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

MeituXiuxiu, Cultural diffusion, and Asia Exotica

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

From Subversive Frivolity to Normativity: A lineage of Trump memes

The internet has been saturated with Trump memes. Some times they are hilarious, some times they are hurtful. Some times they bring relief, some times they are agonizing. This post is a product of my observations and archive of Trump memes and their evolving power from “subversive frivolity” to “normativity”. I demonstrate how Trump memes have transited along a continuum as: attention fodder, subversive frivolity, the new normal, and popular culture.

Screengrabs with the black header were archived from the mobile app version of 9gag on 8 November 2016, around 0001hrs, GMT+8 time. They include all the posts tagged “Trump”, with the earliest backdating to 14 weeks. There were 141 original memes in total but a handful have been omitted from this post. Screengrabs without the black header were archived from various news sites and social media throughout the Election season.

Continue reading From Subversive Frivolity to Normativity: A lineage of Trump memes

Singaporeans react to Donald Trump.

At the confluence of three events in the past 20 hours, discourse on Presidential Candidate Donald Trump was trending on Singaporean social media: 1) Trump claimed that Singapore is among the Asian countries committing the “greatest jobs thefts” from the US; 2) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the next Presidential Elections in multiracial Singapore will be “reserved” for Malay candidates; 3) A journalist who grew up in Singapore and now works in the US penned a semi-viral article about how “Donald Trump is the embodiment of everything Singapore taught me to fear about democracy“.

How are these events connected, and how have Singaporeans reacted? I trace some coverage in the Singapore media landscape and focus on Facebook reactions on a dedicated post by mainstream English language newspaper The Straits Times on Trump’s assertion. Images were screengrabbed at 2300hrs-2315hrs, 8 November 2016, GMT+8. This post was penned at 0600hrs, 9 November 2016, GMT+8. Continue reading Singaporeans react to Donald Trump.