she has almost 7000 followers and her numbers are growing exponentially. She developed competitive skills that make her photos attract more likes and comments. By now, the quality of the photos and videos that she posts are so high that one could expect to see them in a cookbook or commercial on tv. To say that her work is not artful is to ignore the years of practice and effort that she has put into her craft. Recently, she was invited to a lunch at Phillipe (a luxurious chinese restaurant in NYC). When she arrived she was shocked to see that she was sitting at a table with 9 other social media food influencers who would go on to post their photos on their respective accounts with the restaurant location tagged. In this way, the services of these social media influencers is a marketable skill that requires an individual with competitive skills in the field.

In conclusion, the distinction between amateur and professional is less important than the skill level and competitiveness of the “artists” or instagrammer. My friend posts anti-selfies of her life through the meals she eats and has become a professional with a marketable asset (her follower count and influence/engagement).

Micro-Celebrity in Social Media

As an avid tumblr, instagram and YouTube user, I was fascinated to see “the wizard behind the curtain”. I was most struck by how reproducible and standardized these “micro-celebrity” behaviors were especially since the entire allure of YouTube (or alternative/new media) is to give a raw voice to who ever will speak. This perceived genuineness attracts the viewer into a pseudo-friendship and it is hard to remember at times that there are a million other micro-celebrities all making direct eye contact with the camera and speaking to their millions of fans.

As someone who never adored celebrities, or doted over picture-perfect magazine covers, it is interesting to examine the similarities and differences between the “fake” celebrities who I almost scornfully ignore, and the “genuine” online personalities that lull me into a false sense of security and intimacy. When Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian post a picture on instagram, my gut reaction is- oh! thats a nice picture that her PR agent posted and I love that dress that her stylist picked out! Although, these two ladies are probably not the best examples as I do not follow either of their careers. My favorite musician, Frank Ocean, is famous for his elusiveness and it has drawn me to him like a magnet since the release of his first album, 4 years ago. When he makes his (infrequent) posts to his personal tumblr page, I pore over each word in an effort to get to know him- to learn more about his life, insecurities, hopes and dreams. His fame is more comparable to that of Angelina Jolie as they both make infrequent public appearances, but do not reveal their day to day trials and tribulations.

“Social media transforms interactions with celebrities
that feel interpersonal, such as watching a concert, into interpersonal mediated interaction, such
as receiving a Twitter @reply from a pop star (Marwick and boyd 2011a). Such interactions can
be very powerful for devoted fans, further increasing the emotional ties between a celebrity and
his or her audience. ”

I have been watching a YouTube personality, GiGi Gorgeous, for years. About 2.5 years ago GiGi was known as Gregory Gorgeous and he was famous for being an outspoken, unapologetically unique boy with a passion for make up. First came the coming out video (I’m Transgender), then Transgender Q&A 1,2…, then my boob job video, then my facial feminization procedures video. Now GiGi is an international model and icon with over 2 million YouTube subscribers. My journey with GiGi is immensely personal as I feel as though I have grown up with her. She is about two years older than me and frequently tells stories from her life with cautionary tales and advice. Two weeks ago, I commented on one of her videos for the first time and she took a snapchat of my comment and snap storied it with the caption “So sweet. You’re making me blush”. I can’t say why I never commented before, but I reached out, and she publicly replied to me. To say I was elated is an understatement, and you can be sure I haven’t missed one of her videos since.

“particular technical features of social media applications, combined with the prevalence of celebrity-focused mass culture, enable individuals to inhabit a popular subjectivity that resembles, even if vaguely, that of the “conventionally” famous. In these contexts, celebrity becomes something a person does, rather than something a person is”

I find it fascinating how the internet makes the world a much smaller place. Imagine a world without instagram hunks and babes and the standard of beauty was set by the girls and boys in your class or job and MAYBE there was a fabulously attractive librarian who lived in the town. That librarian would be the talk of town, a mini-celebrity in her own way. With instagram, anyone from anywhere can post a picture of themselves to be discovered. That librarian accidentally posts a selfie and before she knows it, it has gone viral and she has over a 1000 instagram followers. She now has the choice to do that actions of a mini-celebrity (post selfies frequently, while answering viewer questions) or not. If she does not, then she is just a regular attractive person, but if she DOES those behaviors, she becomes a celebrity. I wonder if she would still be considered a mini-celebrity in her town?

“like your job is supposed to define you or something. I’m doing me, you’re doing you, some people are better at getting attention for it than others. There’s no shame in that. (in response to what do you do for a living) her penchant for revealing personal details about her insecurities and romantic entanglements;”

In many ways I agree with this perspective and in other ways not. I believe that one’s charisma, and personality are assets comparable to intelligence or willpower and just as an accountant harnesses his mathematical abilities, a club promoter plasters a smile to his/her face so that they will succeed in their line of work. To say that one “does not do anything” for work is an under-simplification of the factors at work. While Khloe Kardashian may only shop, eat, and gossip on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, her quick wit and unforgettable one-liners keep the audience coming back for more. She succeeds in her line of work, which although may not be physically (or perhaps mentally) strenuous. That being said, her family is mostly famous for their wealth and lifestyle which is fetishized in our culture and on the tv show. In that way, they aren’t doing anything other than buy into our societies desire for (vicarious) luxury.