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The introduction draws on relevant theories of life writing to propose a definition of “automediality” that broadens the scope and sharpens the focus of this term to denote: diverse forms of media that present autobiographical performance(s) and which require close attention to the facts of mediation, and a conceptual tool and approach to autobiographical texts of a range of forms, but having particularly useful application for digital and multimodal forms.It then outlines the case studies in each chapter as automedial genres, arguing for due attention to be paid and credit to be given to the significant contribution that girls and young women have made and are making to digital forms of autobiography.
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These stories include Koren Zailkcas’ memoir, Smashed: Growing Up a Drunk Girl, which tells of her young experiences with binge drinking, and her follow-up, Fury: A Memoir, a therapy-based memoir in which Zailkcas traces her problems with substance abuse and emotional instability to her childhood and a dysfunctional family dynamic. Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by author and screenwriter Diablo Cody, narrates Cody’s experiences as she, out of curiosity rather than need, becomes a stripper for a year. There are also, of course, several published diaries by girls such as the legendary Diary of Anne Frank, and others, but these were published either by the authors as adults, or not by the author as all (such as the case of Anne Frank as well as Ursula Bacon’s Shanghai Diary: A Young Girl’s Journey from Hitler’s Hate to War-Torn China (2004).
Although Driscoll does specifically refer to femaleness, and my case studies here focus on work by young females, I understand “girl” as a gendered term but not necessarily one attached to biological sex. That is, the term should be inclusive in order to make room for trans* identities here.
Web 2.0 indicates a shift towards user-generated content and a range of new participatory media practices stemming from this shift “such as ‘tagging,’ ‘feeds,’ ‘commenting,’ ‘noting,’ ‘reviewing,’ ‘rating,’ ‘mashing up,’ ‘making friends’” (Burrows 2011, 685).
Other studies that take a similar approach include: Sarah Banet-Weiser’s “Branding the Post-Feminist Self”, which emphasises girls’ self-branding on YouTube as identity-making; Katie Davis’ “Coming of Age Online: The Developmental Underpinnings of Girls’ Blogs”, which examines girls’ blogging practice through a framework of developmental theory; Leisha Jones’ exploration of fangirl communities as identity construction which “mirror[s] the real life of girls” (Abstract); Linda Duits’ exploration of girls’ media use for what it reveals about “girl culture” and identity practices; and both Susannah Stern’s “Adolescent Girls’ Home Pages as Sites for Sexual Self-Expression” and Fanny Gyberg and Carolina Lunde’s article “A Revealing Generation? Exploring the Blogging of Adolescent Girls in Sweden” are examples of research that frames girls’ digital autobiographical practice as “self-expression”.
Diaries prove the exception here: for example the published diaries of girls like Anne Frank and Marie Bashkirtseff have circulated widely as literary works.
Some prominent examples include: high-profile former playboy “bunny” turned media personality Holly Madison’s Down the Rabbit Hole (2015); revealing underground “porno memoir” Girlvert (2013) by Oriana Small; Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper (2006) by Diablo Cody, who wrote about her year working in strip clubs; and glamour model Katie Price’s (aka Jordan) popular series of memoirs which were ghost-written by Rebecca Farnworth.
It is worth noting that in this landscape “girl” as an identity marker is slippery. It is not necessarily a category of female-hood restricted to “young” females, but one that even mature women might aspire to, market, or promote for their own purposes—like the Kardashians or Katie Price, or even the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills, who often refer to each other as “girl” or “girlfriend”.
The recent special issue of Biography, “Online Lives 2.0” (McNeill and Zuern 2015) both attests and responds to this need within the field. It also acknowledges how quickly the field has changed during the ten years since the first special issue on “Online Lives” (John Zuern).
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- Introduction: Girls, Autobiography, Media
- Chapter 1