Microstardom

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Discussion

Julian Kücklich:

"I think what we see evolving is a system of microstardom and tactical fandom that calls into question the classical power relationship between fans and stars.

This is obviously preceded by alt.fan communities such as the ones Jenkins writes about, but I am not interested so much in slash fiction etc., but rather in the microfame that exists on myspace, facebook, twitter, flickr, etc. The recent influx of "real celebrities", such as Oprah Winfrey, into the twitterverse provides a good example because it draws attention to the difference between a mass media attention economy (in this case, TV) and a multitudinous media attention economy. Oprah barged into twitter, expecting that people were actually willing to pay attention to the mundane details of her life, but as it turned out the mundane details of non-celebrities' lives are actually more interesting (Oprah of all people should know).

In numerical terms, Oprah and Ashton Kutcher may be the "stars" of the twitterverse, but they are stars only in the sense that they provide a kind of background radiation for the real action. While indigenous microfame is rare, twitter often amplifies attention capital acquired elsewhere, and consolidates distributed and fragmented microaudiences. At the same time, however, the agency of microaudiences is heightened in multitudinous media such as twitter, and they can use this agency tactically as well as strategically, and often do. In this context, it is significant that while "friending" is the basic unit operation (to use Ian Bogost's term) of facebook, the basic unit operation of twitter is not "following" but "blocking". So if someone is perceived as abusing their microfame this is sanctioned not just by a denial of attention but by a reduction of that person(a)'s sphere of influence.

So I think we are not dealing with a dyadic system at all, but with something much less structured and, for lack of a better word, more fun (fun also being the mechanism underwriting new forms of (self-)exploitation). Let's not forget, however, that achieving and maintaining microfame is a form of labour, and one not so dissimilar to the kind of work described in the MechTurk presentation sent around by Matthew yesterday: it's affective and relational labour, much of which consists in maintaining a good relationship with the "requesters" (or "followers"). It seems to me that the decisive difference between mass media fame and microfame resides in the fact that the former is systemic, while the latter is endemic. In other words: in mass media stars are made, while in multitudinous media stars make themselves by performing their virtuosity across different registers." (IDC mailing list June 2009)


More Information

  1. Attention Economy