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Dissenting Audiences: Networked Pedagogies of Race, Gender, and Labor in Digital Media

Fri, November 10, 4:00 to 5:45pm, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbian, Concourse Level West Tower

Session Submission Type: Paper Session: Traditional Format


This panel brings together scholars of race and gender in media and culture to explore the practices of knowledge production that emerge from digital engagement with the politics of representation. Moving beyond a critique of ‘positive images’ discourse, we investigate how the networked publics that surround media industries develop pedagogies for understanding how racialized gender is produced in and through media production and consumption. How do fans challenge and refuse dominant framings of minority representation, and how do producers seek to incorporate such dissent? How can alternative circuits of production and consumption intervene to provide new pleasures, new politics?

Such inquiry is particularly urgent in the contemporary era, as media and politics continue to converge. As digital platforms have grown dominant, questions of who is included in media production and consumption become ever more salient. Avoiding simplified frameworks that would celebrate the democratizing force of social media or castigate the loss of shared norms regarding prestige and reliability, this panel homes in on specific case studies that highlight what scholars can learn from the ways that communities of creators and consumers respond to shifting media forms and politics.The papers draw from multiple perspectives: industrial production and independent production, internal debates within communities organized around consumption, and contestations between audiences and industry. Across the four presentations, intersections of race, gender, and sexuality come to the fore in ways that highlight the significance of networked media audiences as site of cultural contestation over equity, justice, and inclusion – from producers’ effort to employ a pedagogy of compliance in the face of fan protest over racist and sexist harassment, to intense labor by fans of color to teach their white counterparts better understandings of race, to the radical possibilities enabled by a queer of color approach to digital TV distribution.

The first panelist, Mel Stanfill, looks to emerging norms of popular culture engagement in the digital era, arguing that producers have used the language of “entitlement” to shut down fans’ emerging critiques. Alexis Lothian turns to the genealogy of media fans’ critiques of racism, arguing that an especially explosive debate in 2009 set the scene for influential frameworks of social justice in networked publics. Fiona Barnett suggests that the algorithms currently used to explain and determine knowledge are relying on notions of legibility and visibility and can act as sites of resistance. Finally, Aymar Jean Christian turns to media production as a creative practice of dissent from dominant industrial frameworks.

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Individual Presentations