PRIVACY FOR PROFIT: COMMODIFYING PRIVACY IN LIFESTYLE BLOGGING

Crystal Abidin

Abstract


Commercial lifestyle bloggers in Singapore publicize their personal lives on blogs and social media, using their lifestyles as a vehicle to advertise goods and services. In this paper, I look at young Singaporean women bloggers in the ‘lifestyle’ genre who engage with readers by performing a blog ‘persona’ (Abidin & Thompson 2012) that is created for their business, and distinct from their real identities1. This persona is premised upon sharing selected aspects of their lives that are usually personal and publically inaccessible. Therefore, privacy becomes a commodity that is manipulated and performed to advance their careers.


Through a processual analysis of how bloggers manipulate privacy throughout their careers, I analyze progress from lesser-known ‘low-status’ bloggers to well-known ‘high- status’ bloggers. At low-status, privacy is thought as a necessary sacrifice for career growth until it is distinguished as ‘persona’ privacy and ‘real identity’ privacy. At mid- status, persona privacy is a calibrated performance to increase readership. At high- status, all privacy becomes a privilege with intrinsic value as it entices readers.


The data was collected during anthropological fieldwork between December 2011 and June 2013. Bloggers were interviewed in person, and their blog and social media enterprises observed. I also used a blog and various social media platforms to interact with bloggers, and gathered with them regularly in person. This paper, however, focuses only on blogs and analyzes notions of privacy specific to these informants. Pseudonyms are used.


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