Zizi Papacharissi

Zizi Papacharissi (PhD University of Texas at Austin 2000), is Professor and Head of the Communication Department at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her work focuses on the social and political consequences of online media. Her book, A Private Sphere: Democracy in a Digital Age, discusses how online media redefine our understanding of public and private in late-modern democracies. She also recently edited a volume on online social networks, titled A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites. She is author of three books, and over 40 journal articles, book chapters or reviews.


What one insight from your field, approach, method, findings etc. do you think is most important for scholars working in this topical area?

Performative Fluency: The ability to produse polysemic content that simultaneously makes sense to multiple publics and audiences without compromising one’s authentic sense of self. In my work I have mostly looked at this on the personal level, examining how performances of the self are prodused in online networked environments. But, I imagine this applies to many genres of produsing and sharing content, and I see performative fluency as a contemporary form of literacy online.

What are two issues that are not adequately treated within current work on cultural production in the digital age in your field or in others?

Distraction: So much is written about the ability of digital content to distract: from school work, social relationships, other habits and routines. Not enough is written on the value of distraction as a way of breaking up routine and opening up the individual to different opportunities. What is defined as distraction is simply attention to something else. Labeling a certain form of content consumption/production as distraction suggests we de facto view it as disruptive. I am not suggesting that all forms of distraction are beneficial, but I am simply arguing that we examine the cultural meaning and context of distraction more closely.

Redaction: Performative fluency online requires both the production of content and simultaneous or subsequent editing/remixing of this content. Editing, including self-editing, is a regular part of cultural production, but mastering redaction online (and offline) permits fluency in content production and communication.

Are humanistic values such as justice, equality, democracy or (insert preferred humanistic value here) currently served by cultural production in a digital networked environment?

All these values are important, and what is essential is not just that they are served, but that they are served optimally in a digital networked environment. I would like to add the value of autonomy, which is also one featured prominently in value surveys of networked and developed democracies. There is a delicate balance between autonomy and control that sustains free expression in democracies, and a good deal of cultural production revolves around negotiating and re-negotiating that balance.