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After Anonymity: Visual Ethics and the Culture of Online Self-Promotion

Brent Luvaas (Drexel University)

Anonymous is the default setting of ethnographic research. We protect the identities of our research subjects as a matter of course, along with any possible identifiers or visual information that might accidentally reveal who, or where they are. But what if our subjects don’t want to be protected? What, in fact, if their very participation in our research is contingent on the exposure it might bring them? In the era of social media, self-promotion through visual representation is not only widespread; it is often an economic necessity. Our research subjects are frequently several steps ahead of us in visually, and publicly, documenting their lives. How might we, as anthropologists, begin to account for that fact? And how do we reconcile our research interests with their promotional ones? Do we have an obligation, for instance, to represent our subjects in ways that are flattering to them or compatible with their online brands? Or does our commitment to accurate representation trump such concerns? My presentation will draw from my past two research projects —on Indonesian streetwear and international street style bloggers — to address this thorny, digital-age issue.

View Brent’s discussion online. Tune in from 3.30pm-3.45pm EST Saturday 6 December for the live-stream.


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 Mitali Thakor Sabra Thorner Migual Diaz Barriga Thet Win Brent Luvaas el-Sayed el-Aswad Barbara Hoffman Jessika Tremblay Kendall Roark Aaron Thornburg 

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