Affect and Power in Post-Digital Culture: Reserved’s Marketing Campaign in Posthegemonic Perspective

Artur Szarecki
(University of Warsaw)

On the 17th of March 2017, an American girl, who introduced herself as DeeDee, asked the viewers of her YouTube channel to help her find a boy whom she met at a concert in Poland, but lost contact with. Within a couple of days the video was viewed over 2 million times and widely shared on social media sites. Soon, however, it was revealed that the potential love story is, in fact, a part of a marketing ploy for a clothing brand, Reserved. This caused a strong backlash, as many people accused the company of emotional manipulation in pursuit of profit. Consequently, the campaign was framed in the media in terms of a counter-hegemonic struggle, positing the emergence of a unified public voice that challenged corporate power. However, analyzing over one thousand comments about the video posted on Facebook before the scandal broke, I will attempt to demonstrate that the range of responses to the campaign was, in fact, much more diversified, encompassing a multiplicity of immediate orientations and feelings that were subsequently curtailed in media accounts. To explain these discrepancies, I will frame the campaign in terms of a viral event designed to harness social media’s capacities to pass on and reinforce affect. As such, it exemplifies how media power in contemporary societies becomes increasingly posthegemonic, operating not via discursive capture, but by designing networks of intensive connections that continuously feed on themselves, habituating the multitude to the non-linear dynamics of the post-digital cultural environment.

Artur Szarecki is a cultural theorist and music journalist from Poland. He received a PhD in cultural studies at the University of Warsaw in 2013. Since then he has been conducting research in the field of popular music studies, as a principal investigator in two NCN-funded research projects: Popular Music and Post-Hegemonic Politics (2015-2018) and Musicking Assemblages: Popular Music and New Materialism (2019-2022). Concurrently, he has been investigating vernacular practices online, as part of a NPRH-funded international research project: Polish Vernacular Culture in Comparative Perspective: Memory – Imagination – Resistance (2014-2019).