Labors of love: netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism

Paasonen, S., 2010. Labors of love: netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism. New Media & Society 12, 1297–1312. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810362853

p.1297

Such transformations [in the production and consumption of pornography] are connected to shifts in the technologies of producing, distributing and consuming pornography.

pp.1297-1298

All this calls for a rethinking of pornography as a popular media genre and the ways in which its boundaries have become stretched – and perhaps even redrawn – with the introduction of digital media tools.

p.1298

In spite of the high visibility of online pornography and the importance of so-called adult content for the development of web economies and technologies, pornography has remained one of the more under-studied areas of internet research.

Netporn has been defined in terms of grassroot activities, gift economies and performative exchanges […]

p.1299

The conceptual division of netporn and porn on the net, as evoked in these discussions, can be seen as simultaneously esthetic (in the sense that netporn is seen to challenge the norms and conventions of mainstream commercial porn catering primarily to male heterosexual audiences), political (netporn is seen as queer and non-normative in its displays of sexual acts and desires), ethical (netporn is seen as detached from the potentially oppressive practices of the porn industry), economic (netporn is seen as resisting the commodity forms of commercial pornography) and technological (netporn is seen as separate from offline media production and distribution). In other words, netporn criticism focuses on forms of pornography seen as characteristic, specific or native to the internet, and explores the esthetic, technological, expressive and interactive possibilities of the medium.

My interests lie in how the conceptual divisions drawn between amateurs and professionals, the non-commercial and the commercial, the alternative and the mainstream, are played out in relation to definitions of netporn, alt porn, amateur pornography, Web 2.0 platforms and their participatory cultures. I argue that the conceptual separation of amateur pornographies and alternative porn esthetics from porn on the net (i.e. mainstream commercial online pornography) makes it difficult to consider them as forms of content production and immaterial labor central to the digital economy (Arvidsson, 2007).

p.1301

Alternative pornographies (i.e. netporn) have, from kink sites to subcultural pornographies, fed back to the imageries of commercial pornography (porn on the net) that they apparently subvert. If independent pornographies appropriate poses and elements from the so-called mainstream while abandoning or disregarding others, this is also the case vice versa.

On alt porn sites, users generate content, share subcultural knowledge, and form affective ties with the sites and their performers. As Attwood (2007: 445) argues, both users and performers become members of ‘a taste culture which functions to bind them together in relations of economic and cultural production and consumption which are also relations of community’. In other words, what is at stake is a form of affective engagement and immaterial labor.

p.1302

The division between amateurism and professionalism is a familiar one: whereas the professional is assumed to be technically skilled, the amateur supposedly operates simple versions of technical equipment, and even these with some degree of difficulty.

p.1303

Contrary to the glamour, glossiness and high production value of alt porn, realcore, as defined by Messina, stands for the low-fi (Attwood, 2007: 448) – and, indeed, for the real: ‘Realcore is all about the reality of what you see, the truth of these images. It’s about the desire to see someone doing something because they like to be seen. They’re filming it because you are part of the game as well. You’re the audience. They get horny because someone is getting horny over them’ (Messina in Dery, 2007: 24).

p.1304

Whatever the reason may be, there is a risk of approaching amateur pornography as expressions of desire or pleasure without accounting for how such moments of intimate production may be conditioned. Considering the practice of posting explicit photos and videos of ex-wives and girlfriends in online forums without their knowledge or permission (for which numerous sites are dedicated), consent may well be cast in an ambiguous light in acts of distribution.

Messina (2006) defines the late 1990s as the turning point for novel, amateur online pornographies: with digital cameras and online networks, people could publish their own images and join groups of like-minded individuals.

More or less affordable tools for the making of amateur porn have been available since the marketing of cameras to private households: still cameras since the late 19th century, 16mm cameras in the 1920s, 8mm the following decade and Super 8 since the 1960s (Slater, 1991; Zimmermann, 1995). Since film requires developing, these media involved the possibility of unwanted exposure. Polaroid cameras and portable video cameras (Sony Portapak in 1967, affordable amateur models in the 1980s), digital still and video cameras, without this drawback, have been more flexible.

Kevin Esch and Vicki Mayer (2007: 101) situate the rise of amateur porn in the ‘video revolution of the early 1980s, when millions of people bought their first home video camera and budding film-makers decided to make their own pornography’. Some of these products were distributed for others to watch (for example, through swap-and-buy services) and in the late 1980s the popularity of amateur porn even managed to damage the sales of commercial porn.

p.1305

While amateur porn was plentiful in the newsgroups of the 1980s, its distribution platforms have since undergone considerable transformation, as websites featuring amateur images and videos have burgeoned since the 2000s.

p.1308

As user-generated content is increasingly recognized as both an asset and comprising consumables of a kind, it has become crucial to consider exactly what kinds of consumables these may be and what kind of social circulation they enter. Amateurs making their own porn are not merely expressing themselves, as a neoliberal discourse might have it, but commodifying themselves in relation to pornography as a genre and an industry. All in all, the meanings of amateurism – these labors of love – require rethinking as a form of free labor that complicates understandings of mainstream commercial porn.

Amateurism feeds the codes of realness central to porn while showcasing different types of bodies and sexual relations. As immaterial labor, amateur pornography gives rise to images, videos and texts that are commodities inasmuch as they are gifts.

p.1309

I suggest that thinking about amateur and user production as forms of labor that feed the internet economy, online porn industry included, enables seeing different fields of activity as interconnected and interdependent.

All this necessitates moving beyond dualistic conceptualizations such as the commercial and the noncommercial, the mainstream and the alternative, the professional and the amateur, the online and the offline, as frameworks for making sense of pornography, contemporary media culture and their fundamental entanglements.

Advertisements

Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence

Daniel Palmer, ‘Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence’, pp.47-65, in:

Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. Article Press, Birmingham, UK.

p.47

The history of photography is also a history of automation.

p.48

Needless to say, the primary aim of automation is to reduce human labour time (related to a secondary aim of removing human error). Indeed, certain kinds of cameras today – such as those designed to identify car number plates – need no regular human operator at all.

Continue reading “Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence”

The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object

Vilém Flusser. ‘The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object: An Essay on the Ontological Standing of Photographs’ Leonardo, 19:4, 329-332, 1986

p.329

The Latin term ‘objectum’ and its Greek equivalent ‘problema’ mean ‘thrown against’, which implies that there is something against which the object is thrown: a ‘subject’. As subjects, we face a universe of objects, of problems, which are somehow hurled against us. This opposition is dynamic. The objects approach the subject, they come from the future into the subject’s presence.

The shock between subject and object occurs over the abyss of alienation which separates the two. The present tendency is to relegate this shock from human subjects to automatic apparatus. Automatic cameras may serve as an example.

Continue reading “The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object”

Afghan Box Camera

Birk, L., Foley, S., 2013. Afghan box camera. Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport, England.

Frontispiece

Gulbert would recite prayers and verses and blow on the camera, and then take out the photographs announcing, “A MIRACLE!”

p.11

In Afghanistan in the 1950s a simple hand-made wooden camera known as the kamra-e-faoree began to be used widely in the country for the first time.

Further afield in industrialised Europe and North America, patented relations had already appeared in the 1910s; whilst the photograph process the camera used was first introduced by William Henry Fox-Talbot in 1840s England.

In contrast […] to photography as a thing of the elite, the kamra-e-faoree brought photography to the common man and quite literally, to the street.

Only a narrow pavement slot was required to fit a camera, a chair and a cloth backdrop. The chair in which the customer posed for the portrait could also serve the photographer as a perch on which to rest or even sleep in quieter times. The camera lid provided a handy platform on which to place a pair of scissors and box of photo paper as well as hold a mug of tea and a saucer of sweets.

Continue reading “Afghan Box Camera”

The Body and the Archive

Allan Sekula, ‘The Body and the Archive’, pp.3-64, in:
October, Vol. 39 (Winter, 1986). MIT Press.

p.3

The sheer range and volume of photographic practice offers ample evidence of the paradoxical status of photography within bourgeois culture. The simultaneous threat and promise of the new medium was recognized at a very early date, even before the daguerreotype process had proliferated.

Continue reading “The Body and the Archive”

Why Material Visual Practices?

Asko Lehmuskallio and Edgar Gómez Cruz, ‘Why Material Visual Practices?’, pp.1-16, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.1

The way we understand the camera, as part of a technology and as a tool, plays a crucial role in our understanding of photography.

Although a variety of differences can be found, many photo practices tend to continue along well-paved paths.

Of all the features taken can be shared over vast distances, shown on publicly available websites are used for a variety of other purposes, not all engage in the possibilities that digital photography affords. But importantly many do.

Continue reading “Why Material Visual Practices?”

Photo-genic Assemblages: Photography as a connective interface

Edgar Gómez Cruz, ‘Photo-genic Assemblages: Photography as a connective interface’, pp.228-242, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.228

Photography, as we have understood it for more than a century, has radically changed and we are still in the process of those changes becoming stabilised.

The opening point of this chapter is that digital photography is shaping different ‘assemblages of visuality’ (see Wise 2013) from those of its photo-chemical predecessor.

I understand ‘assemblage’ following Latour’s (1990) ideas of a fixed arrangement between technologies, practices and discourses.

Continue reading “Photo-genic Assemblages: Photography as a connective interface”

Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing

Eve Forrest, ‘Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing’, pp.193-208, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.193

Looking around me, I could see little that I thought was worth photographing. However, one of the photographers beside me suddenly stopped still, then, crouched down. I observed them at work as they moved around: making micro adjustments to their feet, fingers, shoulders and head movements, getting their body in the best position to take the picture.

Continue reading “Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing”

Is the camera an extension of the photographer?

Martin Lister, ‘Is the camera an extension of the photographer?’, pp.267-272, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.267

The act of finding meaning in the photograph is, of course, to engage photography as representation. This, in turn (if it is not to be an innocent reading), inevitably entails a measure of academic discipline and methodology: the semiological scrutiny of images treated as texts, with the aim of revealing or interpreting the meanings included within them.

With regard to photography, this is a developed practice that, over the last 30 years or so, became almost synonymous with photography theory.

Now the ongoing convergence of photography with computing and the rapid development of photography as a networked and computational medium have rendered photography radically more transient, relational, dynamic and polymorphous; we have witnessed a kind of supercharging of what it already was!

Continue reading “Is the camera an extension of the photographer?”

Between Bodies and Machines

Eve Forrest, ‘Between Bodies and Machines: Photographers with Cameras, Photographers on Computers’, pp.105-122, in:

Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. Article Press, Birmingham, UK.

p.105

This discussion has two aims. The first is to move discourse on photography away from the dominant representational framework that often ignores the doings of the photographer.

Continue reading “Between Bodies and Machines”