Commodifying the followers or challenging the mainstream? The two-sided potential of curvy fashion bloggers

Marco Luca Pedroni, Maria Paola Pofi

Abstract


Digital influencers and fashion blogging are the subject of a growing interest as a pattern of both production and consumption of digital culture. This essay examines the process of co-evolution of digital influencers and audiences by taking into consideration the work of female curvy fashion bloggers. It is argued that, although plus-size social media influencers may play a counter-hegemonic role by conveying alternative narratives regarding body and beauty, many curvy blogs are not significantly different to ”standard” female outfit blogs, in which an audience is commodified as a source of material income and symbolic capital. Digital influencers, therefore, work as examples of co-opted audiences able to enhance further processes of co-option. The article also studies the social media influencers’ relationships with their audiences, focusing attention on the manner through which the blogger produces, develops and maintains this relationship. Cultural studies and political economy perspectives on public are discussed to contextualize the analysis of curvy blogs, as fashion studies have so far shown a limited interest in audience as an issue. The qualitative empirical material of the essay, made of 15 semi-structured interviews with female curvy bloggers and the content analysis of 40 curvy blogs, is analysed according to a grounded theory framework. Three main theoretical dimensions are discussed: the blogger’s career, success and professionalization, their faceted role in the process of audience shaping and the (reframed) narratives of beauty and body they spread. Drawing on a typology of curvy bloggers, the antinomy between “commodifying the audience” and “challenging the mainstream” is presented as a misleading way of interpreting the phenomenon, as the commercialisation of attention and the engagement of followers work as powerful and connected poles of a continuum.

Keywords


Digital influencers; fashion blogging; digital culture; audiences; public; commercialisation of attention

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15847/obsOBS0001383

License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/