This presentation reports a paper in progress on the recent rise to prominence of ‘YouTube influencers’ in professional boxing, most famously Logan and Jake Paul, to much outrage among fans and promoters of ‘real boxing.’ We’re examining this trend as the encroachment of one media system – YouTube, vloggers – onto another – more traditional boxing and its media – in terms of what this trend illuminates about relationships between mass/social media, sports, and society. Guided by mediatization theory, we argue this phenomenon takes the spectacle aspect of boxing to its ‘logical extreme,’ as a byproduct of the shift over decades in boxing (and, to lesser but growing degree, other televised sports) from ‘free-to-air’ mainstream TV broadcasting, towards ever more niche, and more lucrative, markets, first through pay-to-view and now ‘over-the -top’ streaming and other internet-based new media. The institutional actors involved thereby amplified the ‘media spectacle’ of boxing, which has always been integral, so that it’s even more constitutive of the sport – and they’ve therefore summoned from the vlogosphere the Paul Brothers and their influencer ilk. More broadly, we suggest these developments bespeak the growing ‘mediatization’ of a culture both more engrossed with media events, via new/social media, and more ironically attuned to their artifice than were previous generations. This augurs uncertain though clearly mixed psychological and ideological implications for young fans of the influencer boxers, who espouse and embody a masculinity imbued with both the toxicity of social media and its progressive norms.
Iain Macpherson, Macewan University, Canada
Jack Skeffington, MacEwan University, Canada
About the Presenter(s)
Dr. Iain Macpherson is Associate Professor in Communication Studies at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His research focuses on organizational communication, intercultural communication, and new media (VR, 'the metaverse,' etc.).
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