I was invited to be on a podcast with the good people over at The Human Show, shedding light on what it is anthropologists actually do. Here is 35:32 of me dishing some brain foods on Influencers, youth cultures online, the place of platforms and traditional media in the age of internet celebrity, and the value of anthropology.
–04:39 on how we can practice participant observation on the internet
–06:17 on the value of Influencers beyond commerce
–10:30 on how Influencers and platforms impact each other
–18:36 on the relationship between Influencers and traditional media
–26:46 on whether young internet celebrities are just being exploited online
–28:23 on truth bombs about whether you should sign up for a PhD or work as a practitioner anthropologist
Includes gold nugget streams-of-consciousness such as:
“if you do decide to pursue academia, by doing a higher postgrad study, always keep your doors open. Don’t be the type of person who’s really confident that you’ll finish your PhD and be a professor and retire and then die, because those things do not exist anymore. At the same time, don’t be too despaired by all the quit lit that academia is a crazy space, because there are people who have found communities, who have found like-minded people who enjoy the work you do. And we do find ways to call out insecurities and inequalities as we see it to make this environment better for all of us who are living in it.”
I hope you enjoy it (and not hate my voice as much as I do).
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking to Patricia Karvelas for ABC Radio National Drive to discuss online virality. Specifically, we chatted about the recent slime making craze. Below, I reproduce a transcript of our conversation, centered around the rise of “visibility metrics” and the need to equip young people with “digital literacies” to discern the validity of information they encounter on the internet.
If you’re so inclined, the 5:11 interview is recorded here. Transcription below edited slightly for flow. Continue reading Slime safety: concerns about the latest online craze
In light of the recent DaddyOFive controversy, Tama Leaver and I have a new commentary out on The Conversation, reproduced below. In this piece, we call for greater transparency in labour laws and guidelines when young children are increasingly engaged in for-profit social media. Continue reading When exploiting kids for cash goes wrong on YouTube: the lessons of DaddyOFive
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
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