While this blog has been quiet over the summer, the Ego Media team has been busy. As well as completing the draft of our digital publication, team members have been writing and publishing widely.
The current issue of the European Journal of Life Writing features a special section co-edited by Clare Brant and Rob Gallagher. Titled ‘Digital Media: Life-Changing Online’, it showcases work originally presented at the International Auto/Biography Association Europe’s 2017 conference, which Ego Media hosted during the final throes of the UK’s last general election campaign. Reflecting on the extent to which the internet has altered everyday life, the special issue also considers how, by facilitating new forms of self-presentation, digital devices have altered our understanding of ‘the life’ as a literary form.
As one would expect, several articles address the use of social media to share stories and perform personae. Emma Maguire’s ‘Constructing the “Instagirl,” Deconstructing the Self-Brand’ looks at Amalia Ulman’s feted Instagram artwork Excellences and Perfections. Situating Ulman within longer histories of feminist art and life-writing, Maguire argues that while she has been dismissed by some as a hoaxer poking fun at would-be influencers, her real target is the artworld’s expectation that young artists should conform to highly gendered conventions of self-branding. Felice McDowell’s ‘Inside the Wardrobe: Fashioning a Fashionable Life’ also addresses performances of femininity in the creative industries, offering an analysis of Vogue’s YouTube series ‘Inside the Wardrobe’, in which sartorial tastemakers use favourite garments as autobiographical props and prompts. Korina Giaxolglou’s ‘Sharing Small Stories of Life and Death Online: Death-writing of the Moment’, meanwhile, considers digital mourning etiquette on Facebook, asking which lives are considered grievable and which content is shareable on digital platform.
Other papers look beyond social media to address other kinds of apps and devices. Rong Huang’s ‘Real Money, Real Me: Life Told by Third-party Mobile Payment Platforms’ addresses the proliferation of mobile payment software in China. Outlining the terms on which services like AliPay and WeChat Pay frame users’ identities, she argues that where the former presents individuals whose personality traits can be inferred from their transactions, the latter places more of an emphasis on the circulation of money among social groups, foregrounding collective identities. Ursula Hurley’s ‘Printing a New Story: Self-representation, Disability, and Digital Fabrication’, meanwhile, reflects on an AHRC Connected Communities project that explored dis/ability and identity through poetic uses of 3D printing.
There are also three contributions from Ego Media team members. In ‘Blogging the Iraq War: Soldiers, Civilians and Institutions’ Alisa Miller charts the rise of ‘milblogging’ in the 2000s. Showing how the enlisted blogger has, at different times, been framed as both a liability and a secret weapon by the US military establishment, she also laments the marginalisation of Iraqi voices, highlighting missed opportunities to foster communication, understanding and solidarity. My article “‘The game becomes the mediator of all your relationships”: Life Narrative and Networked Intimacy in Cibele’ offers a reading of Nina Freeman’s autobiographical ‘desktop simulator’. A digital epistolary romance, Cibele is also a love letter to MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer online role-playing game…. Finally, Clare Brant’s article ‘Imaginative Agency: New Possibilities’ laments the neoliberal co-optation of the term ‘creativity’ while proposing an alternative framework for discussing the cultural endeavours of artists, amateurs, trolls, fans and bots.
Rounding out the special issue is the Creative Matters section, for which contributors were asked to highlight sites and resources they think devotees of digital life writing should know about. This brief generated an impressively varied range of responses, from biographical databases and underwater web cams to a feminist porn site where crowdsourced confessions are turned into erotic shorts. Particularly noteworthy is Sarah McRae’s in-depth account of sites commemorating GeoCities, Yahoo’s fondly remembered DIY webpage service.
Meanwhile, Professor Max Saunders’ “Futurology: how a group of visionaries looked beyond the possible a century ago and predicted today’s world” in The Conversation has been attracting attention.
Alison McKinlay and Leone Ridsdale have published “Should GPs have direct access to imaging for headache? A qualitative study of patients’ views in the UK”. And their paper “Not Just a Headache: Qualitative Study About Web-Based Self-Presentation and Social Media Use by People With Migraine” was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, earlier in the summer.