FAME AND MICROCELEBRITY ON THE WEB

Crystal Abidin, Vimviriya Limkangvanmongkol, Megan Lindsay, Renee Powers, Angela Cirucci

Abstract


The main objective of the panel is to present cross-cultural case studies (Asia and North America) that discuss developing trends of fame on the Internet and expand on existing theories of microcelebrity. Taking an ethnographic approach, our aim is to broaden the methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of self-made celebrity and self-branding on social media, particularly that of young entrepreneurial women professionalizing their craft. Additionally, young women who are not intentionally pursuing celebrity but through online interactions have the potential for celebrity- like experiences will be discussed. We offer new ways of thinking about microcelebrity, identity, and social media.

Celebrity culture is a discourse that focuses on individualism, identity, and public transformation, and constituted by a real or imagined audience (Marshall 2006:635). Reality television brought about the average, everyday celebrity, but new media have taken celebrity culture to another level. ‘Microcelebrity’ was first coined by Theresa Senft in her work on Camgirls (2008) as a burgeoning online trend wherein people attempt to gain popularity by employing digital media technologies - videos, blogs, social media, etc. Microcelebrities are “non-actors as performers” whose narratives take place “without overt manipulation”, and who are “more ‘real’ than television personalities with ‘perfect hair, perfect friends and perfect lives’” (2008:16). Unlike mainstream television and cinema celebrities who are public icons with large scale followings, microcelebrities are famous only within small, niche networks (Marwick 2013). Senft also foregrounds microcelebrities’ focus on responding to their communities in the ways that maintain open channels of feedback on social media to engage with their audience. In addition, microcelebrity involves the curation of a persona that feels “authentic” to fans (Marwick 2013:114).

Our five papers are conscientiously ordered to present the unfolding of a metanarrative of microcelebrity in the age of social media, and the evolution of shared concepts of the internet, following the investigation of magic, myth, accidents, the darkside, and structural guides. 'Online red carpet: The magic of instaselfie culture', investigates self-made microcelebrities and the deliberate affectual and aesthetic work they engage in, thus illuminating the high glamour of Internet fame through methodological explorations of ‘celebrity’ imagery. 'I’m not famous famous, I’m Internet famous: The mystification and folklore of microcelebrity fame on social media', moves away from the more obvious reputation work of microcelebrities to look at those whose origins of fame are shrouded in folklore and myth, exploring alternative discourses of celebrification on the Internet circulating in the popular imaginary. 'Accidental celebrity: Exploration of fame, timing, and response to popularity', focuses more on Internet users on the periphery of microcelebrity, and how their accidental stumblings into fame especially at the intersection of Internet imaginaries of race, class, gender, and sexuality. 'How does she afford all that?: Rumors, anonymity, and the darkside of being a YouTube microcelebrity' takes us over to the flip side of microcelebrity, in pursuit of narratives of the lesser seen ugly and less glamorous backstage of celebrification, which speaks to Internet ethics and the social imaginary. Finally, 'Identity guides: The implications of Facebook’s affordances and tacit celebrification' uncovers Internet fact and fiction through the examination of the meta-structures of social media platforms, without which, microcelebrification would not be possible.

Our cross-cultural research material also present comparative examinations of the digital imaginary across cultures. The five papers move from a more traditional South East Asian country to an extremely cosmopolitan South East Asian country, to marginal peoples and persons of colour in various parts of North America, to vloggers in the Anglophonic West, to investigating the material structures of microcelebrification with supporting interviews from emerging adults in a large, East Coast City in the US. Our panel also collectively presents interpretations and operations of microcelebrity across different social media platforms including Blogger, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and social forums.

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