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?