I make my annual pilgrimage to the Eastern States starting tomorrow. I’ll be giving four talks in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne featuring some of my (very) new work on Influencer culture. Come by to say hi?
PS: Special thanks to Audrey, Meg, Helen, Brendan, and Gary for all the couch-hopping!
Beep when you beep,
Smartphone heartphone: Smartphone affects, anxieties, and attachments among Influencers in Singapore
Workshop on Mobiles and Social Media in Southeast Asia and The Pacific
Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, Department of Media and Communications (University of Sydney), and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (National University of Singapore)
12 November 2015, Thursday, 1545-1715hrs panel
MECO Seminar Room S226
Level 2, John Woolley Building (A20)
The University of Sydney
<full programme/Sydney Ideas>
As young people are increasingly reliant on smartphones as a device to leisurely connect to the Internet (Galambos & Abrahamson 2002), users in Singapore report an 87% smartphone penetration rate (Media Research Asia 2013) and 123% mobile Internet penetration rate (Singh 2014). Among these users are Influencers who are micro-celebrities on the Internet, and who accumulate and monetize their relatively large followings on blogs and social media such as Instagram (Abidin 2014). As such, Influencers have an especially intimate relationship with their smartphones through which they visually and textually narrate their daily lives on the go, while continuously experiencing technological, device, and social media ʻbleedsʼ (Gregg 2013) between their work and recreational activities. Drawing on original anthropological fieldwork among Influencers between 2010 and 2015 in the ʻIntelligent Islandʼ (Cordeiro & Al- Hawamdeh 2001) climate of Singapore, this paper presents the affects, anxieties, and attachments (i.e. battery longevity, Wi-Fi connectivity, platform congruence) high-frequency smartphone users such as Influencers experience in their mundane, everyday practices, and how cultural affordances are dialogically engaging with these changing trends.
Gruesome intimacies: The anatomy of plastic surgery advertorials
Digital intimate publics: identities, relationships and value in social media cultures
University of Queensland
20 November 2015, Friday, 1330-1530hrs panel
Room 601, Michie Building 9
University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus
Sponsored overseas plastic surgeries are a rising trend among young women Influencers in East Asia. As semi-public microcelebrities who document their ‘everyday life’ on social media to market products through ‘advertorials’, their attraction is premised upon strategically sharing the personal and the taboo. Plastic surgery advertorials often document grotesque selfies and gruesome narratives that are part spectacle, part confessional to attract readership while maintaining Influencers’ authenticity and relatability. As such, plastic surgery advertorials are framed at the intersection of aspirational femininity, hyper-visibilised corporeal vulnerability, and commercial intimacies. Through ethnographic case studies among Influencers in Singapore, this paper will analyse the anatomy of plastic surgery advertorials and the modes in which the public intimacies negotiated seek to offset the overt consumerism in ‘body projects’.
Not just a pretty boy: Male Influencers in a hyper-feminized economy
Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA) Annual Conference 2015
2 December 2015, Wednesday, 1345-1500hrs panel
Room 5, 216 John Medley building
University of Melbourne
<conference site/prefix postgrad day/public panel/public lecture>
Influencers are high profile Internet users who shape public opinion through a ‘relatable’ persona that manifests on social media and in the flesh. Through personal branding techniques, an Influencer’s portrayal of their life ‘as lived’ is the canvas on ,which products and services are marketed to followers in the form of ‘advertorials’. In SIngapore the industry comprises primarily young women who market feminine-oriented products to a predominantly female fanbase. However, a very small number of male Influencers have been making waves in this genre of late. Despite being a minority whose success and vulnerabilities are tied to the popularity and commercial power of their female counterparts, male Influencers have managed to rebrand their personae and narratives to portray a ‘productive marginality’ towards their predominantly female fanbase. This paper is focused on some key strategies male Influencers employ to maintain their foothold in a hyper-feminized economy, specifically looking at how they counter-intuitively disband and embed with women Influencers instead of working together, selectively posture variants of ‘soft masculinity’ bordering on metrosexuality and the archetypal ‘gay BFF’, and hyper-visibilize certain aspects of their personal lives ‘behind-the-scenes’ to sustain their business.
Aspirational tensions: Young couples and homemaking in a tightly regulated ecology
Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) Conference 2015
3 December 2015, Thursday, Dwe03 panel
Babel G03 (Lower Theatre)
University of Melbourne
<programme/panel abstracts/conference site/registration>
Owning a house is an exciting milestone for young couples. In Singapore, heavily-subsidised public housing is a viable albeit tightly regulated option for first-time homeowners administered by the Housing Development Board (HDB). Young couples often embark on bureaucratic navigations that can take up to four years. As a result, marriage, childbirth, and homemaking is closely tied to the transience of their interstitial housing arrangements. Naturally, ‘the big move’ that eventuates has become a ritualised spectacle in which young couples can finally enact their homemaking aspirations. Based on personal interviews with recent first-time homeowners in their mid-20s, this paper outlines young couples’ trajectories of home ownership in Singapore, their narratives of prolonged expectancies and delayed gratification, and their first makings of a shared domestic space.