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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Ironies of Web 2.0


Ironies of Web 2.0 

Professor Damon Young

Film & Screen Studies MPhil Conference

Monday May 6th at 6pm in the McCrum Lecture Theatre, Corpus Christi College
Keynote Lecture


Contemporary media cultures evince a crisis of authorial perspective, experienced as a collapse of the distinction between sincerity and satire, seriousness and irony. This indeterminacy can generate comic effects, or serve political ends, as in the claim that an offensive or controversial utterance was “just a joke.”

Sianne Ngai has identified the “zany,” the “cute,” and the “interesting” as the three “aesthetic categories” that predominate in contemporary media cultures. To this list, I add two more, which tend to supplement or saturate each of those initial three: the ironic, and the sexy. The paper tracks the reoccurrence of irony and sexiness, together and separately, across a range of contemporary media sites, including YouTube vlogs, Instagram, and the film Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012).

What Kierkegaard termed the “absolute negativity” of irony—embedded into the technological platforms of Web 2.0— creates transformed conditions for aesthetic judgment, authorship, and politics, as well as producing a new kind of sexual subject.

Damon R. Young is Assistant Professor of French and Film & Media, and in the Program in Critical Theory, at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of Making Sex Public and Other Cinematic Fantasies (Duke University Press, 2018) and co-editor of “The Cultural Logic of Contemporary Capitalism,” a special issue of Social Text (2016).