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EGO-MEDIA Report Summary

Project ID: 340331
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 2 - EGO-MEDIA (Ego-media: The impact of new media on forms and practices of self-presentation)

Ego-Media has been fulfilling its brief of studying the impact of digital and social media on self-presentation by focusing on a broad range of media platforms and practices, from SMS discussion groups, social media patient groups, special interest communities, health apps, website design and content, narrative forms of social media, video-log interactivity, co-production, and the effects of the resultant hyper-networking of subjectivities.
The team consists of four Professors, two postdoctoral researchers, and four PhD students all at King’s College London. Individual sub-projects have been researching:
• the phenomenology and temporality of online subjectivity,
• the diary and imaginative agency
• the sharing and updating self on social media
• the impact of new media on people suffering from long-term neurological illness
• voice and identity in online culture
• self-observation online
• videogames, identity, and digital subjectivity
• Machine Talk: literature, computers and conversation, 1960 to today
• Representations of Living with HIV in Contemporary South African Writings
• identity affordances of online social platforms
• the effects of social media upon self-representations of health
• Narrating (m)others’ lives: A narrative interactional analysis of storytelling practices related to YouTube vlogging
• the ASMR community
Further details of the projects and team-members are available on the project website at
The project hosted a meeting of its international network in September 2015; a second meeting will be included in the IABA-Europe 2017 conference on ‘Life Writing, Europe and New Media’ which the project is organizing at King’s. Ego-Media has held a series of talks on ‘Life Online Today and Tomorrow’, featuring major international experts. Team members have presented their work at a number of international conferences, symposia and talks.
Health, well-being and illness have as anticipated provided a particular focus of several of the sub-projects, and have acquired a higher profile across the project as a whole. Agency, conversation, creativity, temporality, and the phenomenology of online subjectivity also remain strong emphases, focusing the politics, psychology and aesthetics of the internet, and revealing ways in which Web 2.0 technologies have afforded new formations of these aspects.
Reflective discussion of evolving methodologies has remained central to the design and operation of the project. The project is profoundly interdisciplinary along several axes: Arts & Humanities/Social Science/Medicine; past/present/future; Verbal/visual/physical etc. A chief aim is to challenge received theories of life writing with those of digital and social media, and vice-versa. The introduction of the concept of imaginative agency into the research has effectively triangulated those positions with that of creative practice. While the modality of the ‘prosumer’ (user both consuming and producing online content) is well attested, several of our sub-projects are finding that study of both the affects and effects of social media interaction can be empowering or at least reassuring. However, this must be set against a shift from the earlier celebration of the internet as a liberating, democratic space (taking inspiration from John Perry Barlow’s 1996 ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’) to a set of anxieties about surveillance, and the monetization of data regardless of the rights and interests of their producers.
The research has remained true to its longitudinal, genealogical and ‘technogenetic’ vision – the last term being N. Katherine Hayles’s for reading new media against older forms. This has brought into relief a widespread paradoxical turn whereby users and platforms increasingly offer narrative structures and elements as autobiographical which are at odds with conventional autobiographical narrative, such as images, quantifications, interactive co-constructed telling, and video. Which in turn suggests that the much-vaunted ‘narrative turn’ in the humanities and social sciences is in the process of turning into something else. It has also demonstrated the increasing untenability of the distinction between off-line and online experience. In a multiply connected world, we necessarily live both on- and off-line. Such concepts will be explored further in the second half of the project as we survey users about their experience with digital and social media.

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United Kingdom
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