Dissertation Defense: Priya Kumar

Event Start Date: Friday, March 12, 2021 - 1:00 pm

Event End Date: Friday, March 12, 2021 - 2:00 pm

Location: Virtual

Please join us for Priya Kumar’s dissertation defense.

Date: Friday, March 12, 2021
Time: 1pm ET
Zoom Link:

Title: From Oversharing To Sharenting: How Experts Judge Parents And Their Social Media Use

Priya Kumar

Abstract: A newborn swaddled in a parent’s arms. A kindergartner posing on the first day of school. Such images, often found in family photo collections, now regularly appear on social media. At the same time, public discourse asks if—or sometimes asserts that—such practices might have negative consequences for children, such as loss of privacy, dignity, and autonomy. Prior research has documented the pressure, scrutiny, and judgment that parents, especially mothers, endure. It seems that parents’ use of social media is yet another cause for concern. How did this happen?

This dissertation examines how power, manifesting as expertise, works through three fields of discourse to regulate parents’ social media use. Grounded in a post-structuralist epistemology, I study this question using the analytical technique of governmentality, which is a means of tracing how authorities intervene in the lives of individuals. First, I illustrate how a specific site of social media expertise, the once-popular blog STFU, Parents, constructs the problem of oversharing as a form of inappropriate social media use. Second, I explain how news media expertise constructs the problem of sharenting as a form of risk to children. Third, I discern how academic expertise obliges parents to govern their own social media use by appealing to their subjectivity. In each field of discourse, I observe how expertise frames parents’ social media use as a matter of individual responsibility, and I redirect responsibility onto the social media platforms who dominate the internet ecosystem. I conclude with a call for research and public discourse to attend to the politics of digital parenting and to situate social media use within the broader force of datafication that drives contemporary society.

Advisory Committee:

  • Associate Professor Jessica Vitak, Chair
  • Associate Professor Katie Shilton
  • Assistant Professor Dan Greene
  • Associate Professor Shannon Jette, Dean’s Representative
  • Associate Professor Sarita Schoenebeck (University of Michigan)

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Meeting ID: 951 9719 3591

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