Hypertextuality and Remediation

The work of Agnès Rocamora has helped me understand, more fully, the evolution of fashion communication where she synthesises, really clearly, ideas from a number of theorists such as that of Barthes, Bourdieu, and Baudrillard. I’d very much like to meet her one day.

Today I was rereading her article Hypertextuality and Remediation in the Fashion Industry (2011) as I’m starting to think about how I’ll carry out my discourse analysis and some of the ideas presented here really stand out to me as being useful in helping me do so.

First there’s the concept of the blogosphere as a “hypertextual space [or] electronic linking of a wide range of written texts and images, brought together in a constantly shifting configuration of networks” (p. 94). This leads on to the notion of fashion blogs as dynamic – “texts in perpetual movement, always new, never ending”.

Another interesting observation in this article is the linking that goes on between one blog and another (or a number of others), which Rocamora positions as being unlike fashion magazines and more traditional media. This is something I hadn’t really considered before but I do know that community is a huge thing for bloggers, both on and offline. There are strong networks that exist today for bloggers to network, for example the North East Blogger Network. This implies that bloggers do not view each other as competition but rather as equals and colleagues of the profession who can (and will) help each other.

The other line of discussion I took from this article was “where printed text is static, hypertext responds to the reader’s touch” (Bolter 2001, p. 42, in Rocamora, 2011, p. 96). I just really like this quote and feel that it adequately demonstrates the power of the reader. I’m starting to build up a really clear mental of image of an interconnected blogosphere where fashion bloggers provide signposts for the much valued followers the needs of whom they serve.

References

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Writing space. New York: Routledge.

Rocamora, A. (2011). Hypertextuality and remediation in the fashion media. Journalism Practice. 6(1). Pp. 92-106

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Screens and Mirrors

Agnes Rocamora has carried out some really interesting studies in the areas of fashion communication and marketing; observing on fashion weeks, to fashion blogs! Today I was rereading her work “Personal Fashion Blogs: Screens and Mirrors in Digital Self Portraits” (2009).

My favourite part of this article is an example where she refers to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where the magic mirror represents the blogger’s computer screen and followers will confirm them to be “the fairest of them all” by leaving positive comments. I suppose they might also leave negative comments, but then a blogger could choose for them not to be seen!

By bringing together new and old technologies of the self—screen and blog on the one hand, photography and fashion on the other—personal fashion blogs assert themselves as a privileged space of identity construction (Rocamora, 2009, p. 410).

Rocamora reflects on the self-reflective nature of blogs and draws on examples from fashion bloggers (where colour makes one blogger “feel whole”) and identifies that bloggers keep followers engaged through the technique of regularly revealing a little more about their life with each post; “personal stories are narrated supporting the practice of fashion as a technique of the self” (p. 412). This helps bloggers found a more intimate relationship with their readers and the gradual portrayal of their identity brings together individual posts to form a story.

My research will build on ideas such as those of Rocamora’s and build on their theories by looking at how identities evolve over time on blogs, how these translate to other media and whether the identity that is being actively portrayed is consistent with that which is being perceived.

Reference

Rocamora, A. (2011). Personal fashion blogs: screens and mirrors in digital self portraits. Fashion Theory. 15(4). Pp. 407-424.

Trust me, I’m a fashion blogger.

There seems to be some mixed reviews amongst industry professionals regarding the credibility of fashion bloggers. There’s no denying that there are some hugely successful examples of bloggers (now opinion leaders) who have become accepted as experts in the sector!

We’re seeing an evolution of the fashion blogger making a timely entrance, and all for the better. You can pick out the influential and credible fashion blogger from the rest; they have a consistent brand, a cult following; do their research just like any seasoned fashion journo and are determined to take care of their business (Ahwa, 2010, p. 36).

The issue of blogger credibility comes up frequently and, where this was once mostly concerned with whether bloggers actually had any substance or knowledge behind their commentary, a key talking point today is that of “gifting”. Suzy Menkez highlights the increasing pressure on bloggers from brands and advertisers who target bloggers with the hope they’ll showcase their products in a favourable light. Jennine Jacob (Independent Fashion Bloggers, 2010) discusses this further in an interesting article where she expresses worry about gifting but also touches upon the unfairness that bloggers come under criticism for a practice that editors have engaged in for years.

But does the fact a product was gifted for review guarantee positive coverage? Bloggers may cry, ‘NO!’ but to be honest, I don’t see negative or even questioning reviews very often. Even for products that don’t get good reviews elsewhere. Bloggers want to maintain good relationships with companies (I know, I try) as much as companies want positive press (Independent Fashion Bloggers, 2010, np).

Sadly I cannot see any fabulous freebies coming my way any time soon… *Must blog more often*

References:

Ahwa, D. (2010). Time to evolve. New Zealand Apparel. 43(8). P. 36.

Independent Fashion Bloggers, (2010). Does gifting affect blogger credibility? [Online]. Available at: http://heartifb.com/2010/06/14/does-gifting-affect-blogger-credibility/. [Accessed on: 1st November 2014].

“Everyone’s a fashion critic”

During our second year Fashion Communication module, we ask our students to set up and maintain blogs for the semester. Some of them already have blogs but for most of them this is new. Many choose to continue blogging after the module is completed and some have done so very successfully, tying this in with their existing social media. Some examples are: Nicola Claire and Electric Sunrise but there are many more!

In today’s highly competitive fashion industry, blogging is becoming highly necessary for fashion graduates to stand out to employers as somewhere they can showcase their skills in a very visual and enterprising way – design, photography, styling, buying, modelling, writing, or whatever these may be!

There’s certainly no denying that the fashion blog has revolutionised the industry and presented us with a new army of self governed fashion critics! Robin Givhan discusses this in Harper’s Bazaar (2007) stating:

The rise of the fashion blogger was inevitable. Fashion has evolved from an autocratic business dominated by omnipotent designers into a democratic one in which everyone has access to stylish clothes, anyone can start a trend, and the definition of designer — Donald Trump! — has become astonishingly malleable.

Her ending note; if you can’t beat them, join them!

My blog is me

Just like a paper diary, weblogs are structured around ‘I’ narratives. They present the life of a sovereign subject who has a continuous identity and a coherent history, (Reed, 2013, p. 226).

In his article “my blog is me”, Reed explores the identity of bloggers; focusing mainly on the “kinds of person these digital texts can become” and how their identity might be received. This is something I’m interested in exploring with my research, where I will look at the message that the sender is trying to communicate (e.g. via a photograph on Instagram or post via a blog) and how this compares to the message that is actually being received; this will help me to draw conclusions about the identity of the author (or that which they are consciously trying to portray) vs how followers perceive the identity of that author:

Indeed, I believe we need to more regularly ask ourselves (as we do with most other kinds of artefacts), what kind of person is this text? Who does it substitute for? How is agency extended? Into what kind of matrix of relations does this ‘person’ enter? How is the ‘person’ composed and how does that composition alter over time? (p. 224).

An interesting aspect of this could be the extent to which the communicator actually considers the communication and how it might be received before posting it. The instantaneous and ungoverned nature of social media has made it perfectly simple for anyone to share their thoughts and photographs almost without conscious thought. Reed reflects on this:

At the heart of journal blogging is an ethos of immediacy. Weblogs entries are meant to be ‘of the moment’, a record of how the individual felt or thought at that particular point in time, (p. 227).

Although bloggers might reveal quite personal information about themselves, Reed argues “there are always aspects of the subject that remain outside or beyond the text, impressions that they cannot or do not want to post [and] while individuals are happy to assert that ‘my blog is me’, they also insist that ‘I am not my weblog’.”, (p. 230). Where a blogger has followers who they actually know offline, Reed argues they are likely to be more considered in their communications.

In terms of methodology, Reed draws inspiration for Gell (1998) who: “describes four kinds of entities (or subjects): the ‘index’ or material object itself, the ‘artist’ or attributed creator of that thing, the ‘recipient’ or viewer or consumer of it and the ‘prototype’ or entity depicted by the art-object (such as the landscape in a painting)” (p. 223). Reed reviewed a number of blogs, mostly from London, and met some of these bloggers face-to-face; these bloggers maintained that their blogs were “unreserved” representations of themselves. The continuous nature of a blog, where communication is instant and ongoing and a blogger’s story will build up over time, makes the text seem “alive”, (p. 227).

Reed discusses bloggers’ motivations where the most common motivation was to vent or offload personal thoughts or feelings, much like a diary. One of his research participants states: “blogging gets them out of my head, it’s a thing to get all that stuff out of your head that otherwise you couldn’t put anywhere”. Reed identifies that these bloggers often view blogging as being very separate to their work. I would hypothesise that this might be different for fashion bloggers, many of whom might be motivated by career progression, using their blog as a personal portfolio and encouraged to update this regularly due to the dynamic industry’s expectations. Another motivation for most bloggers is to attract more followers and retain existing ones. Bloggers rely on their followers and one of Reed’s participants likens blog posts to “the graffiti that one finds across the city, texts left for strangers to read”, (p. 232).

Bloggers regard each other as equals; they point out that the visitor to one weblog is always the prototype (and author) of another, (p. 232).

This quote is of particular interest to me, as it was my main motivation for setting up this blog. In order to carry out my research, I would like to actively engage with fashion bloggers in their own environment, in what Reed would describe as “conversations between texts”, (p. 235).

 

References

Gell, A. (1998). Art and agency: An anthropological theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Reed, A. (2006). “My blog is me”: Texts and persons in UK online journal culture. Journal of Anthropology. 70(2). Pp. 220-242.

Blog ambition

… the average person, too often estranged from fashion, is taking ownership of it, (Robin Givhan in Harper’s Bazaar, 2007, in Pham, 2010).

Interestingly, Givhan later goes on to state that fashion bloggers can become “biased” where “passion gets in the way of truth telling”. This is how Pham (2007) begins her discussion in the article “blog ambition”, where she explores fashion blogs and discusses the extent to which these can be considered as democratisation of fashion communication.

Pham observes that, although most people in the Western world do have internet access to set up a blog, it might take a certain amount of investment (time, money, training, etc) in order for users to optimise this so it ranks highly in searches. Without question it will take time to build up an army of followers but I’d argue that today this can be done through social media and existing networks rather than investing heavily in search engine optimisation in the first instance.

Pham highlights the difficulty in keeping track of the exact number of blogs that exist due to a lack of standardised definition; however the majority come from the USA and are published in English:

A tiny fraction of these blogs are dedicated to varieties of fashion and style that might be grouped as celebrity, street, couture, luxury, indie, mass-produced, masstige, vintage, and eco or green [and] might be personal, informal, public, referential, and participatory, (p. 4).

Many successful fashion blogs in the UK could be classified as being “personal”, as they are often written in the style of a diary, where the blogger will discuss fashion and style in the context of their own life, referring to the past and alluding to a future. They often talk directly to their audience, using words like “you”, “we” and ending their post with a “x”; all of these elements can help to encourage a loyal set of followers. This is in line with Pham’s “horizontal communication”, where the power sits evenly between blogger and follower, as both have a level of reliance on each other.

Pham also explores some interesting points regarding identity construction in blogging; I’ll come back to this in a future post as it’s an area I intend to explore in my own research.

 

References

Pham, M. T. (2010). Blog ambition: fashion, feelings and the political economy of the digital raced body. Camera Obscura. 76(26). pp. 1-37.

Changing parameters of fashion communication

The communication revolution is here! (Allen, 2009, p. 2)

Although I’ll draw some inspiration from more traditional means of fashion communication (magazines, print ads, etc), the focus of my current research is online media. I’ll be looking, in particular, at fashion blogs, Instagram and Pinterest and analyse messages from a range of “actors”, including opinion leaders, fashion critics, fashion designers and emerging voices.

Instagram and Pinterest are still relatively new media (both were launched in 2010), and there is only limited research into their use as a tool for fashion communication. Blogs, on the other hand, are one of the earliest forms of online “social” media and have played a big role in the democratisation of communication; with fashion bloggers being recognised in their own right as “the new member in the fashion industry”, (Zhang, 2010, np). The control has shifted from sender to receiver and there is a new emphasis on engagement and interactivity, as opposed to top-down instruction. 

Allen (2009) discusses blogs in her exploratory study of the changing parameters in fashion communication, where she draws on earlier theories, for example that of Roland Barthes, (1967). She makes an interesting observation about the lack of a credible “gatekeeper”, where traditionally this control would sit, for example, with the editor of a fashion magazine like Vogue.

Allen makes another valuable point, this time around the style of this communication, which tends to be informal and conversational; on the one hand, this enables bloggers to engage their followers on a more personal level, but it can also lead to careless mistakes and bad grammar; this carelessness is made worse by the general lack of governance and instantaneous nature of social media, where a blogger can communicate a message instantly with relatively no thought or reflection beforehand. 

Blogs connect with their readership in two ways firstly by the conversational communication style of the blog content which includes both written discourse and visual communication. Secondly by the fact that the reader views this on a device that is closely viewed often as a solitary activity and a device owned by them, (Allen, 2009, p. 5).

Allen draws on examples from well known fashion blogs such as Style Bubble and highlights the importance of regular updates and the creation of a sense of “insider” knowledge, in order to encourage a loyal following and appear credible. A good example of language which she uses is the term “I popped to the private view” (Style Bubble, 2009, np).

This article is insightful and I found it a useful starting point for my research.

 

References

Allen, C. (2009). Style surfing  changing parameters of fashion communication – where have they gone? In: 1st Global conference: Fashion exploring critical issues. 25-27 September 2009. Mansfield College: Oxford.

Barthes, R. (1967). The Fashion System. USA: University of California Press.

Style Bubble, (2009). When you’re a boy… [Online]. Available at: http://www.stylebubble.co.uk/style_bubble/. [Accessed on: 17th October 2013].

Zhang, C. (2010). Fashion blogs: the new member in the fashion industry. Journal of Digital Research and Publishing. 3(1). Pp. 153-160.