lonelygirl15 – commodification of a social space?

[Update: You might also be interested in my posts on lonelygirl15 (Sept 5) and why they get upset about fictions (Sept 12)]
The New York Times has an article this morning detailing the creation of lonelygirl15, complete with photos of Jessica Rose, the actress who portrayed Bree, and comments from Grant Steinfeld, the software engineer who helped filmmakers Ramesh Flinders and Miles Beckett to produce the show. So that’s solved, then. Luckily the end of the article gives hope that we’ll get more of the story despite the denouement, though apparently not at YouTube.

I find it more interesting to think about how a phenomenon like this works than to try to figure out who did it – though it’s certainly interesting that finding out who’s behind it is so important to so many of the fans. I’m interested in seeing lonelygirl15 as one of a series of epistolary web narratives, in the tradition of Online Caroline and email narratives. In a comment on the lonelygirl15 phenomenon last night, Henry Jenkins connects lonelygirl15 to a teen video diaries I wasn’t aware of: Rachel’s Room, a 2001 web diary/web cam site produced by Sony. I’ll have to explore that.

Particularly interesting to me in the same post was Henry Jenkins’ comparison of the lonelygirl15 phenomenon with the 500 fake Paris Hilton CDs that Banksy and Danger Mouse have made and placed in shops along with the real CDs. Cool, eh? Jenkins comments:

So, in order to comment on the fakeness of Hilton’s celebrity, someone created fake versions of her album and smuggled them back in the store. Back in the day, this would have been the work of amateur culture jammers, like the notorious Barbie Liberation Army, but now this is — guess what — an art project involving, among others, Danger Mouse, himself a star with a cult following for his bold mash-ups of other people’s music. And as we speak, the fake Paris Hilton albums are going for ever larger sums on Ebay. So, how do we understand the nature of this particular recording: is it culture jamming or commodificiation? Is it art or self-promotion?

Take that back to the passage I transcribed yesterday from Renetto’s emotional video response to lonelygirl15’s fictionality – perhaps it’s not just that lonelygirl’s fans are upset that “she” was cheating by being a professional pretending to be an amateur like them – you could also read her fan’s fury at her fictionality as an anger at a commodification of their social space for self-expression.

13. September 2006 by Jill

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