Performing the girl swarm: an IRL investigation of performing postinternet female identity

MacPherson, J.R (2021) Performing the girl swarm: an IRL investigation of performing postinternet female identity. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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The aim of this thesis is to explore an amorphous group of female-identifying internet users who are active on social media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram known as the girl swarm. The girl swarm use hyperfeminine and abject performativity that is often antagonistic to patriarchal norms. The content and aesthetics they create are pursued by capital in the form of commodity feminism whilst simultaneously the swarm are often deemed narcissistic and are frequently censored. In this thesis I investigate the girl swarm in order to understand strategies of postinternet identity subversion. I examine how the internet went from a space that was heralded as having a post-identity utopic potential for freedom to the platforms of social media run by corporate giants that profit from people’s identities. I investigate selfie culture and how it is viewed in a late capitalist and patriarchal system and I explore why the swarm’s version of selfie culture is so popular with other young women online and frequently deleted as inappropriate, or abject on social media platforms. This thesis forms part of my practice-based research and stands alongside a performance that was made for a traditional theatre space and merges choreographic and live art practices. While there have been excellent performances and academic studies that focus on the pressures and anxieties that social media and selfie culture place on young girls this research seeks to address online performativity and identity constructs that subvert limiting and patriarchal notions of young women. I unpack methods I used to embody the digital aesthetics and online actions of the swarm within a traditional theatre space. By embodying the swarm through theatrical practice I was able to understand some societal prejudices towards young women and find strategies to question these prejudices in order to forward a feminist agenda. This research project exposes the need and desire that young women are able to take up space in order to subvert limiting notions of what young women should look and act like in the twenty-first century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

The document attached to this record is the contextualizing research section of the thesis only. It does not include the creative component, which is the production of the work 'Girl Swarm', first performed at University Theatre, Bath Spa University, UK, 3 May 2019.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, theatre performance, social media, internet, online content creation, feminism, young women, internet-based art
Divisions: Bath School of Music and Performing Arts
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Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2021 17:17
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 18:40
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