Inspired by the hyperreality of YouTube vlogs following a day in the life of the creator, Deanna See (’22) decided to launch a channel of her own—@deansodium. Publishing video snippets of everyday life with titles such as “College Finals Week,” “here’s why u should scuba dive,” and “Intern Swag,” Dean wondered about the motivations of her fellow female YouTubers. Were they like her and creating content for the simple love of art and communication? Or were they more interested in monetizing their life experiences? These musings turned into the research question of her Media Studies Distinguished Majors Program thesis.
Communities built around a shared interest in popular culture, known as Fandom Cultures, are a growing phenomenon in our society. Justin Bieber’s superfans are called Beliebers. Selena Gomez has the Selenators. Those following Ariana Grande are the Arianators. For her Distinguished Majors Program thesis, Sally Stimpson (’23) researched fandom culture through the lens of one of the most sensational pop culture conspiracies of the 2010s: Larry Stylinson.
Visual artists, in the era of social media, face the challenge of adapting their work to a more dynamic, fast-paced mode of viewership. Traditionally experienced in museums, where patrons might dedicate several minutes to a work and its accompanying write-up, visual art must now engage on platforms that tend toward fluidity and brevity. Curious to see how her own art fared against those whose content garnered thousands of views on TikTok, Kalista Diamantopoulos (‘23) collected and analyzed TikTok algorithms to find out what goes viral and why. “Trying this out myself made me realize how many choices and considerations go into making videos for a certain platform like TikTok. This goes beyond the typical artistic and creative process,” she said.
In four years at UVA, Mia Gualtieri (’23) built a portfolio she hopes will enable her to land a job in the film industry. It started with a year-long class called Overcranked in which she wrote and directed her own narrative short film. Tug, a story of neighborly love and reparations, was included in the 2022 Virginia Film Festival.