In today’s digital era, women’s voices are heard everywhere—from smart home devices to social media platforms, virtual reality, podcasts, and even memes—but these new forms of communication are often accompanied by dated gender politics. In Women’s Voices in Digital Media, Jennifer O’Meara dives into new and well-established media formats to show how contemporary screen media and cultural practices police and fetishize women’s voices, but also provide exciting new ways to amplify and empower them.
As she travels through the digital world, O’Meara discovers newly acknowledged—or newly erased—female voice actors from classic films on YouTube, meets the AI and digital avatars in Her and The Congress, and hears women’s voices being disembodied in new ways via podcasts and VR voice-overs. She engages with dialogue that is spreading with only the memory of a voice, looking at how popular media like Clueless and The Simpsons have been mined for feminist memes, and encounters vocal ventriloquism on RuPaul’s Drag Race that queers and valorizes the female voice. Through these detailed case studies, O’Meara argues that the digital proliferation of screens alters the reception of sounds as much as that of images, with substantial implications for women’s voices.
Jennifer O'Meara is an assistant professor in Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin. She is the author of Engaging Dialogue: Cinematic Verbalism in American Independent Cinema.
O’Meara provides a timely and novel assessment of how women’s voices mediate the relationship between past and present screen technologies, exploring how voices of the cinematic past circulate throughout contemporary digital networks. Original in its approach and scope, Women’s Voices in Digital Media expands the remit of gender-oriented film studies to incorporate both auditory and digital screen cultures. It has a great deal to offer scholars in sound, gender, media, and film studies.
~Marie Thompson, The Open University, author of Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism
Jennifer O’Meara’s Women’s Voices in Digital Media is a rare scholarly achievement that reboots and redirects a vital area of interdisciplinary study. Existing at the nexus of sound studies, voice studies, and media studies, O’Meara's text makes an important contribution to all three, mobilizing feminist media scholarship to investigate a fascinating set of digital case studies, including ASMR videos, film history podcasts, GIFs, celebrity Instagram accounts, virtual reality, and virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri. The result is a bracing refresh of old theory and a clear-eyed assessment of new digital phenomena. Throughout the book, O’Meara is attentive to the dynamics of vocal labor, the possibility for digital forms to open discursive spaces for women’s voices, and the nuances of vocal performance. A must-read for anyone interested in sound studies and the cultural politics of mediated voices.
~Jacob Smith, author of Eco-Sonic Media
An expansive text that looks to the past in order to look forward, [Women's Voices in Digital Media] closes a critical gap in the theorization of women’s voices by revisiting, challenging, and extending classical conceptions in film studies and critical media studies, carrying them into the digital and transmedia age...O’Meara doesn’t just survey and update theory; she lays out a multifaceted framework for future analysis of the female voice across emerging technological and visual platforms. As rare as it is to find within a mature field like critical media studies a text that delivers a paradigmatic update on a major conceptual framework, Jennifer O’Meara has done just that. This will be the book to read for any and all scholarly work on the gendered voice and its intersections with technology and the screen.
This is a timely and impressively researched exploration of the technological landscape of digital media and the 'productive revisions' of women’s voices, real or virtual...The analysis of women’s 'digital communities' and their navigation of new feminist politics offers up a rich new area of enquiry.
~British Association for Film, Television and Screen Studies
1. Film Voices + Time: Excavating Vocal Histories on Digital Platforms
2. The (Post)Human Voice and Feminized Machines in Anomalisa, The Congress, and Her
3. The Expanded and Immersive Voice-Over
4. Karina Longworth and the Remixing of Actresses’ Voices on the You Must Remember This Podcast
5. Meme Girls versus Trump: The Silent Voices of Subtitled Screenshots
6. RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Queered Remediation of Women’s Voices
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