Category Archives: internet research

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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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.

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Filed under affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research

excerpt from NSFW

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 21.11.43An excerpt from our new book with Kylie Jarrett and Ben Light, NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media, is up at Literary Hub, just here. With the title, “What does ‘NSFW’ Mean in the Age of Social Media?”, it’s actually the first part of our chapter on dick pics and looks at the different roles that humor and gendered naked bodies play in the viral logics of social media.

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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.

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media and the politics of offence

Ed41rMU3o8wOL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ited by Anne Graefer for Palgrave, Media and the Politics of Offence is very freshly out, and timely: “The contributors share a concern about the complex and ambiguous nature of offence as well as about the different ways in which this so-called ‘negative affect’ comes to matter in our everyday and socio-political lives. Through a series of instructive case studies of recent media provocations, the authors illustrate how being offended is more than an individual feeling and is, instead, closely tied to political structures and power relations.”

My own contribution is, predictably, on porn: “Pornographers are traditionally assumed to cause, rather than take to offence, yet porn video aggregator sites, production studios and individual professionals alike have recently engaged in protests against proposed work safety regulation, internet policy and legislative measures connected to sexual equality, especially so in the United States. In many instances, this has involved porn companies protecting their own financial interests whereas the economical rationale has remained less lucid in others. Focusing on moments of pornographers acting out in protest, this chapter examines the political economy of offence connected to contemporary pornography. More specifically, it explores how porn companies, and video aggregator sites in particular, make use of social media visibility to articulate their case, how their forms of protest function as PR, as well as how the shift of porn distribution to online platforms has changed the political stakes that all this involves.”

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intimacy in data-driven culture

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.

 

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NSFW has a cover!

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 21.11.43Forthcoming from MIT Press in October, NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media, co-authored with the fabulous Kylie Jarrett & Ben Light, now has a cover. And great it is; apparently it will be fluorescent! Here’s the book description:

An exploration of how and why social media content is tagged as “not safe for work” and an argument against conflating sexual content with risk.

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. NSFW looks at how and why social media content is tagged “not safe” and shows how this serves to conflate sexual content and risk. The authors argue that the notion of “unsafety” extends beyond the risk of losing one’s job or being embarrassed at work to an unspecified sense of risk attached to sexually explicit media content and sexual communication in general. The authors examine NSFW practices of tagging and flagging on a range of social media platforms; online pornography and its dependence on technology; user-generated NSFW content—in particular, the dick pic and associated issues of consent, desire, agency, and social power; the deployment of risqué humor in the workplace; and sexist and misogynist online harassment that functions as an enforcer of inequalities. They argue against the categorical effacement of sexual content by means of an all-purpose hashtag and urge us to shift considerations of safety from pictorial properties to issues of context and consent.

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Filed under feminist media studies, internet research, NSFW, porn studies, sexuality