Everyday aesthetics, public “scrapbook” & multimodal curation: the question of authorship in the digital space

Sumin Zhao, University of Technology Sydney & University of Southern Denmark

In his seminal work Art Power (2008), Groys postulates that “today, an author is who selects, who authorizes” (2013, p. 93). Taking this idea as a starting point, I explore in this chapter the multimodal authorial practices of young female micro-bloggers in social media spaces. Specifically, I look at a particular type of Tumblr blog, which I term “digital scrapbook”, where the typically anonymous author does not author but curates the predominantly visual contents of the blog. That is, they instead of taking and uploading their own photos re-blog images from other online sources. The focus of my inquiry is the formation of a coherent texture and textual identity in digital scrapbooks. I first examine the two types of visual strategies deployed by the authors to create a distinct curatorial voice. The first is the use of “quasi- selfies” (Zhao & Zappavigna, in pre), a type of selfie where a photographer is not directly depicted but their presence is implied by their body parts (e.g. arms, feet) or inferred by the presence of certain object, and the second is the creation of everyday aesthetics (Murray, 2008) through a particular combination of ideational and ambient visual choices. I then trace the genealogy of multimodal curatorial practices in various public and private contexts, focusing on surrealism exhibitions (Jolles, 2013), Gerhard Richter’s Atlas (Buchloh, 1999) and traditional female scrapbooks (Helfand, 2008). By unpacking the differences between these historical authorial practices and blogging practices on Tumblr, I hope to provide new insights into the shifting notion of public and private authorship in the digital space.

Buchloh, B. H. (1999). Gerhard Richter’s” Atlas”: The Anomic Archive. October, 117-145. Groys, B. (2008). Art power. MIT Press.

Helfand, J. (2008). Scrapbooks: An American History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Jolles, A. (2013). The curatorial avant-garde: surrealism and exhibition practice in France, 1925-1941. The Pennsylvania State University.

Murray, S. (2008). Digital images, photo-sharing, and our shifting notions of everyday aesthetics. Journal of Visual Culture, 7(2), 147-163.

Zhao, S & Zappavigna, M (in pre) Intersubjectivity and the Selife: a social semiotic analysis of social photography from Instagram to “hipster” magazines New Media and Society