This article critically investigates the reasoning behind social media content policies and opaque data politics operations regarding sexual visual social media practices and sexual talk, asking what is at stake when social media giants govern sexual sociability on an international scale. Focusing on Facebook, in particular, this article proposes an alternative perspective for handling various expressions of sexuality in social media platforms by exploring the wide-ranging ramifications of community standards and commercial content moderation policies based on them. Given that sexuality is an integral part of human life and as such protected by fundamental human rights, we endorse the freedom of expression as an essential legal and ethical tool for supporting wellbeing, visibility, and non-discrimination. We suggest that social media content policies should be guided by the interpretive lens of fundamental human rights. Furthermore, we propose that social media content policies inclusive of the option to express consent to access sexual content are more ethical and just than those structurally erasing nudity and sexual display.
My book very long in the making, Dependent, Distracted, Bored: Affective Formations in Networked Media, is out April 20 with MIT Press. To mark the occasion, I’m doing an IIPC debate talk the day after summing up some of its central themes and points. Join us April 21, 5:15pm EET, at https://utu.zoom.us/j/67932423692. This is the abstract:
According to a dominant narrative repeated in journalistic and academic accounts for more than a decade, we are addicted to the digital devices, apps, and sites designed to distract us, which drive us to boredom and harm our capacities to focus, relate, remember, and be. Focusing on three affective formations — dependence, distraction, and boredom — as key to understanding both the landscape of contemporary networked media and the concerns connected to it, this talk challenges the dominant narrative and argues for the centrality of accounting for complexity and ambiguity instead. Dependence and agency, distraction and attention, boredom and excitement can be seen as dynamics that enmesh, oscillate, enable, and depend on one another — and, in some instances, cannot be told apart.
Academic debates on shame and the involuntary networked circulation of naked pictures have largely focused on instances of hacked accounts of female celebrities, on revenge porn, and interconnected forms of slut-shaming. Meanwhile, dick pics have been predominantly examined as vehicles of sexual harassment within heterosexual contexts. Taking a somewhat different approach, this article examines leaked or otherwise involuntarily exposed dick pics of men of notable social privilege, asking what kinds of media events such leaked data assemble, how penises become sites of public interest and attention, and how these bodies may be able to escape circuits of public shaming. By focusing on high-profile incidents on an international scale during the past decade, this article moves from the leaked shots of male politicians as governance through shaming to body-shaming targeted at Harvey Weinstein, to Jeff Bezos’s refusal to be shamed through his hacked dick pic, and to an accidentally self-published shaft shot of Lars Ohly, a Swedish politician, we examine the agency afforded by social privilege to slide through shame rather than be stuck in it. By building on feminist media studies and affect inquiry, we attend to the specificities of these attempts to shame, their connections to and disconnections from slut-shaming, and the possibilities and spaces offered for laughter within this all.
Join us February 11, 7pm CET, for a Zoom chat on sex and online platforms, under the title “Infrastructures of Intimacy and the Deplatforming of Sex”. Mine is the first talk in INTIMACY series organized collaboratively by Schwules Museum, Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL), and ICI Berlin — with Jean-Luc Nancy and Tim Dean coming up in March and April. For registration go to the ICI Berlin website: https://www.ici-berlin.org/events/susanna-paasonen/
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.
Join us for a Zoom spectacle on the intimacies of data on October 23 with Deborah Lupton, Minna Ruckenstein and Irina Shklovski! Organized by the Strategic research Council consortium, Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture and open for all: follow the link here. Talks will also be recorded and uploaded on our site for later viewing.