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The Voice Australia (2012): Disability, social media and collective intelligence

Ellis, K. (2014) The Voice Australia (2012): Disability, social media and collective intelligence. Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media and Culture, 28 (4). pp. 482-494.

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This paper examines themes that emerge in discussion of Season 1 The Voice Australia's vision-impaired contestant Rachael Leahcar on The Voice Australia's official YouTube channel. The essay uses Pierre Lévy's conception of information utopia characterized by collective intelligence as a mechanism to examine the way representations of disability are responded to online. The paper outlines three broad themes that emerged in the available social media discourse about Leahcar's performances: first, themes that portray her as an inspirational sweet innocent, second, accusations that she had a competitive edge or ‘sob story’ that others could not compete with and, finally, that people with disabilities are entitled to compensation.

Social media also offered Rachael Leahcar the opportunity to respond to criticisms that she was not disabled enough – a critique often levelled at people with disability seeking accommodations. This paper argues that although Rachael was broadly constructed and interpreted as a ‘supercripple’, the affordances available through both reality television and television's use of social media provide the opportunity to introduce a different type of representation that embraces both incidentalist and non-incidentalist ways of understanding disability.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: © 2014 Taylor & Francis
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