YouTuber Influencers vs. Legacy Media: PewDiePie, Weaponized microcelebrity, and Cross-media politics

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Last week, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article and accompanying video accusing 27-year-old Swedish YouTube Influencer Felix Kjellberg, better known by his moniker PewDiePie, of publishing “anti-semitic posts”. In a media ecology saturated with Influencers, wannabes, and old/traditional/legacy media attempting to shift into digital spaces, this news is significant as PewDiePie is among the most watched, renown, and viable icons in the digital Influencer industry, being the most subscribed and highest paid YouTuber in 2016. In the wake of these accusations, PewDiePie’s network Maker Studios (recently bought over by Disney) and his platform partner YouTube Red dropped him from their stable, terminated his upcoming series, and removed him from their advertising programme.

I am an anthropologist who wrote my PhD on the Influencer industry, having observed the scene as early as in 2007 and investigated it professionally since 2010. I published extensive case studies and academic research on the culture of Influencers, including the shifts in trends and practices over the years. In this post, I extrapolate from the PewDiePie-WSJ scandal alongside reactions from prominent YouTubers to discuss Influencers on YouTube, their cultural vernacular and community norms, their relationship with legacy media, and their potential as new weaponized microcelebrity.  Continue reading YouTuber Influencers vs. Legacy Media: PewDiePie, Weaponized microcelebrity, and Cross-media politics

Micro-microcelebrity: Famous Babies and Business on the Internet

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Ten years ago, as a teenager in junior college, I often heard my peers exchanging updates of what a group of girls had recently purchased, worn or experienced. They could recall the names of their boyfriends, the restaurants they’d been to over the weekend, and details of their latest fashion purchases. I soon learned that these girls did not go to my college, nor were they friends of my peers. In fact, my peers had never met these girls in the flesh; they were simply bloggers writing about their lives on the internet. The allure of such bloggers and the intimacies their followers expressed towards them and among each other intrigued me so much, that, when I became an anthropologist later on in life, I made these internet personalities the focus of my research.

Continue reading Micro-microcelebrity: Famous Babies and Business on the Internet

Stimuli.

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I’ve been thinking about how bodies react to stressful situations or fall into PTSD, and how private and public struggles compound each other.

There are many challenging and difficult things happening in our world right now and we all read, process, filter, and react to them differently.

At the confluence of demographic intersectionality, our personal histories, and the proximity of the domino effect to each of our societies, our individual bodies personalise and compound responses to a single stimuli.

All of us also use and curate our social media differently, for the personal or professional or news, as receptacle or broadcast or dialogue, by posting or reading or lurking, in peaks and troughs with intensities and lulls, all of these and everything else in between.

Whatever works for our bodies and helps us do life better without harm to others is valid. Continue reading Stimuli.

MeituXiuxiu, Cultural diffusion, and Asia Exotica

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This week my social media feeds have been flooded with updates from White friends who have just discovered 美图绣绣 (mei3 tu2 xiu4 xiu4), or “meitu” as it is popularly known in the English-speaking world. Among Influencers and everyday users in Singapore, and in the vein of nationalist acronymic efficiency, the app is more commonly abbreviated as “mtxx”.

MeituXiuxiu has been a vital part of the Influencer ecology in Singapore since 2013, where the tasteful editing or “shopping” of selfies is neither shamed nor scorned but celebrated and rewarded. I have written about the monetizing of such selfie skills as a form of “subversive frivolity“. While mobile phone-editing apps are proliferate in Singapore, as is elsewhere in East Asia, MeituXiuxiu was one of the earliest players in the app industry with built-in single-button functions that “augmented” or “corrected” bodies according to dominant standards of Chinese beauty in the region.

Guided by context from my fieldwork among Influencers and their use of MeituXiuxiu, in this post I try to make sense of the recent uptake of MeituXiuxiu among English-speaking White folk. Screengrabs were taken from the Apple app store, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter on 19 January 2017, 1000-1030hrs, GMT+8.  Continue reading MeituXiuxiu, Cultural diffusion, and Asia Exotica

Code-switching and linguistic acrobatics on the internet

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When I was conference-hopping last month, I caught up with an academic friend who had unfollowed me on Twitter. While transiting from a proper academic conversation at the dinner table of a nice restaurant to a more intimate catch-up about our personal lives over drinks in a cosy bar, my friend admitted that they thought my use of Twitter was very “brave”. I didn’t understand. Specifically, they had unfollowed me because my Twitter stream was too “cluttered” and “spammy” and my tweeting habits were too frequent. It seemed “brave” was polite-speak for “homgh aren’t you afraid someone important might see your tweets”? Continue reading Code-switching and linguistic acrobatics on the internet