Digital Media and the Reshaping of Power Structures, Public/Private Boundaries and Intimacy in Celebrity Culture

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Olivier DRIESSENS, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
This paper examines the impact of digital media on celebrity culture. The combined use of mobile technologies and the internet with social media such as Instagram and Twitter enables not simply the increased exposure of celebrities’ everyday (private) lives and practices, but has more far-reaching consequences. Three consequences will be highlighted in this paper.

The first point is the question of power and control. We can note some ambiguity here: on the one hand, it could be said that the celebrity gains more (relative) control over self-promotion and –representation, but on the other hand the increased visibility also leads to a further commodification of the celebrity, his/her body and representation. Moreover, celebrities clearly offer added free labour in the benefit of the industries in which they are still embedded.

Second, the intense use of digital media by a large group of celebrities to promote and present themselves leads to a redefinition of the very categories public and private. The traditional distinction between the celebrity’s public, constructed private and ‘real’ private personas is under increased pressure which leads to the collapse of the constructed private persona into the public persona. Through the continuous exposure of one’s constructed private persona, or those aspects of  private life that are made visible to the audiences in a self-controlled way, these representations become deeply associated with the public persona and even encoded into it.

Finally, digital media affect the nature and degree of intimacy between celebrity and audiences. Yet this is also rather ambiguous since on the one hand there are indeed more possibilities for social rather than mere parasocial interaction, but on the other hand this change might be not much more than an illusion of intimacy since we are witnessing indeed a mere expansion of the public persona.