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Gossip talk and online community: Celebrity gossip blogs and their audiences

Erin A Meyers, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Celebrity gossip blogs have quickly established themselves as a new media phenomenon that is transforming celebrity culture. This dissertation is an examination of the impact of the technological and textual shifts engendered by new media on the use of gossip as a form of everyday cultural production. Broadly, I investigate the historical role of gossip media texts in celebrity culture and explore how celebrity gossip blogs have reconfigured audience engagements with celebrity culture. Following Gamson's (1994) approach to celebrity as a cultural phenomenon, I separate celebrity gossip blogs into three elements—texts, producers, and audiences—and examine the interplay between them using ethnographic methods adapted to the new media setting. I begin with an investigation of what is being said about celebrity on gossip blogs, supported by my five-week online fieldwork observation of six heavily-trafficked, commercially-supported celebrity gossip blogs. I focus on visual images and blogger commentary as the key elements of gossip blogs as media texts. I supplement these observations with oral interviews of the producers of these texts, the gossip bloggers. I argue that the blogger, as the primary author of the site, retains authority as a cultural producer of these texts. The final component of this study focuses on the reading and cultural production practices of celebrity gossip blog audiences using data gathered online and through a qualitative survey. I examine the various ways these practices support the emergence of community within these virtual spaces. While I claim that gossip is an active engagement with celebrity culture well suited to new media‘s emphasis on immediacy and interactivity, I conclude that an active audience is necessarily a resistant one. Blogs can be seen as a space for intervention into celebrity culture that allows bloggers and readers to challenge the power of the media industry to define celebrity culture. However, gossip blogs often uphold oppressive norms, particularly around questions of gender, race, and sexuality. Gossip is an important area of inquiry because it reveals the way women, the predominant audience for and participants on gossip blogs, may be implicated in the normative ideologies forwarded by the celebrity media.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Communication|Web Studies

Recommended Citation

Meyers, Erin A, "Gossip talk and online community: Celebrity gossip blogs and their audiences" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3427558.