2010 Dissertations III: Celebrity

What is celebrity in the age of social media?  How do those two achieve the status of “celebrity” through other media use online social media to maintain and cultivate celebrity?  Alice Marwick (PhD, NYU, now at Microsoft Research) traces the connection between social media and the drive for celebrity and status, even among ordinary folks.  Which raises an interesting question–if we grant that social media makes interpersonal connection less personal, then what does connection look like?  It is easy to find voices that say that we will be more isolated, less connected.  Yet if we indeed need to connect to one another, a better question is to ask how communication evolves to fulfill that craving.  Perhaps achieving celebrity and status can meet that need.

Those who are already cultural celebrities rely on a strong base of followers to maintain that celebrity.  Clearly, the Internet provides a more accessible space for fans to feed celebrity. But what are the elements that make this more or less successful?  Erin Meyers (PhD, U of Mass., now post doc at Northeastern U) examines blogs to trace how stardom as a cultural phenomenon is changing, particularly allowing ordinary individuals to challenge the industry’s control over creating celebrities.