Assessment 3 · Uncategorized

The Significance of Intimate Publics on Social Media

Student: Yilei Quan  SID: 460419990

Tutorial: Thursday 9-12am, Fiona Andreallo   Word count: 1335 words

The core concept of “intimate publics”

The concept of “intimated publics” is the combination of intimacy and network publics under Web 2. 0. SNSs are characterized as “intimated publics” and act as an important role in the construction of online publics (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Cultural intimacy pointed out by Michael Herzfeld, as the recognition of a cultural identity, contributes to strengthening common sociality though it is regarded as a source of external embarrassment to some extent (1997:3, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Hinton and Hjorth (2013) expanded this notion to social and mobile media. They placed it in SNS situation where intimacy can overcome geographical, social as well as political barriers and generate a close connection between strangers while sharing the common bond existing in the same cultural group. Based on the increasing significance of the intimacy in SNS, “intimate publics” has become one of the key concepts to define SNS-constructed publics (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). This concept is produced under the popularization and permeation of various social media usages, typically of SNSs which offer a technological place for people to enhance personal and public socio-cultural intimacies (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).









Author’s approach the framework

From chapter 3 of Hinton and Hjorth’s book “understanding social media”, the concept of “intimated publics” related to SNSs has been explained from different aspects. Before explaining the concept of “intimate public”, the author introduces the intimacy existing in the actual world. Besides romantic and familial intimacy, both cultural and social concepts are manifested in this notion. Based on the plain intimacy, the author expounded “intimate publics” in SNSs. Next, the author described personal and public socio-cultural intimacies of SNSs are accompanied with the sense of nationality and community by making several examples of different SNSs in China, Korea, the US, Philippines, and Brazil. In addition, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) further explained that, besides the significance of intimate publics on social media, in turn, SNSs have an important technological function to mediating intimacies in a more interpersonal layer as well as the process of managing online details. Finally, through evaluating the relationship between privacy and public, the author emphasized that it is necessary that consider SNSs as “intimate publics” rather than “networked publics”.


The online intimacy has several pieces of significant empirical evidence to the construction of SNSs in different aspects. Firstly, as mentioned by Hinton and Hjorth (2013), online interpersonal relationships are relatively influenced by cultural intimacy. Online intimacy is similar to a kind of actual intimacies that people from the same area might be familiar with local news, accents, customs, thinking ways, lifestyle and so on. It includes communication, viewing choices and using habits limited by cultural backgrounds. Secondly, within SNSs, intimacy could be mediated by social media which overcomes the barrier of geography (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). In chapter 7 of this book, the author mentioned that social media could effectively help people keep in touch with their family when they moved away from home. In this aspect, “intimate publics” on SNSs become a bond to connect and maintain the actual intimacy in a virtual space. Thirdly, people would deal with their online information, like friend lists, based on different standards. This distributary of intimacies reflects another side of “intimate publics”. Furthermore, not only do different circles exist in intimacies but also the phenomenon named “presence bleeding” (Gregg 2011) appears. With the increasingly influential new media technologies, the boundary between intimacy and public gradually has become blurring (Berlant 1998). That means different sections of people’s life would inter-permeate via these technologies. Gregg (2011) mentioned that, for instance, contemporary work life supported by digital technologies breaks limitations between personal and professional identities. Some individuals take their unfinished work home and check emails outside paid work hours. It is obvious that these forms of “presence bleeding”, across public and private life, networks, SNSs, and media, strengthen the structural transformation in work practices (Gregg 2011). In a word, the significant change led by intimated publics enhances interpersonal relationships as well as the upgrade of the social media.









The practice value of intimated publics

The concept of “intimate publics” offers effective guidance and reference to build a wider online space. Firstly, “intimate publics” contribute to creating another type of individual connection in the virtual world. Hinton and Hjorth (2013) clarified that assisted by the online intimacy, individuals are available to build a new common bond with anybody who has similar interests and abilities. It overcomes objective space and time limitations. Social media game, which features entertainment and maintaining relationships, is a typical example of utilizing “intimate publics” (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Various social media games including multiplayer games, typically for MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) like Warcraft and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) like League of Legends, combine online discussion forums and create the online social environment together.


Secondly, some features “intimate publics” have could be a value reference in developing the category and privacy system of SNSs. Noted by Hinton and Hjorth (2013), through analyzing the user profile on SNSs, users would separate their friends into different categories and share personal information with them in varying degrees. This differential treatment towards different people is possibly influenced by the emotional evaluation, social status, cultural background, and different functions of different international circles. Besides the idea of “circle” introduced by Google+ in Hinton and Hjorth’s book, Wechat, a Chinese popular social application, created a filter aiming at this phenomenon. Users could select to share their photos and moments to “all friends”, “just selected friends”, “just themselves” or “do not share exclude selected friends”. Additionally, people cannot see other viewers’ comments below one post if they are not friends. This design guarantees people’s privacy and emphasizes the significance of intimacy.


Finally, for my own work, the “intimate publics” concept has also become a value reference as I designed the social media campaign for Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Improving the interaction between social platforms and the audience is the key point of the campaign concepts. To some extent, interaction is similar to intimacy. New media including SNSs, generates “intimate publics” online which rely on a common bond (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013) and simultaneously exists “presence bleeding” (Gregg 2011). Based on this, we came up with several audience targeted strategies. In order to disseminate the campaign of the Con, we designed different events including unified hashtags #lunbreakatthecon, behind-the-scene posts, live videos, question time, introductions to musician’s, and photo competitions separately on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. In addition, we analyzed the viewing time on these platforms and combined with people’s work and rest time to arrange the posting time and schedule. Finally, in order to strengthen the common bond, we planned to invite some professional musicians to participate in our campaign and utilize “reposts” and “likes” from more influential related channels like The university of Sydney. Through blending different kinds of audiences together, we might effectively disseminate ourselves and expand the range of audiences, especially the followers of other channels.


Critical consideration

Although different forms of “intimate publics” are positive to maintain and develop the interpersonal relationship, the boundary between public and privacy is gradually blurred at the same time. The ambiguity of it could easily lead to a confusion for people when they consider about what and who to share. On the other hand, the concept of online intimacy just focuses on cultural differences and ignore other elements which might make some effect on “intimate publics”, such as social status, politics, knowledge background and etc. From my perspective, social media and real life are interpenetrative. Intimacy in the real world is complex and influenced by enormous different elements, similarly, online intimacy should not be merely defined and considered in the cultural aspect. To sum up, this concept, accompanied by the uncertain trend of social media development, is still not mature. The definition and analysis of it need a long term to revise constantly.



Berlant, L., (1998). Intimacy: A Special Issue. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 24, No. 2, 281-288.

Gregg, M., (2011). Presence Bleed: Performing Professionalism Online. Retrieved from

Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). In Understanding Social Media. London, England: SAGE. Retrieved from: