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

Procrastiprogress updates from the cave II.

Moshimoshi folks!

Continuing from March’s newly minted tradition of procrastiprogress updates from the cave, I bring you more condensed scholarly updates from wishcrys land.

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The Special Issue of Social Media + Society (SM+S) on selfies is finally live!

Read ‘Me-diated Inter-faces’ here in its open-access glory, and check out the introduction co-authored by Katie Warfield, Carolina Cambre, and yours truly here.

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The whole production was a whirlpool of excitement from the start to the finish, considering that our authors first met on the internet via The Selfies Research Network in early 2015, and met in the flesh in Jun 2015 when we ran a pedagogical session on selfies at the Social Media and Society Conference in Toronto. We considered a special issue publication in Jul 2015, had our authors produce full articles for double peer review in Sep 2015, finalized and submitted the articles in Nov 2015, and were queued for publication in Apr 2016.

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All this would not have been possible without my genius collaborators, Katie and Carolina, from whom I am learning to be a kickass mentor as I progress in my academic career. Also, a huge thank you to our authors, Tamar Tembeck, Cristina Miguel, Stefanie Duguay, and Gaby David for being the most efficient people in the world. All the internet affect also to Fiona Andreallo, Jocelyn Murtell, and Fiona Whitting (and Jo Wedlock!) for making the SM&S Conference a super fun experience – grownup sleepovers, saving cheese and wine from flies, and arm cheese included. Finally, a special thanks to Stacy Blasiola of SM+S for overseeing the publication process with A+ patience and professionalism :)

CA SM+S

Also in the Special Issue on Selfies is my article on Influencer Selfies as Subversive Frivolity. Read it here.

Continuing from last year’s milestone of using an emoji in the title of my journal article, this new milestone included publishing my own selfie in a legit refereed paper ヽ(・∀・)ノ

I thoroughly enjoy academia and internet culture, so what better way to integrate both than to legitimately publish “subversive frivolity”? (you have to read the paper!)

My next creative aims include titling a paper in emoticons/leet only, inserting gifs in an electronic paper, and hiding easter eggs somewhere somehow.

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On a more serious note, during the writing process, I contemplated long and hard over whether or not to recount and publicise the opening/closing vignette in which an academic brushed off my research, and branded my informants as “young, rich women doing vain things online”. To be honest, it was this exchange that sparked off the idea for this paper to begin with.

I believe anger can be a very productive and motivating force, and channelled all my feels into illuminating the important girl labour in which my informants partake, and pushing back against the discourse of selfies and young women selfie-takers as mere frivolity.

My forthcoming paper on “agentic cuteness” shares a similar ‘origins story’ (cf. x-men, whoo hoo), but I’ll save that for next month.

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Last but not least, PopAnth’s latest interview featuring leading expert Gabriella Coleman and her thoughts on Anonymous’ recent humorous trolling is now up. Read it here.

The Section Editors of PopAnth have been on the prowl for fresh talent and exciting articles for the last few months, so stay tuned for our upcoming string of commissioned writing.

If you’d like to contribute to PopAnth, check out our guide here.

Selfie fashion

As a young responsible adult, I spent all of this morning procrastinating productively. As a selfie researcher, I spent all of this morning procrastinating productively on selfie paraphernalia.

So here’s a quick list of current selfie fashion. I expect all of us at The Selfies Research Network (TSRN) to be appropriately dressed at our next conference. For research and resources on selfies, see here.

Selfie fashion is obviously very gendered.
For selfie fashion for men (i.e. unisex t-shirts), scroll to the end.

selfie23<Link>

selfie25<Link>

selfie40<Link>

selfie28<Link>

selfie17<Link>

selfie16<Link>

selfie15<Link> selfie01<Link>

Selfie fashion is for girls too.

selfie04<Link>

selfie14<Link>

selfie19
<Link>

selfie20
<Link>

selfie21<Link>


selfie22<Link>

Everyone can be appropriated for selfie fashion.

selfie05<Link>

selfie27<Link>

selfie32<Link>

selfie35<Link>

selfie36<Link>

Selfie fashion for workouts?

selfie24<Link>

selfie26<Link>

selfie30

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Selfie fashion makes for concise instructionals.

selfie02<Link>

selfie09<Link>

selfie11<Link>

selfie38<Link>

H8ers gon’ h8.
You’re a t-shirt, don’t tell me what to do.

selfie33<Link>

selfie03<Link>

selfie34<Link>

selfie10<Link>

selfie39<Link>

selfie37<Link>

selfie13<Link>

selfie12<Link>

Above all, selfie fashion for self-love.

selfie31<Link>

selfie18<Link>

selfie29<Link>

selfie08<Link>

selfie06<Link>

selfie07<Link>

More selfie fashion in unisex t-shirts here, here, and here.

On a serious note, is any one up for researching selfie paraphernalia and spin-off commodities with me? Please beep!

March & April in Boras, Jönköping, Manchester.

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Greetings, netizens of Böras, Jönköping, and Manchester! I’ll be heading your way to chat about social friending, hashtags, Instagram, and politician selfies. Come and say hi?

PS: Special thanks to Ameera, Barbara, Danielle, and Adi for hosting me!

See you on the Internet,
Crystal

Frenemies and cashtags: Social friending and hashtag lifecycle among social media microcelebrities

The Swedish School of Library and Information Science (SSLIS)
University of Borås

30 March 2015, Monday, 1430-1600hrs

Commercial lifestyle bloggers are among the most influential social media microcelebrities in Singapore, being predominantly self-taught young women who weave advertorials and advertisements into personal blog entries and social media posts. In essence, they are selling an aspirational middle-class lifestyle to their readers, seemingly attainable through the goods and services marketed. The bloggers depend and trade on ‘social currency’, that is, their virtual world reputation and rank in the industry. One measure of reputation is the number of ‘Likes’, ‘Follows’, ‘ReTweets’, ‘Favourites’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Readers’ a blogger can effectively garner on various social media platforms. Taking a grounded theory approach, this paper focuses on the bloggers’ individual construction and circulation of this form of social capital. Specifically, the paper discusses the bloggers’ socializing techniques and the lifecycle of hashtag use as business strategies.

Capturing Class and Curating Commerce: Monetizing Instagram

Media Management and Transformation Center (MMTC)
Jönköping International Business School (JIBS)
Jönköping University

7 April 2015, Tuesday, 1000-1100hrs
B6046, Jönköping International Business School

Make love, Make envy, Make money: Power-coupling on social media

Centre for Family Enterprise and Ownership (CeFEO)
Jönköping International Business School (JIBS)
Jönköping University

13 April 2015, Monday, 1200-1300hrs
B6046, Jönköping International Business School
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Vote for my selfie: Politician selfies as charismatic leadership
(plenary speaker) 

Selfie Citizenship
Digital Innovation
Manchester Metropolitan University

16 April 2015, Thursday, 0930-1600hrs
The Shed, Digital Innovation
John Dalton West, Manchester Metropolitan University
Chester Street, Manchester, M1 5GD
<about / programme registration / location>

Commercial lifestyle bloggers are among the most influential social media microcelebrities in Singapore, being predominantly self-taught young women who weave advertorials and advertisements into personal blog entries and social media posts. In essence, they are selling an aspirational middle-class lifestyle to their readers, seemingly attainable through the goods and services marketed. The bloggers depend and trade on ‘social currency’, that is, their virtual world reputation and rank in the industry. One measure of reputation is the number of ‘Likes’, ‘Follows’, ‘ReTweets’, ‘Favourites’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Readers’ a blogger can effectively garner on various social media platforms. Taking a grounded theory approach, this paper focuses on the bloggers’ individual construction and circulation of this form of social capital. Specifically, the paper discusses the bloggers’ socializing techniques and the lifecycle of hashtag use as business strategies.

March in Paris & Trondheim.

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Moshimoshi, good people of Paris and Trondheim! Am passing through your city to talk about digital anthropology and smartphone anxiety, ‘cute’ Internet culture, and run a pedagogical workshop on selfie culture. See you there?

PS: Special thanks to Nadine, Cassandre, and Kristine for organizing this!

Beep when you beep,
Crystal

Error Dramatica

Anthropologies numériques/3ème édition
(digital anthropologies gallery exhibition)
Les Ecrans de la Liberte, Le Cube
Paris, France

13 March 2015, Friday, 1600-1900hrs
[Full programme: Thursday, Friday 1600-2200hrs, Saturday 1400-1900hrs]
20, Cours Saint Vincent, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux
(French full | English blurb)

Most of us have intimate relationships with our smartphones. I study commercial ‘lifestyle’ bloggers who manifest an extreme version of this intimacy, because up to hundreds of thousands of fans eagerly await updates on their daily lives as assembled on various social media feeds. In the process of fieldwork, my iPhone has become an extension of my body as I learnt to negotiate digital worlds in the shared physical spaces I co-inhabit with these savvy cyber-celebrities. As a digital Anthropologist, fieldwork ‘on the go’ is often encumbered by the anxieties of insecure Wi-Fi connections. ERROR DRAMATICA is a visual catalogue of these frustrations.

(En)gendering cuteness and pastiching East Asia: Singaporean web cute as The Doll, The Darling and The Dear

Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture
Norges Teknisk-Naturvetenskapliga Universitet (NTNU)

16 March 2015, Monday, 1415-1530hrs
Institutt for tverrfaglige kulturstudier, Møterom 6440, Dragvoll campus
(event link)

There has yet to be a definitive study of cute culture that is organically Singaporean. Drawing on existing work on East Asian cute culture and the regional popularity of commercial social media microcelebrities in Singapore, this article annotates three modes of agentic cute used to obscure the soft power that microcelebrity bloggers hold. Through the qualitative textual and visual analysis of content from three popular Singaporean commercial lifestyle blogs and their associated Instagram and Twitter feeds, this article examines how The Doll, The Darling, and The Dear are enacted as ‘cute femininities’. It argues that the subversive power of this performative cute is obscured by the corresponding sensual delight, romantic docility, and homosocial desire that the bloggers develop in tandem with their cute. By continually emphasizing stereotypical gendered relations with their male partners, and fan relations with their readers, these bloggers are able to position themselves as non-threatening and submissive, when they are in fact quietly subverting these hierarchies for personal gain.

Thinking about selfie culture: A pedagogical workshop

ICT and Cultural Change lecture
Science & Technology Studies, Gender Studies
Norges Teknisk-Naturvetenskapliga Universitet (NTNU)

18 March 2015, Wednesday

Celebrity selfies, politician selfies, sponsored selfies, and transgressive selfies have made international news since ‘selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2013. But what is in a selfie? How is this global phenomenon conceptualized across producers and consumers, and how can one understand selfie culture beyond a mere frivolous pop­internet fad? Between psychological discourses of selfie culture as narcissism and the viable co­opting of selfies into marketing campaigns ala Ellen’s infamous Oscar selfie, ‘Thinking about selfie culture’ looks at the productive pedagogy of the selfie. This talk is an overview of selfie culture around the world, current research initiatives, and ways of thinking through the selfie critically as discourse, evidence, affect, ethics, and performance. Drawing from Crystal’s work on social media entrepreneurship in Singapore and East Asia since 2010, the talk also invites us to examine selfie culture in Singapore through ethnographic case studies.

The pedagogical content of this talk is based on a new ‘Teaching with Selfies’ syllabus collaboratively produced by members of the Selfies Pedagogy Group (est. August 2014), founded by Theresa Senft of NYU with a group of international scholars. Our educational group is an offshoot from The Selfies Research Network (est. February 2014). Visit us at http://www.selfieresearchers.com/