Researching microcelebrity: Methods, access and labour

By Jonathan Mavroudis, Esther Milne


The term “microcelebrity” describes a broad range of practices, platforms and social relations that includes but is not limited to the increasing significance of public performance in everyday life, the monetisation of social media and the widening scope of what constitutes celebrity culture. While contemporary research on microcelebrity has introduced important ways of discussing the cultural impact of these new forms of visibility, the methodological focus has generally been on discourse analysis and social media analytics. In response, this paper reports on the early stages of a research project which involves interviewing microcelebrities living in Los Angeles about their profile creation on Instagram and YouTube. We argue there are significant issues at play in relation to gaining access to the interview subjects. The paper outlines the methods used and explores how the issue of access is negotiated by the interview subjects and the researcher. Since one of the authors, Jonathan Mavroudis, himself identifies as a microcelebrity with over 25,000 followers on Instagram he is in a unique position to interview these people. This high level of access to a specific cohort of microcelebrities has not been easy to gain for many academic researchers. Jonathan’s microcelebrity status opens up the possibility of conducting autoethnographic research and this is framed as a discussion of relational ethics. Although the primary focus of the paper is on method we also want to discuss early suggestive themes arising from the data including the obligations felt by these microcelebrities to enact a particular mode of identity and how this is experienced as labour. We highlight these initial topics in order to bring context to the discussion of method. Access enables and constrains certain forms of research to occur and in so doing raises questions of trust and friendship. With only 3 interviews conducted to date this is not, of course, representative of all microcelebrities. However it can function as a snapshot of early findings that we hope will inform future research methods and conceptual debates. The paper concludes with some suggestions for future directions of the field more generally.

Source: First Monday (7/4/16).

Election Escapism: Fan Fiction For The 2016 Candidates

An excerpt from an alternate universe where Bernie Sanders runs for president of the 8th grade at the fictional USA Middle School and encounters a new student and rival named Donald Trump:

“What could any of that possibly mean … Who was this strange, wealthy, balding boy? Bernie collapsed to his knees in despair. If Trump made a meaningless yet awe-inspiring speech like that in the election, he wouldn’t even need his mountains of cash. The presidency would be his.

Visions of a Trump-controlled class overcame him. Overpriced textbooks, expensive student loans, walls closing their classroom off from the rest of the school … A tear dropped out of Bernie’s eye. Just as the thought that he should give up on his campaign entered his mind, Bernie heard a voice.”

NPR continues, ‘In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster. “I think to some extent it’s an opportunity to act out alternate realities,” said Amber Davisson, an assistant professor of communications at Keene State College. “A lot of the fan fiction I’ve studied seems to be people asking themselves, ‘What if we did this conversation a little bit differently?’ They’re playing with various scenarios to see what works.”‘

Source: NPR (7/2/16).

Moral Rights for Musicians: A Primer

[M] oney isn’t everything. Elsewhere in the world, creators may enjoy a separate set of rights known as “moral rights.” The term comes from the French language and might actually be better translated as “personality rights”; this set of rights ensures that artists are able to protect their reputation by ensuring that they receive attribution when their work is used and that they can object to uses that they see as harmful to their name … Moral rights are a major focal point of copyright law reform in the United States right now. However, while moral rights are common in most of the world, their limited application in the United States means that many there are not familiar with them.

To those ends, the following primer: “Moral Rights for Musicians” by Jonathan Baily of Future of Music Coalition (FMC).

The Sinister History of the Belle and Sebastian Email List

But that doesn’t come close to describing the breadth of material that has accumulated in The Belle and Sebastian Email Mailing List over the past 20 years, resulting in what resembles a rough draft of a massive novel in which the characters are all startlingly alive, even if the plot remains discursive. The notion of a fan email list also doesn’t capture just how frequently, eloquently, and hilariously the emails depart from the topic of Belle and Sebastian completely, the band becoming the thinnest of tissues, more of an inspirational sensibility, connecting an altogether different kind of internet community.

A typical email would begin by discussing how “all this talk of Czech weather and soft-core pornography has inspired me to speak up and introduce myself”; or how someone has “a bellyful of wine and passiflora” and “still can’t sleep”; or how another gets “mocked for having Nietzsche under my bed not a book the actual german philosopher.” Actual friendships formed through the list; one former list member, Joe Brooker, told me that he “came to meet people who made music, and thus … ended up making records and playing live as a direct result of all this.” And after a while everyone clearly knew everyone else, to the point where one man told the list that he was “ponder[ing] the idea of a Sinister retirement village, an everlasting bowlie weekender/perpetuality-er.”


Via The New Republic. More–>

Poor Lonely Computer: Prince’s Misunderstood Relationship With The Internet

There are probably two main reasons for the cellphone ban at Paisley Park. First is an attempt to preserve the purity of the live music experience, to encourage people to watch and absorb the show rather than their screens. Apart from a woman who used her phone flashlight to look for something she’d dropped, earning a stern word from an alert member of staff, everyone seemed to respect the rules. At one point, while he scrolled through his iPad, deciding what to play next, Prince playfully asked why everyone was looking at him. Later, I could only find a single, blurry image from the show on social media.

The other reason is Prince’s fierce commitment to protection of copyright. He does not take kindly to unauthorized recordings and images. There is surprisingly little to be found in places like YouTube. What does exist is usually unauthorized and only survives for as long as it takes to issue a takedown notice. Which Prince, or whoever he’s paying to handle this task, does with great regularity. There is plenty of Prince material on non-U.S. video sites, which are harder to deal with under American law.


Via NPR. More –>

Benji Rogers and Imogen Heap: building the music blockchain

“Of all the places you might attend an event on “Fair-Trade Music, Virtual Reality and The Blockchain”, the headquarters of British music-industry body BPI is one of the more surprising.

Aren’t its most powerful members – the three major labels – exactly the kind of companies who have most to lose from an all-new, uber-transparent system of tracking music rights and paying for usage?

Maybe. Which is certainly one reason for being curious about how such a system would work. But the early evangelists for such a system – notably PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers, argue that the blockchain would enhance the businesses of the BPI’s members, rather than destroy them.

That’s why the BPI invited Rogers in on a windy Monday evening for the first in a planned series of “thought-leadership events” tackling big topics and new technologies.

He was joined by musician Imogen Heap, who’s also been digging into blockchain technology in recent months from an artist’s perspective. For an hour and a half, they explained what they’ve been doing, what they’d like to do next, and fielded questions from the audience about the potential challenges.”

More –>

How the phonograph changed music forever

Artists fight over digital music too. Many say it impoverishes them, as the relatively fat royalties of radio and CD give way to laughably tiny micropayments from streaming companies, where a band might get mere thousandths of a penny from their label when a fan streams its song. Other artists disagree, arguing that giving away your music for free online makes it easier to build a global fan base avid for actually giving you money.

A confusing time, to be sure. But it’s certainly no more confusing than the upheaval that greeted a much older music technology: the phonograph. Back in the 19th century, it caused fights and joy too—as it forever transformed the face of music.

It’s almost hard to reconstruct how different music was before the phonograph. Back in the mid-1800s, if you wanted to hear a song, you had only one option: live. You listened while someone played it, or else you played it yourself.

That changed in 1877 when Thomas Edison unveiled his phonograph. It wasn’t the first such device to record and play back audio, but it was the first generally reliable one: scratchy and nearly inaudible by modern standards, but it worked. Edison envisioned a welter of uses, including for business, “to make Dolls speak sing cry” or to record “the last words of dying persons.” But in 1878 he made a prediction: “The phonograph will undoubtedly be liberally devoted to music.”

Source: Smithsonian