Category Archives: media studies

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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THE dick pic

Eggplant_Emoji_grandeCoauthored with Ben Light & Kylie Jarrett, our article, The Dick Pic: Harassment, Curation and Desire is ever so freshly out with Social media + society, so on open access. It doubles as teaser for our book NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media, forthcoming from MIT Press in October.  And here’s the abstract:

The combined rise of digital photography and social media has expanded what might be considered photo worthy. Among the pouting selfies and food stuffs of the day exists the ubiquitous dick pic. The mainstream media generally focuses on dick pics of the unsolicited kind, which, negatively positioned, are commonly associated with heterosexual harassment. Considering the ubiquity of dick pics across apps and platforms, research on the topic nevertheless remains scarce. In this article, we examine the dick pic as an online communicative form, first considering how it manifests the ability to harass and then moving beyond this dominant framing to analysis of contexts where such images are collated, expected, and sought after. Through this analysis of dick pics as figures and actors of harassment, curation, and desire, we demonstrate the simultaneous tenacity and flexibility of their meanings in connection with the dynamics of consent and non-consent, intimacy and distance, and complex circuits of desire. We further address the role of platforms, apps, and app stores, via their community standards and terms of use, in shaping the nature, and presence, of dick pics, and discuss the affective and communicative functions that these affordances serve (or fail to serve). Our analysis of three key modes of engagement with dick pics demonstrates the ambiguity and multiple valences of the phenomenon addressed.

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reviews for Many Splendored Things

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.

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Web porn history

T91260_9781473980051he SAGE Handbook of Web History, edited by Niels Brügger and Ian Milligan, is out just now. My contribution is, unsurprisingly, on web porn history.

Abstract: Pornography has played a crucial, albeit often neglected role in the development of Web solutions and e-commerce. Gaming and online shopping, for example, picked up towards the end of the 1990s while pornography remained, virtually from the launch of the first graphic browsers, one of the few forms of content that users were willing to pay for. Consequently, safe credit card processing systems, streaming video technologies, hosting services, as well as practices such as banner advertisement and pop-ups, were first developed for the needs of, and used on porn sites. Pornographic continues to quickly migrate to new media platforms and formats, yet its position is crucially different in the context of social media than it was in the Web cultures of the 1990s. The role of porn as a driving force in dot.com enterprise has clearly passed. Pornographic content is actively weeded out from most social media platforms and targeted advertising while broad diagnoses on the pornification of media culture continue to abound. According to these, pornographic aesthetics have grown ubiquitous enough to infiltrate diverse visual practices from social media profiles to selfies.

This chapter examines the development of web pornography from homegrown enterprises of the early 1990s to the increasing visibility of sexual subcultures and the presence of established studios and companies on online platforms, the shift from gonzo and reality pornography to the ubiquity of amateur productions and the centralization of porn distribution on video aggregator sites, notably many of which are run by the same company. Addressing independent, amateur and commercial enterprises as well as the complexities and paradoxes that such categorizations involve, the article explains how Web technologies and the centrality of search functions in particular have affected the development and uses of pornographic content, what kinds of sexual taste cultures have emerged, how the public visibility of pornography as a media genre has been altered in the course of its online distribution, as well as how all this connects to media policy and practices of regulation. All this necessitates understanding the production of web pornography, as well as the notion of the porn industry that it involves, as characterized by inner distinctions and constant fragmentation.

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CFP: 3rd Sexual Cultures Conference, on Play!

pI’m very happy to announce that the CFP for the 3rd Sexual Cultures Conference: PLAY, 
University of Turku, 
28-29 May, 2019, is now out. Confirmed keynote speakers include Tom Apperley (University of Tampere), Kane Race (University of Sydney) & Katrin Tiidenberg (Tallinn University).

The 3rd Sexual Cultures Conference focuses on the notion of play, understood as autotelic practices of pleasure where the enchantment of the activity is an end in itself. As the game studies scholar Miquel Sicart nevertheless notes, the pleasures of play can be ambivalent indeed: “Play is not necessarily fun. It is pleasurable, but the pleasures it creates are not always submissive to enjoyment, happiness, or positive traits. Play can be pleasurable when it hurts, offends, challenges us and teases us, and even when we are not playing. Let’s not talk about play as fun but as pleasurable, opening us to the immense variations of pleasure in this world.”

Building on this understanding of play, as well as sex, as variations of pleasure, the conference sets out to ask what happens if we consider sexual representation, networked forms of connecting and relating, or the experimentation with sexual likes though this prism? Indeed, what might studies of sexual cultures foregrounding the complexity and centrality of pleasure, look like? This is what we invite you to think with us.
Possible themes and topics include, but are not limited to examinations of play and playfulness in relation to:

* hook-up cultures
* pornography
* sex education
* sex and gaming
* sexting
* sexual histories
* kink cultures
* sexual identifications
* leisure sex
* intimacy
* sexual harassment

The conference will have a registration fee of 150€ inclusive of coffees and conference dinner. To propose a paper, please send a 300-word abstract and short bio (max. 100 words) to https://www.lyyti.in/sexualCultures_abstractsSubmission by January 31, 2019. Registrations will be made available in late February, 2019. For any practical info, please contact conference services info@aboaservices.fi. On issues connected to the academic programme, please contact program chair Susanna Paasonen at suspaa@utu.fi.
The conference is jointly organized by the Academy of Finland research project, Sexuality and Play in Media Culture, The Department of Media Studies and IIPC, the International Institute for Popular Culture, at the University of Turku.

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Filed under cultural studies, media studies, play, porn studies, sexuality