It’s been a hoot, a smash, a blast! Three rich, inspiring, diverse, innovative, and fun days. Thank you keynote speakers, presenters, reviewers, chairs, student helpers, sponsors and organizers. We hope to see you all again in 2018!
Fame, Fortune and Fifty Thousand Followers: Micro-Celebrity and Social Media
Alice E. Marwick, McGannon Communication Research Center / Fordham University
In a networked time when social media users are encouraged to live public lives, what does it mean to be famous? I explore the experiences of micro-celebrities, including influencers, the “Instafamous,” YouTubers, and Vine stars to examine fame as a continuum. Rather than thinking of celebrity as something one is, social media makes it possible for celebrity to be something one does. But while actors, pop stars, athletes, and politicians have the apparatus of fame—managers, publicists, bodyguards and, usually, high salaries—those famous online often lack such protections. As a result, online fame is more precarious and difficult to navigate than its offline counterpart. Analyzing micro-celebrity calls into question the impact of one aspect of fame, attention, on those without the financial and logistical support that celebrity usually brings. Micro-celebrity as practiced by young Tumblr or YouTube stars may be considered somewhat of a niche practice, but its dynamics are increasingly a part of everyday life. The ability to view oneself as a celebrity, attract attention, and manage an audience, regardless of the potential downsides, may become a necessary skill for success in a variety of professions. In this talk, I use ethnographic data to illuminate how celebrity exists as a subject position, why it appeals to so many young people, and how different micro-celebrity practitioners navigate the challenges and complications of online fame.
State lies, true romance and political celebrity: the new French ménage à trois
Ginette Vincendeau, King’s College London, email@example.com
Celebrity culture came late to France but grew with a vengeance under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012), the first French ‘téléprésident’ (Jost 2008). Events have since taken a more spectacular turn with the politico-amorous imbroglio surrounding the self-proclaimed ‘normal’ President François Hollande, elected in 2012. Hollande left the mother of his four children, Ségolène Royal – herself a former presidential candidate – for the journalist Valérie Trierweiler, who became the first unmarried French ‘First Lady’. In January 2014, paparazzi photographs published in Closer revealed Hollande’s liaison with actress-producer Julie Gayet. In the aftermath, Hollande broke with Trierweiler, whose subsequent best-selling revenge memoir, Thank You for This Moment (2014), gripped the nation. Further echoing a vaudeville farce, Hollande currently presides over a government that has Royal as ecology minister, while pursuing his semi-official liaison with Gayet (who rejects the role of ‘First Lady’).
Beyond illustrating the media scrutiny to which political figures are subjected in today’s celebrity culture, the Hollande-Gayet-Royal trio raises important questions regarding political (in)sincerity, the porous borders between private life and public office and the changing status of marriage and motherhood in France (a burning political issue as Hollande legalized same-sex marriage). This presentation also investigates the complex relationship between celebrity culture, state policy and cultural funding in France, notably for the cinema, given Gayet’s dual identity as film professional and presidential companion.
After some minor changes, we have now established the final conference programme! Please follow the link above and check out the rich variety of panels and presentations. And also check out the abstract of our third key note speaker, David Giles, below!
Social media and the changing audience-celebrity relationship
David Giles, University of Winchester, UK
We are only midway through the second decade of the new century, yet in the brief period since 2000 technological change has already transformed the nature of celebrity and the relationship between celebrities and their audiences. In this talk I will discuss the impact of social media on traditional celebrity-audience relationships, which have long been characterised as ‘parasocial’ due to their one-sided nature. However, the affordances of Twitter and other social media allow direct communication between stars and audiences which has had a profound effect on both. I will focus in particular on the contrast between established celebrities, many of whom have had a prickly relationship with social media (even early adopters like Stephen Fry) with that of emerging celebrities, for whom social media are essential components of the publicity machinery. I will also look at the new genres of celebrity that have been made possible through digital culture, notably YouTube celebrities. Initially described as ‘micro-celebrities’, there is little doubt that the likes of PewDiePie and must now be considered bona fide celebrities, complete with sell-out tours, bookstore mobbings and Tussauds waxwork figures. What is it about YouTubers that makes them so popular with their audiences, and what implications does the phenomenon have for the study of celebrity and fandom more generally?
Accidental and anti-celebrities
Jo Littler, City University London, UK
‘We are not doing celebrity’ announced Jeremy Corbyn, just before being voted in as the surprise new leader of Britain’s Labour party in 2015. ‘There is a thirst for something more communal, more participative’. Of course, even by the time he had uttered the sentence, Corbyn himself was hurtling further upwards into the celebrity stratosphere. For this is an era of compulsory individualisation: when flexible labour is constantly required to pay neurotic levels of attention to self-branding, when we as academics have to ‘celebrify’ ourselves, when socially mediated micro-celebrity is the norm. Engaging in some measure of celebrification amidst these relentlessly individualising logics of neoliberal culture is hard to avoid, particularly for those becoming leaders of a political party.
Yet Corbyn’s statement undoubtably gestures toward a widespread current of feeling that the top-down technocratic nature of post-democracy, and the celebrity lifeblood making it possible, are unjust and unsustainable. It is also a statement that can be positioned within a much longer history of politicians and activists attempting to bypass the power dynamics of individualised celebrity, one that in recent decades includes the Zapatistas, Pussy Riot and Occupy’s use of Guy Fawkes masks.
This paper proposes that there is a spectrum of anti-celebrity: from the accidental celebrity, through the bored-of-celebrity, to the non-engaged and the celebrity-refusnik. In doing so it asks: what are the zones of possibility, the strategies beyond neoliberal celebrity individualisation, at both macro and micro levels? Are we fantasists to think we can escape its logic — and what elements are worth hanging on to? Might we be entering a post-celebrity era?
On June 29, the Celebrity Studies Conference Dinner will take place at the excellent Restaurant Harkema at the Nes, right in the historic city center of Amsterdam. We are very excited that we were able to book this very popular restaurant! The conference dinner includes a three-course menu and red/white wine or non-alcoholic beverages. Vegetarian/vegan menus are an option too.
Want to join us at Harkema? You can sign up through the registration site by buying the conference dinner pass. If you have already registered for the conference but not for the dinner, don’t worry! You can sign in for the dinner separately until April 18. For a first impression of Harkema, have a look at their site – at the images below.
Hope to see you there!
With one week left before the early bird deadline expires (March 18), we now start with publishing the abstracts for our conference key notes over the next couple of weeks. First up: Joke Hermes, who invites us to think about the everyday media use of celebrities in relation to our main conference topic, ‘authenticating celebrity’.
Excited yet? We are! #celebstudies #AmsterdamCelebrityCity2016 #authenticatingcelebrity
Why we need celebrities
Joke Hermes, U. of Amsterdam and Inholland University
“We live in cynical times. Two and a half decades of media literacy education has taught us not to trust anything we see, read or hear; neo-liberal governance tells us to be entrepreneurs of the self; the vast spread of control culture needs outcome to be guaranteed before a project may start: what Habermas called the colonization of the lifeworld appears to be near completion. Money and power define who we are and what we do to a much greater extent than is comfortable. Celebrity culture can be understood as both lifeworld colonization’s effect and as its foil. Celebrity culture allows us to study individuals that are both extraordinary and exemplary. Celebrity culture makes room for authenticity and sincerity. It reclaims media culture for everyday use. Whether it is successful in doing so is hard to say and perhaps is a moot point. The value of the everyday media ‘use’ of celebrities and celebrity culture is in the doing rather than in the results. A report on ‘authenticating celebrity’ from the perspective of audiences.”