Ladders, samurai, and blue collars: Personal branding in Web 2.0


  • Robert W. Gehl University of Utah



personal branding, Web 2.0, autosurveillance


Drawing on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Eva Illouz, and Mark Andrejevic, this paper critiques the personal branding literature, particularly as it applies to Web 2.0 social media. I first describe the three-part logic of personal branding: dividuation, emotional capitalism, and autosurveillance. Next, in a sort of mirror image to the self-help literature of personal branding, I offer a critical "how to" guide to branding oneself in Web 2.0. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of why personal branding can be seen as a rational choice, given the circumstances of globalized capitalism and precarious employment. Individuals who brand themselves willfully adopt the logic of capitalism in order to build their human capital. However, I ultimately argue that the obsession with personal branding is no antidote for life in precarious times.

Author Biography

Robert W. Gehl, University of Utah

Department of Communication University of Utah Assistant professor of new media




How to Cite

Gehl, R. W. (2011). Ladders, samurai, and blue collars: Personal branding in Web 2.0. First Monday, 16(9).