Celebrity, Politics, and New Media: an Essay on the Implications of Pandemic Fame and Persona
Celebrity articulates a very particular form of public identity that more or less is linked to the extensions of the self beyond one’s primary activity and into the complex dimensions of publicity, fame, and into a wider, and by its very definition, popular culture. Celebrity’s relationship to another form of public identity—the politician/political leader—is conceptually and practically connected by their shared relationship to the popular and its articulation through the various mediated forms of popular culture. This connection to popular culture is one of the ways in which power is legitimized as the politician or celebrity is authenticated by their capacity to embody the citizenry in one sphere and the audience in another. This paper argues that there has been a significant transformation in our constitution of fame in the contemporary moment that has fundamentally shifted this fame/politics nexus. The key element of this shift is the way in which digital media has reconfigured our political-popular cultural landscape. It is argued that via the communicative structures of social media and its avenues of sharing and connecting, there has developed a pandemic will-to-public identity by the billions of users of online culture—what is identified as pandemic persona—that resembles the patterns with which celebrity and politicians have operated over the previous century. Pandemic persona has produced a new instability in the organization of contemporary politics as this new public intermediary insinuates itself in unpredictable ways into the way that the process of representation in both popular and political culture manifests itself in what could be seen as legacy media and legacy formations of political institutions and practices.
KeywordsFame Persona Celebrity Persona studies Social media Online culture Word-of-mouth culture Instability Politics Fame apparatus Pandemic Opinion leaders Key opinion leaders KOLs Influencers Micro-publics
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
- Abidin, C. (2015). Communicative intimacies: influencers and perceived interconnectedness. Ada: A Journal of Gender, new Media & Technology, 8, 1–16 Retrieved from http://adanewmedia.org/2015/11/issue8-abidin/. Accessed 10 July 2018.
- Alberoni, F. (2006 - Originally published in 1962). The powerless ‘Elite’: theory and sociological research on the phenomenon of the stars. In P. David Marshall (Ed.), The celebrity culture reader (pp. 108–123). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Barlow, J.P. (1996). Declaration of the independence of cyberspace, Retrieved 24 April 2018 from http://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html.
- Barney, D., Coleman, G., Ross, C., Sterne, J., & Tembeck, T. (Eds.). (2016). The participatory condition in the digital age. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Brockington, D. (2009). Celebrity and the environment: fame, wealth and power in conservation. London; New York: Zed; distributed in the USA by Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Brockington, D. (2014). Celebrity advocacy and international development. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Burgess, J., & Green, J. (2009). YouTube: online video and participatory culture. In Cambridge. Malden, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
- Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope: social movements in the internet age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Colebrook, C. (1999). Ethics and representation: from Kant to post-structuralism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
- Coleman, G. (2014). Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy: the many faces of Anonymous. New York: Verso books.Google Scholar
- Confessore, N., Dance, G. J.X., Harris, R. & Hansen, M. (2018). The follower factory: inside social media’s black market. New York Times 27 January 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html .
- Couldry, N. (2010). Why voice matters: Culture and politics after neoliberalism. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Duffy, B. E., & Wissinger, E. (2017). Mythologies of creative work in the social media age: fun, free, and “just being me”. Int J Commun, 11, 20.Google Scholar
- Dyer, R. (1979). Stars. London: Educational Advisory Service, British Film Institute.Google Scholar
- Fietkiewicz, K. J., Dorsch, I., Scheibe, K., Zimmer, F., & Stock, W. G. (2018). Dreaming of stardom and money: micro-celebrities and influencers on live streaming services. In G. Meiselwitz (Ed.), Social Computing and Social Media 10th Conference (Vol. 1, pp. 240–253). Las Vegas NV: Springer.Google Scholar
- Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
- Grayling, A. C. (2016). The age of genius: the seventeenth century and the birth of the modern mind (1st U.S. edition. ed.). New York, NY: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
- Hardie, P. R. (2012). Rumour and renown: representations of Fama in Western literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Harvey, D. (2007). A brief history of neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Heimans, J., & Timms, H. (2018). New power: how movements build, businesses thrive, and ideas catch fire in our hyper-connected world (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
- Horkheimer, M., Theodor W. Adorno,T. W. & Noeri, G. (2002) Dialectic of enlightenment. Stanford University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
- Karlsen, R. (2015). Followers are opinion leaders: The role of people in the flow of political communication on and beyond social networking sites. European Journal of Communication, 30(3), 301–318. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323115577305.
- Katz, E., Lazarsfeld, P. F., & Columbia University. Bureau of Applied Social Research. (1955). Personal influence; the part played by people in the flow of mass communications. Glencoe, Ill.: Free press.Google Scholar
- KickFactory. (2016). The average Twitter user now has 707 Followers. 23 June. We blog. Retrieved 23 December 2018. from https://kickfactory.com/blog/average-twitter-followers-updated-2016/.
- Lilti, A. (2017). Trans. by Lynn Jeffress. The invention of celebrity: 1750–1850. Malden, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
- Margetts, H., John, P., Hale, S., & Yasseri, T. (2015). Political turbulence: how social media shape collective action. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Margetts, H., John, P., Hale, S., & Yasseri, T. (2016). Brexit, voting, and political turbulence. Retrieved from http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2016/08/18/brexit-voting-and-political-turbulence/. Accessed 15 Nov 2018
- Marshall, P. D., Moore, C., & Barbour, K. (2019). Persona studies: an introduction. Malden Ma: Blackwell-Wiley.Google Scholar
- Marwick, A. (2016). You may know me from YouTube: (micro-)celebrity in social media. In P. D. Marshall & S. Redmond (Eds.), A Companion to Celebrity (pp. 333–350). Boston: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Mention Reports (2018). Followers - Instagram report. Retrieved 21 November 2018 from https://mention.com/en/reports/instagram/followers/#2
- Milner, R. M. (2016). The world made meme: public conversations and participatory media. MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Neely, C. (2018). Japan’s top social media networks for 2018. Humble Bunny. Retrieved from http://www.humblebunny.com/japans-top-social-media-networks-2018/.
- Pels, D., & Corner, J. (2003). Media and the restyling of politics: consumerism, celebrity and cynicism. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Perrin, A. (2015). Social media usage: 2005-2015. Pew Research Centre: Internet and Technology. 8 October. Retrieved 25 April 2018 from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/.
- Pew Research Centre: Internet and Technology. (2018). Social Media Fact Sheet. 5 Feb. Retrieved 25 April 2018 (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/).
- Pitkin, H. F. (1967). The concept of representation: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Raphael, J., & Lam, C. (Eds.). (2017). Becoming brands: celebrity, activism and politics. Toronto: Waterhill Publishing.Google Scholar
- Senft, T. M. (2008). Camgirls: celebrity & community in the age of social networks. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in digital culture. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, K. (2017). “Marketing: 47 incredible Facebook statistics.” Brandwatch. Retrieved 25 April 2018 (https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/47-facebook-statistics/).
- Smith, C. (2018). Snapchat statistics and facts (February 2018) by the numbers. 17 April. Retrieved 25 April 2018 (https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/snapchat-statistics/).
- Statista. (2018a). “Numbers of social network users worldwide from 2010 to 2021 (in billions).” Retrieved 25 April, 2018 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/).
- Statista. (2018b). “Most popular social networks worldwide as of April 2018, ranked by number of active users (in millions).” Retrieved 25 April, 2018 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/).
- Totman, S. (2017). The emergence of the super-celebrity activist: George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. In J. Raphael & C. Lam (Eds.), Becoming brands: celebrity, activism and politics (pp. 21–31). Toronto: Waterhill Publishing.Google Scholar
- Tsaliki, L. et. al. eds. (2011). Transnational celebrity activism in global politics: Changing the world? Bristol, England. Chicago: Intellect Books.Google Scholar
- Turner, G. (2010). Ordinary people and the media: the demotic turn. Los Angeles: SAGE.Google Scholar
- Van Zoonen, L. (2005). Entertaining the citizen: when politics and popular culture converge: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Weber, M. (1968). Economy and society; an outline of interpretive sociology. New York: Bedminster Press.Google Scholar
- Wheeler, M. (2013). Celebrity politics: image and identity in contemporary political communications. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar