journal articles and scholarship

The Narratable Self lost in a cave > READ (paywall)

Storytelling, Self, Society (2021), Volume 16, No. 2, pp. 225-243

The philosopher Adriana Cavarero argues that each person is born unique and through speech and action with others creates an unrepeatable story. This article explores whether that theory, called narratability, holds up in digital spaces, especially on platforms such as Instagram, which favors repetition and fast consumption. One account, called Insta_Repeat, gathers images that are strikingly similar and lays them out together to reveal a proclivity to repetition for what otherwise might appear to be original expressions of experience. In this article, I examine one such post, made up of twelve images from the same cave with a similar pose of a person in the mouth of the cave. By tracking the photographers to their own Instagram account, and by conducting visual analyses of the images, I find that each does reveal a unique individual. However, the platform’s pressures for rapid consumption and repetitive tropes makes this endeavor far harder than a system that would favor true relationship-building.

Career Construction in volatile settings: seeking congruence in a journalist’s world today > READ (paywall)

Life Writing (2020). Volume 17, Issue 1: Career Construction Theory and Life Writing, pp. 75-88.

In the section of his book Career Counseling on how to compose a life portrait, Savickas (2011) addresses the issue of setting, or the ‘social niche and preferred environment in which the client wishes to situate the self’ (124). Self and setting are integrated through the stories clients tell themselves (scripts), and are drawn from a community’s master narratives. But what happens when a setting becomes unstable within the master narrative because of social and economic pressures?

No Greater Than Who I Actually Am: Virtue Ethics in Digital Life Narratives > READ (Book Chapter)

Communication and Media Ethics (2018). ed. Plaisance, Berline, Boston: DeGruyter, pp. 407-424

The events, thoughts and actions we create in digital space form identities in two distinct ways. The purposeful communication of life events is a rough analog to traditional life writing, but the introduction of algorithms creates a new complication. Whether there has been an ethic of autobiography in the past is a debate of its own, but now we have entered a phase of human life which prompts fresh questions: How is a digital life narrative formed in a just way? What are the limits of agentive identity creation, both for the self and the software? G.E.M. Anscombe (1958) provides a useful lens onto these questions, by suggesting the modern moral perspective should guide us toward “flourishing.” In this paper, I argue that individual storytellers (anyone who is presenting the semblance of an authentic self on a digital platform to be consumed by other users), by the nature of the “publicness” of their act are subjecting themselves to a new kind of life identity ethical scrutiny.

Confession narratives and mass kinship of YouTube celebrities: A narrative rationality analysis > READ

Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture (July 2018). Volume 9, Number 2, pp. 225-237

Walter R. Fisher argued that human beings are homo narrans or storytelling animals who make decisions using narrative rationality, which is the ability to choose among competing stories. The question I consider is whether Fisher’s arguments have explanatory power in quick media, especially a specific type of everyday autobiography: narratives of well-known YouTube vloggers confessing intimate details or turning-point moments about their lives. Examples of videos include coming out as LGBTQ, serious illness, relationship dissolution and depression. This textual analysis looks at both sides of YouTube discourse – creator vlogs and audience comments.

‘I Am In No Way This’: Troll Hunters and Pragmatic Digital Self-Reference > READ

Persona Studies (2017).  Vol 3, No 2

If personae are masks used to communicate a certain character in performance, what happens in rapid unmaskings, especially as they occur in digital space? That question is central to the phenomenon of “troll-hunting.” Employing both journalistic and algorithmic tools, troll hunters unmask the offline identity of purveyors of digital hate speech, child pornography, illegal commerce and more. Digital citizens have concerned themselves with the efficacy, privacy, and ethics of such hunting, but have not as frequently explored another area: The narrative distance between a digital persona and a perceived “real”person behind that persona. Such distances can range from some version of the sentiment, “I am in no way this kind of person” to a comfortable coupling between online-offline selves, even during public shaming. Using textual analysis, I critically examine statements of those whose digital troll persona were unmasked, with special attention to the word I and the dissonance in offline-online personae, long discussed by academics, but also becoming an increasingly practical concern.

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