Surveilling Strangers: The Disciplinary Biopower of Digital Genre Assemblages

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article identifies and names the digital visual genre of strangershots: photographs of strangers taken without their knowledge or consent and then shared online, accruing derogatory comments as they circulate through online networks. By closely describing a specific strangershot posted on Reddit and then connecting it to further examples, I aim to demonstrate that strangershots constitute a genre identifiable by the recurring social actions they accomplish by producing similar responses to recurring social situations. After identifying the genre, I apply actor-network theory to demonstrate how this genre is produced by assemblages of humans and non-human technologies. Following that, I argue that the genre reifies normalcy by leveraging biopower against non-normative bodies through explicit public shaming. The technological assemblage producing the genre, and the very notion of this genre as a regularized response to recurring social situations, has created new avenues for biopower to regulate individuals. This critical genre analysis provides nuance to assemblage theories of composition pedagogy by valuing ethical analyses of assemblage genre's social actions. This analysis of strangershots helps us meet the digital imperative to pedagogically address 21st-century technology-driven composition practices while meaningfully considering the social actions performed by the genres and texts we teach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
JournalComputers and Composition
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc.


  • Assemblage
  • Biopower
  • Digital rhetoric
  • New materialism
  • Visual rhetoric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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