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  • 1.
    Johansson, Anna
    et al.
    Umeå University, Sweden.
    Sternudd, Hans T.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Music and Art.
    Iconography of suffering in social media: images of sitting girls2015In: World suffering and quality of life / [ed] Ronald E. Anderson, Dordrecht: Springer, 2015, 1, p. 341-355Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper examines the online iconography of mental suffering by using the visual trope of a hunched-over sitting girl as a case in point. By analyzing images of sitting girls found in YouTube video montages on self-harm, and also tracking their further online existence through image search engines, we suggest that the popularity of this trope stems from its generic character, where the girl can be read as simultaneously docile and as actively refusing to engage with the world around her. While not new in itself, the trope is circulated and put to use in new ways through social media with emphasis on remix and visual communication. We argue that media-specific features, together with gender and mental health discourses, enable particular representations and aesthetic styles that may both reinforce and alleviate suffering.

  • 2.
    Johansson, Anna
    et al.
    Umeå University.
    Sternudd, Hans T.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Music and Art.
    Ridiculing Suffering on YouTube: Digital Parodies of Emo Style2016In: Blunt Traumas: Negotiating Suffering and Death / [ed] Nate Hinerman, Holly Lynn Baumgartner, Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2016, p. 31-40Chapter in book (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Numerous YouTube videos represent and comment on self-injury, as evidenced bya search for this term, which produces about 123,000 results (6 June 2014). Inprevious studies, we have explored how suffering, the body, and gender areperformed in such personal videos. During our YouTube study, we have alsoencountered a specific category of video clips that merits further discussion: videosthat in different ways attempt to parody or make fun of self-injury and mentaldistress. What most of them have in common is that they focus on self-injury aspart of the so-called emo subculture or emo style. The purpose of this chapter is todiscuss what such videos tell us about cultural conceptions of suffering and gender.Our analysis builds on a small sample of three YouTube videos in which emoculture and mental distress are parodied and ridiculed through exaggeration. Wedemonstrate that the parodies revolve around two main points: emo as a stylisedperformance of suffering, and emo as queer masculinity. The chapter concludes bysuggesting that this ridiculing of emo culture builds upon discourses of hegemonicmasculinity and normative heterosexuality which are also likely to haveconsequences for the understanding of mental suffering, emotional sensitivity, andgender in a broader context.

  • 3.
    Johansson, Anna
    et al.
    Umeå University, Sweden.
    Sternudd, Hans T.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Music and Art.
    Ridiculing suffering on YouTube: digital parodies of Emo style2014Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Numerous YouTube videos represent and comment on self-injury, as evidenced by a search for this term which returns about 123 000 results (June 6, 2014). In previous studies, we have explored how suffering, embodiment and gender are performed in such personal videos through the use of digital technology and the YouTube platform in particular (Johansson 2013, Sternudd and Johansson forthcoming, Johansson & Sternudd in press). There is, however, one category of video clips that deserves further discussion: those that parody self-injury videos and ridicule people who self-injure through imitation and trivialization.

    In this paper, we analyse a number of such video parodies in order to demonstrate how humour is used to convey norms and ideas regarding mental suffering and gender. The existence of parodies implies that there is in fact a recognizable genre of self-injury videos to parody. Mockery, then, is not only aimed at self-injury as an embodied performance of mental suffering, but also at its digital display which tend to be ridiculed as mere attention-seeking. Furthermore, jokes often allude to gender stereotypes, revealing how performances of mental suffering are denigrated when associated with young femininity. Hence, we aim to discuss what these parodies tell us about the wider social and cultural context of suffering and about the relation between conceptualizations of suffering and constructions of community. To conclude, we suggest that humour in this context may be seen as transgressive insofar as it jokes about a controversial topic – suffering – and insofar as it is reappropriated or articulated by the very individuals who self-harm, but that the videos largely reinforce hegemonic ideas and the stigmatization of individuals who already suffer.

  • 4.
    Sternudd, Hans T.
    et al.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Music and Art.
    Johansson, Anna
    HUMlab, Umeå University.
    The Girl in the Corner: Aesthetics of Suffering in a Digitalized Space2015In: Narratives of Suffering: Meaning and Experience in a Transcultural Approach / [ed] Lolita Guimarães Guerra, Jose A. Nicdao, Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2015, p. 105-115Chapter in book (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    The Internet may provide the means for otherwise marginalized groups – such asyoung people with mental health problems – to make their voices heard in public,and online representations are therefore an important source for studying howemotions are conceptualized and communicated in these groups. In an on-goingstudy of YouTube video montages on the subject of self-injury, we have found oneemblematic and frequently occurring character: a girl sitting alone in a corner, onthe floor, with drawn up knees and head bent down. Images of this character arewidespread, not only on YouTube but also on blogs, discussion forums and websites.Together with her likewise sitting ‘sisters’ – the girl on the swing, the girl on the pierand on the railway track – she is taken to represent young people’s unhappiness, painand misery. Our chapter sets out to explore in greater detail how this characteremerges as a signifier of gendered suffering in online contexts. We argue that itcontributes to an aestheticization of suffering that often seems to emanate from therejection of conventional ideals and hegemonic definitions of normality; theembracing of suffering might, thus, be used as a strategy for achieving socialdistinction. Also, we suggest in our chapter that the girl in the corner and similarrepresentations may be seen as facilitating certain emotional identifications,especially as regards gender.

  • 5.
    Sternudd, Hans T.
    et al.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Music and Art.
    Johansson, Anna
    Umeå universitet.
    The girl in the corner: aesthetics of suffering in a digitalized space2013Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The Internet may provide the means for otherwise marginalized groups – such as young people with mental ill health – to make their voices heard in public, and online representations have therefore become an important source for studying how emotions are conceptualized and communicated in these groups. In an ongoing study of YouTube video montages on the subject of self-injury, we have found one emblematic and frequently occuring character: a girl sitting alone in a corner, on the floor, with drawn up knees and head bent down. This image is widely spread, not only on YouTube but also on blogs, discussion forums and websites. Together with her likewise sitting ‘sisters’ – the girl on the swing, the girl on the pier and on the railway track – she is taken to represent young people’s suffering: unhappiness, pain, misery. Our paper sets out to explore how these images are deployed as signifiers of suffering in online contexts. Particular focus is on the ways in which the aesthetics of suffering is circulated and reinterpreted through the digital, where search engines and other media-specific affordances play an important part. We argue further that these examples contribute to an aestheticization of suffering that often seem to emanate from the rejection of conventional ideals and hegemonic definitions of normality; the embracing of suffering might, thus, be used as a strategy for achieving social distinction. Also, we suggest in our paper that the girl in the corner and other representations may be seen as facilitating certain structures of feeling and emotional identifications, especially as regards gender.

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