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.