top of page
  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

Bo Burnham and Academia

Updated: Feb 2

Hi, everyone!

Bo has always had a brilliant mind since a very young age (he is a master at solving Rubik's cubes and won academic medals in high school). Thus, it's no surprise that his works have inspired many intellectually stimulating analyses and scholarly interpretations. Most recently, I chatted with Quentin Stuckey about his Master's thesis on Inside, but there are a number of fascinating dissections of Bo's specials and his feature film debut.

Here are some of my favorite academic articles aside from Quentin's that mention Bo. Enjoy!

1. McKegg Collins—Oh Bo

This six-part series on Medium is without a doubt the best look at Bo's comedy, starting from his beginnings on YouTube to Eighth Grade. The point about Pattie making Bo sing as a toddler on CAMERA blew my mind (how did I never realize that element of what.?). I would really love to read their thoughts on Inside, especially how it addresses a constant theme of Bo's works—anxiety about performing for an audience.

He sits at his piano and looks at the camera, that red blinking light watching. After this moment, it will never stop watching him.
Burnham understands the plight he and his fellow Millennials have suffered and aims to reflect his experiences through his work. The anxiety that comes from feeling you are being recorded all the time. The burden of expectations that we put on ourselves and others around us. The fear that despite the fact you were raised being told you were special, you realize you might not be. Burnham knows their pain because he feels it himself and seeks to discuss the dirty truths through the guise of humor in order to make a change, making him the preeminent artist of the Millennial Generation.
Burnham’s generation grew up in an era where expectations were thrust upon them. From their parents, to their education, to their careers, Millennials were raised to never settle for less than perfection. As a result, it created a determined, capable, and intelligent generation that was nonetheless egotistical, anxious, and self-critical. When things went poorly they fled to a digital world where they could present the best parts of themselves.
Burnham faces the three voices in his head that he battles with constantly. That of his past, his business, and his critics. Throughout all three monologues, Burnham does not respond, he just stands there, growing uncomfortable. Once it’s over, Burnham takes control back. He replays all of these conversations again, but picks out certain sections. The first phrases are how each voice identified him: “Bo,” “Mr. Burnham,” and “Fag.” One is a shallow attempt to be personal, one too professional, and the other just flat out mean. He then loops them and layers them on top of one another, creating a discordant noise that almost become unbearable.
The sound of the keyboards, the keyboards that he started with, that brought him fame come in. Then more and more instruments get layered over that. It becomes this beautiful melody and Burnham goes from shying away, to fighting, to finally dancing along. All those anxieties, those fears, that criticism, all fade away. Burnham has turned the voices in his head around into music. He has discovered how to cope with the voices that haunt him every day. Once he comes to terms with that, the show can finally end.

Burnham constantly rattles the audience’s cage, reminding them that his performance is all an illusion, he is in control, and he refuses to give it away. “You are not ahead of me,” he sneers at one point when they think he’s going to play the piano only to walk away from it, flipping them off as he does so. He even feigns performing an improvisational song with an audience member, only to play a clearly prerecorded track in which he simply inserts the audience member’s name.
Here Burnham truly deconstructs the artifice of comedy. “You want an honest comedian? Go see the rest of them,” he chides them. He scoffs at the audience’s willingness to depend on a single person for their happiness. He tells them over and over that it’s all a lie. “I’m not honest for a second up here. Honesty’s for the birds, baby.” Burnham doesn’t want the audience to ever feel like they have a moment to relax and lose themselves in what he sees as a parasocial relationship.
Burnham deceives the audience with a lighter melody, lulling them into a false sense of security as he backhands them across the face.
In an interview Burnham said he discovered that “the more you disorient people…the more desperate they are to cling onto the next thing you say,” and thus he crafted an experience in which the audience never truly gets its footing.
However by challenging the traditional structure of a comedy show and confessing the artifice of the whole endeavor, Burnham is pulling an old storytelling trick, “the higher into tension we have gone, the more dependent we are on the storyteller for a way out. That’s why he can plug in whatever value, idea, or moral he chooses.” Burnham is playing in tradition in order to help the audience comprehend his methods and make a change.
Here Burnham is speaking truth to power of the plight of his generation. That the narcissism was encouraged and fostered by the previous generation only to be immediately rescinded once we got out into the real world. He also lambastes how social media was a way to give Millennials a platform to perform and as a result, “your own being becomes commodified.” Burnham is trying to shave the wool off of everyone’s eyes so they can be their own people instead of sheep being sold to.
Burnham wanted to light them differently from the “always smiling and well lit” audiences you typically see in a comedy special and instead show them how he sees them: “To me, they’re a mob, a faceless black entity.” It’s haunting and you instantly feel how anxiety inducing it must be for Burnham.
Burnham walks offstage and all the sudden, we are somewhere else. Somewhere foreign. His home office. It looks very much like the bedroom he started in, but it’s hard to tell as the only light source is from the top of the piano. The rest of the room is dark and isolating. Burnham sits down and addresses the viewer at home for the first time: “Now it’s just us.” He then plays Make Happy’s coda: “Are You Happy?”
It’s a beautiful song that brings Burnham’s stand up career full circle. It ends as it began, where he is once again in a room alone performing just for us.
He’s seen what the platforms that brought him success have turned his generation into, the anxiety and fear it’s created. He grapples with if it was all worth it, “you’re everything you hated, are you happy?” He’s not the awkward kid looking at the camera, he keeps his eyes down, focused on the one thing that gave him everything: his art. He hammers away on the keys, knowing that it could be the last song he ever sings. He ends it with “look ma, I made it, are you happy?” showing that he did it to service and move others and hopes that he succeeded.
If Make Happy is indeed Burnham’s final stand-up special, then it is one hell of a note to end on. If what. was Burnham pulling the curtain back, Make Happy is Burnham lighting the curtain on fire and leaving the audience to put something in its place themselves. It is Burnham’s acceptance of his talent, of his voice, ten years since he made that first video and how drastically our society has changed. He’s learned that performance is a dangerous thing for us and we need to learn how to be ourselves. He accepts that what he has to say is important, uses his platform to inform his generation that they can find happiness, not through the internet or pop culture, but within themselves. Once that’s done, he can leave.
It’s what makes her so averse to watching the video her younger self made. She is terrified at the concept of facing her own past, to come face to face to a version of herself that she would rather forget. It’s only when she is at her lowest following her fateful game of truth or dare that she dares to confront her sixth-grade self.
Kayla cannot truly move forward until she comes to terms with her own past. Burning the time capsule is Kayla’s ultimate chance to untie the burden of expectation she’s put on herself and give herself the opportunity to move on.
Here Burnham creates, much like Kayla, a time capsule to remind us where we came from but also to remind the ones who follow us that it’s all perfectly normal.
Burnham became the preeminent artist for the Millennials because he sought to change the unhealthy traits of his generation and emphasize the good from within.
Words, Words, Words is Burnham seeking to define the purpose of art. He started to explore what fame does to people in Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous by airing it on the network that was perpetuating the very ideas he was fighting against. In what. Burnham seeks to define the purpose of comedy and its role in his (and our) emotional wellbeing. Make Happy explores the purpose of performance and how our society has shaped our need to perform all the time. He took those lessons and put them into Eighth Grade to show what those expectations are doing to the next generation.
With social media we suddenly were more connected in ways we couldn’t imagine. The result was a generation of young people growing up feeling the need to present the best versions of themselves at all times with no chances to make mistakes.
Burnham recognized the state of society and his generation’s complacency with this troubling new normal. He sought to dismantle the toxic relationship between people and performance and to seek self-acceptance. He saw our concept of identity was being commodified and spoke out against it, not only being “a comic emissary from planet Millennial,” but an advocate across all art forms for his generation and the generation after. Instead of feeding into a culture that fed off of parasocial relationships between artist and performer, Burnham satirized the worst qualities in himself and his peers in order to correct them.

2. Carmen Bonasera—Estrangement, Performativity, and Empathy in Bo Burnham's Inside

This is an excellent deep dive into Brechtian texts and how that concept of defamiliarization might have influenced Bo's writing for his masterpiece. She also mentions that Inside is a poioumenon, which is a term I first learned through Dissect's episodes about the special.

This paper aims at a critical analysis of comedian Bo Burnham’s Netflix special Inside (2021) – a show filmed during the Covid-19 lockdown period – in terms of defamiliarization techniques, and especially through the lens of the Brechtian notion of Verfremdung. By resuming the main theories of estrangement, comparing Shklovsky’s ostranenie to Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, and transposing them into the context of contemporary cinematic texts, the analysis foregrounds instances of the V-effect in Inside, namely the ironic exposure of the automatisms of contemporary society, the attention drawn towards performativity, and the goal of encouraging viewers to adopt a critical frame of mind. Despite the emotional detachment that Verfremdung conventionally pursues, this essay explores the complex interplay between estrangement and affective responses in the audience’s engagement with the comedy special.

3. Chris McWade—Virus World Vulnerability: A Critical Reading of Gender and Performance in Bo Burnham's "Inside" (2021)

This book chapter explores concepts of masculinity as portrayed in the special and how Bo's explicit vulnerability works to fight against those norms.

Through an engagement with the seminal work of Raewyn Connell on masculinities and hegemonic masculinity, this chapter argues for the hegemonic norm as producing behaviour among men that can be traced in multiple male subjectivities. The argument is that men respond to the prevailing masculine norm by enacting self-protective disavowal—a complex psychological process that involves the reordering of reality in the interests of the maintenance of power, and one that is seen in cases of both legitimate and imagined threats to the self and the body. Self-protective disavowal is at the core of the “Same Shit” phenomenon—the idea that while the experience of masculinity varies across culture and position in the gender order, self-protective disavowal is a constant that leads to predicable patterns among men. The discussion then explores deliberate vulnerability as a kind of anti-protective disavowal in Bo Burnham’s INSIDE, a complex, undefinable ‘special’ released on Netflix in 2021. The chapter considers Burnham’s work as a departure from self-protective disavowal and “Same Shit” masculinity through deliberate vulnerability and critically evaluates the value of this alternative, especially given the nihilism that reigns over the work and calls into question the validity of uncritically romanticization of alternatives.

4. Jennifer Lee O'Donnell—Groomed for capitalism: biopower and the self-care self-improvement rituals of adolescence in Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade and Donald Glover's Atlanta

This analysis of the works of my favorite millennial polymaths is a fascinating exploration of portrayals of the teen experience in media.

Self-care, self-improvement and biopower, as they relate to the commodification of adolescence and the grooming of young people as neoliberal citizens, are the central concerns of this article. Foregrounding new perspectives on the effects such trends have on the body [Cusset, F. (2018). How the world swung to the right: Fifty years of counterrevolutions. MIT Press], it analyzes two texts, the film Eighth Grade and the Atlantaepisode entitled ‘Fubu’ (season 2, episode 10), to consider how neoliberal capitalist values manifest in the lives of protagonists, Kayla and Earn, whose young bodies have been colonized by the self-care, self-improvement ethos of our current cultural spirit.

5. Sam Chesters—In-groups, out-groups, and comic synchrony in Bo Burnham's Make Happy (2016)

Examining Bo Burnham’s stand-up comedy special, Make Happy (2016), this article proposes the concept of comic synchrony, a mode of discourse used to speak both ironically and sincerely at once. Initially, audiences read Burnham’s utterances as wholly ironic or sincere depending upon their membership in an in-group or out-group. Comic synchrony occurs through the layering of concurrent discourse communities that complicate the use of shared rhetorical modes between speaker and interpreter. I argue that audience membership in coexisting and permeable discursive circles catalyses audience evolution so they come to understand each of the Burnham’s utterances as ironic and sincere simultaneously. Through this model, the comedian levels biting critique toward the assembled audience and, more broadly, contrived performance—meaning each attack and not meaning it at the same time. The result is a rhetorical configuration that interrogates the ambivalent relationship between irony and sincerity, emphasizing the contradictory and conflicting experience of acting out one’s life for an audience.

6. Anna Christina Pereira, Sarika Tyagi—'Healing the World with Comedy': Anxiety and Sublimation in Bo Burnham's Inside

Bo Burnham is a critically acclaimed American stand-up comedian and filmmaker. The usual themes in his works are the hypocrisy of artists, the commercialisation of art, and the role of social media in erasing the boundary between the public and the private. However, during the pandemic, he chose to focus on the theme of anxiety, a minor theme in his earlier works. Anxiety has been considered as an integral part of modernity as discussed by Anthony Giddens and Zygmunt Bauman. In psychoanalysis, anxiety has been explained in a number of different ways. In current psychological discourse, anxiety is described as an unpleasant state of mind that can cause significant bodily and mental stress. The anxiety that Burnham experienced prior to the pandemic appears to have amplified during the pandemic. Two main types of anxiety are observable in the shows of Burnham-performance anxiety and existential anxiety. This paper seeks to understand Burnham's show Inside (2021) using Anna Segal's contribution to the concept of 'sublimation'. We argue that in doing the show Inside, Burnham discovers a new way to acknowledge and channel his 'depressive' symptoms towards contemporary times, and he achieves sublimation in the process.

7. Darren J. Valenta—Comedy Makes Me Cry: Seeing Myself in Mediated Disclosures of Mental Illness

In this answer to the special call, I layer accounts of my reaction to Bo Burnham’s stand-up comedy special Make Happy with discussions of the stigma surrounding mental health and personal narratives about my own difficulties with anxiety. Dutta argues that “narratives are sites of contestation where cultural meanings are played out through dialogues among cultural participants” (91). He goes on to add that the sharing of narratives reveals the cultural politics involved in models of health and allows for the exploration of new possibilities (Dutta 103). In this light, disclosing struggles with anxiety or other mental illnesses represents a means of challenging and destabilizing stigmas that depict mental illnesses as shameful states-of-being. This essay reflects on the profound effects of seeing my greatest insecurity reflected in a mediated performance, and the implications for sharing my own personal narratives in order to erode the stigma surrounding mental illness.

8. Cahal McQuillan—The truth inside the comedy

Lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a distinct experience that defined the period for many. Although the experience was unique and varied for everyone, there was certainly overlap. As the days and weeks passed, we adjusted to the so-called new normal, and the longer we spent aimlessly hoping for light to appear at the end of the tunnel, our shared experience and memory of this strange episode grew. It is something that none of us are likely to forget and it will undoubtedly shape the world and generations for years to come. But how can you convey the intimate and personal experience that was life in lockdown? The answer can unexpectedly be found in Bo Burnham's new comedy special Inside, released on Netflix on May 30, 2021.
Inside starts in similar convention to Burnham's previous specials what.(2013) and Make Happy (2016), yet, with the added context of an ongoing pandemic. Burnham begins by setting an ambitious goal, a way of using the downtime offered by the lockdown. He plans to film, edit, and produce a new comedy special entirely on his own, from the confines of one room, and in the absence of any audience. In his opening song, he half ironically justifies the making of this project at a time like this as a means of “healing the world with comedy”. From here, Burnham abides to a relatively normal format, and through a visual circus of discreet sketches and musical numbers, with increasingly impressive choreography and lighting, he comments on and satirises the current state of society or “the way the world works”. Burnham cynically highlights the inherent corruption of capitalism, the systemic oppression and prejudice of colonialism's past, and even mocks the selfish insincerity of many so-called woke individuals who contort being progressive into the myopic lens of their own self-actualisation. However, the central focus of his condemnation falls upon our maddening over-reliance on the internet. Although this was the case before the pandemic, lockdowns have pushed us deeper into online spaces. We have been forced to sacrifice most real-world connections in favour of much safer digital alternatives. The result is a more disconnected and superficial existence.

9. Jasper K. Peck—Joking With a Heavy Heart: Bo Burnham as the Modern Underground Man

What is the meaning of life? How can we make sense of existence, if at all? These are the questions Fyodor Dostoyevsky attempted to answer in his 1864 novella Notes From Underground. Centuries later in 2021, comedian and filmmaker Bo Burnham attempts to answer the same questions in his COVID-era comedy special Inside. Though neither of these works are about existential philosophy explicitly, Notes From Underground is revered as such. In this comparative essay I argue that Inside is also a deeply existential work, similar to Notes From Underground in both the themes it contains and the mechanisms used to convey them. Both are self-referential expressions of pain and bewilderment over the existential condition, and both conclude by giving in to nihilism. Comparing these similar works from vastly different time periods can shed light on how humanity grapples with the same existential questions under different circumstances, providing evidence for the continued relevance of existential philosophy in the Internet Age.

10. Josh Denzel C. Ng—A Tedious Oscillation Between Heartfelt Knowledge and Tears: A Metamodern Essay on Bo Burnham's Work

Ever since the late 1900s until the early 2000s, philosophers such as Linda Hutcheon declared the death of the postmodern senses and looked ahead to a new generation of intellectuals to provide a heading and analysis for what was still a new concept. David Wallace perceived that literature had to shift away from irony and postmodern deception to recover a forgotten referentiality and essentialism. He introduced the notion of using sincerity and honesty, which conform to the beliefs of transcendentalism. Successively, this gave rise to the birth of the idea of New Sincerity commonly defined as an oscillation between irony and honesty, which some scholars perceive as synonymous with the term metamodern. Yet, they are almost always associated with each other; such resolution is imprecise. According to Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker the scholars who lay the groundwork for it: Metamodernism is the reaction after the postmodern epoch. Metamodern, similar to new sincerity, is an oscillation, the unfortunate negotiation between two opposing poles. Undoubtedly, as a new trend or a new cultural paradigm emerges to succeed its predecessor, the majority of the new generation of artists, academics, the populace, and such will embody the ideologies and characteristics of the cultural shift knowingly or not, that signify a variation of a new world. Bo Burnham, an artist, and comedian have inevitably personified the qualities. With that said, the paper will examine the essence of metamodernism and whether Bo Burnham's 'Inside' exemplifies the phenomenon's characteristics.

11. Aleksandra Wlodarek—Language of Stand-up Comedy. A Case Study of Bo Burnham

The thesis focuses on the art of stand-up comedy and its relation to linguistics theories of humor. The first chapter introduces the main theories in humor studies. The second chapter presents a brief history and characteristics of stand-up comedy. The third chapter consists of an analysis of a stand-up special titled “Make Happy” by Bo Burnham. The paper seeks to answer the question of whether humor theories can be successfully applied to the specific form of performance and joking that stand-up comedy is.

12. Adan Jerreat-Poole—Unmake Happy: Bo Burnham's Madly Deviant DIY Identity Play

This paper explores DIY comedian Bo Burnham’s playfully depressed comedy as a multimodal form of Mad life writing, one that articulates a resistant mode of living under and against sanist neoliberal narratives of self-improvement, cure, and prescriptive/restrictive happiness. Employing Mary Flanagan’s (2009) theory of “critical play,” this paper considers the transgressive potential of play and playfulness in emerging Mad digital autobiographical practices. Burnham is an active YouTuber and social media user, and his identity performances are therefore situated within an emerging set of web 2.0 life writing practices that entangle online and offline lives, rely on audience interaction and collaboration, and struggle to work with, through, against, and around normative and normalizing neoliberal digital structures. Social media platforms increasingly coax autobiographical acts as a method of transforming online lives into marketable/saleable products (Taylor 2014; Fuchs 2014; Morrison 2014). Depressive bodies, or bodies in the midst of a panic attack, are not productive capitalist tools, and these autobiographical acts are discouraged in spaces of online identity performance— even as the pressure to perform the self online produces mass anxiety, particularly among younger users (millennials) (McNeill and Zuern 2015). As millennial Bo Burnham plays with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide in his highly performative and self-reflexive comedy, he embodies Ann Cvetkovich’s (2012) call for creative practice as a mode of living with depression. Discussing two of his shows, what. (2013) and Make Happy (2016), I identify three potential tactics of madly resistant identity performance: 1) irony/satire, 2) play, and 3) new media. Through these tactics, Burnham enacts depressive agency by counter-storying dominant narratives of mental illness, critiquing sanist/ableist digital structures and practices, and embodying empathy and playfulness as modes of relating to and with Mad bodies. Mad social media users can adopt these modes of willful resistance in our own identity performances.

13. BC Dagmar Tomaskova—Levels of Stylizations of Persona in Bo Burnham's Inside

This diploma thesis discusses the levels of stylization of stand-up comedian Bo Burnham in his most recent Netflix special Inside and what implications it has on his mental health. The thesis is divided into two basic parts-theoretical and analytical. In the theoretical part, there can be found the theoretical framework which is based on the classic theories of performance theory (Schechner, Zich, Carlson) but it also builds upon theories of stand-up comedy and stylization (Colleary, Brodie, De Fina). The analytical part applies the theoretical framework to the contemporary stand-up comedy scene and its main goal is to analyze the specific Burnham's levels of stylization in his work and answer three main research questions:“What levels of stylization of persona can be found in Bo Burnham’s special Inside?”,“How are those levels intertwined?” and “How does Burnham use this stylization to deal with mental health issues and recovery?”.

14. Meg Roberts—Virtual realities: Social media and coming of age in 'Eighth Grade'

A searingly honest and realistic representation of adolescence in the age of social media, Bo Burnham's debut feature film presents the challenges faced by young people navigating this landscape while coping with the ordinary pains of growing up. As Meg Roberts argues, this coming-of-age narrative provides a timely insight into issues surrounding teenage self-perception and mediated identity management.

15. Kiah E Bennett—The Refractive Comic: Nanette and Comedy from Inside Identity

This essay theorizes a millennial-era iteration of stand-up comedy: refractive comedy. Through close textual analysis of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (2018), I argue refractive comedy alters the message, affective nature, and form of stand-up comedy through a rejection of the dominant worldview and subsequent centering of marginalized standpoints. This essay examines Gadsby’s refraction in a broader discourse of industrial and cultural, gendered, and racial gatekeeping. I examine how refractive comedy, additionally, has inspired critical conversation on comedy’s role in relation to shared and collective trauma, as seen in Bo Burnham’s Inside (2021).

16. Herawati Herawati, Rustono Farady Marta, Hana Rochani G Panggabean, Changsong Wang—Social Media and Identity Formation: Content Analysis of Movie "Eighth Grade"

Movie is regarded as a visual medium that offers a comprehensive presentation of a phenomenon in a defined time. This study employed a qualitative method to provide an interpretive paradigm on the movie titled “Eighth Grade”(directed by Bo Burnham, 2018). It aims to understand the massive role of the use of social media in shaping the identity of young people. The content analysis of movie “Eighth Grade” was carried out by considering abstraction, explication, and structuring. To understand this phenomenon, this study employed Luyckx's perspective on identity formation theory and the social identity model of deindividuation effect. The results of the research showed that the movie" Eighth Grade" vividly described the process of identity formation in a sequential and comprehensive manner, as well as showcased the occurrence of deindividuation processes in social media activities. It Is suggested that to construct a healthy identity, digital activities should complement offline activities, not replace them.

17. Laurie McNeill & John David Zuern—A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to This Issue: Comedy and Life Narratives

This introduction to the “Comic Lives” special issue of a/b examines the dynamic intersection of life narrative and humor. Picking up on a common theme in the contributors’ essays, the authors focus in particular on how comedians draw material for their comic performances from personal experiences of trauma and employ the rhetorical strategies of comedy to enact stealth testimony. They turn to the work of comedians such as Bo Burnham, Oliver Double, Hannah Gadsby, Hassan Minhaj, Thomas Ryan Red Corn and Sternlin Harjo, and Joe Wong to illustrate their discussion, and engage scholarship in comedy studies, persona studies, and celebrity studies to reflect on the affordances that comedy offers life narrative, the benefits and the risks of humor for auto|biographical subjects, and the capacities and limitations of the comic for resistance and counternarrative.

18. Emily Goodwin, Sarah Brophy—Asynchronous Encounters: Artistic Practice and Mediated Intimacy in the Space-Time of Lockdown

This essay engages with pandemic-era artistic practice, asking how digital technologies are being taken up out of desires and attempts to be intimate with, proximate to, ‘contemporary’ with one another. Drawing on theories of pandemic temporality and on media analysis approaches that highlight the digital’s materiality, affectivity, and self-reflexivity, we think with three first-person, visual-digital works composed, circulated, and archived during the COVID-19 pandemic: Ella Comberg’s research creation photo-essay on Google Street View, titled ‘Eye of the Storm,’ Bo Burnham’s Netflix streaming special Inside, and Richard Fung’s short documentary film ‘[…],’ shot on iPad. We suggest that these visual-digital pieces open onto the promises and limitations of mediated intimacies – with others, with ourselves, and with the space-time of lockdown. Their commitments to texture and tension draw out the ‘impurity’ (Shotwell 2016) of our digital lifeworlds, while also attuning us to possibilities for ‘waiting with’ (Baraitser and Salisbury 2020) one another amidst what Nadine Chan (2020) calls the ‘distal temporalities’ of late capitalism. To deliberately dwell in stuck or looped time and linger over the touch of distant, distal others – or what we call asynchronous encounters – is not to indulge or excuse the ways in which contemporary media platforms capitalise on affective and creative labour or surveil digital lifeworlds. Instead, we posit that the textures, glitches, and flickering bonds of mediated intimacy may offer new, multiple, reflexive and recursive pathways ‘toward inhabited futures that are not so distal’ (Chan 2020: 13.6).

19. Darren Berkland—Selfie-screen-sphere: Examining the selfie as a complex, embodying gesture

This article posits that the selfie is a screenic gesture which allows individuals to embody themselves within what Vivian Sobchack calls the ‘screen-sphere’: a reformulation of our definition of the screen which accounts for the ubiquity and mobility of contemporary screens that can no longer be regarded as an ‘“array” of discrete artefacts’ but instead regarded ‘as a structural and functional collectivity’. While Sobchack claims that our ‘lived-bodies cannot physically dwell in this new spatiality without special technologies’ such as VR equipment, I believe that the set of complex gestures which result in the selfie allow, in fact, for a type of embodied existence within the screen-sphere. In particular, it is grasping the device and viewing oneself in its ‘digital mirror’ that results in this complex gestural moment. I am following Flusser in my definition of gesture; that is, a production of meaning that is contained in some practised performance: a symbolic movement that at once both expresses and articulates meaning. I will draw upon Bo Burnham’s film EIGHTH GRADE (2017) to provide an example of how this gestural relationship develops within the screen-sphere, in which a young protagonist engages with a variety of ‘screenic’ surfaces. Closely examining the main character’s selfie process, I will, first, reformulate Sobchack’s screen-sphere as a screenic topology that accounts for how screens arrange space; second, I will examine how gestural movements emerge within this topology; and finally, I will examine the role of the digital mirror, and how looking into the device consolidates this gesture.

20. Michael Hannon—Is There a Duty to Speak Your Mind?

While this paper is ostensibly about being outspoken in society, the author went to Twitter to announce whom he placed in his'll never guess who!

Yes, Bo! The writer quoted his "shut the fuck up" rant in Inside.

And here's a Bo-nus book chapter:

Kyler Tripp—Bo Burnham on the Nature of Performance

I hope you enjoy reading these academic resources about Bo and his works!

UPDATE: Redditor u/cybrmanfan has recently informed the subreddit that Bo appears in their MEDIA TEXTBOOK!

In 2019 comedian, writer and filmmaker Bo Burnham was quoted that these data collection companies were:
Coming for every second of your life ... they used to colonise land, that's where money was to be made, then they colonised the entire earth ... There was no other place for businesses and capitalism to expand into, and then they realised human attention ... they are attempting to colonise every minute of your life.
Bo Burnham speaking in the video Self-esteem in the Age of Social Media, Child Mind Institute, YouTube, 2019.
Comedian, actor and filmmaker Bo Burnham stated that social media and data companies were 'coming for every second of your life.'

I expect to see a LOT more of Bo Burnham's wise quotes being cited in such works in the future!


bottom of page