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

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

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

Procrastiprogress updates from the cave VI.

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Moshimoshi folks,

I can’t believe it’s already the end of September. This month has been hectic but fulfilling.

I finally attended my PhD Convocation ceremony, 13 months after I had submitted my thesis and seven months after I had passed. (Yes the grading did take that long!) I still have mixed feelings about graduation because four years of research was literally casually commemorated in a five-second walk on stage to shake the hand of an important-looking academic in front of a bunch of strangers. To me, the real fun was the honour of getting to graduate with my good friends – it was a bumper crop of five anthropology PhDs this time – and spending precious time with all the people I miss and love. So yes, all the officialdom of postgrad life is done and dusted, I have been Lord Voldemort once more, and my DECRA clock has begun!

Continue reading Procrastiprogress updates from the cave VI.

2006-2016: From Lonelygirl15 to Lil Miquela.

Over the past week, the great resource hive that is the Association of Internet Researchers mailing list resurfaced discussions on Lonelygirl15; my Sociology of Popular Culture students discussed the Marina Joyce scandal in class as “old news” and Miranda Sings as “peak microcelebrity”; a colleague posted a Facebook link that introduced me to the world of Lil Miquela.

As an anthropologist who researches Influencers and microcelebrities, I feel like I am on the cusp of making intelligent connections among Lonelygirl15, Marina Joyce, Miranda Sings, and Lil Miquela, but I know I am not quite there yet. This is an attempt. (pls brain get me there).

Here are some thoughts on how the issues popularized by Lonelygirl16 (circa 2006) still speak back to personae curation, follower labour, and authenticity in the Influencer industry today.

Continue reading 2006-2016: From Lonelygirl15 to Lil Miquela.

Gross is the new like? Grotesque microcelebrity and carnivalesque commerce

(This was first published on Cyborgology on 24 August 2016.)

Pretty things are pretty to look at. They bring you comfort, inspire aspiration, or perhaps stimulate vicarious consumption. But have you ever stumbled upon something gross on the internet and yet could not look away?

Me too. (It’s no wonder Dr. Pimple Popper has over 700 million views on YouTube.)

“Picture perfect” Influencers have been thriving on social media ever since they burst into the scene in the early-to-mid 2000s. Having first begun on blogs such as LiveJournal, OpenDiary, and blogger, these self-made internet celebrities have since transited to monetising the presentation of their everyday lives on various social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, and Snapchat. Perhaps most representative in the popular imagination are “Instagram Influencers” most known for their conscientious poses in pristine locations, luxury-esque conspicuous consumption and savvy internet relatability in tow.

But this economy of the perfect, pristine, and picturesque is growing saturated and fast becoming boring.

Enter “grotesque microcelebrities”.

Continue reading Gross is the new like? Grotesque microcelebrity and carnivalesque commerce