Self-Representation in Digital Culture

The next seminar in our series takes place on Wednesday 2nd November 2016, 3-5pm, 2.90 Armstrong Building, Newcastle University

Self-Representation in Digital Culture

For this seminar, we are delighted to welcome:
  • Dr Debbie Ging (Dublin City University) ‘I’m not starving myself, I’m perfecting my emptiness’: an analysis of pro-ana and thinspiration image sharing practices on Instagram.’
  • Dr Gareth Longstaff (Newcastle University) ‘Let’s Take a Selfie: Self-Representation, Pornographication and Impersonal Narcissism online.’

The seminar is free, and is open to all interested in attending.

Dr Debbie Ging (Dublin City University): ”I’m not starving myself, I’m perfecting my emptiness’: an analysis of pro-ana and thinspiration image sharing practices on Instagram.’

Since the pro-anorexia phenomenon, also referred to as pro-ana or simply ana, began to emerge on the internet in the early 1990s, there has been a growing body of academic work on pro-ana communities online. Underpinned by diverse and often conflicting disciplinary perspectives, most of this work focuses on websites and blogs. In recent years, however, the pro-ana ‘movement’ has migrated onto social media platforms. When, in 2012, both Tumblr and Pinterest imposed a ban to restrict pro-ana sharing, many pro-anas turned their attention to Instagram, a strongly visual application that was originally designed for editing and sharing photos. There is, however, a dearth of research, particularly gender-aware research, on pro-ana practices and discourses in the context of newer mobile social platforms such as Instagram. Using a dataset of 7,560 images, this study explores pro-anorexia and thinspiration image sharing practices on Instagram. It asks whether the shift from websites and blogs to this social media platform has entailed significant changes in terms of how the pro-ana community communicates and discursively constructs itself. We conclude that memes and the memetic nature of image sharing as well as the more peripherally governed, particpatory nature of Instagram impact upon pro-ana communicative practices in new ways that are worthy of feminist scholarly attention.
Dr Gareth Longstaff (Newcastle University): ‘Bodies that Stutter’ – Impersonal Desires, Jouissance and the queer politics of the selfie

Using the original concept of ‘Bodies that Stutter’ this paper will focus on how post-queer practices of self-representation on digital and networked media (captured in the practice of the sexually explicit ‘selfie’) frame a rhetoric of desire that reconsiders queer identity and body politics through processes of post-queer identification and those queer bodies that have previously ‘mattered’ (Butler, 1993) and ‘muttered’ (Dean, 2000). Using the work of Jacques Lacan to reposition Tim Deans and Judith Butler concepts of bodies that matter and bodies that mutter this post-queer body that stutters is reflective of the hesitancy, frustration, exhilaration, and repetition that it subversively contains, as well as remaining vulnerable to metonymic contiguity and transposition of a symbolically normative language it cannot control. ‘Bodies that Stutter’ are also the bodies that attempt to express a powerful jouissance through a language of the ‘personal’ and the metaphorical signifier. Yet, unlike Imaginary bodies that rely upon ego, the ‘Bodies that Stutter’ are subject to an impersonal Other that underpins how their desire is expressed metonymically – through this process they symbolically-stutter. A lot like desire, stuttering is reliant upon stops and starts, structure and chaos, satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It is also something that cannot be contained or applied to one body above another or indeed one identity and/or identity type. This paper uses the contextual focus of the sexually explicit selfie and its ubiquity among gay men on the website tumblr to suggest that bodies that stutter form a practice of ‘symbolic stuttering’ that might well occur in multiple, ambiguous, and oblique ways.

The format will be 30 minutes for each paper, followed by a discussion chaired by Dr Clifton Evers. We will have tea, coffee and something sweet at 3pm, followed by a drinks reception at 4.30pm.