We are headed to the Media in Transition 6 conference at MIT, April 24-26, 2009. The vlogs discussed in our paper as well as our mimic response are below.
The vlog has developed into one of the most popular modes of production on YouTube. These videos account for almost 5% of all content on YouTube with over 10 000 new vlogs added to the site each day (Digital Ethnography Project). Although this format is commonly recognized as one that propels users into instant celebrities, TV and film personalities also use this format to extend their performed subjectivities. Three of Disney’s most bankable stars, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, regularly vlog for their fans. Miley’s YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/ user/mileymandy) currently has almost 14 million views, while Demi and Selena’s shared channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/therealdemilovato) has over 9 million. Vlogging, when contextualized as digital performance, inhabits a virtual space that extends beyond the screen, moving into both the performer and audience members’ body. Vlogs, in both their performance and reception, create a space in which the internet’s inherent virtuality forces bodies to locate an in-between-ness, as they are neither entirely present or absent. This in-between-ness, which is inhabited by both the vlogger and viewer, differentiates these performances from other forms of entertainment featuring Cyrus, Lovato and Gomez that have been constructed for traditional mass consumption (film, TV, radio etc.) The TV shows, movies and music featuring these teen stars come out of a Disney tradition that contains a problematic ideology that supports not only family and friendship, but also American mass consumerism. On the other hand, the stars’ vlogs, as a result of their virtuality and seeming self-mediation, can potentially destabilize this ideology. This destabilization is linked to a contemporary break in the performer-audience binary. The Ngeners watching these vlogs are actively participating in the creation and dissemination of these celebrities’ intersubjectivities. This participation includes both text comments and video responses, which frequently feature mimics of the three stars.
How do contemporary definitions of new media, intermediality and liveness, all of which focus on the performed body, reveal the contemporary spectralized subjectivities of these Disney stars and their fans? How does the vlogs’ inherent virtuality enable a sort-of liveness that invigorates not only the body of the performer, but that of the spectator as well? Additionally, how do these vlogs perform female teen sexuality, especially in light of leaked photographs featuring a scantily clad Cyrus posing for the camera?
As part of our ongoing belief in performance as research, we will construct a series of performed mimics as an extension of our ongoing performance project IdeaAssassins (http://www.youtube.com/user/ideaassassins). These mimics, along with the countless response videos posted by fans, will extend our ability to write about the body of the spectator as we will be directly implicated in this collaborative subjectivity and the ongoing intertextual mediations surrounding these stars.
The “Original”: Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez
The “Original” Mimic: Miley Cyrus and Mandy