2017 #SMSociety Theme: Social Media for Social Good or Evil

Our online behaviour is far from virtual–it extends our offline lives. Much social media research has identified the positive opportunities of using social media; for example, how people use social media to form support groups online, participate in political uprising, raise money for charities, extend teaching and learning outside the classroom, etc. However, mirroring offline experiences, we have also seen social media being used to spread propaganda and misinformation, recruit terrorists, live stream criminal activities, reinforce echo chambers by politicians, and perpetuate hate and oppression (such as racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic behaviour).

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Sunday, July 30 • 15:31 - 17:00
Idols Of Promotion: The Triumph Of Self-Branding In The Social Media Age [WIP]

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Authors: Brooke Erin Duffy and Jefferson Pooley

Abstract: YouTube stars, Instagram influencers, and other social media personalities have achieved an elevated status in the popular imagination. This work-in-progress situates the valorization of digital fame in a socio-historical context, invoking critical theorist Leo Lowenthal’s [1] “mass idols” framework. Examining the content of magazine biographies in the decades preceding World War II, Lowenthal identified a marked shift in cultural exemplars of success: from self-made entrepreneurs, politicians, and other “Idols of Production”—to the stars of cinema and sports, “Idols of Consumption.” As an extension of Lowenthal’s analysis, we examine contemporary magazine biographies (in People and Time) and self-authored social media bios (on Instagram and Twitter). Based on a preliminary analysis of the magazine content and social-media profiles—including the crucial shift to self-authorship—we outline a new generation of what we call “Idols of Promotion.” These digitally networked public figures, we argue, straddle the realms of production and consumption as they labor to create and project a distinctive self-brand. We identify three key tropes that shape narrativizations of idols in the social media age: (1) a spirit of self-enterprise that crosses industry boundaries; (2) a promise of meritocracy; and (3) a call to express oneself authentically. After examining these tropes, we conclude with an examination of their ideological function: such mediated hero-worship, we contend, indexes larger anxieties about the individualization of work amidst a precarious economy.

Sunday July 30, 2017 15:31 - 17:00 EDT
TRS 1-073 - 7th Flr Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C4