Swagger, ratings and masculinity: Theorising the circulation of social and cultural value in teenage boys' digital peer networks

Laura Harvey, Jessica Ringrose, Rosalind Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper seeks to disrupt sensationalist racialised and classed media accounts of the youth looting in the 2011 London riots. It draws upon research on young people's uses of mobile digital technology, including social networking sites like Facebook and Blackberry Messenger to understand the performance of contemporary teenage masculinities. Developing the work of Beverly Skeggs, we demonstrate how value circulates in young people's digital peer networks. We analyse how images of designer goods and labels that signify wealth are used on social networking sites to embody cool masculine 'swagger' and attain popularity 'ratings', which we theorise as forms of social and cultural capital that circulate in the peer networks. Interview narratives also illustrate that the construction of online value must be verified in boys' offline lives; and we show how teenage boys are negotiating power relationships and peer hierarchies online, at school and in their neighbourhoods. We argue that an analysis of symbolic value in digital contexts and in embodied everyday life helps in understanding new regulative formations of gender and masculinity in late-modern, globalised contexts of youth identity construction. In this way, our findings and analysis directly challenge the simplistic public discourses of 'feral' and 'mindless' youthful masculinities depicted in the UK media representations of the London riots, providing more complex insights into the construction of contemporary teenage masculinities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume18
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2013

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