Capitalizing intimacy: New subcultural forms of micro-celebrity strategies and affective labour on YouTube

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This article is a redevelopment of my previous studies, characterizing the media genre of – and community building through – transgender video blogging. Focusing on one of the most famous video bloggers at the moment, the Canadian Julie Van Vu, I investigate new forms of transgender vlogging that embrace money making/self-commodification in a degree not seen before. Here, activism/advocacy co-exists with and goes through an explicit self-commodification. Drawing on existing research, I explore the mechanisms and characteristics of Vu as a micro-celebrity within YouTube as a platform. I suggest the concept of ‘subcultural microcelebrity’ to nuance, diversify and specify micro-celebrity as a concept and a practice. The article departs from – but also redevelops – the concept and characteristics of micro-celebrity to specify the ‘affective labour’. Micro-celebrities are expected to perform various kinds of labour, many of which are time and energy consuming but not necessarily economically profitable. Micro-celebrities must signal accessibility, availability, presence, and connectedness – and maybe most importantly authenticity – all of which presuppose and rely on some form of intimacy. I propose that intimacy as genre and as capital is deeply ingrained in the strategies, dynamics and affective labour of micro-celebrities. Intimacy is an important and necessary signifier in relation to both the form and content of the videos and the relation between the creators and their audience. Furthermore, intimacy works as an important currency within social media; thus, intimacy can be capitalized in manifold and intersecting ways, for example, for monetary purposes, social recognition and as a tool in advocacy work. The article hereby contributes to existing research on YouTube by redeveloping the concept of micro-celebrity in relation to affective labour and intimacy, analysing how these play out in new forms of transgender vlogging.
TidsskriftConvergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)99-113
StatusUdgivet - 2018


  • Affective labour
  • emotional labour
  • free labour
  • intimacy
  • mediated intimacy
  • micro-celebrity
  • subculture
  • transgender
  • YouTube

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