New Media Communities

The Space Without Borders

The digital world is no locus of conviviality. When thinking of the potential of the Internet as a global space, the fallacy of conviviality is often enacted. The last 20 years, particularly after the expansion of social media platforms in the early 2000s, started to cement the perception of hyper-connectivity. Hyper-connectivity, in what could transcend socio-cultural markers, was seen as exemplary of Internet’s capabilities for improvement of 21st century societies. Lisa Nakamura, already argued against this idea of digital utopia and has proven in several of her works that national borders, racial systems and sexual normativity, as identity categories, are very much present online. This utopia, as a fallacy, presented itself in the duality of, on the one hand, the view of the Internet as not only stripped from identity categories but also as an space separated from and unmediated by the offline context; and in the imagination of the incarnation of Haraway’s cyborg in contemporary Internet users. A more functional perspective, however, is to think of the Internet as a liminal space between the offline context and the need for superation. In this liminality social categories and conditions are reinterpreted within the discourses and practices of the communities online. That means that categories as race or sexuality are still present but in forms that serve better Internet users. The purpose of this project touches on several interrelated processes: online borders, liminality and online identity. The aim here is to analyze how online community borders, liminal spaces and identity on the Internet work collaboratively into creating the conditions that perform sexual identity online. I want to start with the idea of diffused borders between analog and virtual realities. I will argue that they do not exist on the side or opposed to one another, but that that they continually communicate and construct each other. Particularly, I will be interested in the formation of the identity of fans through the work of @perseopy in Anti-heroe JK!. In this webcomic the identity of the fan and the identity of the queer commute into the practices of the fan within their community, in this case, that of imposing a non-normative identity upon BTS band members Jeon Jungkook and Park Jimin. I will be drawing from Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities as well as Howard Rheingold work on online communities to construct this analysis. Within these communities, moreover, identity categories are re-signified and users agentively construct their personas. They still use the same markers of race, nationality or sexuality to present themselves, but within the nuance of their activity online and what serves best the purpose of their Internet activities. I draw from Judith Butler’s work on performativity as well as post-humanist theory (primarily Hayles, Haraway and Sedgwick) into understanding the connection of the online hidden body and the identity performativity into constructing online identities.

Miren Antón (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

The Revolution Will Be Spotified

This paper analyzes the way musicians and genres of music are used as rhetorically effective modes of resistance during the current political and social climate in the West to break down barriers culturally and break through systems of power. I argue that not only are artists using their music to spread messages of resistance to their audiences, but musicians implement specific rhetorical strategies in the spaces and genres available to them. I will take an interdisciplinary approach that combines cultural rhetorics, popular culture studies, communication studies, and ethnomusicology to investigate the way musicians send messages of resistance to different audiences and listeners. First, I will use Huckin, Andrus, and Clary-Lemon’s concept of critical discourse analysis to analyze the way music lyrics convey meaning and cue the audience to certain resistant messages in different ways. Second, Royster and Kirsch’s concept of social circulation will be utilized to tap into the ways technology and online social spaces are interrogated as complex rhetorical spaces that are multidimensional and add new levels of activism for musicians. Through these approaches I will argue that music is not simply sound or a component of popular culture. Music is John Blacking’s “humanly organized sound” due to its ability to respond to cultures and create and fuel resistance. This paper examines the interplay between song lyrics, rhetorical concepts, like kairos and visual rhetoric, and the way musicians use social media, plus streaming services like Spotify, to create and circulate messages of resistance through popular music. I will focus on four mainstream genres, pop, rap and hip-hop, rock and alternative, and country to reveal how artists in these genres use the rhetorical strategies available in the genre to reach their audience, while also navigating the power systems and structures at play. Music does not simply move from the musician to listeners anymore. Instead, the continuous feedback loop through social media, popular culture, and digital music services like Spotify create a conversation that is continuous and ongoing between musicians and listeners. The way these conversations are carried out in the 21st Century break down barriers constructed in the music industry and allow musicians to be even more resistant than in the past thanks in part to the use of new technologies. The production and circulation of music in online spaces is important because of the way meaning is interpreted, distributed, and shared in these spaces and I aim to reveal how. This paper offers examples of contemporary artists like Muse, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Childish Gambino, Carrie Underwood, and Hayley Kiyoko as artists using their music to break down barriers and resist the spaces that historically have confined them. Due to technology and the way music can act as a mode of resistance in the 21st Century, especially in politically tense moments, I argue revolutions are not only televised, but Spotified.

Triauna Carey (Bowling Green State University)

Exploring Black Female Nerd Networks through Digital Storytelling

Blogs and podcasts are accessible tools that produce cultural and technical capital, which cross communities and generations. Knowing the impact of blogging and podcast is on the rise, it is important that we investigate specific sites that use these tools to promote their messages and narratives. Black women’s use of blogs and podcasts allows the opportunity to center their lived experiences as a form of expertise. By uplifting marginalized voices, engaging in cultural criticism, and leading calls for action, these new media tools create an opportunity for Black women to incorporate a Black feminist and Afrofuturist practice. Additionally, other communities and networks can collaborate and form additional alliances that address their needs in new and innovative ways. For this project I seek to examine four sites, The Blerd Gurl, Nerds of Prey, Black Girl Nerds, and You Had Me at Black each of which cater to the representation of Black women in the nerd community and popular culture as a whole. Many of these women are wearing a “digital cape” so as to elevate their voices which are often left out of traditional print and broadcast journalism. With an emphasis on geek and nerd culture primarily for Black women these Black nerd networks, as described by Black Girl Nerd creator Jamie Broadnax, are places for Black women with “various eccentricities to express themselves freely and embrace who they are.” As safe spaces that showcase, interrogate, and celebrate the many facets of geek and nerd culture for Black women, many of these platforms encourages their followers to embrace their own identities, while also filling the gaps of popular and mainstream culture. The above sites in question also help close the gap that is the “digital divide” with the incorporation of race and gender. Thus, this research project transcends several academic disciplinary and can be defined as an academic/media community project. First, it will be an important contribution to examining the representation and complexities of online Black female nerd networks characters within the study popular culture, which has been understudied. Second, this research project also proposes a futuristic aspect discussing the transformative properties of these new media tools being used by Black women. I propose that these tools not only give voice to Black women issues and achievements but create various communities and networks that aid in understanding being different, promote self-care and pursuing a passion. Finally, this project lends itself in a growing digital humanities/media forum, which incorporates various digital and social media structures, such as Video blogs, Tumblr blog posts, and podcasts. As a multi-format public project that offers several ways of constructing knowledge: it becomes an academic and community archive, an outlet for building future collaborations/networks with the academy and the outside community, and a venue for participatory engagement.

Grace Gipson (University of Rochester)