- Click and Kin: Transnational Identity and Quick Media eds. by May Friedman and Silvia Schultermandl
The essays in Click and Kin: Transnational Identity and Quick Media explore, in various ways, the implications of communication technology use and transnationalism in the renegotiation of kinship. Arguing for an expansion of the idea of kinship, as connections made rather than those one is born into, and using the transnational as a device for illuminating prejudices of identity and culture, the editors have brought together ten chapters investigating expressions of selfhood in relation to digital technology use and digital spheres. Focusing particularly upon "quick media"—"cheap, easily accessible, and omnipresent tools of communication" (4) that enable impromptu connection—these essays lean into the confusions, transitions, and changes emergent in digital technology use. While all of the chapters examine the ways in which quick media enable the development of modes of identification, they use different critical lenses to do so. Considering the effects of quick media in a wide variety of contexts, they also make use of quick media messages as [End Page 410] evidence to varying degrees. More traditional scholarly chapters sit alongside provocatively experimental personal essays, which cleverly deploy theory as a creative jumping-off point for deeper meditations on the meaning of these technologies in our lives, the ways in which they enable, inhibit, and reshape identity, experience, and relationships.
The volume is divided into four sections. The three chapters in the first section examine the relationships among individuals, the nation, and nationality through imagined communities enabled through communication technology and created or reassembled online. Moving into the ways in which quick media shape an individual's understanding of self, the two chapters of the second section examine the role of literary phenomena—lesbian web series and epistolary young adult novels using the form of text messages—in shaping understandings of the self and regulating behavior. The two chapters of the third section use diaspora as a lens through which to examine individuals' use of an online life, in digital queer spaces, to foster a sense of community that seems unavailable to them off-line. The three essays of the final chapter all use autoethnography to analyze the ways in which quick media enable connection in spite of disembodiment. The movement of the volume as a whole is one from imagined communities to imagined selves, and it demonstrates the powerful connections media can create.
Given the book's emphasis on the transnational, the range of national contexts examined may not be surprising, but it represents a significant contribution to the conversation on the intersections of life writing, media, and identity, furthering the usual focus on Europe and America to a global context. Click and Kin features chapters on the Iranian, South Asian, and Chinese experiences. The diversity of the voices featured is commendable and demonstrates how valuable breadth is to scholarship. Seeing these phenomena discussed in different national and cultural contexts opens up analysis in productive ways, particularly in highlighting differences and similarities in technology use across borders. Isabelle Ng's autoethnographic essay "Love Knows No Bounds," for example, is grounded in Ng's personal experiences of Chinese cultural attitudes toward family and women. It then expands to analyze the ways in which Ng's surrogate parenting of her niece and nephew, a practice Ng links to her culture and upbringing, has been enabled by technology use as she and they have moved countries. Her depiction of family time spent together passively over Skype is memorable while also providing a concrete example of the ways in which individuals incorporate quick media into their lives to maintain a sense of kinship and identity within the "family" group. [End Page 411]
The focus on quick media sets the volume apart from other recent works in the field, such as Media Across Borders: Localising TV, Film and Video Games (2016), in which quick media play a limited or nonexistent role. There is also an enriching transparency that emerges across the volume, in the devices...