Before we started our data collection, we anticipated some of the celebrities who might come up – from entrepreneur and Reality TV star Kim Kardashian to Olympic diver and TV presenter Tom Daley. But we never expected Bill Gates. Yet he came up unprompted in nine of the 24 group interviews and across five of the six schools in which we collected data, He was the most popular of a large number of ‘geek celebrities’. There were some regional variations, suggesting a more business-oriented metropolis: Gates came up least in the two rural schools (in only one group in Merlin School and not at all in Hardy) and most in the London schools (in three groups in Jackson School and two in Jordan). His charitable giving was the most common reason for his inclusion, being mentioned in eight of the nine groups where his name was mentioned. In this blog post I explore some patterns in young people’s talk about Bill Gates.
Recently we’ve been thinking a lot about writing. We’ve just began working on our very first paper from the project (it’s looking at the role of ‘hard work’ in young people’s talk about celebrity). But writing goes beyond formal academic publications: this is the first research study where we’ve been writing in public via this blog almost from day one, whether collecting together our first impressions from the group interviews, describing our methodology in action, or beginning to look at patterns in our data. We’ve also had a chance to reflect on how this ‘faster’ form of academic communication is changing our scholarship. This all got us round to sharing our favourite quotations about writing and in this blog we share these words from bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Stuart Hall and Ole Skovesmose.
Jon Rainford is a Teacher of Art in a large Secondary School in Buckinghamshire. He came across the work of the Celeb Youth through their twitter account and through happy coincidence was at a digital sociology study day where some of the early findings were being discussed. This sparked an interest in finding out if these ideas resonated with the young people he works with in a pastoral role. In this blog post he describes what happens when he asked his teenage tutor group about celebrity culture…
One of the many pleasures of this year’s British Educational Research Association Conference was collaborating on the Aspiration Nation? Symposium not just with Kim and Laura, my CelebYouth colleagues, but also with the wonderful Louise Archer from the Aspires Project, Graham Crow from the Living and Working on Sheppey Project and Becky Francis. Graham’s research involves asking young people to write essays in the voice of their older selves looking back on their lives, replicating an earlier study by Ray Pahl in the 1970s. In exploring the archived 1970s essays, Graham was surprised to find that Pahl had scribbled ‘Total Fantasy’ on some. This remark from Graham provoked me to reflect on how we judge young people’s aspirations. How do some come to appear realistic and some fantastic, and with what consequences?
In this, the final of three blog posts covering the team’s report of their contribution to the first ever Digital Sociology event, Heather discusses her concerns over the close fit between online communication and current audit demands for research to make a measurable impact.
On the 16th July, Kim, Heather and Laura spoke at the inaugural event of a new British Sociological Association study group – Digital Sociology. The event – titled ‘What is Digital Sociology?’ – was organised by the group’s co-convenors, Mark Carrigan and Emma Head. As Mark and Emma set out in their ambitions and rationale for this new study group, the form, practice and distinctive features of ‘digital sociology’ remain vague and undefined. This study group – and the first event – are attempts to address this, bringing together ‘a diverse range of speakers who, in a variety of ways, work within the nascent field of digital sociology’ into ‘an open and informal exploration of a broad range of exciting work being undertaken by sociologists in the UK which could, in the broadest sense of the term, be characterised as ‘digital’’. In this post we reflect on how we came to be there. In three other posts, we share versions of the presentations that we gave. Kim discusses some of the challenges we have encountered in using digital methods in the project. Laura talks about our collective approach to ‘digital engagement’ and some of the tensions involved. Heather problematises the alignment between online impact and neoliberal academia.
In this first of three blog posts covering the team’s report of their contribution to the BSA first ever Digital Sociology event, Kim discusses some of the ways in which the project has engaged with the digital within the data collection, and the challenges inherent in this as a feminist scholar encountering celebrity e-bile – violent and sexualised comments directed at female celebrities.
Yesterday David Cameron tweeted: “I’m delighted for the Duke and Duchess now their son has been born. The whole country will celebrate. They’ll make wonderful parents.” Like many celebrity elites and as a ‘super class’ of the very rich and privileged the security of the royal family as a national institution is partly dependent on a contradictory cult of ordinariness. This is best nurtured through the managed intimacy of living a family life in the public eye. In Michael Billig’s words, ‘the job of the royal family is to be a family’. In this guest post Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn reveal the class camouflage that helps keep the royal family popular.
Data analysis is a crucial part of any research project yet it is notoriously difficult to describe. In many research papers it’s glossed with a phrase like ‘we analysed the data thematically using the software package NVivo’. In this post, Heather unpacks some of the processes and dilemmas that lie behind this phrase.
In another post, I’ve described how we’re analysing the group interview data by using broad codes such as social class and origin stories and then looking for patterns within these. This is producing loads of fascinating lines of analysis. In this post I look at just one of these that’s come out of my work on the code for gender. Alongside looking at performances of masculinities and femininities in celebrity talk and tracking cross-gender identification, this code contains data on how women and girls are constructed by young people in their engagements with celebrity culture. Depressingly, the dominant associations are with disgust – at feminine bodies and feminine tastes. We have written about this disgust in our discussion of Tampon Girl and the Kardashians, here I focus on a more positive pattern of talk around ‘independent’ women.