My name is Alexandra and I am a 23-year-old cultural studies graduate student working in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. I am currently working my Master’s thesis, tentatively titled “The Commodification of Fame in the Digital Age: An Investigation of the Consumer Capitalist Underpinnings of Digital Celebrity”. My thesis isn’t due until December 2011, so while I doubt the general concepts I’m interested in researching will change, I’m absolutely positive the title will.

My primary research interests are Internet privacy, celebrity culture in the digital age, and social media. In writing my thesis, I intend to investigate the ways in which the concept of “celebrity” has been altered by Web 2.0, and in particular by the social media tools of blogging and micro-blogging. I have chosen to focus on how fame is commodified in the digital age because much of my research will be informed by two concepts which are uniquely manifest in social media: the first is the idea of “self-branding”, in which individuals create public personae in an attempt to “sell themselves” and acquire a following; and the second, which is closely tied to “self-branding”, is the idea of friending/following/subscribing to, or “buying into” another individual’s online persona, which can be both a public or private affirmation of another individual’s position as a celebrity figure.

The motivation behind my research is to better understand how individuals utilize the social media tools of blogging and micro-blogging to elevate themselves to the status of a celebrity; how these “micro-celebrities” differ from the conventional, or non-digital, definition of “celebrity”; and how social media complicates the relationship between consumer/producer and persona/product. Specifically I will be looking at individuals for whom their celebrity is a product of their own design. I am particularly interested in the ways in which power is negotiated in online spaces, and the social media landscape of personal branding provides an especially interesting case for study. My own relationship with the Internet has been both enhanced and complicated by my status as a woman, and as such I hope to employ a feminist theoretical approach in my research.

I have a number of reasons for blogging about my experience as a grad student:

1. I need to become more comfortable with sharing my ideas with people other than the professors who mark my papers.
2. I would like to keep interested parties (that’s you, Mom and Dad!) informed about my progress.
3. I would like this blog to be a forum for engagement with other scholars in my field.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly:

4. I won’t remember this year if I don’t write anything down, and I would like to live a life with as few regrets as possible.

In conclusion, this is a blog in progress. I really can’t stress that enough. I hope you find something that interests you in my writing and I welcome constructive criticism and other forms of positive feedback, so please feel to comment on my posts or contact me directly if you’re so inclined. And if you’re looking for other exemplary academic blogs to read, here are a few of my personal favourites that you should definitely check out:

Going Graduate

— Alexandra