Blog Post 3

Blog Post 3

As an online space, social media sites have contributed to behavioral changes, creating a web-based community that follows its own rules and regulations. It is intriguing to examine how these delimitations have affected our sense of identity and our interactions with each other in order to conform to the restrictions of these spaces. I believe that Facebook is an online space that allows and incites people to communicate through a representation of themselves that is regulated and limited. The web, and particularly social media, is a space that is representational of a liberty of expression that could not be found in many other spaces. However, the previous anonymity that was once highly present has dissipated through images, profiles and avatars, and the identities of web users are highlighted.

The individual, represented visually through social platforms, embodies the space that acts as a template on which we can project and publicise our identities. Rupi Kaur has challenged this normative organisation of social platforms by publicising an image of herself menstruating, confirming the restrictions imposed by these spaces for certain bodies in certain situations. Specifically, this is an example of a woman refusing to perform the normative gender roles that prevent her from expressing aspects of her femininity that tend to make men uncomfortable.

This phenomenological examination of our experience of these online spaces leads me to examine the “generation of new relations” creating new boundaries and accentuated differences (Lefebvre). The limitations that these spaces put in place by banning images of breastfeeding or menstruating women are affecting the regulatory practice of online representation through images on the grounds that they are too sexually explicit. Kaur here questions the normality of these restrictions in a space originally meant for a freedom of expression in which people must now agree to specific terms order to participate.

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Representation of the Twitter bird in Stromae’s Carmen

I would like to further these gender-specific limitations to consider the other constraints that are not necessarily present in the policies of these privately owned sites. It is clear that bodies will act differently according to the constraints of each social network; we have all been told repeatedly that we should always be careful with the information published on our Facebook profiles. How do those boundaries affect the embodied individual represented through a profile, and how do these fragmented online selves affect identity? Would it be possible that the bodies represented through these preformatted templates become reliant on social networks to form themselves, and identity performances (such as gender performance) will exist online in accordance to social media profiles and their regulations? I believe these questions to be relevant because the newfound importance of self-representations in social media with cultural, professional and academic objectives (such as LinkedIn) is influenced by regulatory practices that exclude certain bodies.

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

Zamon, Rebecca. “Rupi Kaur’s Period Photo On Instagram Sparks Change.” Huffington Post 27 03 2015. Web.
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/03/27/rupi-kaur-instagram-photo_n_6953770.html

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?

Blog Post 3: Containment and Self-surveillance

Given the Rupi Kaur example, I wanted to begin this post by looking at menstruation, and how the way it is coded in culture works to perpetuate a hierarchy of bodies. In our discussions of somatophobia and cartesianism in class, we explored the way the mind body split carries with it gendered connotations where the (rational/ordered) mind is masculine and the (irrational/chaotic) body is feminine. Shauna M. Macdonald writes of the way Immanuel Kant constructs the masculine ideal of the ‘closed’ body, and thus negatively positions the outward flow of bodily fluids as feminine and because of it’s threat to a rational, closed order are in need of being contained and controlled. (345). Macdonald then goes on to propose that menstrual leaks are powerful as a mode of resisting the masculine ordering of bodies and space. I find the concept of flow and it’s equation with femininity interesting, especially in relation to online spaces, because the internet requires us to enact a form of irrational, chaotic flow in order to participate in it and navigate it. However despite this, online spaces still remain hostile towards ‘leaky bodies’.
Just as public order laws are not explicit in singling out sexual minorities (Valentine, 266), the Instagram terms of use do not explicitly reveal the ways restrictions are designed for images of non-normative bodies. The language is purposefully vague, and so the apparatus of Instagram relies on the repetitive performances of users to define and perpetuate “a host of assumptions about what constitutes ‘proper’ behaviour/dress in everyday spaces” which congeal over time to produce the appearance of ‘proper’ space.” (Valentine 265) In this way, and also through self-surveillance and co-surveillance, the space of Instagram is co-produced by the corporate body that designed and maintains it, and the individual users of the site – or, representations of space and spatial practices.
In an article on censorship and women’s bodies, Karley Sciortino recently wrote, ““Instagram have appointed themselves the body police…social media sites are sending a clear message: women’s bodies exist solely to be sexually stimulating, and if they are not serving that purpose then they should be removed from sight.” Women are expected to perform very limited and narrow ideas of gender and sexuality, with an emphasis on containment and passivity in order to maintain the masculine ordering of space. However because of the proliferation of self portraits, selfies, and practices of self-representation on Instagram, there is a simultaneous contestation of these regulatory practices taking place and it is working to create differential spaces on Instagram. There have been some amazing examples already posted on the blog, and I’d like to add to that by attaching this image Miranda July posted a few days ago. While it is not apart of a formal body of work on Instagram, I thought the post was relevant due to the way the practice of self-surveillance is subtly interrogated. July captured and posted a few photos while her vision was blurred at the opthamologists. I think that posting photos to Instagram without viewing them first would be an interesting project to take further in order to answer the question of whether it takes away the agency in self-representation or if it would be liberating to bypass the process of surveilling oneself, and to what extent that is even possible.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.58.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.58.25 PMBy Maddy Fenton

References:
MacDonald, Shauna M. “Leaky Performances: The Transformative Potential Of Menstrual Leaks.” Women’s Studies In Communication 30.3 (2007): 340-357. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

Sciortino, Karley. “Art, Periods and Censorship on Social Media.” Slutever, http://slutever.com/censorship-on-social-media/

Valentine, Gil. (2005). “(Re)Negotiating the Heterosexual Street: Lesbian Production of Space.” InThe Urban Geography Reader. (263-269). London: Routledge.

Blog Post #3: Amalia Ulman

Amalia Ulman is an Argentinian artist who works with different mediums, including video, poetry, graphic design, and more recently, iOS applications.  One of her recent projects, Excellences & Perfections, explores the concept of society’s obsession with the Instagram “micro-celebrity.”  Ulman herself had become so infatuated with famous Instagrammers that she decided to become one herself.  She did extensive research to fabricate an identity for her project: “I began by researching the cosmetic gaze and the beauty myth, then I prepared a script and timeline that followed the rhythm of social media. I identified three popular trends: the Tumblr girl (an Urban Outfitters type); the sugar-baby ghetto girl; and the girl next door, someone like Miranda Kerr, who’s healthy and into yoga” (Vulture.com).  Next, Ulman set out to create a timeline for her character to act out.  Her character found a sugar daddy, who would buy her products such as designer bags, and who also paid for (fake) breast implants.  She would travel, meet her friends for brunch, and use the selfie as a form of cultural capital, just as true Instagram micro-celebrities.

Excellences & Perfections is a prime example of how bodies can be quite literally produced in an online space.  Ulman was careful to not interact with her ‘fans’ and to keep the project as ambiguous and authentic as possible.  Many of her fans, myself included, were totally unaware that her online persona was an art project.  Through her performance, Ulman touched upon aspects of the micro-celebrity, through the use of Instagram, and the privileges of a white female who’s income is dependant on a richer male.  She also was careful in choosing which spaces were photographed; fans were not sure what to think of the spaces in which her selfies were taken.  Does she live in an expensive condo paid for by her sugar daddy?  Is she travelling and staying in an expensive hotel?  The space’s ambiguity mimics other Instagram celebrity’s relationships to the spaces in which they photograph themselves—they never say where they are, or why they are there at all.

Amalia Ulman’s Excellences & Perfections gained media attention from websites like i-D, Art in America, and was featured in an online exhibition on New Museum.

Questions:  Do you think Amalia Ulman’s work, as a stand-alone performance piece, speaks to issues surrounding the micro-celebrity?  Should we question our acceptance of the micro-celebrity as real?  On the contrary, should we be critical of the micro-celebrity’s authenticity?

Blog Post 3: The Online Space of a Musician

I’ve had to deal with a harsh reality as someone playing music in the 21st century –  the fact is that bands are brands. As an independent musician or group today, one must brand themselves – it’s half the battle; however, for myself and my band, this often becomes more of a nuisance than the liberty that most social networks advertise themselves to be. Like it or not, I find myself in charge of our band’s virtual representation through these online networks – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…etc – each of them designed to represent who we (think we) are in the best way possible.

As Lefebvre taught us, spaces are produced through social relations (289); therefore, as I design posts on Facebook for instance to reach the maximum number of people, in order to best market ourselves, I am acquiescing to the rules which govern the particular online space – rules which were developed through socially reinforced hegemonic discourses. When something creative is involved, like music for example, this becomes problematic. Writing music at its best is one of the most unique out of body experiences I’ve experienced. If I could best describe it, its like an explosion of creativity that becomes so all-encompassing that one is forced to live entirely in the present. Playing music live is a similarly visceral experience. It’s insanely difficult to dilute this awesome experience into this online body which is designed to conform to marketing and communicable purposes. This process of confining our senses and emotions into an arbitrary representation of something greater and more real is quite limiting; as Friedrich Nietzsche would describe, in speaking of “trees, colours, snow and flowers, we believe we know something about the things themselves, and yet we only possess metaphors of the things and these metaphors do not in the least correspond to the original essentials” (4). However, as a band, we must prescribe to these so-to-say metaphors, because if not, a 21st century audience would have no interest in our music whatsoever. I wonder if this struggle is in any way similar to a question pondered by Sarah Ahmed; she asks, “what does it mean to be orientated?” (1). By conforming to the socially produced spaces of society, are we in essence, being orientated? When we are asked by others, “what genre of music do you play?” and we struggle to find a best-fitting answer to that question, are we actually struggling to choose an orientation, similarly to the way a transgendered individual might struggle to choose what public restroom they should enter?

In a capitalist society – public space becomes an arena of sorts where each of us become mini-entrepreneurs vying for an audience to buy in. Since this hegemonic discourse is so all-encompassing, there is no way out. Any artist that avoids fitting in risks becoming the other – an alien to the system. As a musician aiming to achieve some sort of financial success, one must conform to these online spaces because they have become the norm. I will always be somewhat uncomfortable when using these spaces for all the above reasons; however, in analyzing our environments and in general, through studying critical communications we can only benefit by understanding the systems of power which are constantly at work in these spaces and by cautiously accepting them with a grain of salt. Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 3.19.39 PM

P.S. Here’s a link to this crazy interactive online map of sorts which shows “every” genre of music. Shows you how weird it can be to orient your type of music into a few words.

WORKS CITED

Ahmed, Sara. (2006) “Introduction – Find Your Way” Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, (1-24). Durham: Duke University Press.

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

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Falsity in their Extramoral Sense.” Essays on Metaphor. Ed. Warren Shibles. Whitewater, WI: Language Press, 1972. 1-13.

Online childhood

The discussions about how spaces are produced online remind me of a debate in the Danish media about parent’s behavior on social media. The discussion goes on whether it is okay for parents to put pictures of their young children online. Experts have argued that children have the right to privacy and therefore, parents should refrain from putting pictures of them online. The problem with the pictures is also that they can be used and abused if the images are publicly available.

 11117827_10155432849280457_1499286492_nThis issue is an example of how parents produce or create an online space for their children without giving them the opportunity to choose for them self. When looking on Facebook or Instagram you see plenty of pictures of cute young children playing, eating, laughing etc. On Instagram, if you search on the hash tag #baby more than 70 millions pictures come up. Today, everything can be posted and shared on the social platforms. Without giving the children the choice to being on the Internet many parents create the children’s identity online from a very young age. Often the images do not illustrate who the children actually are, but they present a picture to the world of how the parents want others to see their children.One can argue that the online space creates a sort of “fake” identity for them. A fake identity that the children afterwards have to live up to.

To some people posting photos of your babies has almost become a social norm where it is expected from the surroundings that you as a parent post pictures of your baby so that your friends/followers can follow the children growing up. They expect the parents to create their children’s body online. And also many friends and family members post pictures of babies when visiting, maybe even if you as a parent don’t actually want them to, and then they take part in creating the children’s body online – still without giving the children a choice.

In class we have discussed the concept of “micro-celebrities” who in this context reminds me of the 11101014_10155432848895457_1860187837_nso-called “Mum-bloggers”. In Denmark these are a big group of very popular bloggers who blog about their everyday life as parents and post pictures of their family etc. On a daily basis they interact with big online communities consisting of followers who they inspire, advice and entertain. To the mum bloggers the online space has not only become a lifestyle. To some it has also become a profession where they earn money, for example by cooperating with companies by promoting theirs products. The mum bloggers then make money on creating their children and family’s space online by posting pictures and by writing about their lives.

Questions:

Do you think children should have the choice to decide them self how they want to be presented on the social media? Is it okay for parents to create their children’s identity online?

Blog post #3 – WISE BLOOD

The censorship – however temporary – of Rupi Kaur’s strikingly beautiful and authentic image lays bare how deeply our Western culture has internalized the wagging heteronormative finger aka preferences of the misogynist male gaze, and how the Western dominant hegemonic foe of artistic censorship becomes so embedded and normalized into the websites that were initially heralded as differential spaces for freedom of expression.

Kaur is an artist who is interrogating what makes her uncomfortable, what she works with as her own embodied experience through which she perceives, lives, moves, and creates in the world. By placing an authentic representation of her body and its real, lived experience into an online social space, she has expressed herself in creating both a multiplicity of empowerment and a representational space for the blood of all women, just as many great artists have done before her. As Jason Farman suggests, “The virtual is not the opposite of the real; instead it is a component of experiencing the real. The virtual serves as a way to understand the real and as a form of actualization that serves to layer and multiply and experience of that which is already realized” (22). I feel her swollen agony, the pulses of nausea that ravage her from the back of her throat down to her knees, the twisted cramping of muscles that often render half of the world’s population horizontal in order to just navigate the social and private spaces of each day as a woman.

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(photograph © Rupi Kaur)

Is it that Kaur’s image embodies so many cultural taboos in its pose and colours that we would prefer not to acknowledge its authenticity as signifier of reality? Is Kaur’s pain and blood so unbearable to witness – or is it that many would prefer not to be reminded of such bodily workings, while numbed to, say, images of war? Have we really regressed into a post-millenial form of porn-shaven puritanism that an artistic exploration into what has become encoded into our culture as engendered taboo, stigma, and pain is not an appropriate subject for viewing in a public online space? As another classmate posited, if this photograph were a snapshot of a painting or drawing hung in an art gallery, with its representation of reality one step removed and recontextualized, would it be garnering such support or divisive discussion? I find that Kaur’s photo encompasses all of these questionings.

Kaur’s photo claims its embodied space, as a culturally- and a sensory-inscribed body, both material and virtual, on Instagram, Tumblr, and now on many other sites since the controversy began to break (Farman, 33). To paraphrase Terri Senft, I find Kaur’s work compelling as a re-frame of her desire to gain back some of her lost agency in this surveillance-networked age (Senft, 28). In doing so, designed or not, Kaur’s photo has also seized on the power to incite discussion – which, to my mind, is what socially challenging art should inspire.

Farman, Jason. “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface”. Mobile Interface Theory. London: Routledge. 2012. (16-34)

Lefebvre, Henri. “The Production of Space”. The People, Place and Space Reader. Eds. Jen Jack Giesing, William Mangold, Cindi Katz, Setha Low, Susan Saegert. New York: Routledge. 2014. (289-293)

Senft, Theresa. “Chapter One”. Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008. (15-31)