‘#BOREDWITHMEG’: Gendered boredom and networked media

Journal: 
Issue: 
Summer 2018
Author(s): 
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:93.05.2017

This article seeks to theorise boredom in the wake of the new technological modes of capture and commodification that have emerged in a digital network culture, by focusing on the popular ‘What to do When You’re Bored’ sub-genre of YouTube video tutorials that are addressed largely to female teenage audiences. Situating itself in relation to the fields of boredom studies, critical attention studies and feminist media studies, the article reads these videos as performing a variety of affective labour that is increasingly required of gendered subjects in the so-called ‘attention economy’ of twenty-first century media. As I will argue, platforms such as YouTube construct users above all as boredom managers -  agents who are responsible for, and capable of coordinating, the affective texture of their own experience as it unfolds in real time. And yet, as I will suggest, this discursive construction of boredom overlooks the significant role that such media play, not only in producing and intensifying new cultural forms of tedium, but also in capturing and modulating the subject’s affective experience before she becomes aware of it. Reflecting on the blatant gendering of affect in these YouTube tutorials through the figure of the teenage girl, I go on to ask why this work of boredom management should fall so resoundingly to young women to perform. Why has the figure of the teenage girl been rendered so excessively visible in these YouTube tutorials as an ideal conduit for the monitoring and self-management of twenty-first century boredom?