Portfolio of Personalities: Social Media, Micro-Celebrity and Self-Assetization

Rosamond, Emily. 2021. 'Portfolio of Personalities: Social Media, Micro-Celebrity and Self-Assetization'. In: People Like You: A New Political Arithmetic. United Kingdom 11 June 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Opening YouTube’s homepage unleashes endless personalized recommendations – choice lures from a rapidly expanding content pool. Myriad ad-hoc services, debates, and styles of self-presentation vie for attention in this oversaturated field. Among these, the “burnout talk” video – YouTubers explaining why they need to step away from content creation – symptomatizes the platform’ oversaturation. Algorithms favouring constant content creation strain aspiring micro-celebrities – a condition exacerbated by continually expanding content pools that offer ever-diminishing hopes of attaining high enough subscriber counts and watch time hours to monetize channels. What forms of critique best highlight these conditions? This paper argues that social media platforms like YouTube offer profoundly unequal terms for assetizing personality. In a winner-take-all status-scape, very few YouTubers successfully self-assetize, generating significant rent from their personalities and personalized audience exchanges. Meanwhile, platforms assetize a different object: a hedged portfolio of personalities, comprised of all content providers. This effectively outsources all risks of content development to users, while platforms reap rewards from their hedged portfolio’s ability to induce engagement. YouTube has shifted as it has expanded: away from any tacit claim to democratize access to reputation and status, by providing meritorious content providers access to wider audiences; and toward a randomized-aristocratic distribution of status, whereby ever more content creators fall below the monetization threshold – and yet, precisely who will improbably succeed remains indeterminate. Algorithmically-concentrated attention assetizes few, exemplary personalities on an epic scale, while most remain unenriched – in spite of the privatized public sphere’s tacit claim to democratize access to self-publication. Effective critiques of social media platforms, thus, should contest specific apparatuses that entrench inequalities within self-assetization practices: the algorithmic concentration of attention, the selection of ratios of personality rents to platform rents, and the production of thresholds between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ self-assetization at specific points along a spectrum from low to high status.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


1 June 2021Accepted
11 June 2021Completed

Event Location:

United Kingdom

Date range:

11 June 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Jun 2021 09:57

Last Modified:

18 Jun 2021 17:46



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