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Session 3B [clear filter]
Tuesday, July 12
 

14:45

Session 3B: Visual Social Media
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Moderators
MH

Martin Hand

Associate Professor, Queen's University

Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:45 - 16:15
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305 Goldsmiths University, Building 2

14:46

Analysing found non-text social media data: Options and challenges
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributor: Diane Rasmussen Pennington, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom

Background:

This paper is based on a chapter entitled “Coding of non-text data” (Rasmussen Pennington, in press) that has been accepted for publication in The SAGE handbook of social media research methods. The chapter outlines the special concerns associated with collecting and analyzing data found on social media sites and not in language-based text (Rasmussen Neal, 2012). The presence of non-text information on social media sites, such as photographs, videos, music, and even games on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, and Vine, continues to grow exponentially. Despite their abundant presence, and the wealth of insight that social media researchers could obtain from them, few methods have been developed and utilized to use them. They are naturalistic, “found” data sources, just as tweets and blog posts are, but they are frequently ignored in favour of text-based data.

Objective:

The objectives of this paper are: (1) to outline qualitative research methods that can be used to analyze non-text social media data and illustrate them with examples, and (2) to set forth an agenda for developing this underdeveloped area of research methods.

Methods:

The methods to be overviewed will include compositional interpretation, quantitative content analysis, qualitative content analysis, and approaches related to content analysis such as document analysis and musical analysis. Next, methods influenced by cultural understandings will be reviewed, including approaches from the disciplines of cultural studies, visual sociology, visual anthropology, semiotic analysis, and iconography/iconology. Finally, analyses influenced by social understandings, including discourse analysis, visual social semiotics, and multimodal research, will be discussed. Since many methods will be outlined in a short amount of time, a list of resources for reading about the methods will be provided at the session.

Results:

The purpose of this paper will not present original empirical results; instead, it is meant to introduce social media researchers to potentially new data sources as well as methods for analysing them. Results from the author’s previous studies in this area will be used as examples.

Future Work:

The second part of this paper will be to discuss what the methodological future of this emerging area of research might look like, with an eye toward engaging the audience in contemplation and discussion about the unique questions surrounding non-text research. As discussed in the chapter, questions about the development and implementation of non-text methods include:

  • How can the relatively recent appearance of non-text documents achieve the same status in social science research as the long-standing text-based documents possess?
  • How can the textual and the non-textual be integrated with one another in data collection and analysis while still observing the special challenges that non-text items present to researchers?
  • Although all existing analysis methods to date are described in text, could social science researchers envision a research environment in which we use formats other than text to describe future approaches to analysing non-text documents? (Rasmussen Pennington, in press)

References:

Rasmussen Neal, D. (Ed.) (2012). Indexing and retrieval of non-text information. Berlin: De Gruyter Saur.
Rasmussen Pennington, D. (in press). Coding of non-text data. In A. Quan-Haase and L.
Sloan (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of social media research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. 


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

14:46

Hacking the mundane? A Pride-Turned-Protest on Instagram
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

14:46

Interrogating the reaction GIF: making meaning by repurposing repetition
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributors:
  • Tim Highfield, Queensland University of Technology, Australia 
  • Kate M. Miltner, University of Southern California, United States

Background: 

The GIF (an acronym for “Graphics Interchange Format”), was created in 1987 as a color image file format. The animated GIF was once considered emblematic of the early Web’s amateurish design aesthetics (Eppink, 2014). However, thanks to the format’s capacity to encode and compress video formats into small file sizes, the GIF has experienced a resurgence of late and become nearly ubiquitous on the social web. 

Contemporary usage of the GIF was pioneered by communities on Tumblr, 4chan, and reddit, who initially used it to make short video clips easier to share and embed. However, the phenomenon of GIF creation and usage quickly developed into a cultural practice with a specific rhetorical style (Thompson, 2013). The rich affective capabilities and unique affordances of the GIF contributed to its emergence as a go-to tool for performing identity, humor, expertise, and community in online environments (Bruckert, Davison, & Rugnetta, 2014; Shifman, 2014). 

The GIF is a polysemic format critical to contemporary online communication: it allows users to construct multiple levels of meaning, offering context-based semiotic flexibility and emphasis through repetition. Far more than just a file format, GIFs are a social and cultural force in the social media ecosystem. 

Objective: 

This work-in-progress examines how the affordances of GIFs are creatively exploited in online contexts. Specifically, this paper examines the use of/engagement with ‘reaction GIFs’, short snippets of larger media texts that are deployed as affective “responses” to other content or events. Reaction GIFs are highly performative (Ash, 2015), and this analysis explores how they offer novel ways of making meanings through intertextuality, humour and repetition. 

Methods: 

The initial case examines the use of David Bowie reaction GIFs on Tumblr. The Tumblr Bowie fandom is large and active, creating (and circulating) a rich collection of GIFs from his music and film appearances. GIFs were retrieved using the Tumblr search keywords ‘bowie’ and ‘david bowie’. The GIFs in the corpus (N = 60) were analysed twice: independently (devoid of context) and then within context. Visual, semiotic, and discourse analysis were used in combination. 

Results: 

This study indicates two specific, and often interrelated, uses of reaction GIFs: performance of a specific type of stylized affect, and performance of cultural knowledge. Two particular affordances of the reaction GIF make it especially effective for these purposes: the decontextualization of the GIF from its master narrative and the endless loop-repetition of the GIFs. The combination of these two affordances subverts the semiotics of the GIF, robbing it of any sort of stable meaning while simultaneously complicating and expanding the GIF’s possibilities for meaning-making. Although the image of David Bowie was a constant among the reaction GIFs, their usage varied widely, ranging from fan activity to snarky commentary on topics unrelated to the GIF’s master text. This malleability underlines the importance and versatility of the GIF for everyday communication, as loops transcend context, both mixing and extending meanings through repetition. 

Future Work:
 

This work-in-progress into repetition in visual social media is part of a larger research project into ‘Visual Cultures of Social Media’. 

References: 

Ash, J. (2015). Sensation, networks, and the GIF: Toward an allotropic account of affect. In K. Hillis, S. Paasonen, & M. Petit (Eds.), Networked Affect (pp. 119–133). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 
Bruckert, S. Davison, P. and Rugnetta, M. (2014). MemeFactory Book, Beta Version. 
Eppink, J. (2014). A brief history of the gif (so far). Journal of Visual Culture, 13(3), 298–306. 
Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 
Thompson, C. (2013, January 3). The animated GIF: still looping after all these years. Wired. http://www.wired.com/2013/01/best-animated-¬gifs/ 

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

14:46

When does the narwhal bacon? Internet memes as markers of online group identity
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 305, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributors:
  • Yimin Chen, UWO, Canada
  • Andrew Nevin, University of Toronto, Canada

Background: 

In day to day life, people signal their membership in social groups in many different ways. Whether consciously or unconsciously, individuals shape and communicate their social identities through their interactions with others (Mead, 1934). While face to face interactions feature an abundance of identity cues, including speech, clothing, and gesture, in online environments, where text dominates, many of these cues are absent. Furthermore, there is an element of anonymity, or at least pseudonymity, built into most information and communications technologies (ICT) that exacerbates identity issues (Donath, 2007).

In this paper, we argue that self-references and inside jokes in the form of internet memes – “discursive artifacts spread by mediated cultural participants” (Milner, 2013) – are used by some online communities to signal and enhance group identity. These memes can function as a sort of online secret handshake, marking those who respond appropriately as “members of a subculture [who] share a common language” (Hebdige, 1979, p.122). In addition, by sharing, mixing, and remixing memes, participants engage in a form of mediated ritual communication, whereby group identity is co-created and maintained (Miller, 2015). As the subject of research, memes may also be able to provide insight into the character of an online community. Are the most popular memes positive or negative? Do the memes reference particular domains of media or culture? How has the memetic signature of the community changed over time?

In this exploratory study, we examine the character of the Reddit community, as revealed through its use of internet memes. Reddit was initially conceived as a social news-sharing site, but has grown into “one of the most populated spaces for digital sociality on the web today” (Miller, 2015, p.2) and has proved to be fertile ground for research (Bogers & Wernersen, 2014; Tan & Lee, 2015; Singer, et al, 2014). In analyzing the “Redditor” identity memetically, we aim to develop a new approach to the study of online communities.

Objective: 

This work-in-progress seeks to compile a “memetic canon” of the Reddit community by documenting its most notable memes. Specifically, we intend to gather data on which memes Reddit users (“Redditors”) consider to be most important in defining themselves as a community and how the popularity of these memes change over time.

Methods: 

Reddit, as a community, loves to talk about itself. Discussion threads where Redditors analyze the site and each other are commonplace, as are threads aimed at explaining jokes to new users or collecting “best-of” postings. From these meta-Reddit threads, we can identify notable memes within the Reddit community. Once identified, we can track past and future references to these memes in comments posted, describe trends, and analyze Redditor responses.

Results: 

Forthcoming.

Future Work: 

As a follow up to this study, we intend to conduct surveys and interviews of the Reddit users to determine how closely the image actual Redditors have of themselves matches our derived portrait. In addition, we would like to investigate sub-groups within the “Redditor” group identity and community interactions between subreddits.

References:

Bogers, T. & Wernersen, R. (2014). How ‘social' are social news sites? Exploring the motivations for using Reddit.com. iConference 2014 Proceedings, 329 – 344.

Donath, J. (2007). Signals in social supernets. Journal of ComputerMediated Communication13(1), 231-251.

Hebdife, D. (1979). Subculture: The meaning of style. New York: Methuen.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. Chicago: University of Chicago, 173-175.

Miller, C. (2015). Life in the new media landscape. gnovis, 16(2), 1-15.

Milner, R. M. (2013). Media lingua franca: Fixity, novelty, and vernacular creativity in internet memes. Selected Papers of Internet Research, 14, 1-5.

Singer, P., Flöck, F., Meinhart, C., Zeitfogel, E., & Strohmaier, M. (2014, April). Evolution of Reddit: From the front page of the internet to a self-referential community? Proceedings of the companion publication of the 23rd international conference on World wide web companion, 517-522.

Tan, C., & Lee, L. (2015, May). All who wander: On the prevalence and characteristics of multi-community engagement. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on World Wide Web, 1056-1066.



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