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Huang 1

Sunny Huang
Dr. Imaani El-Burki
COMM 398 New Media, Race, and Culture
17 March 2015
Annotated Bibliography


Humans of New York (HONY) has quickly emerged as a digital powerhouse in

new media spaces created in social networks. However, its impact can not only be
seen and felt onlinewhere it tops 12 million likes and is continuously inspiring
derivative Humans pages across the worldbut also in the real world with two
books and a worldwide tour commissioned by the UN. While there are multiple
aspects to HONY I would like to explore, right now it seems that I want to examine
how HONY rooted itself in the current media landscape and grew to unimaginable
or expectedheights.
To this, I have taken an interdisciplinary and international approach to
research and this annotated bibliography, finding sources from the social sciences,
philosophy, business, and even science from worldwide researchers, to study an
online phenomenon that doesnt appear to have much scholarly attention yet.
Therefore, I had to use surrounding concepts that could aid in my deconstruction of
HONYsuch as social media, virality, the celebrity, paparazzi, photojournalism,
empathy, happinessin order to prepare my own analysis. The theoretical and

qualitative ethnographic research that explain the processes and logic behind
participatory cultures online, while the quantitative validates those ideas and
provides scientific understanding and methods.
Throughout this research, Ive found that HONY may find its groundings in the
theories and concepts these researchers suggest, but has overwhelmingly
surpassed and diverged from them, enthusing me to explore the rise and power of
HONY from an academic level.



Annotated Bibliography

Lomborg, Stine. Negotiating Privacy Through Phatic Communication. A Case

Study of the Blogging Self. Philosophy and Technology 25.3 (2012): 415-434. Web.
10 Mar 2015.
Through blogging and blogs, Lomborg examines how the principle of
sociability is formed and maintained, where the bloggers and audience can
experience their communication as personal but not private. It documents the
discursive dynamics, interactional ethics of blogging, and negotiations of the
blogging self in between public and private through three connected perspectives:
network structure, patterns of interaction, theme of the blog. Lomborg concludes
that the online self as a relational and collaborative accomplishment, which is

consistently subject to negotiation between author and readers in an ultimately

communicative genre.
HONY does not fit into prescribed notions of blogging or social media.
Perhaps it could pass as micro-blogging, but not necessarily. Nonetheless, we can
still draw parallels and questions between its well-rounded social media presence ot
the blogging focus in this study. Due to HONYs unique blend of pictures and
interviews, stories, and charity efforts for his posts, and community response via
replies, HONY is in a different position. Thus, we wonder about its dynamics,
collaboration, interaction with viewers, and negotiation of the public vs. private. I
cant offer any answers now, but I can say that this research serves as a good
foundation and point of comparison to reference in analyzing HONYs strategy in the


Marwick, Alice E. I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users,

Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience. New Media and Society 13.1 (2011):
114-133. Web. 8 Mar 2015.
Because social media technologies collapse multiple audiences into
singular ones, it is difficult for people to apply the same techniques they use to
handle multiplicity in live conversations to online spaces. To compensate, content









interactions in live spaces to the virtual space on Twitter, which Marwick

investigates by interviewing participants with different types of followings to

understand their style.
This research was useful because it helped me understand the actual
processes and logic behind successful viral stars work and strategy on Twitter.
Although HONY is a multi-platform project, arguably the most on Facebook, the
research is still applicable because the Twitter strategies apply in some form across
the board. I would like to further investigate how HONY constructs an imagined
audience and cultivates popularity across all platforms and communities, in spite
of having a variety of content. Basically, from all the research Ive done so far,
HONY has grown from the readings issues, patterns, and concerns, but transcended
them to create a space where they can influence as well. How does that happen?


Marwick, Alice E. To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.

Convergence 17.2 (2011): 139-158. Web. 11 Mar 2015.

Celebrities have used social media and Twitter to maintain and promote their
brand by connecting with their fans. Like weve discussed in class, celebrities put
on a show of giving viewers a backstage pass to access their private lives by
sharing behind the scenes content, and furthering the connection and
intimacy by publicly acknowledging fans and using cultural references. However,
this could be construed as performance and a mere game with a clear power

differential. Marwick examines celebrity use of Twitter to demonstrate how celebrity

practice is truly democratic to all or a democratic discourse.
HONY drives a wedge and redefines what is typically construed as celebrity.
Due to HONYs unique practice of sharing candid photos and stories of real life
people, with a regular person behind the camera, HONYs social media could be
seen as candid yet simultaneously not on two levels: the people on-camera and
Brandon behind the camera. HONY and Brandon (not Stanton) are typically
conflated to be one celebrity, so how does the discourse around celebrities apply
to them? Marwicks work can help me distinguish between what it means to be a
typical celebrity, engage in typical celebrity practices, and new celebrity and
practices in the todays digital age. Interestingly enough, the typical and
atypical celebrities and practices are occurring at the same time, but how does
HONY navigate this un-open digital celebrity space and succeed? How did
HONY/Brandon amass such presence and power that inspired multiple local and
international movements and continue to grow alongside typical celebrities as
some stagnate and disappear from the public sphere?


Miller, Vincent. New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture. Convergence

14.4 (2008): 387-400. Web. 5 Mar 2015.

Through an examination of the new media spaces of blogs, social media
profiles, microblogs, and their associated practices, Miller introduces the nihilistic


















pervasive communication and connected presence. Phatic communion is thus

the most pervasive criticism about social media that we have heard since these new
media spaces were first created, being a networking social exchange rather than
an exchange of information or dialogue of deeper meaning. In this modern classic
study, Miller examines the potential consequences of this type of culture.
As many sources found their groundings in this study, reading Miller was
helpful, particularly as he seems to hail from a university that leads in cultural
studies. Although the information may already be out of date, as society has shifted
to become more accepting of the informational and dialogic uses of new media, it
established my basic understanding of social media so I can track how it and HONY
interacted throughout the years, and led me to other sources. Without refreshing
my memory about the beginnings of modern social media, it would be difficult to
analyze how HONY rebuffs traditional notions of social media into a redevelopment
of a more positive image.


Mills, Adam J. Virality in Social Media: The SPIN Framework. Journal of Public

Affairs 12.2 (2012): 162-169. Web. 6 Mar 2015.

When looking into memes virality across new media spaces, I found it
interesting to see that intercultural and new media studies are truly international,

interdisciplinary, and any word rooted in inter- possible. I am finding work and
perspectives from a variety of disciplines, including Mills article, published in a
public policy journal but using a marketing perspective. The paper introduces the
social media landscape and analyses of successful examples in viral marketing,
then proposes a conceptual model of virality in social media called the SPIN
Framework. The SPIN Framework suggests four key success factors for viral
campaigns: spreadability, propagativity, integration, and nexus, and has theoretical
and actionable implications for scholars and public policymakers.
Mills work was significant in further solidifying my foundation on virality. With
these basics, I can better examine and articulate the factors that contributed to
HONYs success on the virtual and policy fronts.


Postill, John, and Sarah Pink. Social Media Ethnography: The Digital

Researcher in a Messy Web. Media International Australia 145 (2012): 123-134.

Web. 12 Mar 2015.
Since Id already researched enough into virality, sentimentality, empathy,
and other subjects, and learned their theories and methods, there finally came to be
a time where it was necessary for me to actually learn how to conduct research in
the online landscape. Postill and Pink helped out well here, explaining the
background and basics of social media ethnography, and introducing more effective
methods. Having resorted to quick Google results that were ambiguous and not

peer-reviewed, finding this guidance was helpful. As part of this project, I may want
to conduct a social media ethnography of HONYs presence and response on
Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. This article serves as a good teacher and start.


Preece, J. Empathy Online. Virtual Reality 4.1 (1999): 74-84. Web. 9 Mar

Preece examines how empathy develops in virtual spaces, which he notes is
important to study as our worlds increasingly go online. He finds that: empathy
occurs in most online textual communities; empathetic communication is influenced
by the topic being discussed; the presence of women tends to encourage empathy;
and the presence of moderators reduces hostility and encourages empathy. The
paper also explores how empathy can be affected by pace of interaction, mode of
expression, and how people reveal themselves in synchronous and asynchronous
A key tenet of HONY and its audience (one of three levels of HONY) is
empathy, which is what HONY was implicitly built upon. HONY seems to differ from
what Preece found about empathy in online communities though. It is a combination
of visual and textual communication, empathy occurs regardless of the topic
presented in the picture (unless if the general topic of HONY is human empathy or
the human experience) and presence of women (though women seem engage with
HONY more), and the presence of moderators in the comments is little to

nonexistent. The work of Preece, who seems to be an influential scholar in empathy,

in 1999 may be outdated now over 15 nears later, but it still sets a foundation for
observing empathy in online settings. I am excited to use his findings to examine
how HONY aligns to them in spite of different settings and circumstances, or
diverges completely.


Romero, Daniel M., Galuba Wojciech, Sitaram Asur, and Bernardo A.

Huberman. Influence and Passivity in Social Media. Machine Learning and

Knowledge Discovery in Databases (2011): 18-33. Web. 7 Mar 2015.
Romero et. al take a more marketing and numerical approach to Twitter
versus theoretical when they examine how users are motivated to pass along
information on Twitter, and thus how certain users become influential, especially
when the default for online users is passivity. They also demonstrate how high
popularity does not necessarily imply high influence and vice-versa.
Although this paper focused on Twitter, while HONY seems to find its primary
audience on Facebook, several parallels can carry over, particularly about how user
passivity is overcome to reshare and engage with the content. This foundation can
help me discern the factors in HONYs consistent rise in high popularity and
influence, because unlike typical social media, HONY expresses both. I cannot use
the authors algorithms on Facebook, though possibly on Twitter, but I can derive
inspiration from its numerical focus to quantify my observations.


Stieglitz, Stefan, and Linh Dang-Xuan. Emotions and Information Diffusion in









Management Information Systems 29.4 (2013): 217-248. Web. 10 Mar 2015.

Previous research has identified content-related features, and user and
network characteristics that may drive information diffusion, but little research has
actually focused on the relationship between emotions and information diffusion in
social media spaces. The authors here thus examine how sentimentality affects
others information-sharing behavior, using political communication on Twitter as a
case study. From their large datasets, theyve concluded that emotionally-charged
Tweets are retweeted more often and more quickly than neutral ones, and thus
encourage companies to build their brand around emotionally-triggering or
sentimental messages.
After reading the Warscapes article that criticized HONYs sentimentality and
it being the reason why HONY went viral, I grew more interested in the appeal and
disappeal of sentimentality and their relationship to virality. While the information
presented here, as with most research, confirmed that water is water, it is still
nice to see some scholarly confirmation and strategies to track the emotional effect
in virality. One factor involved in HONYs rapid and consistent rise in virality and
media power could be attributed to the authentic emotions and stories in his
pictures and posts, which provoke emotions of sentimentality, empathy, and unity in

his viewers. This research will be valuable as I perform deeper-level analysis upon
all of HONYs social media channels, including Twitter.


Svensson, Jakob. Power and Participation in Digital Late Modernity: Towards a

Network Logic. Electronic Participation 6847 (2011): 109-120. Web. 10 Mar 2015
Through theories of mediatization, it is known that political institutions and
participatory practices adapt to the mass media. Svensson examines how politics
and participation adapt to the digitalization of that media alongside the
sociocultural processes of reflexivity and individualization. He uses the concept of
network logic to argue that users are disciplined into responsive and reflexive
communication and constant updating. Political participation, as a result, is more
expressive and increasingly centered around identity negotiation.
This paper introduced me to the concept of mediatization, whose theories
Id like to learn more about as they can definitely apply to my research on HONY,
where Id like to see how real world sociocultural changes are translated into
online spaces. I also wonder about how network logic affects HONYs social media
strategy and its attempts around identity negotiation. Identity negotiation is
complex enough, but as HONY seems to operate on at least three levels (photo
subject, Brandon, and audience), identity negotiation is complicated due to the
simple yet intricate factors involved in his postings. Seeing how network logic fits

into HONY will be interesting too, especially on the last two operational levels, but
this paper was a good foundation for beginning this analysis.


Tufekci, Zeynep. Not This One: Social Movements, the Attention Economy,

and Microcelebrity Networked Activism. American Behavioral Scientist 57.7 (2013):

848-870. Web. 8 Mar 2015.
The emergent new media ecology, which integrates participatory media into
the structure of global information networks, has significantly affected how
attention is produced and distributed. In social movement scholarship, studying
this key resource is necessary in order to achieve paths to virality. Unfortunately, it
hasnt been explored in depth until Tufekci, who found that this resource is
redirected due to civic and social media, weakening mass medias monopoly on
public attention in the emergent attention economy.
Aside from connecting to our course questions about the validity of third
media spaces, the internets democratic potential, and role of hegemony, focusing
on attention pathways can help examine the factors leading to HONYs rise and
spread across a number of communities to achieve worldwide fame and
international political attention. Surely in the space that the mass media has been
pushed away from, HONY is one of the medias that has succeeded in this
participatory culture and redirecting the attention and conversation away from mass
media-induced ideas, such as celebrity gossip and paparazzi, into a seemingly

ordinary project. However, this project has done incredibly well and deserves further
analysis in social movement scholarship, because it could arguably be deemed a
movement in todays new media spaces, particularly as Brandon Stanton is
thought of as a micro-celebrity and uses his networked presence for white
neoliberal activism. Tufeci was instrumental in introducing me to this body of work
and new perspectives that can help explain why HONY has achieved consistent and
still growing virality on all channels, and then how it translates into activist work.


Weng, Menczer, Filippo Menczer, and Yong-Yeol Ahn. Virality Prediction and

Community Structure in Social Networks. Nature 2:2522 (2013). Web. 5 Mar 2015.
If coming across an article about meme virality in the top science journal was
a surprise, imagine my surprise when I found Weng et. als work to be significant
research in new media. The authors take a more scientific look into network
structure and a memes virality by comparing it to actual contagions, which makes
sense, as virality does derive from the word virus. Weng et. al argue that most
memes are complex contagions that can easily spread within a community, but
not outside across other communities. The viruses are a few memes that spread
and infect multiple communities, becoming viral, such as HONY. The researchers
take another step to devise a practical method to translate data about community
structure into predictive knowledge about what information will spread widely, aka
what memes will go viral.
I appreciated this study because it introduced me to a new approach of
thinking and research

in media studies and social media that introduces an

element of practicality and applicality that was missing from my normal theoretical

and qualitative readings. With both types of readings, I will be better able to explain
why and how HONY has not only become a virus, but the epitome of viral
phenomena that transcend into real world international political spaces such as the
UN and arguably revolutionize the new media space. I am excited to look for more
STEM- and business-grounded sources such as this, because with that backing, I will
be more capable of analyzing and quantifying cultural and network elements.


There is a large and growing body of work that explores the junctions of
digital spaces, and increasingly alongside the connections between more human
feelings in the real world. This research has definitely introduced me to the basics,
but I wish I could do more to inform myself in the aforementioned connection and
even smaller junctions, such as Facebook, sentimentality, and neoliberalism. I need
to learn how to find research for those, and the research field needs to expand in
general. Many findings were limited to mere conference proceedings instead of
actual peer-reviewed journal articles. Nonetheless, after completing this exercise, I
have a more developed idea on where I would like to head with this project and
further sources I can consult. Hopefully there is a possibility to include elements
about the neoliberal white cisgendered male gaze in a diverse city, along with how
the Humans movement caught traction in an international public sphere.