Contemporary Portrayals of Women and Femininity. a Case Study of Lifestyle Blogs in the U.S

By Roca-Sales, Meritxell; Lopez-Garcia, Guillermo | Journal of Research in Gender Studies, July 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Contemporary Portrayals of Women and Femininity. a Case Study of Lifestyle Blogs in the U.S


Roca-Sales, Meritxell, Lopez-Garcia, Guillermo, Journal of Research in Gender Studies


Introduction

The Internet has changed our lives. Technology has transformed the global media environment from one organized around passive media consumption to a far more complex environment - mobile, multitasking, on-demand - where consumers have more control over where, when and how they interact with media. Today, consumers produce their own forms of content and are capable of producing, distributing and consuming information bits and bytes, no matter where he or she is, as long as Internet access is provided. As a result of the Internet's structure and distributed architecture, access to information has progressively relocated into the users' hands. Audiences have evolved and adopted a more active role; Internet users read, listen and watch, they also express themselves and create their own content (Jenkins, 2006). The consumer, who used to be at the receiving end of the communication chain, has been placed at the center of the process. This change has mainly been possible thanks to social apps, a corpus of tools, services and technical devices that enable the user to produce (edit, copy, distribute) content accessible to others (Gluck & Roca, 2008).

Multiplication of media and audience fragmentation are other factors that should be taken into account. Blogs targeting young millennials coexist in a highly competitive scenario, by and large more competitive than that which was characteristic of the preexisting communicative ecosystem; public access to media is no longer limited to a reduced number of newspapers, radios and television channels. In such conditions, where media and audiences are diversified, specialized and fragmented, it is not surprising that the content and focus of the blogs analyzed for this study target the interests and, above all, to the Weltanschauung of a more limited and more specific audience. In this context, mediatization theory, as Bennett & Iyengar (2008) point out, would be applied less forcefully to the current communicative ecosystem, and in particular to digital media, given the context of competition and the breadth of supply. There would be an ambivalent scenario, in which content produced by media channels match the tastes of the audience while the audience seeks media aligned with their taste. In this complex scenario configuration of social reality, especially in the long run, would continue to be powerfully determined by media consumption.

The structure of the Internet stimulates that the way of producing and consuming information by the users, now called prosumers (Bowman & Willis, 2003), is more in line with increasingly specific interests, and less determined by the mass media agenda (Bennett & Iyengar, 2008). In fact, users not only have a much greater capacity than before to determine which specific contents are interesting to them, and how to consume them. But the same network has also the ability to learn from the user's preferences and, in the same way that advertisements customize the search history, navigation, and purchases of each user, so does content, or the first results presented by search engines (Morozov, 2014). The content that users access online is increasingly predetermined by their preferences as well as by the other users with whom they interact on social networks. The "filter bubble" described by Pariser (2011) is proven to be well established.

Blogs have been very popular since the early days of the World Wide Web. The first blogs appeared in the late 1990s with the creation of Open Diary (1998) and SlashDot (1997), both considered to be the first "blog tools." Ten years later, in 2007, Technorati's State of the Live Web gave an estimate figure of 70 million blogs worldwide (120,000 new blogs were created each day). In just two years (from 2004 to 2006) the blogosphere doubled its size (total blogs tracked) every five to seven months. The success of free and open-source content management systems (CMSes) like Wordpress (released 2003) also contributed to the popularity of blogs, without users needing to know how to code or write HTML. …

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