Content after content warnings: Notes on the trigger

Cefai, Sarah. 2021. 'Content after content warnings: Notes on the trigger'. In: Digital Intimacies #7. University of Queensland, Australia 6-7 December 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

What can we learn about the ‘transfer of power’ (Kipnis 2018) in the culture of the content warning? Content Warnings can be situated in a number of ways: as a history of the present of theories of censorship and representation; a mediation of ‘offence’; a manifestation of the politics of affect in digitally networked societies (and their attendant under-regulation, networked misogyny, public sexuality, and so on); an apex of the culture wars (polarisation, abstraction, anti-intellectualism, authoritarianism, defensive affect, etc.). Furthermore, content warnings claim to presume a theory of trauma. This paper offers some reflections on the role of the ‘trigger’ in situating the image that has become intimate to us not only through ‘circuits of representation’ but dataveillance. The trigger invites reflection on the status of the media image as an effect of an interaction between the psychologization of affect (linked to the tech industry itself—‘emotional computing’ and so on) and its ontologisation (linked to Spinozist, Massumian, Whiteheadian and so on ‘critical immanent philosophies’). Centring on the role of temporality to these accounts of the affective image, including the temporality of the trigger, this paper revises the feminist corporeal hermeneutics of “what an image can do” (rather than what it represents) to examine the legitimacy of the right to be offended as a feminist political, ethical, and epistemological position in the context of the structures that make images intimate to us. What are the ways in which we can think about the trigger and its alternatives? How might the trigger reinscribe digitally mediated intimate publics or culture in general, and what can be claimed through this?

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


7 December 2021Completed

Event Location:

University of Queensland, Australia

Date range:

6-7 December 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 Nov 2022 09:51

Last Modified:

23 Nov 2022 09:51


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