Our article with Jenny Sundén is very freshly out with the Qualitative Research Journal, on open access as part of a forthcoming special issue on Activist methodologies inside and outside of academy, edited by Gabriele Griffin. Titled “We Have Tiny Purses in Our Vaginas!!! #thanksforthat”: Absurdity as a Feminist Method of Intervention, it focuses on the Twitter account, Men Write Women, “Where the women are made up & their anatomy doesn’t matter“. This one virtually wrote itself: hope some of the fun communicates.
Category Archives: cultural studies
Mediating 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.
Our brand new book Objectification: On the Difference Between Sex and Sexism is out today with Routledge. Co-authored with a dream team — Feona Attwood, Alan McKee, John Mercer and Clarissa Smith — the book tracks the academic and activist uses of the notion of objectification, investigates some of its analytical shortcomings and argues for the necessity of separating critiques of sexism from those concerning sexual display. The book is intended for teaching and it should be accessible for undergraduate students. And here’s the publisher’s description:
This is a concise and accessible introduction into the concept of objectification, one of the most frequently recurring terms in both academic and media debates on the gendered politics of contemporary culture, and core to critiquing the social positions of sex and sexism.
Objectification is an issue of media representation and everyday experiences alike. Central to theories of film spectatorship, beauty fashion and sex, objectification is connected to the harassment and discrimination of women, to the sexualization of culture and the pressing presence of body norms within media. This concise guidebook traces the history of the term’s emergence and its use in a variety of contexts such as debates about sexualization and the male gaze, and its mobilization in connection with the body, selfies and pornography, as well as in feminist activism.
It will be an essential introduction for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Gender Studies, Media Studies, Sociology, Cultural Studies or Visual Arts.
Chapter One: What counts as objectification?
Chapter Two: Male gaze and the politics of representation
Chapter Three: Radical feminism and the objectification of women
Chapter Four: Sex objects and sexual subjects
Chapter Five: Measuring objectification
Chapter Six: What to do with sexualized culture?
Chapter Seven: Beyond the binary
Chapter Eight: Disturbingly lively objects
I’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.
Happy news from the Academy of Finland, which has granted Strategic research funding for our consortium, Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture (IDA, first research period 2019-2022). This is a collaboration between University of Turku (media studies, law, ICT), Tampere University (gender studies, media and communication), Åbo Akademi (law) and Aalto University (design), with a fabulous group of researchers, academic and societal board members, and collaborative stakeholders. As PI, I’m very excited. Here’s the summary:
IDA examines the tension between digitalization, data-driven media, and the possibilities for, and the rights to intimacy in contemporary Finland. As a range of activities from work practices to personal connections are increasingly organized through digital devices, applications, and services that both generate and leak data, considerations of intimacy need to extend to the infrastructural roles that digital technologies play in the functionality of private, social, occupational, and collective lives. It is further crucial to analyse how vulnerabilities connected to digitalization – from the difficulties of privacy management to sexual grooming, harassment, and abuse – impact people differently according to their age, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, ethnicity, and occupational status, and what tactics of resilience and protection they necessitate. And as public concerns on data breaches and third-party uses of personal data have grown increasingly manifest, it is necessary to also ask what ethical methodological possibilities are best suited, or can be developed, for understanding data traffic, user agency, consent, and rights.
Bringing together scholars from media and communication studies, computer science, law, design research, game studies, and gender studies, and combining qualitative inquiry with computational analysis, IDA produces new knowledge and public understanding on the impact of data-driven culture and develops ethical and socially sustainable data practices together with stakeholders ranging from public institutions to NGOs, civic and professional organizations. IDA brings scholars together with stakeholders and opinion leaders and therefore has a unique opportunity to generate high impact societal debate. It critically examines datafication within the current digital economy, asking how it is experienced, made sense of, and resisted, and what solutions remain available for developing socially sustainable data-driven culture.
The consortium first analyses the impact of data-driven culture on people’s different social roles and relations as citizens, immigrants, family members, parents, adolescents, caretakers, employees, entrepreneurs, friends, and sexual partners, the intimacies that these involve, and the vulnerabilities that this gives rise to. Second, the consortium inquires how intimacy functions as a contested resource in data-driven creative labour, public careers, and social connections. Third, IDA explores and develops democratic ways of managing, protecting, sharing, and using personal data, bringing considerations of intimacy together with those concerning privacy.
Sooner than expected! Out in October, my Many Splendored Things: Thinking Sex and Play has already been reviewed, not once, but twice — apparently with more to follow. Voilà, Katherine Angel for Times Higher Education (behind paywall) and João Florêncio for Theory, Culture & Society. Always a thrill to be read.
Should you be in Amsterdam April 10-12, join us for the ASCA workshop Realities and Fantasies: Relations, Transformations, Discontinuities. A hugely rich 3-day program, including my keynote, “Thinking Sex, Thinking Play”. Fun times ahead!
Should you be in the UK March 7-8, do join us at The Pleasures of Violence conference at Oxford Brookes University: “This conference aims to consider questions of abuse, misuse of power and aggression in the (post-)digital age from a variety of perspectives and fields, exploring the relationship between violence (physical, psychological, symbolic, et al) and digitality writ large. It also takes seriously the pleasures on offer through such digital violence, whether that is the action cinema’s fight sequence or the trainwreck celebrity. Is “digital violence” a redundant category? How does violence play out in different national contexts and creative industries: cinema, gaming, photography, music, fashion?” My contribution addresses tentacle rape porn and some empirical inquiry into pornographic preferences.
Edited by Anu Koivunen, Katariina Kyrölä & Ingrid Ryberg, The Power of Vulnerability: Mobilizing Affect in Feminist, Queer and Anti-Racist Futures is just out with Manchester Univerity Press, on open access. The volume includes my piece, “Spectacularly wounded: White male vulnerability as heterosexual fantasy” looking into, yes, the Fifty Shades books. And here’s the book description:
The power of vulnerability interrogates the new language of vulnerability that has emerged in feminist, queer and anti-racist debates about the production, use and meanings of media. The book investigates the historical legacies and contemporary forms and effects of this language. In today’s media culture, traumatic first-person or group narratives have popular currency, mobilising affect from compassion to rage to gain cultural visibility and political advantage. In this context, vulnerability becomes a kind of capital, a resource or an asset that can and has been appropriated for various groups and purposes in public discourses, activism as well as cultural institutions. Thus, politics of representation translates into politics of affect, and the question about whose vulnerability counts as socially and culturally legible and acknowledged. The contributors of the book examine how vulnerability has become a battleground; how affect and vulnerability have turned into a politicised language for not only addressing but also obscuring asymmetries of power; and how media activism and state policies address so-called vulnerable groups. While the contributors investigate the political potential as well as the constraints of vulnerability for feminist, queer and antiracist criticism, they also focus on the forms of agency and participation vulnerability can offer.
Our article, “Littles: Affects and Aesthetics in Sexual Age-Play“, co-authored together with the fantastic Katrin Tiidenberg, is just out, on open access, with Sexuality & Culture. And here’s the abstract:
This article explores the experiences and practices of self-identifying female sexual age-players. Based on interviews and observation of the age players’ blogged content, the article suggests that, rather than being fixed in one single position, our study participants move between a range of roles varying across their different scenes. In examining accounts of sexual play, we argue that the notion of play characterizes not only their specific routines of sexual “scening” but also sexual routines, experimentations, and experiences more expansively. Further, we argue that a focus on play as exploration of corporeal possibilities allows for conceptualizing sexual preferences and practices, such as age-play, as irreducible to distinct categories of sexual identity. The notion of play makes it possible to consider sexuality in terms of transformations in affective intensities and attachments, without pigeonholing various preferences, or acts, within a taxonomy of sexual identities. In doing so, it offers an alternative to the still prevalent categorical conceptualizations of sexuality that stigmatize people’s lived experiences and diminish the explanatory power of scholarly and therapeutic narratives about human sexuality.