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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks


Edited By Nathan Rambukkana

This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream – in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres.
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
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Chapter Thirteen: Jokin’ in the First World: Appropriate Incongruity and the #firstworldproblems Controversy


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Jokin’ in the First World: Appropriate Incongruity and the #firstworldproblems Controversy


I’m honestly bothered when people text me that don’t have an iPhone #FirstWorldProblems —StephanieBrunoo, December 5, 2012

A young Haitian boy leans wearily against a tree. Behind him, a hog laps up standing water from a mud puddle at the base of a crumbling stone wall. A rooster struts past discarded refuse and fallen, decaying bricks. The camera pans left and focuses on the boy; his hair is cut short, and he wears a loose-fitting red shirt. Not yet in his teens, he looks small against the trunk of the large palm tree on which he rests his slim frame. Looking at the camera, his eyes begin to wander and travel over the distant ground as he speaks. The voice is his; the words are not. “I hate it,” he says, “when I tell them no pickles and they still give me pickles.”

This video, only a minute in length, features nearly a dozen Haitians in similar circumstances reading tweets that use the hashtag #firstworldproblems.1 Released in October 2012 by the organization Water is Life, the video attracted significant attention, accruing over 6 million views on YouTube. And, if the disjunction between the frivolous complaints and the impoverished circumstances remains unclear, the advertisement ends with a tagline that removes any ambiguity—“#FirstWorldProblems are not problems” (TheGiftOfWater, 2012, emphasis in original). ← 179...

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