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Tuesday, July 12 • 13:31 - 14:30
Beyond the Screen Shot: Applying Filmic Methods to Online Identity Production

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 302, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Finola Kerrigan, Birmingham University, United Kingdom
  • Kathryn Waite, Birmingham University, United Kingdom
  • Andrew Hart, Birmingham University, United Kingdom


Social media offers qualitative researchers volume, richness and the promise of direct access to the lived experience of the individual.  However, the scale and complexity of social media data presents a “little big data” challenge in terms of data collection, aggregation and interpretation (Esomar 2014). Social media identity production is located within an online infrastructure that reproduces a world “out there” (Pridmore & Lyon 2011) and involves the curation of numerous data fragments within ongoing episodic narration. Established qualitative data collection and analysis can struggle to capture fully this longitudinal and iterative process. We contend that new methods of qualitative data collection and analysis are needed to capture the longitudinal adjustment to social norms; self-censorship and the translation of the self into content in order to provide a holistic understanding of the online identity production.


Our paper synthesises filmic methods and consumer research theory to develop an innovative methodology, which captures the interactive process-based nature of social media identity production.


We implement a four-phase mixed-methods methodology, which forms a prism of reflexive data collection and analysis.  We recruited professional filmmakers to construct films composed of a discrete chosen participant’s social media data. In the first phase, the professional filmmakers acted as expert interpreters and constructors of narrative. These filmmakers constructed a biopic of selected research subjects using longitudinal data (words, pictures, speech and music) extracted from social media platforms. The filmmakers were not informed of the research agenda and focussed solely upon the subject’s online identity as enacted on social media. The filmic process involved the synthesis and aggregation of data into a themed narrative. Second, the subject responded to the filmic representation of their online identity. Third, the filmmaker responded to the subject response. Fourth, the final films and accounts by participants and film makers were analysed.


We report on our experience of using this method and argue that this approach enhances understanding of the disclosed and the (re)-interpreted self within social media. Our work shows that social media identity production involves reconciliation with the temporal self, harmonizing multiple selves and reconciling the dichotomous public/private self. The resultant findings advance understanding of celebritisation and marketisation of the self in contexts where public and private merge in increasingly challenging ways.

Future Work:

We plan to synthesise film production and interpretive consumer research theory to propose a robust methodological framework for the presentation and analysis of social media activity. Our work will provide a nuanced and reflexive template for research into digital narrative construction and self presentation.


Esomar (2014) Big Data and the Future of Qualitative Research, RW Connect, Retrieved from http://rwconnect.esomar.org/big-data-and-the-future-of-qualitative-research/, Accessed 2016-01-15

Pridmore, J., & Lyon, D. (2011). Marketing as Surveillance: Assembling Consumers as Brands, In D. Zwick & J. Cayla, (Eds), Inside Marketing (pp. 115-136). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday July 12, 2016 13:31 - 14:30 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 302 Goldsmiths University, Building 2