Sunday, July 12, 2020

What about Persona Studies?

I know, I know: I should have posted about this much earlier.

Last year, our book Persona Studies: An Introduction was finally published.  Along with my co-authors, Kim Barbour and Chris Moore, I was so pleased with what we had achieved.  This work defines the emergence of an important field of study.  Its investigation of how we curate our presentation of our public identity helps us understand the new constellations of our "comportment" of our selves in online culture.

The publishers, Wiley Blackwell, were also incredibly wonderful at capturing our cover image: these kinds of images are designed  to embody (an interesting word that I have used extensively in previous research...) the book. As you can see, we wanted to link through an almost monumental/ancient face that public displays of the self is a part of the human condition and has many historical precedents. Equally - as you can see in the left hand side of the image - we wanted to identify in this work the quite complex transformation of our persona as we move collectively and pandemically into and through online culture. The screen and the pointing finger of a hand capture our strategies of reconstruction on social media platforms: in our texting, in our liking, in our meme-enhancing/sharing we negotiate a version of ourselves. It also captures the transformation - algorithmic, monitoring, sensing - that the "intercommunication industries" of online culture  work very hard at producing and fabricating.

Perhaps the key insight in our research on persona is this: persona is neither collective nor individual but the way in which the individual negotiates their move into a collective spaces.  The collective spaces of online culture are new: but they are partially informed from this historical path of negotiation that defines the human condition.  

We explore the theoretical dimensions of persona studies and then map them into case studies.  And one of the positive features of the book is its development of concepts and keywords for scholars to expand on this and move it even further.  

The great news is that this expansion of scholarship has already been advancing quite dramatically.  The first major International Persona Studies Conference was hosted by Newcastle University (UK) and its key researcher Dr. Bethany Usher in late June 2019.  It was an absolutely fascinating three days and an opportunity to see the new directions persona studies research is developing in the minds of the many presenters and participants.

There is much more to report about persona studies, but I will stop with a new meme that I am working on developing -  public personality systems. I will get into that more in the coming weeks and how it might be interesting and a way to piece our expanding international research in persona studies even further....

Pandemic thinking

Throughout the world and throughout 2020, humanity has been dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic.  The cultural, political, social, environment and economic implications of the pandemic have been profound.

It is far from realisable to pull together this thinking. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to at least identify what thoughts and ideas are emerging from this transformed world.

In late April, we held an international seminar workshop through our Global Digital Publics Network that tried to work through one way to understand how online culture is also transforming and mutating - possibly not like a virus, but nonetheless, in a manner that is fascinating to observe and important to talk through.

Of course, this seminar workshop was done virtually as a Webinar.  Along with Professors Vian Bakir and Andrew McStay from the Bangor University,  we presented thematically on:

The webinar was held on the 21st of April - relatively speaking early in the Pandemic - and each of us worked through how emotion is at play online: 

  • How we are curating ourselves differently;
  • How governments are observing our predispositions and tailoring their forms of communication; and
  • How we are working in an"empathic media" world of monitoring algorithmically
As well as the presentation Prezi which has all our slides compiled, we also moved our Zoom event and posted it on myYouTube channel: it gives you a chance to see and hear each of us, but also hear the questions and comments between each presentation.

On its own, it does identify a further form of "research" negotiation emerging from the pandemic.  And, for me at least - as someone who has used the word "pandemic" regularly and often to describe our  pervasive transformation of our public and private presentation of the self through online culture - it allowed me to think through how this particular virus is shifting our identities across and through cultures.

There are lots of themes explored in the webinar. Take a look - and  pass on what you think similarly and differently from what we have presented.  We are hoping to build further research on online mediated emotion and I will endeavour to keep you updated as this research and project advances.

Next post:  What about Persona Studies?


Thursday, April 25, 2019


About 4 years ago, while writing a chapter for our co-edited book entitled Contemporary Publics, I began using a new term to help explain the decomposition of the public sphere and its now new integration of dimensions of something private that is simultaneously also publicly shared and valued: privlic. It is an exceptionally ugly word; but also highly useful in its capacity to both describe both the new tensions between the public and private that are emerging and advancing on social media  and  our new comfortability with a different constellation of our way of presenting ourselves. In this effort to summarize 2018 and my connection to it in my research and writing, I think privlic somehow embodies a great deal and so it has become my title for this year's attempt at making sense of what last year - and really it continues - was.
Throughout 2018, I presented my work in some interesting and valuable locales as I began exploring this new privlic culture.  Private as a concept blends the idea of something personal and not-as-revealed with something also conceptualized as commercial in its use in "private" enterprise and "private" industry. Public is revealing and exposing of the self but also blends the notion of something that is constituted as a formation of collective identity and shared meaning.  Together, they form a new sense and sensibility that informs our current navigation of online culture and its apparent social media pathways.

At the University of Copenhagen in May of 2018, I had the privilege of being the Keynote Speaker at “The Media Persona in Digital Media Culture” Conference/Seminar.  My talk was entitled The Registers of Contemporary Persona, with the long subtitle of  Affect, Emotion, Intimacy, Gesture and the cultural implications of the Pandemic Mediatized Self.  My intention was to explore the movement of emotion through the public self and what emerged was  something that became a key imagistic slide for future presentations:

In that slide, I identified the registers of our online persona and its associated dimensions; but mediating these things I worked to highlight the New Privlic Space and identified the platform cultures that we inhabited across the planet.  Embedded in that slide was something I had generated from viewing the interesting and live-presence of the privlic space of Bryant Park that I visited in New York City in 2017.  Throughout the year,  I  integrated this idea of a privlic space into my work and it informed virtually some aspect of all my future presentations.

These presentations spanned a number of professional, political and cultural domains and perhaps further identifies the value of privlic and more centrally persona studies for the understanding of the contemporary moment. 
At the University of Zurich, in a related presentation organized by Dr Sandra Mayer, I explored the public transcription of the self as we remake ourselves for different online and offline strategic purposes.  Simultaneously, online culture through its massive collection of data remakes us into algorithmically constructed public entities. But this formation of a public self  must be thought of as not exclusively contemporary even though our contemporary construction of public identity is producing a differentiated constitution of public and private.

At Oxford University's Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, I worked through the idea of "field migration" as public individuals move from one site of visibility into something that is more aligned with another.  The talk, on May 14 2018, was part of a panel discussion on Literary Celebrity and Political Persona and my presentation was entitled The Formation of politicized public identity: political persona and field migration and investigated the movement of writers into the political realm and the forms of personas that these transformed public individuals produced and conveyed to a wider public. In a follow-on guest public lecture at the University of Siena where I was hosted by Professor Gianni Guastella and the Department of Social, Political and Cognitive Sciences, I presented Celebrity/ Politics/New Media: The Implications of Pandemic Persona.  The work uncovered the cross-over relationship of pandemic persona in the contemporary moment through its online formation. It was able to discern and frame the current moment of political instability derived from the transforming individual and collective configurations privileged in our era of social mediation and privlic culture. Some of its research built from my 2016 book for University of Minnesota Press entitled Celebrity Persona Pandemic.  This particular reading of the political linked the concept of fame and used the idea of "pandemic" to explain the billions who now organise a mediatized identity through their online portrayal of selves.  As with the other presentations of 2018, privlic still figured into the description of this new politics and this new formation of persona on social media.  The research and thinking led to the publication in very early 2019 of the similarly titled major work: Celebrity, Politics and New Media: An Essay on the Implications of Pandemic Fame and Persona that was published in the International 
Journal of  Politics, Culture, and Society. The material of that article attempts 

to make sense of  apparently transformative events such as Trump's election and Brexit and linking those moments to a wider form of disconnection between our systems political and cultural representation and our emerging systems of presentational media and its reformation of collective, individual and public presentation.  The article goes much further than these short paragraphs; but feel free to take a look at its content in richer detail here.                                                                             
My own exploration of our new turbulence where legacy media and legacy representational politics struggles to capture and embody audiences and citizenry was advanced with further nuances in other 2018 presentations that I will try to pull together here. At the 4th International Celebrity Studies Conference at the University of Rome, La Sapienza in June 2018, I developed some of these ideas in different directions. Thematically, the conference was focused on the Desecration of Celebrity.  I worked through how the iconic images/statues and monuments of our contemporary era were also falling into a new instability.  I coined the term denouemonument to further express this perhaps long term refocus of contemporary cultures as they detach from those emblems that seemed both powerful, normal and naturalized in their influence. The title of my talk was Denouemonument: Fame, Celebrity and the Monumental Instability of Contemporary Culture
Temporal and spatial relations that have often been sedimented into a culture through monuments are just not as stable as they once 
were. Not that my last two major presentations matched these 
previous moves into political culture, they nonetheless were very much focused on instability.  In two Keynote Addresses at the
4th Bi-annual International Conference in Academic and Professional Communication (ICAPC), from the  9th to 11th of July 2018 at the University of Botswana in  Gaborone, Botswana,  I worked on how these larger transformations of presentation,      privlic,  and persona's reconfiguration of public identity played in the contemporary moment. In a study of the transformation of professions, my talk entitled The New Professional Persona: Instability in the online transformation of the medical, legal and academic professions isolated on the emerging instability that is reshaping our conceptualization of the power and value of professions.  This was actually preceded by my first Keynote, Truth, Trust, Verification and Validation in Professional/Academic Communication and Writing: the challenges of the gestural/emotive styles of online/social media communication, that dealt with the specific transformation of academic communication where online culture and its different structure of value and information flows is challenging our university cultures.  An article derived from this presentation was published in the Lonaka Journal of Teaching and Learning that delves further into this major historical transformation of our systems of knowledge and verification.

I began this description of my thinking in 2018 with the concept of privlic. Although I have developed this term in a number of locations, it was across this year that I both realised its essential value at understanding our new public and privatised culture and our new formation of public identity that navigates in this space. I doubt whether my neologism will enter dictionaries immediately; but I do hope it is useful to others and their thinking about how our contemporary world and its structures related to our own formation of identity and our sense of a different configuration of "space" and place is being enacted and reconfigured through our relationships/negotiations twith online culture.  There is much more to explore related to privlic and that intersects with some of my key publications that are just appearing in 2019. My next post will engage further into our contemporary privlic space and introduce  some of my most recent articles, my new research and my major new co-authored book entitled Persona Studies: An Introduction. Feel free to pass on your thoughts.

Monday, February 26, 2018

2017: The Year of Fame... and its Consequences - PART 2

Communication, information and knowledge have an interesting and coloured relationship and history. And in the Year of Fame - or perhaps the year that fame overwhelmed other formations and hierarchies of value - this relationship among communication, information and knowledge became in the oddest paradox visibly obscured. In this 2nd Part of my excursus on "2017: The Year of Fame and its Consequences" (and if you have jumped to this Part 2 and want to quickly read Part 1 first, just click here to go back to it) that explores the ramifications of contemporary fame through the lens of my own thoughts and resultant writing and presentations.

How does the relationship between communication, information and knowledge become visibly obscured?  In Part One, I referred to the odd political culture embodied by Trump and others.  In understanding our increasingly online-oriented patterns of communication, what has arisen is a new truism - fake news or to use Oxford Dictionary's 2016 word of the year "post-truth".  To call fake news a truism is an interesting word-choice as competing cultural interests have allowed a pervasive  culture of opinion and posturing. Even the 2017 word of the year from Oxford implies a further blending of emotion, personal-to-collective appeal, and transformative generational disruption: "youthquake".  

My efforts at making sense of this transformed and turbulent world with its billions socially connected through social media, with a surplus of information and communication through these same elaborated networks has led me to think of new terms to describe our individual and collective identity and the manners in which communicatively they are connected.  My new concepts and terms may not be listed Oxford's Word(s) of the Year, but I hope they come close to making some sort of sense of the contemporary moment and the transcultural and transnational instability.

At the core of my thinking is the implications of fame - the will-to-fame that circulates around and through our social media forms of communication. The inner-core, the concept that has helped me work through this fame complex is persona.  In my 2016 book, I associated pandemic with persona as I explored the pedagogical relations of how the public self of celebrity informed the public self of online culture. In 2017, I went further into the historical dimensions of fame and the way the contemporary forms of the mediatization of the self produced a way to read a transformed presentational regime.

Much of this work is building from my work with Dr Kim Barbour from Adelaide University and  Dr Chris Moore from the University of Wollongong. We have collaborated on many projects, not the least of which is the journal Persona Studies.; but we have been working on our future book entitled (not surprisingly) Persona Studies: Celebrity, Identity and the Transformation of the Public Self for Wiley (which should appear at the end of 2018, all going well) and one of our major presentations of 2017 at least tried to capture its value. At the Toronto/Ryerson University Social Media and Society Conference at the end of July 2017. I led the presentation of our ideas, while Kim and Chris presented virtually.  All of this occurred during my 2017 sabbatical when I was a visiting professor at the incredible Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver ( a collaborative Master's program across four universities - SFU, UBC, ECAD and BCITU - at type of collaboration almost unheard of in the rest of the world) and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) at Western University in London Canada.  In between my work at these two institutions, I had the good fortune of presenting "Why Persona Studies? The Value of the Persona Studies' Approach for Research into Online Identity and the Transformation of the Public Self" (a mouthful of a title, but I hope it explains things!!).  It worked through our three approaches through explaining key concepts such as VARP, Intercommunication, the way we define persona, its application for analysis and the online visualization/graphics research that we have also developed to map persona construction. The beauty of this presentation is both its graphics and the enduring videos of my co-presenters. You can wade your way through the value of persona studies and its exemplifications of its important through the analyses of the online self here

For a week in August, I explored my thinking further around online culture and persona as a visiting scholar at Microsoft Research - New England.  I also had the opportunity to present my work in a beautiful seminar with Summer Doctoral fellows and the key researchers in my area and part of the Social Media Collective: Nancy Baym (thank you for the invitation!) and Tarleton Gillespie and others. Not only was the presentation enriching for me, but I also had a chance to play with my ideas on their infamous "whiteboards" at  the Microsoft research office.  I very much enjoyed the quiet, the view and the intellectual exchanges.  At least in my short-term stay, it seemed an intellectual nirvana with its continuous possibilities of exchanges across a range of disciplines engaged in online culture. Although I feel comfortable posting this image of my whiteboard, I should confess that this will be the only whiteboard you will see from Microsoft Research - enjoy. All my ideas are contained on this whiteboard image...

Below: PDM  (aka me) presenting CUNY
 - Graduate School of Journalism - KeyNote address
Photo by (and thanks goes to): Andrew Mendelson, Ph.D.
Associate Dean and Professor
The research and work I integrated into my presentations helped further make sense of how fame was tranforming a diverse range of elements in  the  contemporary.  For instance, in a Key Note presentation at a conference at the Graduate School of Journalism in CUNY in New York City on the 1st of September, I integrated my past research into the uses made of "public intellectuals" across our news and media sphere.  The talk worked through how individualized presentations of the self became the pattern through which mediatization manifests itself in the era of social media.  Indeed, the presentation of the expert is a feature of podcasts, YouTube channels, and university-linked sites for the expression of both opinions and disciplinary expertise.  My talk entitled Pandemic Mediatized Identity: Professional Personas as Public Intellectuals for the CMCS  conference- "Bridging Gaps - where is the Critic in TV Journalism?" tried to capture the pandemic quality of mediatization and its historical migration in and through as well as now around journalism. Central to this presentation was the exigencies of what I call the "presentational media and cultural regime" now rising through our online culture and its transformation of the "representational media and cultural regime" very much connected to what we now call legacy media. I managed to present a variation of this presentation at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University on September 26th. I called it - naturally - Pandemic Mediatized Identity -2.

But, where I pushed my research into pandemic fame further was through a series of presentations I gave at Western, McGill, the Centre for Digital Media (CDM) in Vancouver and the University of British Columbia.  At Western FIMS, I put together the  Pandemic Fame and its Consequences presentation. It was here that I developed the term the "inattention economy"  (and it is in the subtitle of my talk) to capture the intermittent flows of contemporary communication via online sources and sharing. It is also where I began utilizing further the historical notions of fame into the contemporary.  Integrated into this thinking was an effort that I had developed earlier in a book I helped edit and write a few chapters called Contemporary Publics (2016): to understand the contemporary spaces of social media and our normalization and naturalization of its blending of private and public, we need to think of these spaces as "privlics". I understand this is an ugly neologism, but strangely useful.  Explore it further through looking through this presentation here

I attempted to test the historical dimensions of my research into the interrelation of Fame and Persona through presenting my work - via the generous invitation of the scholar Brian Cowan - at the Classics and History Department at McGill University on the 20th of September, first through a workshop entitled Persona Studies Workshop: Persona’s value for Understanding Celebrity Culture and then with greater intention through my public lecture Fame’s Histories: The (contested) value of fame’s historical translation, comparison, and application for understanding the particular turbulence of contemporary culture.

In Vancouver at the Centre for Digital Media (CDM),  I laboured to encapsulate the idea that we had moved to a generation of Word of Mouth culture. This shift would seem paradoxical: after all, the Internet and the Web has produced a surplus of information unseen in human history. And yet it appears that through competing interests, competing desires for forms of persona- visibility and an array of intercommunication industries which move this information for a variety of power/economic purposes, we have generated something that resembles the way in which rumour - fama - moved through ancient/classical cultures such as Rome.  The full title and link to the presentation is here - and once again my presentation title is long and lugubrious as its vies to capture the instability of information in the contemporary moment: The New Word of Mouth Culture: PandemicFame/Persona/Rumour/Reputation and the production of contemporary instability

Taking this a step further, I wrote and presented a talk for a fourth year University British Columbia Digital Media Class on the 30th of October that in its subtitle traverses the way in which persona studies has helped uncover the will-to-visibility in online culture and social media:  From Celebrity to Persona Studies: Making Sense of the Era of Digital Fame. Apart from trying to capture the movement through time with the Prezi's cover image of a pub/bar in the New York Times Square precinct which in its essence was blend of  Victorian famed imagery with contemporary styles of libation style and presentation.

The complexity of the intersection of these ideas around fame, communication, information, knowledge, rumour, reputation, visibility, the inattention economy, the new word "privlic",  and the new economic structure of the intercommunication industries has been both fascinating and overwhelming for me during 2017.  I think this research genuinely helps makes sense of our contemporary moment - its Brexit, Trump, Xi Jin Ping, Kim Jong-un, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the era of pandemic persona that elevates a certain form of public individuality that is shifting our notion of collective selves and belonging.  It needs researchers connected to politics to help explore the now visible traces of the breakdown of our systems of (political and cultural) representation.  I will be working to collaborate on the analysis of this culture instability drawing on my work on online persona and trying to further comprehend the individualized, mediatized fame pandemic which is producing a different system of connection.

I am very happy to hear what others think.  In my next post, I will convey some of the new directions I am pursuing in 2018 - all of them certainly derived from this year of Fame and its consequences. Also if you want to know about any of the background images of my presentations, I am also willing to share that they are generally my photos - of course like memes, photos are combination of what already exists and, in a material sense, made by someone else.... just another thought.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2017: The Year of Fame and its Consequences Part One

2017 was a challenging year. It seemed millions fed into the Trump Persona by pushing analytical articles, opinion, memes and satire around this new American President. His presence - as I developed with Neil Henderson in late 2016 - has helped distill the new form of politics that is emerging through our emerging system of  what could be effectively called  our new information/knowledge complex (to echo Eisenhower's effort at identifying our 'complexes').

Instability, turbulence, fake news, challenges to authority, and affronts to what many had believed were permanent institutions checkered our equally unstable public - if public could ever have again a collectively agreed-upon sense of what it entails - consciousness.  Somewhere in this melange is a transformed public personality system, something transformed by the pandemic drive to public presentation of the self via social media in all its platforms that has shifted our flows of information and our sense of collective selves.

We need some way to describe all this. Along with colleagues, I have been developing Persona Studies and trying to understand the online strategic formation of our identities as we share and network. But what I discovered in my research and thinking this year that a term that I used in a subtitle to my first book actually has provided me with an intellectual breakthrough for understanding our contemporary moment.

The term is Fame and, in its new formations in our contemporary world, we are experiencing a different iteration and are living with its consequences. I am indebted to the scholarship of Gianni Guastella and his brilliant book Word of Mouth  and its exploration of (and its subtitle) Fama and its personifications in Art and Literature from Ancient Rome to the Middle Ages.

I also had the opportunity this year to experiment and test this research direction with and among colleagues at universities and centres of research in different parts of the world. For half the year I was on sabbatical - what my university calls Academic Study Program or ASP.  Along with my annual connection to Central China Normal University (Huazhong University or 华中师范大学) in May as their distinguished visiting scholar and my regular collaborative work at my home Deakin University, I worked to advance these ideas that relate to fame and how the historical conceptualization of fame explains our contemporary world.

My first efforts at making sense of pandemic fame were interesting forays at the Central China Normal University (CCNU) and at the University of Nottingham - Ningbo Campus' School of International Communication were I gave some public lectures of note.  Housed in their School of Journalism and Communication at CCNU, I circulated around some of my ideas.  In one presentation, I presented in my usual Prezi format something entitled  "Fame and its Consequences: Fake News in the Era of New Media" where I advanced the ideas of the clear links between "fama" and its instability in the production of information and facts in antiquity resembled our facade of information riches where something resembling a rumour and word-of-mouth culture was resurfacing through our online culture.  Feel free to take a look here at the presentation and certainly tell me what you think of these nascent ideas.

In some ways, my presentation at the School of International Communication at the University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus was a way to play in this same space but make the direct implication-to-explication of the political shift we are living through, observing and sometimes hectoring - incoherently on occasion - almost daily for over a year.  The presentation's covering image - as you can see, a collage of a challenging group of international leaders who in various ways are transforming our models of conventional politics - is designed to push our thoughts away from some notion of a new populism and recognize that our structures of contemporary communication with their algorithms, with their push to a generalized will-to-fame is restructuring our relation and connection of the collective to the individual in foundational ways.  It is complex; but in its complexity it is linked once again to the consequences of fame and the forms of contemporary affective connections being circulated, shared and reformed in our new blended politico-cultural milieu.  The presentation's title, The New Political Persona and its relationship to the Breakdown of Legacy Media pinpoints  the way that our legacy media was instrumental in supporting a representational media and cultural regime. Our new digital and social media - organized in my terminology through the intercommunication industries - is heralding a presentational media and cultural regime:  this shift identifies the new politics, but does not produce a parallel institutional framework for those politics as spatial and even temporary boundaries that have informed our national and cultural identities are much more fluid.  The mistake many are making in analysing the contemporary moment is perceiving a new nationalism: this visible putsch across Europe and North America and beyond is more a reaction to collective - and individual - instability and connection. Future political patterns because of this visible, vocal and online "chant" of holding boundaries are more difficult to discern; but in a conjectural way, I would claim they are less connected to our legacy/representational political legacy of the nation-state and perhaps its associated formations of democracy.  The presentation is here if you would like to wade your way through my thinking  around media and the new political persona.

It is important to also understand this political transformation is not aligned to right or left politics. It is directly connected to the way that our forms of communication are producing different alliances, allegiances and relationships.  One of my presentations at CCNU  was trying to identify Obama's 2008 and 2012 election campaign's key developments in the organization of political communication that has served as a different form of legacy for our current culture.  Entitled, Obama and the New Politics: Social Media’s integration into Contemporary Political Campaigns and Advertising, my presentation worked through the way that the patterns of political promotion and user generated online  developments were key to the way that Obama built a political consensus that was successful. Take a further look here to see the presentation's particularities

Linked to this analysis of Obama was another public lecture I delivered at CCNU.  Over the last two decades there has been a great flurry of thought and publications concerning globalization. In a presentation entitled Globalization and Advertising: The Case History of Nike, I mapped the promotional relationships in producing the transnational production and distribution of Nike products over the last 40 years. The "shell" of Nike and its contemporary beauty is that it designs many material objects, but outsources their fabrication: Nike physically makes nothing. This has permitted a fascinating pathway for a product to attach to various monikers within various cultures through their emotive associations with sports and the individuals who embody them. Take a look at the Prezi presentation here.

I have to acknowledge that these last two presentations actually come from a longer arc of research, one that has been brewing, cultivating and leading to many drafts for more than 6 years.  Both are now chapters in what I hope will be a valuable book for others. With my co-author Joanne Morreale from Northeastern University, we just published (4 February 2018) Advertising and Promotional Culture: Case Histories with Palgrave-Macmillan. Through 11 case histories, we chart the last 170 years of advertising. Our goal: to use this closer analysis to identify the continuities of promotion in the contemporary world.  Our conclusion identifies a new tribalism emerging that is informing politics and beyond, a persistent element of promotional culture of always providing for a better imagined future and thereby fostering a perpetual culture of consumer instability, a new participatory frame for this relationship to products and services where consumers add value/images in the form of "prosumption", and  an elaborated attention economy that blurs the lines between entertainment and promotion with increasing sophistication.  All of these contemporary tropes have historical precedents in our studies of self-branding, department stores, cigarettes, the bizarre emergence of the breakfast cereal production and promotion industry, IKEA and its formation of modern self and design, Volkswagen and the campaigns that segmented the automobile market into "alternatives" and counter-cultural, Dove's efforts at consumer activism,  the YouTube sensation of Annoying Orange, and the long promotionally-driven history of patent-medicines and cigarettes.

Kellogg's first cross-promotional colouring book for Children connected to their breakfast cereals (1906)- what we call ambient advertising

Below: A picture of the Greek Goddess: Iris-the personification of fame
And right near the middle of the year, along with PCP, our research group at Deakin hosted an International Symposium that dealt directly with my historical turn and its capacity to inform the contemporary. It was a beautiful event that had Professor Leo Braudy, author of the incredible Frenzy of Renown: Fame and its History act as our respondent (admittedly by video-link from California, but there nonetheless), Dr Katja Lee from Perth, Dr Celia Lam from  UN Ningbo,  and, in written form, Associate Professor Brian Cowan from McGill in Montreal.  Actually delivering remarkable presentations in person were Professor Mary Luckhurst from Melbourne and Dr Victoria Duckett from  The Symposium was professionally organised by Dr Rebecca Hutton. The event was designed as a pathway to launch a six-volume series with the same title as the Symposium: The Cultural History of Fame. Just in January, I have signed the book-series contract with Bloomsbury Academic that will produce studies of fame where each volume will focus through parallel chapters on a particular era: Antiquity, Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Revolution and Contemporary.  Along with the six volume editors, there will be 48 contributors to the series.  Our intention is to extend this to a similar series for the Cultural History of Fame in China with a parallel group of scholars. And of course, we are hoping an international symposium in the next two years will bring all these scholars together to chart even further directions for this work.  You can get a sense of this project and whether perhaps you might consider contributing a chapter through a look at this presentation here

There is more to explain related to this research direction and its intersections with understanding our contemporary moment.  My next post will provide some of  my further writing, thinking and related presentations that I had the fortune of presenting in the second half of 2017 primarily in Canada and the United States.  The implications of contemporary fame  and the formation of our online personas as a form of naturalized labour, naturalized distribution of emotional value,  and naturalized reputation, ranking and calibration continues to produce a fundamentally new configuration of culture beyond the nation and definitively beyond the nation-state..... Stay tuned... 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gestural Communication and Emoji culture

What is a gesture?  How do we express our emotional state?

I am beginning some research on gestural communication. it is important to recognise that this is a building phenomenon in our contemporary online, social media and mobile forms of communication.  Some of this research can be understood as the emergence from emoticons to emojis and stickers in text-based and image based interpersonal and intercommunicative communication.

What follows here is in support of my first presentation/seminar in this interesting research space that informs our personas in so many ways. More detail is actually in the presentation which can be found here in the actual prezi. What follows are the animated gifs and memes which describe the extensions of gestural communication as they move through and in some ways get more complex as patterned glyphs where the specific "tribe" in contemporary culture appreciate them and, more importantly, understand them. There is much more to come in this work, but this is a start. Enjoy the Stickers  - the rolling gifs and meme gifs that surround and inhabit this post - take a look at the presentation, and of course, tell me what you think....  I am looking to collectively advance on this and need to hear what many others think of this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2016: Persona Studies, major publications and great events

Much of my work involves thinking about persona and working out what are the strategic ways in which public identity is presented. In this post, I wanted to isolate on some of the key concepts that I have been advancing this year.  My follow-up post will be all about neologisms that I have created to help explain my ideas better (or perhaps they obfuscate things!!)

Along with these blog posts (which are notoriously infrequent!!), my public presentations at conferences and universities are also a form of persona construction.  I am put in positions where I am positioning my new directions in research into existing departments, disciplines and sub-disciplines.  As much as Persona Studies is growing and is getting better known, its ultimate value is its utility in key areas such as media studies, communication, new directions in literary studies including biography and life-writing, anthropology, cultural history, online and Internet studies, sociology, political science and cultural and inter-cultural studies.   I perform into these intellectual spaces and hope that some of the ideas that I have been developing will have both value and impact.

This year I have been developing the way persona is differently constituted in different settings. In the early part of the year in developing a research grant, I expanded on  way that digital persona is transforming professions and their public identities.  Similarly- and you will see it later in this post - I have been thinking through the idea of comparative persona. I want to make research both in the study of public personalities and celebrity and the wider idea of persona identifiable within different regions, nations, cultures, ethnicities, and media and cultural practices  and I want the terminology employed to facilitate useful comparisons so that no study is isolated and its applications of concepts make it valuable to other studies in other national/regional settings.  This is not an easy task and demands connected to a large number of people.  But some of my work this year is building such a network of scholarship and research.

This particular area of study is best called comparative persona and I have worked out the ideas and formations of these ideas in several of my presentations and public lectures over 2016.

If you want to get a sense of this approach to the study of persona, ake a look at these specific prezis and presentations.  My objective in the first half of 2017 is to develop a team of researchers who are willing to look at this in a particular way.  This approach is also describe in my last presentation on this theme in 2016 at the International Conference on New Media and Social Transformation at CCNU in Wuhan China in November - here is the opening screen:
There is an audio version accompanying the Powerpoint; but this link gives you a link to the
slides of the full presentation.  Look it over and
contact me if you are interested.

Variations of this direction of research can also be found in my presentation in Amsterdam at the Third International Celebrity Studies Conference:
Comparative Celebrity and Persona Work: Making sense of national, regional and transnational differences/similarities in public personality systems, presented at the 3rd International Celebrity Studies Conference, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 28 June, 2016.

Collaboratively, I have been working on a parallel initiative to work out how our online professional identities are in flux.  We presented at the same Amsterdam conference on Digital Professional Persona and here is the link to the prezi.  In its exploration of teaching, gamer, sports professionals in the media, lawyers and doctors, the presentation explored the transformative quality of online presentation of the self and how it is transforming the individuals and their public display of their professional personas.

Some of this work on the professional persona was trialled when I was invited to give the Conference
Dinner Talk at the Transplant Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) at the University of Sydney's Great Hall in April of 2016.  My work highlighted the level and range of online identities that are now part of the medical scene and how their expertise was being charted, monitored and then shared in a variety of ways.  These particular medical experts are the ones who are lifesavers in their transplanting of vital organs; but their lives are at least partially re-organised by themselves or others through their online personas.

There is a great deal more work and presentations that I delivered in 2016; but this group summarizes my particular efforts in exploring comparative persona.  In future posts, I will expand on the lexicon of terms that I think are needed for these kinds of studies of how online culture is shifting an incredible range of public identities.

As I indicated in these presentations, if this area of inquiry interests you, we are trying to build up a team of researchers to investigate comparative persona and professional persona more widely.  What we need is expertise in particular regions and nations related to how persona is expressed publicly and how that resembles other public personas in other parts of the world; augmenting this is research on how these kinds of public identity configurations are producing patterns of personas across online culture.
More to come in my next posts... I promise the gap between posts this year will no be so long, so check in regularly.