Accepted Paper:

The digital selves of gun love: benefits and costs  
Robert Glenn Howard (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Paper short abstract:

From the sexy gun girl to the friendly grandpa to the tactical operator, online gun culture offers a rich reservoir of selves. Performing these selves to each other enacts deeply valued communities. But what are the costs of piecing together digital identities from the products of the arms industry?

Paper long abstract:

Based in over 10 years of ethnographic work in the online gun community, this paper documents, categorizes, and notes the variety performative identity types made available in online gun discourse: from the sexy gun girl to the friendly grandpa to the tactical operator, online gun culture creates a wide field of performative expression for gun enthusiasts. By performing these characters to each other, deeply valued communities are enacted. Based on an industry built around arms manufacture however, what are the costs of performing guns online?

This paper would first describe how social media have created digital spaces where individuals can perform very specific selves to an enclave of like-minded others. Describing online gun culture, the paper would then note the wide variety of selves individuals can perform for this gun-based enclave. Based on statements and interviews, the value of these individuals have for their online gun-selves would be assessed. Considering the affordances offered by digital identity performance to a highly specific and controversial enclave, this paper would conclude by considering the social costs incurred by choosing to perform identities that both enable and are enabled by an arms industry driven glorified in popular culture and buoyed by private gun sales but created to empower state military and policing forces.

Panel Digi02
Changing features? Performing the self in digital culture [SIEF WG Digital Ethnology and Folklore] [P+R]