Category Archives: internet research

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.

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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.

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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.

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

a Tumblr book

Edited by Allison McCracken, Alexander Cho, Louisa Stein and Indira Neill Hoch, the 404 pages of A Tumblr Book: Platform and Cultures are out with University of Michigan Press, on open access. This monumental work also includes a conversation on Tumblr porn we did with Alex Cho and Noah Tsika, titled “Walled Gardens, NSFW Niches, and Horizontality,” before the platform introduced the NSFW ban late in 2018. How soon things become history, and oh how sorely the old Tumblr is missed!

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what’s intimate about data?

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.

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awarded!

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 21.11.43Our NSFW: Sex, Humor and Risk in Social Media, has just been chosen for the 2020 Association of Internet researchers’ Nancy Baym book award. Kylie Jarrett, Ben Light and I are deeply honored as the recognition means much coming from an association that we’ve all been involved with for a long time. This is what the jury had to say:

“NSFW is a wonderful, original and surprising book that deeply and critically interrogates issues around sex, porn, safety, and labor, be that the labor of producing online porn or keeping Facebook “safe”. The book weaves together its various threads (dick pics, algorithmically-produced art, misogynistic online harassment, and much more) to produce a compelling account of aspects of digital culture that – whether we like it or not – touch us all. Drawing on a variety of empirical materials and theoretical insights, NSFW is, in many ways, the consummate AoIR book: the very collaboration between Paasonen, Jarrett and Light was conceived at AoIR conferences, work in progress was presented at AoIR conferences, and the book is in constant dialogue with work produced by the AoIR community. Read more: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/nsfw.”

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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.

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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.

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AoIR Flashpoint 2020

I’m so delighted to be invited to the Association of Internet Researchers Flashpoint Symposium 2020, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, April 17, which is bound to be fabulous:

The theme of the conference, “Digital Transformations: Polarization, media manipulation, and resistance”, seeks to discuss political polarization and media manipulation, focusing on their effects on young democracies of Latin American and Brazil in the context of digital transformations. Most Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, have a history of several years of violent dictatorships. Much of these periods were marked by censorship and mass media manipulation. In recent years, social media brought the opportunity for people to organize themselves around political participation, offered them more information and the tools to make public demands directly to congressmen and congresswomen. However, social media have also played an important role in the crisis these young democracies face today, as it also provides a space for hate speech, intolerance, and extremization. At the same time, a myriad of social media practices that revolve around digital transformations and expressions promote different, positive agendas, covering a broad range of everyday activities, sociabilities and subjectivities in various platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

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the trouble with NSFW

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 21.11.43An interview on our new book and what the whole thing is about is freshly out in the MIT Press Reader. And this is the editors’ intro:

The hashtag #NSFW (not safe for work) acts as both a warning and an invitation. NSFW tells users, “We dare you to click on this link! And by the way, don’t do it until after work!” Unlike the specificity of movie and television advisories (“suggestive dialogue,” “sexual content”), NSFW signals, nonspecifically, sexually explicit content that ranges from nude selfies to pornography. But Susanna Paasonen, Kylie Jarrett, and Ben Light, the authors of “NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media,” argue that when applied across the board to all kinds of sexual images and formations, “the tag NSFW flattens crucial differences between them under the opaque blanket of offensiveness, riskiness, and unsafety that it connotes.” They maintain that if we are to envision social media ecologies capable of accommodating sexuality as a field of pleasure, communication, occupation, and world-making, it is crucial to resist categorical effacement of sexually suggestive and explicit content.

We asked Paasonen, Jarrett, and Light about how subjectivity and politics contribute to the nuances of what is designated “not safe for work,” how the hashtag reinforces our culture of heterosexism, and about its effects on the careers of sex workers across social media platforms.

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