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The Matter of Identity: Digital Media, Television, and Embodied Difference

Cameron, Kelsey (2018) The Matter of Identity: Digital Media, Television, and Embodied Difference. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation develops a corporeal theory of media networks. Mobilizing insights from reception studies, critical identity studies, and materialist theories of digital media, I draw out how the material lives of bodies matter in the digital age. Scholars have begun attending to the physical stuff that grounds contemporary media: data centers, cables, metals and plastics. I build on this work, extending its interest in materiality while critiquing its tendency to sever technology from the people who use it. From touch screens that can’t feel cold fingers to webcams that don’t see dark skin, breakdowns in human-machine relations remind us that media interface with particular bodies. However, discussions of digital media too often equate the material with the technological, imagining that user embodiment is irrelevant or one-size-fits-all (and patterned on straight white men). Critiquing this tendency to universalize embodiment, my dissertation works towards a conception of digital materiality that makes space for differentiated bodies. My first chapter develops a theory of corporeal networks and reads Black TV viewers in 1960s Jackson, MS as a pre-digital corporeal network. This history lays the groundwork for chapters two, three, and four, which explore how contemporary TV audiences use digital networks for political ends. In chapters on Black Lives Matter activists, Latino transmedia storytelling collectives, and communities of queer female TV fans, I develop a methodology for tracing the entanglements of people, images, and technologies in digital networks. Each of my chapters analyzes a television show or news broadcast in tandem with its surround: the platforms that distribute and enable response to it, the people who shape its meaning through commentary, the embodied communities and movements that emerge in its wake. In so doing, I argue that we need to move beyond blanket assumptions of audience activity or passivity. Emerging audience practices demand careful analysis of where and how responses to media reach the threshold of political action.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cameron, Kelseyklc122@pitt.eduklc122
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFeuer, Janescorpio@pitt.eduscorpio
Committee MemberWaldron, Jenniferjwaldron@pitt.edujwaldron
Committee MemberMalin, Brentonbmalin@pitt.edubmalin
Committee MemberLi, Jinyingjinying@pitt.edujinying
Date: 15 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 March 2018
Approval Date: 15 June 2018
Submission Date: 8 April 2018
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 211
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Film Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: television, digital media, embodiment, media reception
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2018 14:44
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2023 05:15


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