Category Archives: media studies
As part of our recently finished research project, Sexuality and Play in Media Culture, Laura Saarenmaa and I explored Leikki (Play), a mid-1970s Finnish sex magazine for women. This lead us to consider popular sex ed of the era, feminist affiliations and methodological challenges. The outcome is now out as “Short-Lived Play: Trans-European Travels in Print Sex Edutainment”, on open access with Media History. And here’s the abstract:
Media history is still written largely from national perspectives so that the role of import and export, translations and franchises is seldom foregrounded. On geographically and linguistically limited markets, imported materials have nevertheless been crucial parts of popular print culture. This paper explores the market of ‘sex edutainment’ magazines in 1970s Finland, zooming specifically in on Leikki (‘Play’, 1976), a sex magazine for women translated from the Norwegian Lek (first launched in 1971) that provided knowledge on topics ranging from marriage to masturbation and lesbian desire. Through contextual analysis of Leikki, a marginal publication that has basically faded from popular memory, this article attends to ephemeral and even failed print media in order to account for the heterogeneity of the 1970s sex press market as it intermeshed with sex advice and education. In so doing, it adds new perspectives to a field largely focused on successful periodicals and addresses knowledge gaps resulting from the exclusion of the sex press from mainstream media historiography.
A chapter I co-wrote with the excellent, recently ERC-grant-winning Veli-Matti Karhulahti on Finnish DIY “fuck games” is freshly out in Perspectives on the European Videogame, edited by Víctor Navarro-Remesal and Óliver Pérez-Latorre for Amsterdam University Press. Our chapter, “Finnish Fuck Games: A Lost Historical Footnote” examines the games Strip-tease Ventti, Helttaa Helmaan, Bepa Quest, and Koulu3, all designed in the 1980s and 1990s, and their young male homosocial contexts of creation and use. This is one of the collaborations emerging from the recently finished research project, Sexuality and Play in Media Culture (2017-2021) that I was the PI of.
I am delighted to be one of the three scholars elected for a 2022 Hunt-Simes Visiting Chair in Sexuality Studies position at Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC), University of Sydney. If in the spring we are living in a world where people fly long, long distances, I’ll have the pleasure of working with Kane Race and the rest of the excellent Sydney team on sexual expression and social media platform governance. Very much honored to be in the same company with Jen Gilbert and Srila Roy,
Edited by Cosimo Marco Scarcelli, Despina Chronaki, Sara De Vuyst & Sergio Villanueva Baselga, Gender and sexuality in the European Media: Exploring Different Contexts through Conceptualisations of Age is very freshly with Routledge in ECREA’s Routledge Studies in European Communication Research and Education series. Featuring an excellent range of stuff, it also includes my ‘“Old dirty pops and young hot chicks”: Age differences in pornographic fantasies’. The abstract goes something like this:
As a genre, pornography has long highlighted embodied differences and juxtaposed different bodies in terms of their size, degrees of hairiness or muscularity, skin colour and tone. Building on a 2017 survey charting pornographic preferences, likes and dislikes among Finnish women, this chapter focuses on age differences in particular and investigates the ageing male body as an ambivalent, simultaneously attractive and repulsive pornographic fantasy figure. It asks how age differences feed into dynamics of control and submission in pornographic imageries, how ageing bodies function as markers of extremity and authenticity and how the survey respondents, the majority of them in their 20 and 30s, negotiate gaps between their pornographic preferences and other sexual likes. Emphasizing the specific role and function of sexual fantasies, the respondents describe the appeal of older male bodies as sites of disgust and taboo transgression to be enjoyed from a distance, and the scenarios they enjoy as drawing their force from social hierarchies and from breaching the norms of sexual acceptability and normalcy.
Our article with Mari Lehto, titled ‘I feel the irritation and frustration all over the body’: Affective ambiguities in networked parenting culture is freshly out with The International Journal of Cultural Studies, on open access. The fieldwork was all Mari’s, and here’s the abstract:
This article investigates the affective power of social media by analysing everyday encounters with parenting content among mothers. Drawing on data composed of diaries of social media use and follow-up interviews with six women, we ask how our study participants make sense of their experiences of parenting content and the affective intensities connected to it. Despite the negativity involved in reading and participating in parenting discussions, the participants find themselves wanting to maintain the very connections that irritate them, or even evoke a sense of failure, as these also yield pleasure, joy and recognition. We suggest that the ambiguities addressed in our research data speak of something broader than the specific experiences of the women in question. We argue that they point to the necessity of focusing on, and working through affective ambiguity in social media research in order to gain fuller understanding of the complex appeal of platforms and exchanges.
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.
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!
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.
An article we did with Daniel Cardoso asking why people publish print magazines (of the post-porn kind, broadly construed) these days, is just out with Porn Studies as “The Value of print, the value of porn“, with free eprints through the link. The article is based on interviews with the makers of two independent magazines, Ménage à trois and Phile, and it explores a range of things from sexual politics to influences and the material properties of paper.