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Tuesday, July 12 • 14:46 - 16:15
Hacking the mundane? A Pride-Turned-Protest on Instagram

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributors:
  • Ivo Furman, Faculty of Media and Communication, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
  • Rolien Hoyng, Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Mahsa Alimardani, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

While a growing body of work theorizes the role of Twitter and Facebook in social change (Gerbaudo 2012; Leavitt 2009; Poell et al. 2015; Procter et. al 2013), little has been done to explore how Instagram is used during political events such as demonstrations. This paper engages the question of whether Instagram’s affordances designate it to be a medium archiving and structuring the mundane exclusively or a tool for political mediations. We explore how users conceptualize the affordances of the platform and the agency they have in using it for their own motives. At stake is the question of whether users of this image-driven medium--who are at least to some degree invested in the politics of visibility that underlies the Pride Parade--are able to forge a disruption of, or intervention into, the mundane as it is cultivated on social media. In Turkey, this might not only mean subverting the forms of control that the platform exercises over the streams of everyday communication but also challenging censorship and mood manipulation by pro-government forces.  

Background:

On the 28th of June 2015, thousands of people gathered in a large pedestrian area of Istanbul to peacefully celebrate Istanbul Pride, an annual gay and LGBT event. Shortly after assembling, the event was suddenly disrupted by the city’s police who assailed participants with rubber pellets, tear gas, and water cannons. As typical of Turkey, a country with limited press freedoms (see Furman 2015), there was no coverage in the mass media of what occurred during the event. Nonetheless a few hours after the event, Instagram was flooded with pictures of the violence that had ensued.

Objective:

While a growing body of work theorizes the role of Twitter and Facebook in social change (Gerbaudo 2012; Leavitt 2009; Poell et al. 2015; Procter et. al 2013), little has been done to explore how Instagram is used during political events such as demonstrations. This paper engages the question of whether Instagram’s affordances designate it to be a medium archiving and structuring the mundane exclusively or a tool for political mediations. We explore how users conceptualize the affordances of the platform and the agency they have in using it for their own motives. At stake is the question of whether users of this image­driven medium­­who are at least to some degree invested in the politics of visibility that underlies the Pride Parade­­are able to forge a disruption of, or intervention into, the mundane as it is cultivated on social media. In Turkey, this might not only mean subverting the forms of control that the platform exercises over the streams of everyday communication but also challenging censorship and mood manipulation by pro­government forces.

Methodology:

Instagram is a mobile photo­sharing application and social network that offers it’s users a way to upload photos, apply different manipulation tools (f ilters) to transform visual elements of an image and share these photos (see Hochman & Schwartz 2012; Hochman & Manovich 2013). One way to share is to relate images with one another through hashtags. When a hashtag is used, the uploaded image is included with all other photos sharing the same hashtag. The act of tagging makes the image accessible not just to an inner circle, but to the wider Instagram public. Accordingly, one may argue that there is intentionality implicit in the act of tagging: by opting to use this feature, the user is making a connection between the uploaded image and the public image repositories.

A snowballing methodology was used to compile a list of hashtags related to 2015 Istanbul Pride. Then, using the Digital Methods Initiative’s Instagram scraper (Borra 2015) over 30,000 posts were collected in the days immediately after the event. Afterwards, the relationships between hashtags in the dataset were visualized with Gephi.

Results:

Gephi’s modularity algorithm detected two co­hashtag communities in the dataset. Our visualization suggests that the affordances of Instagram were used in a strategic manner by participants to insert images of violence into seemingly unconcerned feeds. A phenomenon that be tentatively described as "stream hacking" occurred.

Future Work:

As a work in progress, our paper intends to explore the qualitative dimensions of “stream hacking” on Instagram through a series of semi­structured, in­depth interviews with users who participated in the action. Questions will address conceptions of platform affordances as well as any possible motivations.

References:

Borra, E. (2015). Instagram Scrapper. English, Amsterdam: Digital Methods Initiative. Retrieved from https://tools.digitalmethods.net/beta/instagram/

Cardullo, P. (2015). “Hacking multitude” and Big Data: Some insights from the Turkish “digital coup.” Big Data & Society, 2(1). http://doi.org/10.1177/2053951715580599

Furman, I. (2015). Alternatif Medya olarak Akranlararası Kolektif Üretim: 2013 Gezi Parkı Eylemleri’nde Ekşisözlük’ün rölüne dair bir inceleme. In B. Çoban & B. Ataman (Eds.), Türkiye’de Alternatif Medya : Direniş Çağında (pp. 199–223). Istanbul: Epsilon.

Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the streets: social media and contemporary activism. London: Pluto Press.

Hochman, N., & Manovich, L. (2013). Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media. First Monday, 18(7). http://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v18i7.4711

Hochman, N., & Schwartz, R. (2012). Visualizing Instagram: Tracing Cultural Visual Rhythms. In Proceedings of the Workshop on Social Media Visualization (SocMedVis) (pp. 6–9). 

Hoyng, R. (2015). From Infrastructural Breakdown to Data Vandalism: Re­politicizing the Smart City? In Television and New Media.

Leavitt, A. (2009). The Iranian Election on Twitter: the first 18 Days. New York: Web Ecology Project. Retrieved from http://www.webecologyproject.org/wp­content/uploads/2009/08/WEP­twitterFINAL.pdf

Poell, T., Abdulla, R., Rieder, B., Woltering, R., & Zack, L. (2015). Protest leadership in the age of social media. Information, Communication & Society, 1–21. http://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1088049

Procter, R., Vis, F., & Voss, A. (2013). Reading the riots on Twitter: methodological innovation for the analysis of big data. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16(3), 197–214. http://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2013.774172 


Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:46 - 16:15
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305 Goldsmiths University, Building 2

Attendees (15)