Category Archives: affect theory

mediating presents

cover_issue_7_en_USMediating Presents, a special issue I coedited with the fantastic Rebecca Coleman, is just out with Media Theory (on open access). As we suggest in our summary, “it is both productive and necessary to think together ‘the present’ and mediation to understand how various interlocking aspects of socio-cultural life are currently produced, organised and arranged, embodied and affectively experienced. The contributions to the special issue see time not as a neutral backdrop to, but as actively constituted by and constitutive of, (digital) media, and develop broad understandings of both media and the temporality of the present/present temporalities. The special issue develops theoretically informed and engaged understandings of digital media presents, drawing from and expanding a range of theoretical traditions, including feminist, queer and anti-racist theory, science and technology studies, media theory, philosophy and cultural theory. They similarly take seriously an array of objects, practices and processes, extending from public and academic debates and figurations, mundane and routinised activities, the affordances of specific platforms and computational and data-driven software.”

Contributors include Xin Liu, Beckie Coleman, Ella Harris, Chris Ingraham, Nishat Awan, Helen Pritchard, Jara Rocha, Femke Snelting and Tony D. Sampson – plus yours truly with Distracted Present, Golden Past? critically examining zeitgeist diagnoses equating networked media with notions of loss.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, cultural studies, data culture, media studies

nipples, memes, and algorithmic failure

Our “Nipples, memes, and algorithmic failure: NSFW critique of Tumblr censorship” is just out on open access with New Media & Society. Elena Pilipets is very much the first author with her methods magic.

And here’s the abstract: In November 2018, after being suspended from Apple’s App Store for hosting child pornography, Tumblr announced its decision to ban all NSFW (not safe/suitable for work) content with the aid of machine-learning classification. The decision to opt for strict terms of use governing nudity and sexual depiction was as fast as it was drastic, leading to the quick erasure of subcultural networks developed over a decade. This article maps out platform critiques of and on Tumblr through a combination of visual and digital methods. By analyzing 7306 posts made between November 2018 (when Tumblr announced its new content policy) and August 2019 (when Verizon sold Tumblr to Automattic), we explore the key stakes and forms of user resistance to Tumblr “porn ban” and the affective capacities of user-generated content to mobilize engagement.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, data culture, internet research, NSFW

dependent, distracted, bored

screenshot-2020-12-05-at-15.37.49My book a decade in the making is out in April with MIT Press, which makes me very happy. This is a project I started when Carnal Resonance was out in 2011 and I felt I had little more to say about porn or sex. And then I did and wrote other stuff instead. Anyway. Despite the name, Dependent, Distracted, Bored: Affective Formations in Networked Media is about ambiguity and has the best cover. And here’s the publisher’s summary:

In this book, Susanna Paasonen takes on a dominant narrative repeated in journalistic and academic accounts for more than a decade: that we are addicted to devices, apps, and sites designed to distract us, that drive us to boredom, with detrimental effect on our capacities to focus, relate, remember, and be. Paasonen argues instead that network connectivity is a matter of infrastructure and necessary for the operations of the everyday. Dependencies on it do not equal addiction but speak to the networks within which our agency can take shape.

Paasonen explores three affective formations—dependence, distraction, and attention—as key to understanding both the landscape of contemporary networked media and the concerns connected to it. Examining social media platforms, mindfulness apps, clickbaits, self-help resources, research reports, journalistic accounts, academic assessments, and student accounts of momentary mundane technological failure, she finds that the overarching narrative of addicted, distracted, and bored users simply does not account for the multiplicity of things at play. Frustration and pleasure, dependence and sense of possibility, distraction and attention, boredom, interest, and excitement enmesh, oscillate, enable, and depend on one another. Paasonen refutes the idea that authenticity can be associated with lives led “off the grid” and rejects the generational othering and scapegoating of smart devices prescribed by conventional wisdom.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research, Uncategorized

who’s laughing now?

My book with Jenny Sundén, Who’s Laughing Now: Feminist Tactics in Social Media, is out in *two days* with MIT Press. This has been a joyous project and I hope some of that is mediated in the text itself. And here’s the publisher’s description:

Feminist social media tactics that use humor as a form of resistance to misogyny, rewiring the dynamics of shame, shaming, and shamelessness.

Online sexism, hate, and harassment aim to silence women through shaming and fear. In Who’s Laughing Now? Jenny Sundén and Susanna Paasonen examine a somewhat counterintuitive form of resistance: humor. Sundén and Paasonen argue that feminist social media tactics that use humor, laughter, and a sense of the absurd to answer name-calling, offensive language, and unsolicited dick pics can rewire the affective circuits of sexual shame and acts of shaming.

Using laughter as both a theme and a methodological tool, Sundén and Paasonen explore examples of the subversive deployment of humor that range from @assholesonline to the Tumblr “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” They consider the distribution and redistribution of shame, discuss Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, and describe tactical retweeting and commenting (as practiced by Stormy Daniels, among others). They explore the appropriation of terms meant to hurt and insult—for example, self-proclaimed Finnish “tolerance whores”—and what effect this rerouting of labels may have. They are interested not in lulz (amusement at another’s expense)—not in what laughter pins down, limits, or suppresses but rather in what grows with and in it. The contagiousness of laughter drives the emergence of networked forms of feminism, bringing people together (although it may also create rifts). Sundén and Paasonen break new ground in exploring the intersection of networked feminism, humor, and affect, arguing for the political necessity of inappropriate laughter.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research, Uncategorized

affective politics of digital media

Affective Politics of Digital Media: Propaganda by Other Means, edited by Megan Boler and Elizabeth Davis for Routledge. Not only does it have a great cover but an excellent lineup of authors, and it includes an interview “Affect, Media, Movement” with Zizi Papacharissi and me. And this is the general rationale:

This interdisciplinary, international collection examines how sophisticated digital practices and technologies exploit and capitalize on emotions, with particular focus on how social media are used to exacerbate social conflicts surrounding racism, misogyny, and nationalism. 

Radically expanding the study of media and political communications, this book bridges humanities and social sciences to explore affective information economies, and how emotions are being weaponized within mediatized political landscapes. The chapters cover a wide range of topics: how clickbait, “fake news,” and right-wing actors deploy and weaponize emotion; new theoretical directions for understanding affect, algorithms, and public spheres; and how the wedding of big data and behavioral science enables new frontiers of propaganda, as seen in the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal. The collection includes original interviews with luminary media scholars and journalists. 

The book features contributions from established and emerging scholars of communications, media studies, affect theory, journalism, policy studies, gender studies, and critical race studies to address questions of concern to scholars, journalists, and students in these fields and beyond.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, media studies

books, books, books, forthcoming

9780367199111I’ve described my past few years as exceptionally crazy work-wise and it’s not just a figment of my melodramatic imagination. Many Splendored Things (2018) and NSFW (2019, with Kylie Jarrett and Ben Light) were both mainly written in 2017. We coined the prospectus for Who’s Laughing Now? Feminist Tactics in Social Media with Jenny Sundén in December 2017, wrote it in 2018-2019, and the book will be out this November. The proposal for Objectification: On the Difference Between Sex and Sexism with Feona Attwood, John Mercer, Alan McKee and Clarissa Smith was done two years ago and the actual thing is due out August. Last but not least, Dependent, Distracted, Bored: Affective Formations in Networked Media, for which I started collecting material back in 2012, has a due-date for March. One book already has a cover (with Barbie! and glitter!), am looking forward to the other designs materializing.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, cultural studies, feminist media studies, internet research, media studies, NSFW, play, sexuality

affective body politics of social media

Very glad that our Affective Body Politics special issue, coedited with Kaisu Hynnä-Granberg and Mari Lehto, is now out with Social media + society, on open access. The eight articles are based on presentations at the Affective Politics of Social Media symposium that we organized at University of Turku in 2017, and they explore all kinds of things from Reddit tributing to debates on public breastfeeding, Chaturbate, #MeToo, Netflix bingeing, fat activism and the online platforms of Transgender Nation.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research, media studies

inappropriate laughter

Written together with the fantastic Jenny Sundén, our article, Inappropriate Laughter: Affective Homophily and the Unlikely Comedy of #MeToo, is just out, on open access, as part of Social Media + Society’s special issue on “Affective Body Politics” that I’ve edited with Kaisu Hynnä-Granberg and Mari Lehto. This is also a teaser for our forthcoming book with Jenny, Who’s Laughing Now? Feminist Tactics in Social Media, which should be out and about next autumn with MITP. And here’s the abstract:

This article investigates the affective and ambiguous dynamics of feminist humor as an unexpected strategy of resistance in connection with #MeToo, asking what laughter may do to the sharpness of negative affect of shame and anger driving the movement. Our inquiry comes in three vignettes. First, we deploy Nanette—Hannah Gadsby’s 2018 Netflix success heralded as the comedy of the #MeToo era—arguing that the uniform viral warmth surrounding the show drives the emergence of networked feminisms through “affective homophily,” or a love of feeling the same. With Nanette, the contagious qualities of laughter are tamed by a networked logic of homophily, allowing for intensity while resisting dissent. Our second vignette zooms in on a less known feminist comedian, Lauren Maul, and her online #MeToo musical comedy riffing off on apologies made by male celebrities accused of sexual harassment, rendering the apologies and the men performing them objects of ridicule. Our third example opens up the door to the ambivalence of irony. In considering the unexpected pockets of humor within the #MeToo scandal that ripped apart the prestigious institution of the Swedish Academy, we explore the emergence of carnivalesque comedy and feminist uses of irony in the appropriation of the pussy-bow blouse as an ambiguous feminist symbol. Our examples allow us to argue for the political importance of affective ambiguity, difference, and dissent in contemporary social media feminisms, and to highlight the risk when a movement like #MeToo closes ranks around homogeneous feelings of not only shame and rage, but also love.

Leave a comment

Filed under affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research

reviews for Many Splendored Things

MST_27.2.18Out a year ago, Many Splendored Things is being read by game scholars, which is fantastic. Adding to the thrill, some of them like it. Recent reviews are out from Ashley Darrow for the Manchester Game Studies Network and from Miguel Sicart for a WiderScreen special issue on sex and play. I’m taking Sicart’s definition of this being “one of the most important books on play” as an objective fact.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, play, sexuality

public spheres of resonance

9781138608450Edited by Anne Fleig and Christian von Scheve, Public Spheres of Resonance: Constellations of Affect and Language, is out with Routledge. It has a fabulous lineup, from Anna Gibbs to Britta Timm Knudsen and Ann Cvetkovich. And me! My contribution is titled “Resonant Networks: On Affect and Social Media” and, well, asks how the concept of resonance may work in studies of social media. This is the intro/abstract:

In an era of clickbait journalism, Twitter storms, and viral social media campaigns varying from social protest to commodity promotion, it has become strikingly clear that networked communications are not merely about critical rational exchange or functional information retrieval, but equally – and perhaps even more explicitly – an issue of affective exchanges and connections of both the fleeting and more lasting kind. As argued in this chapter, the notion of affective resonance provides a means of accounting for encounters with the world in which bodies move from one state to another, and possibly become transformed in the process. This conceptualization is hardly specific to online phenomena as such, and it is used here to explore affective encounters between people, networks, interfaces, apps, devices, digital images, sounds, and texts in the context of social media. Moving from my own considerations of resonance in connection with online pornography to examinations of the role, both pronounced and not, that affect has played in Internet research, this chapter asks how affect matters and makes things matter in a contemporary media landscape driven by the quests for attention, viral circulation, and affective stickiness.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, internet research, media studies