Author: Fiona S.

The Online Space of the Fashion Blogger

Our discussions of online spaces and especially “authenticity” made me think about the space of online fashion bloggers, the reproduction of their self-branding on social media sites, and the monetization of blogger bodies. Coincidentally, a lot of noted fashion bloggers use WordPress just like we do for this class blog!

I used to write for a fashion website and have always been interested in the fashion industry, so I’ve followed the evolution of fashion bloggers with keen interest. For the uninitiated, there are a lot of fashion bloggers that have “professional blogs” and make enough money to support themselves just by blogging. Bloggers have also bridged the gap between amateur and professional by displacing fashion editors at fashion weeks.

Professional and full-time bloggers create a sort of cultural economy of authenticity and operate necessarily as micro-celebrities. To be a popular blogger, you have to have a large and loyal enough following to generate pageviews high enough to attract advertisers. Bloggers’ success is built on creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with readers and the blogging community hawks an almost religious ideal of “being yourself” and insists that being “authentic” will lead to success.

Tips from "mommy blogger" Love Taza

Tips from “mommy blogger” Love Taza

Presenting personal information and maintaining “authenticity” creates assymmetrical relationships between bloggers and their audience base; fans have access to the intimate lives of micro-celebrities and have to feel like “friends” even though the blogger has little information about (or interest in) their followers. The actual/digital divide here is tenuous; a strong brand loyalty effectively means that feelings of friendship and trust have developed. There’s also the fact that relationships built in the representational space of blogging communities translates into very real money in the bank accounts of bloggers.

Other than sponsored posts like we saw in class, bloggers use affiliate marketing, which embeds links to products within posts (usually rather subtly). An especially successful example is rewardStyle, which “is an invitation only monetization tool for top tier digital style publishers around the world”. The affiliate links are especially used by female bloggers who overwhelmingly use the links for clothing they “model” or beauty products. In this way, bloggers are actively using their bodies and carefully selecting how their bodies are presented with which products. Blogger’s bodies and fashion identities are often seen as “real” alternatives to the “fake” bodies presented by established fashion media.

Outfit post from The Londoner

Outfit post from The Londoner

How accurate or useful is this perception of authenticity, though? There’s a veritable tension for bloggers who try to stay “real” and still make money to finance the continuation of their blogs. Some bloggers are accused of photoshopping images of themselves, which seemingly defeats the purpose of being a “real person” instead of a model. It’s assumed that bloggers have an obligation to remain authentic, and many users delight in questioning and investigating their authenticity. The forums at the website GetOffMyInternets are full of investigations and takedowns. There are about 2,300 pages of members-only discussion about the controversial blogger TheLondoner on the basis of her appearance, claims to wealth, and sponsorship disclosure.

I’m also interested in regulations about which spaces allow for the monetization of blogger bodies. Most bloggers are active users of Pinterest and repost their outfits there with more affiliate linking. It made the news recently that Pinterest decided to remove rewardStyle links on their posts. Pinterest claims it’s for technical reasons, but it’s hard to believe that this doesn’t fit into a narrative of regulating and questioning authenticity or audience trust.

The biggest questions this leads me to are: To whom does the fashion blog belong? Are authenticity and revenue mutually exclusive online? How do the increasingly personal connections between content creators and their audience limit the former?

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Online Identities & Real Life Repercussions

I remember being riveted when I read this article about people recovering from the shame, social pressure, and real-life professional repercussions of “mindlessly” posting on the internet. I think it fits in really well with ideas of digital dualism, mutliple online personalities, and the idea that different spaces are regulated differently by people. The article shows that there can be some thin lines between viral internet jokes and shaming campaigns, and maybe also that internet identities are now dangerously (or maybe rightfully so) linked to social pressure on corporations.

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I’m curious to hear what you guys think, because the article made me question the satisfaction that I’d previously felt when people who made (admittedly more overt) racist coments were fired as a consequence. Has social media created a misled sense of self-righteous vigilante responsibility? Or do vigilantes’ power simply come from the fact that companies are now pressured to maintain a kind of social responsibility towards consumers?

Article here

Reorientation- Yoga Space

In my introductory post, I talked about the yoga studio that’s close to my apartment that I like going to. I said yoga studios are typically designed to put the body at ease, and it’s a statement that I’ve come to qualify through multiple perspectives.

First, I find it interesting that the practice of yoga in itself is predicated on a practiced and deliberate acknowledgment of the body, which makes analyzing this space all the more interesting. Personally, I symbolically separate the studio from the other spaces where I lead my “normal life”, or the life where I’m largely unconscious of my body. This space is special in that it’s reserved in my mind as a place for me to practice acknowledging my body.

Lefebvre’s spatial triad is really useful in breaking down the space. The physical and quantifiable spatial practice of the studio includes the small size of the studio, its facilities, the careful decoration put into it, the comfortable heat levels, and soothing lighting. I would argue, however, that there are overlapping spaces at play here; the official space of the studio is a communal one, but it also contains highly personal islands of space marked out by individual yoga mats. While the studio classroom is one collective group (engaged in communal breathing and learning), every person has their own mat and corresponding individualized embodied experience, which is encouraged by yoga discourse about respecting your own body’s limits.

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Islands of personal space in the studio

What I find the most fascinating is the social production of space and its reproduction. People take off their shoes before entering the studio to “respect” the space, which reproduces it as a space of spirituality or sacredness. I think this also reinforces the idea of “separating” this space from the daily urban experience. That simple act of taking off clothing before accessing a space is really interesting- on one hand, it puts everyone on a sort of equal footing (pun only somewhat intended), but it also makes some assumptions about how clothing affects people’s experiences with their bodies. There’s also a bit of a tension between the different social relationships in the space- there’s the notion of yoga as a collective and collaborative process, but it’s still a classroom with a teacher instructing a group of students.

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Some of the goods for sale in the background

This space is also ripe for discussions about the reproduction of capitalist space, which feeds into ideas about whiteness as an orientation. There’s a discourse in the studio that centers around mental health, good vibes, and community, but it’s hard to ignore that the Western practice of yoga has produced an incredibly successful market for accessories. In fact, the studio’s reception area has a little boutique that sells journals, yoga mats, and all kinds of goods loosely associated with yoga practice. The space also definitely doesn’t come cheap- memberships are expensive, and prices just rose at the beginning of the year. In that way, the studio reproduces and perpetuates the market for yoga accessories.

In terms of racialized bodies, there’s been a debate over whether or not Western yoga is cultural appropriation. In short, according to Sara Ahmed, bodies are shaped by histories of colonialism and create an inherited white orientation (156) ; in this case, the white colonial system has co-opted a practice created by non-white cultures and then translated it into a practice easily accessible for white bodies. How many stereotypes are there about white suburban moms who do yoga, for example? Of course the question of demographics in my neighborhood matters, but I mostly see white bodies at the studio, and the capitalist reproduction of yoga accessories mentioned above has certainly aided in making my studio a part of the “reachability” that white bodies inherit.

Finally, I realized my comment about negotiating the space in a tense way as a novice relates to performativity. I think that by performing the bodily repetition of being in the studio and doing the yoga poses, I create an identity as a practitioner of yoga and member of the community. The more I physically place my body in the space, the more I identify as a legitimate (or “authentic”) user of the space. My performed legitimacy is also dependent on other bodies- if I’m in a class with more inexperienced students, I perceive my legitimacy and confidence to be higher, while that changes when surrounded by experts.

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Butler, Judith. (2009). Bodies that Matter. In Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco (Eds.), The Body: A Reader (62-65). London: Routledge.

Ahmed, Sara. (2007) “Phenomenology of Whiteness.” Feminist Theory 8(2): 149-168.

Light Tour Mis-Guide

When we evaluate the use or importance of spaces at Concordia, it’s usually in a rushed fenzy to find a free desk, an available outlet, or silence to concentrate. By focusing on the different qualities of light available in different areas of Concordia’s downtown campus, we wanted to disrupt traditional ideas of the use of school buildings. Maybe institutional spaces can easily become spaces of meditation, reflection, or accidental art. We encourage students to go through the spaces we’ve found that have interesting light patterns, or whose structures allow for multi-facted interactions with light, whether it’s through layers of glass or reflective surfaces. The mis-guide is accompanied by photo essays, guiding questions, and Vines in an attempt to make it as accessible as possible. Check it out at:

LightTourofConcordia.tumblr.com

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(NOTE: To access the rest of the information for each post, you unfortunately have to hover over the photo and click on the posted date. The read more button doesn’t work and we haven’t figured out a way to fix it!)

– Fiona & Kamelia

BBC’s “Geoguessr” Game

Today’s discussions about space and Google maps reminded me of a site I came across on Stumbleupon years ago where you intentionally get “lost” on Google Maps. I looked it up and it’s a game developed by the BBC- the premise is that you’re dropped in a random location in the world, and just by looking around you and digitally walking around, you pick up on clues and guess where you are on a map of the world.

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You can challenge friends and set a timer, but the idea is really cool in that you can do a sort of digital dérive from your own computer. Granted, the internet involves a pretty significant mind/body divide, but I feel like the game plays with the ideas of space, disorientation, and disconnects between physical and cultural maps in that the landscape and architecture of the area should give you cultural clues to find your location.

Check it out here!

– Fiona

Blog Post #1- Introduction

Hey! I’m Fiona. I’m originally French and German, and was born in Europe before moving to the middle of nowhere Alabama, which was the start of an intense and lifelong identity crisis. I ended up living in Atlanta, GA for most of my life before moving to Montreal for school, and I love it here. I’m a Political Science student in my last semester, but I’m interested in a thousand things, including journalism, the fashion industry, literature, film, etc.

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I feel like I spend most of my time dreaming. I do more concrete things, too- I’ve been cohosting a radio show at CJLO on and off for a couple years, I volunteer at music festivals, I was a fashion writer and editor for a Montreal blog, and I’m the vice president of communications for my department’s student association. For someone who used to “not be a TV person”, I end up watching a lot of TV (right now I’m crushing pretty hard on Broad City). I also love going to concerts, especially in the circuit of indie Mile End/Plateau venues.

My goal for this class is to give myself a new way of thinking about the world- the relevance of bodies has always been important to me and on the periphery of my view, but I’ve never thought to specifically question and critique everything through that paradigm. By taking a communications class, I’m also hoping to get a different learning experience than what I get in political science. Sometimes I feel like what I like about political science is more fully fleshed out in communications, and the dialogue in the latter makes me feel less limited. As hokey as it sounds, I feel like I’m here to be excited.

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One of my favorite spaces is the yoga studio right by my house called Happy Tree Yoga. It’s an easy one because yoga studios are usually designed to make bodies feel at ease. The space is airy, fresh, and comforting. You can’t walk inside with your shoes on, and everyone seems to walk more slowly and gracefully inside. As much as I love my space at home, I feel like I’m escaping my responsibilities by coming here because it’s not completely mine. I don’t have to clean it, and I find it nice to live in someone else’s aesthetic for a little while- I’m also always really curious as to what the inside of other people’s spaces look like, so maybe it fulfills that voyeuristic urge.

The body is so essential to the space because your body and a yoga mat is essentially all you’re carrying inside. Of course, yoga itself is difficult to access without being completely able-bodied, making access to the space limited. It’s also expensive, and the space isn’t open to those not taking classes. The comfort of the space is also variable. When I first started going, I felt less comfortable because I was a relative yoga novice, so there was a little sense that I didn’t belong. That anxiety led to me physically interacting with the space in a more hesitant and tense way.

Things faculty do to make learning hard:

  • Assigning multiple books, which makes getting access to the texts a headache
  • Not understanding how to use technology, like not knowing how to make the moodle public
  • Setting office hours at unrealistic times, like late Friday evenings
  • Not offering a variety of ways in which to engage with the course material
  • Reading from slides

What they can do to make learning easy:

  • Offering different ways of doing assignments, like mixing presentations and written assignments
  • Making expectations abundantly clear, both on paper and in class
  • Making class discussion consistent and meaningful, not just five minutes with someone you’ve never talked to
  • Supplementing reading material with video
  • Giving break in long classes!