Celebrity politicians are having a profound impact on politics within the United States and United Kingdom in the 21st century. With the adoption of social media, celebrity and image candidates have deployed new strategies for attracting constituents. Taken together, the proliferation of celebrity politics and the ubiquity of digital platforms have fostered a political moment, wherein “outsider” candidates have launched themselves into the public spotlight. Through their digital celebrity brands, populists such as U.S. President Donald Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson established an “authenticity” in which they “occupied” a public space. Consequently, as celebrities promote political agendas among target audiences/citizens, it is necessary to reflect upon their significance in election campaigns, policymaking, and activism.
Daniel P.S. Goh
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are ethnically and religious diverse countries in Southeast Asia that had established postcolonial multiracial compacts to counter the legacies of colonial racism and pursued inclusive nation-building under authoritarian conditions in the early decades after independence. This contained the rise of political Islam among the majority Javanese and Malays in Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively, and secured racial harmony in Singapore despite the political and economic dominance of the Chinese majority. Political liberalization after the Asian financial crisis and the democratization of the public sphere with the Internet have led to the decline of the multiracial compacts and the emergence of culture wars between conservatives and progressives over the nation’s values and future. Renewed Islamization pits conservative against moderate Muslims in everyday life and new media spaces while putting heavy pressure on Chinese and Christian minorities as well as the secular state in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Singapore, the spread of conservative Christianity among the Chinese and conservative Islam among the Malays pits conservatives against progressives in the growing civil society sector championing secularism and liberalization in racial, gender, and sexual discourse, with all sides using new media for political mobilization. These trends intersect with the politics of race and racism unleashed by the decline of the multiracial compacts, engendering racial culture wars mixing race and religion. The recent pervasive spread of social media has intensified the conflicts of the racial culture wars, leading to intergroup violence, prosecution of individuals for insulting religious sensitivities, and heated accusations of racism and of religious and racial sensitivities being offended. Social media is also changing the dynamics of the racial culture wars, collapsing the boundary between the offline world of face-to-face interaction and the online world of viral realities, causing casual everyday remarks and actions to become national controversies. Efforts to promote antiracism and multiculturalism need to move into the social media space in creative and relevant ways to counter the racial culture wars.
Sarah J. Jackson
Because of the field’s foundational concerns with both social power and media, communication scholars have long been at the center of scholarly thought at the intersection of social change and technology. Early critical scholarship in communication named media technologies as central in the creation and maintenance of dominant political ideologies and as a balm against dissent among the masses. This work detailed the marginalization of groups who faced restricted access to mass media creation and exclusion from representational discourse and images, alongside the connections of mass media institutions to political and cultural elites. Yet scholars also highlighted the ways collectives use media technologies for resistance inside their communities and as interventions in the public sphere. Following the advent of the World Wide Web in the late 1980s, and the granting of public access to the Internet in 1991, communication scholars faced a medium that seemed to buck the one-way and gatekeeping norms of others. There was much optimism about the democratic potentials of this new technology. With the integration of Internet technology into everyday life, and its central role in shaping politics and culture in the 21st century, scholars face new questions about its role in dissent and collective efforts for social change. The Internet requires us to reconsider definitions of the public sphere and civil society, document the potentials and limitations of access to and creation of resistant and revolutionary media, and observe and predict the rapidly changing infrastructures and corresponding uses of technology—including the temporality of online messaging alongside the increasingly transnational reach of social movement organizing. Optimism remains, but it has been tempered by the realities of the Internet’s limitations as an activist tool and warnings of the Internet-enabled evolution of state suppression and surveillance of social movements. Across the body of critical work on these topics particular characteristics of the Internet, including its rapidly evolving infrastructures and individualized nature, have led scholars to explore new conceptualizations of collective action and power in a digital media landscape.
Research has established that access to the Internet and social media is vital for many lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer + (LGBTQ+) young people. LGBTQ+ social media youth cultures form across platforms and are shaped by a range of media affordances and vernaculars. LGBTQ+ youth use social media for self-expression, connecting with other LGBTQ+ young people, entertainment, activism, and collecting and curating information. Through a digital cultural studies approach, the essay discusses themes of LGBTQ+ youth identity work, communities and networked publics, and youth voice to explore how digital and social media imaginaries and practices produce new forms of socialites. It situates LGBTQ+ youth social media practices in relation to the affective economy and algorithmic exclusion of platforms, as well as in relation to neoliberal paradigms of gender and sexuality and homotolerance.
Political economy approaches examine the power relations that are embedded in the production, distribution, and exchange of resources. They are distinguished from economics by a deeper concern for history, the social totality, moral philosophy, and praxis. Numerous schools of thought mark these approaches including early conservative, communitarian, and Marxian perspectives. Today, neoconservative, institutional, neo-Marxian, feminist, environmental, and social movement-based approaches offer a wide variety of political economies. Communication scholars have drawn on political economy approaches to carry out research on media technologies, including broadcasting, telecommunications, and computer communication. In doing so they have developed distinctive geographic perspectives covering North America, parts of Asia, Europe, and the less developed world. Political economy approaches are built on specific philosophical assumptions including a range of epistemologies that, on one end of a continuum, accept the reality of concepts and observations and, at the other, claim that concepts and observations are the social constructions of language. Political economy approaches also range from perspectives that emphasize social change, social processes, and social relations to those that focus on social structures and institutions. Political economists tend to concentrate on three processes that make up the main starting points for political economy research on media technologies. Commodification is the process of transforming things valued for their use into marketable products that are valued for what they can bring in exchange. This can be seen, for example, in the process of turning a story that friends tell one another into a film, a book, or even a virtual experience, to be sold in the marketplace. Spatialization is the process of overcoming the constraints of geographical space with media and technologies. For example, social media surmounts distance by bringing images of world events to every part of the globe, and companies use media technologies, now typically composed of cloud computing, big data analytics, the Internet of Things, and telecommunications networks, to build global supply chains. Finally, structuration is the process of creating social relations, mainly those organized around social class, gender, and race. With respect to social class, political economy approaches describe how access to the mass media and new communication technologies is influenced by inequalities in income and wealth, which enable some to afford access and others to be left out. Political economy approaches are evolving in response to challenges from cultural studies approaches. Political economies of media technologies are now placing greater emphasis on international communication, on communication history, on standpoints of resistance, on new media technologies, and on new media activism.
Brenda L. Berkelaar and Millie A. Harrison
Broadly speaking, cybervetting can be described as the acquisition and use of online information to evaluate the suitability of an individual or organization for a particular role. When cybervetting, an information seeker gathers information about an information target from online sources in order to evaluate past behavior, to predict future behavior, or to address some combination thereof. Information targets may be individuals, groups, or organizations. Although often considered in terms of new hires or personnel selection, cybervetting may also include acquiring and using online information in order to evaluate a prospective or current client, employee, employer, romantic partner, roommate, tenant, client, or other relational partner, as well as criminal, civil, or intelligence suspects. Cybervetting takes advantage of information made increasingly available and easily accessible by regular and popular uses and affordances of Internet technologies, in particular social media. Communication scholars have long been interested in the information seeking, impression management, surveillance, and other processes implicated in cybervetting; however, the uses and affordances of new online information technologies offer new dimensions for theory and research as well as ethical and practical concerns for individuals, groups, organizations, and society.