Microcelebrity Around the Globe

Cover of Microcelebrity Around the Globe
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Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxii
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Introduction

Pages 1-18
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Abstract

Although the early conversations of microcelebrity centered on Anglo-centric theories and context despite the varied backgrounds and cultural context of microcelebrity, this compilation of chapters seeks to assess and reframe the applications and uptake of microcelebrity around the world. Each of the chapters in this anthology contribute to expand the theoretical concept and contextualize the history and cultural affairs of those who are famous online. The case studies provide examples of how a microcelebrity emerges to fame because of their exposure and interaction within a group of niche users, a specific online community, or a specific cultural and geographical context through the social networks that emerge online. Academic scholarship on microcelebrity has crossed methodologies, disciplines and platforms demonstrating the wide appeal as the influence of these figures are on the rise. As preparation for the reader, this chapter offers a brief history of current scholarship, with an emphasis on shifting knowledge production away from an Anglo and Global North perspective. The introduction chapter serves as a road map for the reader breaking down each of the three sections of the book – norms, labors, and activism. Lastly, the co-editors have outlined different ways to read the text group chapters according to reader interest.

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Part I: Norms

Abstract

The YouTube affordance of auto-generated textual closed captions (CC) is valued by the YouTube algorithm, and therefore spoken words in vlogs can be strategically used to optimize and orient videos and channels for search. In their blog, YouTube suggests that complicity with their desire for rich and accurate CC is rewarded with algorithmic visibility (YouTube, 2017a). CC metadata are therefore an example of the significant degree of pressure for vloggers (video bloggers) on YouTube to optimize their content down to minutia of self-presentations. In this chapter I analyze the practice of highly visible beauty vloggers to conceptualize vlogging practices that contribute to algorithmically readable CC text. I term this labor vlogging parlance. Vlogging parlance includes keyword stuffing, defined as inserting often-searched-for keywords into speech. It also encompasses the strategic verbal expressions, language choice, speech pace, enunciation, and minimization of background noise by vloggers. Vlogging parlance can be thought of as a microcelebrity (Senft, 2008) technique, deployed to attract attention and visibility in an information-saturated online “attention economy,” a system of value in which often “money now flows along with attention” (Goldhaber, 1997). The call to optimize speech ultimately places responsibility onto creators to ensure their videos can become visible, while assisting YouTube in developing search accuracy for their viewers. Furthermore, the Western-centric language affordances of CC, and the high valuation of English on the YouTube platform, are used as examples of how social media platforms can underserve differently abled and non-English speaking audiences.

Abstract

In defining microcelebrity, media technologies are often described as integral to the self-branding process. This chapter argues that social network platforms are not social utilities, but, in fact, celebrification utilities. That is, they are programmed to necessarily brand users by extracting and filtering identifications to be easily consumed by advertisers, just as microcelebrities promote specific, “authentic” aspects of self that can be easily consumed by fans. Through a discourse analysis of Facebook’s functionalities and in-depth interviews with 45 emerging adults, I present an analysis of microcelebrity culture through the narratives of everyday users who are not actively involved in self-branding but are instead compelled by the site’s inherent design to unintentionally brand – they unknowingly align with corporation-like mission statements; ignore multiple, dynamic selves; and discard their right to anonymity.

Abstract

This chapter investigates the dynamics of teenage girls' musical.ly productions in relation to microcelebrity inspirations and (non)aspirations, and centrally details the mixed methodologies involved in the research process. The analysis focuses on the flow of the musical.ly app as evidenced through the walk-through method and young girls' engagements with the platform as solicited through personal observations and two small focus group discussions.

Abstract

While in common English-language parlance speaking of “online celebrities” encourages the conflation of new forms of famousness with existing discourses on mass media stardom and fandom, the Mandarin Chinese term wanghong, a shorthand term for wangluo hongren (literally “person popular on the internet”), frames the enticing shores of online celebrity through the peculiar lexical domain of a grassroots popularity. The figure of the wanghong has in recent years accompanied the development of social media platforms in China, becoming a profitable profession, an inspirational role model, a morally condemnable by-product of internet economies, and in general a widely debated social phenomenon among local users. Drawing on interviews with more and less successful local online celebrities and discussions with their audiences, this chapter offers an up-to-date portrayal of the various forms of wanghong currently vying for attention on Chinese social media platforms, illustrating how popularity is crafted along with narratives of professionalism and economic aspirations intimately connected to the sociotechnical contexts of contemporary China.

Part II: Labor

Abstract

Depending on whether one premises academic literature, press reports, or vernacular folklore, the origin stories of microcelebrity cultures can differ greatly. As academics, we are often inclined to deem as canon and factual the descriptions detailed in refereed academic publications, viewing them as scientific truths that take precedence over other forms of written records such as traditional press or popular media reports. But what happens if the origin stories of cultural phenomena are not logged in these traditionally privileged outlets that are often in the English language, and in a vocabulary not usually accessible to the general populace? What happens if the origin stories of cultural happenings remain within the domains of material or oral folklore without ever being logged as transmittable text? How do researchers go about reading theory, applying concepts, and interpreting their data while maintaining the critical lens of cultural relativism? In this chapter I contemplate the origin stories of my research on microcelebrity cultures between 2009 and 2018 both thematically and conceptually, by biographically recounting my methodological and theoretical trajectories in studying internet celebrities. As an act of radical transparency in displaying some of my most intimate fieldnotes – such as how I came upon particular schools of thought and theories – and as a reflexive mode of transcribing from material and oral culture the earliest beginnings of microcelebrity culture in Singapore as a participant observer, I hope this methodological biography will contribute toward rethinking the politics of our knowledge production as researchers.

Abstract

This chapter reports on findings from a critical autoethnography (Anderson, 2006) about the strategies and experiences of male microcelebrities from Australia. The author Jonathan Mavroudis, himself identifies as a microcelebrity with a following of over 27,000 on Instagram at the time of writing. This position granted him insider access to this specific cohort and the microcelebrity world in general. The study comprised participant interviews, analyses of the author’s own experiences, and a survey of over 500 of his Instagram followers. The author draws from these data sources to introduce the concept of “fame labor.” Fame labor reconfigures the way visibility labors such as self-branding labor is understood. It offers a macro perspective that relates to nonmicrocelebrities as well as microcelebrities and illuminates potential wider implications of microcelebrity culture.

Abstract

Around the mid-2000s, the first wave of young Thai women who attained fame organically on the internet emerged when their photos and profiles were widely shared by friends and fans in web communities and discussion forums. Comprising mainly of students, these women were known as “net idols” and celebrated primarily for their looks, as online conversations focused on their beauty, cosmetic and dressing skills, and overall pleasant appearance. Since then, some of these net idols have parlayed their online popularity into commercial exchanges and partnerships by advertising for clients, evolving into a commercial form of microcelebrity known as “influencers” (Abidin, 2016), while still others progressed into different forms of internet celebrity confined only to online fame as social capital without further tangible returns. In this chapter, we review the conceptual history of net idols and a subset of influencers known as “beauty bloggers” in Thailand, drawing on observations and content analyses of net idols’ Instagram posts, beauty bloggers’ Facebook posts, conversations from selected discussion boards, and popular sentiment about these internet celebrities in tabloids and online websites. Most of the content is originally in Thai and translated by the first author.

Abstract

Mercado Livre, a site for e-commerce and online auctions, is popular in Brazil. Given the accessibility of user-friendly technology, any person can open an auction on the internet to trade items such as cars, mobile phones, and domestic electrical appliances. In 2012, a media mobilization was sparked after the online auction of Brazilian Catarina Migliorini’s virginity. Described by the Brazilian media as one of the events of the year, the auction was promoted by Justin Sisely, an Australian filmmaker who designed the project Virgins Wanted. Tracing media reports, this chapter focuses on Migliorini’s savvy attention literacies, upon which she capitalized upon the situation to obtain her celebrity. Seizing the opportunity given by a watchful internet audience, she established herself as an iconic personality through press coverage and the curation of online profiles, and became a microcelebrity.

Part III: Activism

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Abstract

I followed Belle (@bellecosby, @bonitaapplebelle), or Hanna, from Twitter to Tumblr. Her presence on the blog was thoughtful, defiant, playful, and informed. Looking through Hanna’s posts as Belle from Tumblr, she struck me as “Tumblr famous” – a type of microcelebity that uses Tumblr to connect with an audience and maintain popularity among other Tumblr users. Well before the #MeToo movement had caught fire in 2017, Hanna was ready and willing to challenge mainstream celebrity on behalf of the voiceless. On Twitter she laid out arguments to challenge the impulse to victim-blame when sexual assault survivors do go public challenging the impulse to victim-blame when sexual assault survivors do go public. This chapter traces how Belle’s online community was an opportunity for relationally understanding herself and expressing her identity to specific Tumblr networks, among like-minded peers that also confront social issues.

Abstract

Anglo-centric scholarship understands authenticity of online mediated performance for acquiring fame as a context-dependent claim, requiring labor in displaying a vulnerable self that is evaluated and validated by a relevant audience. This book chapter examines this concept in a non-Western context through a case study of a Pakistani microcelebrity, Qandeel Baloch. By explaining how Pakistani broadcast celebrity performances continue to be evaluated by religious and moral standards, this analysis finds how a transgressive performance shapes an authentic microcelebrity claim on social media.

Abstract

This chapter will consider the workings of microcelebrity in the context of an evolving Indian cyber public. In the contemporary moment, large-scale battles for control over the world’s youngest and increasingly digitally active demographic are in full swing – both by corporations like Facebook through efforts like Free Basics, as well as by ideologues who wish to mold the “idea of India” in certain ways. While digital spaces are often framed as liberating, there are also extremely strong conservative forces that are well established. It is within this context that I would like to examine the recent growth of the Indian online comedic scene whose popularity has increased by leaps and bounds. My particular focus will be the comedy collective of AIB (All India Backchod), who are most prominent on Youtube. This collective has garnered significant popularity through their deployment of viral comedic videos riffing off on various aspects of Indian society and have also made socially aware videos around hot button issues like gay rights and women’s rights. I would like to examine their treatment of gender and sexuality particularly in the context of it being made up primarily of straight men and how that has affected their engagement both with the content of their videos, as well as their ability to leverage their online visibility. I will be using ideas of postcolonial cyberspace as theorized by Nishant Shah (2015) as well as theorists of microcelebrity and the use of humor such as Theresa Senft (2013).

Index

Pages 171-174
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Cover of Microcelebrity Around the Globe
DOI
10.1108/9781787567498
Publication date
2018-11-19
Editors
ISBN
978-1-78756-750-4
eISBN
978-1-78756-749-8