Department of Gender and Cultural Studies seminar series 5 April
Crystal Abidin / Gerard Goggin
Early histories of Influencer cultures in Singapore and beyond
The earliest formations of the Influencer industry debut in (South)east Asia in the mid-2000s, having first taken root in amateur vernacular digital cultures of narrative-formats on web blogs and forums. As social media has evolved globally, Influencers have since become increasingly commercialised, professional, and spectacular, and their early histories have been lost. In this talk, I draw from an in-depth anthropological study of Influencers in Singapore and South(east) Asia since the mid-2000s to interrogate notions of belonging and community, agency and resistance in relation to visual displays of class. Specifically, I ethnographically examine how some Influencers have initiated a hierarchy of knock-off consumption and displays through grammars and practices that create and curate circuits of aspirational knowledge. In closing, I consider how Influencer cultures create ambivalent models for social mobility and inclusion, by examining the bodies who are excluded from participation in these spaces.
Crystal Abidin is a DECRA Fellow/Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Internet Studies at Curtin University. She is a digital anthropologist and ethnographer based in Australia, Singapore, and Sweden. Her research focuses on vernacular internet cultures and study young people’s relationships with internet celebrity, self-curation, and vulnerability. Her books include Internet Celebrity (2018) and Microcelebrity Around The Globe (2019). She was listed on Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia (2018) and Pacific Standard 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 (2016).
Disability Confronts AI
Disability has emerged as a highly significant area of focus in contemporary work on technology, society, and culture. Waves of technology development –– especially in areas of media, information, communication –– have taken disability as a focus, and these relations have finally been receiving the kind of attention and critical reconsideration from researchers across a range of disciplines, especially cultural, media, and science and technology studies, they deserve. In the last few years, the questions of equality, inclusion, participation, diversity, justice, and rights raised by disability have been increasingly articulated in relation to emergent technologies and their constitutive role in and challenges concerning social life. We see this in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2018-2019 project on human rights and technology, which puts disability at the heart of its approach.
Against this backdrop, in this talk I explore the area of disability as it ‘confronts’ artificial intelligence (AI), and related developments (such as data and automated decision-making) (cf. Judy Wajcman, Feminism Confronts Technology, 1991). AI has been hailed as a potential ‘game changer’ for people with disabilities, not least across various areas where accessibility is a problem (e.g. in work, communication, social connection, and so on) –– with significant investment being put into new initiatives in this area by a range of powerful actors. Yet the deployment of AI is also raising issues of bias, discrimination, and insidious forms of ‘automating Inequality’ (Virginia Eubanks, 2018) concerning disability, as the infamous Australia ‘robodebt’ (Centrelink automated welfare debt recovery program) illustrates.
Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. With Heather Horst and Marcus Carter, he is co-founder of the STuF Lab (Socio-Technical Futures Lab). Recent publications including Location Technology in International Context (2019; with Rowan Wilken and Heather Horst), Routledge Companion to Disability and Media (2019; with Katie Ellis and Beth Haller), and Normality & Disability: Intersections Among Norms, Laws and Culture (2018; with Linda Steele and Jess Cadwallader).
The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Participants include staff, associates and postgraduate students from the department, as well as presenters from other University of Sydney departments and from outside, both nationally and internationally.
Please join us after the seminar for drinks at the Holme Courtyard Bar
Everyone is welcome to attend.
2019 Seminar Series convenors:
Thom van Dooren and Elsepth Probyn
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