Intensive Pro | Image Trails

Over the previous weeks…

  • I have now decided on 10 hashtags to examine within Instagram; #Volkswagen #Audi #Starbucks #CostaCoffee #Nails #iPhoneX #Raybans  #Rolex #Mercedes #Selfie


  • Began collating further content under each data set and I have also started putting together more photo-merges; these are pictured below…


  • I have also managed to begin the process of putting together some video pieces; x1 flicker video [Simulating images posted in real-time, intermittent and flux] and x1 photographic encounter piece [Simulates everyday encounters and experiences whilst using Instagram as a Social Media Platform, Scrolling, intermittent and in flux]


  • I also plan to further consider the potential of my printing options. Hopefully, I will be able to arrange a test print! I personally really like the idea of being able to turn this project into a photo book for several reasons;
    • As it’s my final year, I want to create something physical and tangible that I can take away and use as part of my portfolio
    • I also like the idea of reimagining the and playing with the ways in which we encounter and interact with social media and visual cultures. I particularly like the idea of taking a contemporary and modern digital activity and subverting this by presenting it in an analogue form.
    • As part of the end of year degree show, both Intensive Production students and Photography & Visual Cultures students will be exhibiting pieces there, so by creating an A4 photobook this will be small and hopefully make efficient and concise use of space.

Further Images

‘InstaTrails’ | Flickering Encounters  [Video Test 1]

This is a test video piece that aims to technically and metaphorically address practices and encounters of social media; in particular Instagram. Within this piece, I have taken a selection of my image merges and I have selected and edited them together in a way that mimics the features and behaviours of Instagram feeds. This test edit functions to simulate how images are posted and shared online. With this piece, I am considering the different rhythms and flow of images. When posted online, images are shared intermittently, and speed and content flow and varies drastically. This piece hopes to simulate this.

‘InstaTrails’ | Encounter Scroll Test

This is a video test edit that functions to simulate our encounters and use of social media; with particular reference to Instagram as an imaging platform. Whilst engaged with the app, users carelessly swipe and scroll through a multitude of different images fragmenting their attention between their own personal ‘feed’; comprised of accounts, hashtags or friends posts. and their explore area which is an algorithmic collation of suitable or popular posts. Again, I have taken a selection of my edited image merges and situated them in a similar format to that of traditional images as to simulate our use of Instagram, as we mindlessly scroll through hundreds if not thousands of images at any given time. This test piece comes from the back end of a screen-recorded extract that I have recorded of myself using Instagram, as part of a way to study and reflect upon our use of such imaging sites.

‘InstaTrails’ | Instagram Screen Record

As a means of creating a more practical means to research my field of interest, I have decided to create a brief recording that captures my interaction and use of the image-sharing sites. I feel that it was particularly that examine and look into the different ways we interact and receive images whilst using Instagram. Due to the seemingly endless stream of images, I for one, occasionally get so engrossed in scrolling that hours can pass by at ease. Additionally, I feel that it is important to study and research the different encounters, flows and engagements with images. By conducting this micro research assessment, and upon visual reflection, I have discovered that we need very little time or engagement with an image to understand it. For instance, we can flick and scroll through images at fast speeds, as only a very small or brief pause is needed to understand each post before one incessantly moves on to the next. This has revealed a multitude of information regarding attention economy and how over the last century, and with the impending rise of social media… we are achieving masterful levels of instantaneous understandings with minuscule, but intense bursts rather than extended or prolonged durations.

Research Materials |

Serafineilla, E. (2017) Analysis of Photo Sharing and Visual Social Relationships: Instagram as a case study. Photographies [Online]. Vol. 10 (1). Pp. 91-111. [Accessed 6th March 2018]

Serafineilla, E. (2017) Analysis of Photo Sharing and Visual Social Relationships: Instagram as a case study. Photographies [Online]. Vol. 10 (1). Pp. 91-111. [Accessed 6th March 2018]

[Flickr]  “Since its launch in 2004, Flickr’s members have established almost half a million public groups, some with populations as large as 90,000 like the group ‘Black and White’. Flickr provides a way to store, organise and publicly share photographs online. It is a searchable repository of personal photography3 covering almost every imaginable subject.” (352)

“Jean Burgess (2007) argues that Flickr is a space for enactments of vernacular creativity and through this, cultural citizenship. Janice Affleck (2007) investigates the opportunities that spaces like Flickr provide for the discursive interpretation of heritage by communities.” (353)

“The paper concludes that photosharing is a public visual discourse, a discursive practice and a performative mode of intangible heritage around the Sydney Opera House. It argues that discussions on Flickr reveal the complex and multivalent sentiment held for this place and its symbolic ‘standing in’ for Sydney and Australia. In addition it exposes the way these negotiations are generative, implicated in the emergence of new publics that seek to provide alternate spaces and ways of representing both Sydney and its Opera House, and which thus operate to co-constitute this place as meaningful in the lives of its contemporary communities.” (353)

[The Sydney Opera House of Flickr]

“Many groups have distinct and particular relationships: for tourists it is a destination, for locals a city landmark, for architects a flawed masterpiece, for performers a status symbol and for many Australians an emblem of national and local identity.” (354)

Online spaces can help to reveal the cultural import of this place – Flickr retrieves 81,0004 photographs and 875 groups in relation to the Sydney Opera House. On Flickr, World Heritage sites tend to be loci for usercreated socio-visual practices: other sites like the Eiffel Tower6 (UNESCO 1991) and the Taj Mahal (UNESCO 1983) are also popular, each retrieving over 300 and 84 groups respectively. However, close analysis reveals that public sentiment towards such sites is not straightforward but rather involves complex social relationships, questions of representation and notions of personal identity.” (354)

“This paper examines public sentiment towards the Sydney Opera House through the Flickr group of the same name and another named ‘Sydney-alt’. Members can contribute to groups by submitting photographs to the group’s ‘pool’ (archive), by commenting on individual photographs in the pool, or by posting a theme for debate or comment in the discussion thread. ‘Sydney Opera House’ has over 600 members and over 2000 photos, whilst ‘Sydney-alt’ has over 460 members and almost 6000 photographic contributions.” (354)

‘Sydney-alt’, on the other hand, ‘celebrates and records the alternative side of Sydney life and scenery’ with a clear warning that ‘shots of the Bridge and Opera House will probably be deleted on sight’. Although these two groups have adopted mutually exclusive curatorial strategies they are still both defined by the Sydney Opera House.” (354)

“But this has further implications: the photographs making up these groups are individual expressions of the building, but collectively on Flickr they become a form of ‘visual conversation’. Groups on Flickr arguably provide discursive spaces in which people come together to negotiate associations, meanings, and representations of the building. These spaces and practices are themselves meaningful, and can inform our understanding of how communities engage with the Sydney Opera House.” (354)

[Photosharing and Tangible Heritage]

“Dawson Munjeri (2004) argues that although the accepted archaeological conception of heritage locates cultural value in the materiality of monuments, landscapes and buildings, the acknowledgement that everyday practices and immaterial culture are also heritage challenges this notion. In the past ‘cultural heritage was deemed to be stable and static and having “intrinsic values” as well as qualities of “authenticity”’ (ibid., p. 13).” (354)

UNESCO’s categories of heritage | Tangible Vs Intangible (See page 345)

“…Laurajane Smith (2006) and Barbara KirchenblattGimblett (2004) argue, alongside Munjeri, that intangible heritage is not separate, but intrinsically connected to more traditionally conceived, tangible forms of heritage…” (345)

Reconceptualising heritage in this way collapses the divide between tangible and intangible modes, and provides a framework for understanding socio-visual practices like photosharing on Flickr as part of the heritage of the Sydney Opera House.” (355)

“The argument here is that the taking and sharing of photographs on Flickr is one way in which immaterial practices enacted around the Sydney Opera House operate to co-constitute the cultural value of the site itself. The images entail the act of photographing, and are also ‘material’ artefacts. At the same time the photographs support complex dynamic social interactions that traverse both the personal and the public realms: as mementos of experiences, as expressions of identity and as instances of communication. Thus, following Munjeri’s argument, the cultural value of a place like the Sydney Opera House cannot be dissociated from the social practices enacted by its various communities, and these contribute to its importance as a World Heritage site.” (355)

“On Flickr there is a dedicated space for heritage institutions called ‘The Commons’. In this online space heritage institutions are able to exhibit and collect public information. For instance Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum has published the Tyrrell Collection, an historic archive of photographs for which few records are held, and Flickr members are able to ‘tag’ or contribute knowledge about a photograph’s subject or history. These engagements are extended through ‘Tyrrell Today’, a group dedicated to re-picturing the same scenes in the present. This project exemplifies the leadership of heritage institutions in bringing heritage consciously into the present through public engagements in online spaces.” (355)

Intangible heritage as defined by the 2003 Convention is constituted in the ‘expressions, practices and representations’ (UNESCO 2003, Article 2.1) enacted by communities and individuals. Photosharing is a social practice involving personal expression; we document what is important to us, and share this within our existing networks. But on Flickr photosharing is made visible and public, allowing members to form new dynamic formations with others outside their usual social networks and with otherwise physically dispersed people. On Flickr, the photograph is deeply embedded in social interactions, as a currency for belonging, as a site of expression and identity, and as a mode of communication between participants.” (355)

[Flickr groups: Sites for visual discourse]

Intangible heritage is defined as the ‘practices, expressions and representations’ which are ‘constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and [which] provides them with a sense of identity and continuity’ (UNESCO 2003, Article 2.1). Intangible heritage is intertwined with a communal identity dynamically negotiated in the present. This contrasts with more established notions of heritage as material, fixed and located in the past (Munjeri 2004, Smith 2006).” (355-356)

Intangible heritage therefore takes place through practices in which people participate, their individual and collective expressions and the representations resulting from these activities. Discourse is temporal, changing and generative of ideas. Affleck’s research into the way digital media can offer new interactive paradigms for the interpretation of heritage (as opposed to more traditional descriptive modes) supports the notion that ‘a virtual community [can] offer a context in which to engage active participants in discursive interpretation’ (2007, abstract).” (356)

“The following analysis and observations of interactions occurring in the Flickr group ‘Sydney Opera House’ describes the ways in which these contributions operate as a kind of public discussion through images. This visual discourse, alongside the practice underpinning it, is arguably a kind of intangible heritage, one through which collective identification with a particular place is negotiated.” (356)

“Recent empirical work on Flickr by Radu-Andrei Negoescu and Daniel GaticaPerez (2008) analyses sharing behaviour in relation to groups, revealing that although a small number of very active users own the majority of photographs on Flickr, half of the site’s members do contribute at least one photograph to a group. They conclude ‘that sharing photos in groups is an important part of the photosharing practices of Flickr users’ (ibid., p. 419). Part of what makes participating on Flickr meaningful is the social interactions and negotiations that occur through the exchange and sharing of photographs.” (356)

“A second study by Nicholas Pissard and Christopher Prieur (2007) examines the social relationships of community members to determine if Flickr is more akin to a photo archive or a social media site. To do this they draw data on each group, denoting discussion threads as ‘social’ (Flickr like a social media site) and common tags as ‘thematic’ (Flickr is like an archive). They conclude that thematic groups tend to focus on geographical locations, while social ones are more likely to be based on abstract themes.” (356)

“. However, Pissard and Prieur’s study ignores the possibility that group interactions could be visual, that is, that ‘conversations’ might not be in a textual form. Their study negates the potential of images as a medium of communication. Recent scholarship on cameraphone photography provides a counterpoint to this assumption.” (356)

“Multimodal communication (images and text in combination) is becoming more ubiquitous as technologies (like mobile phones) begin to incorporate cameras. This exposes the multiple ways that images are being integrated into many social interactions. Much of the canonical theory on photography has understood the photograph as a memory artefact (Barthes 1981[1980] and Sontag 1973, cited in Van Dijck 2008, p. 58).”  (356)

“Their research builds on the seminal work on ‘Kodak Culture’ by Richard Chalfen (1987). Here Chalfen argues that amateur photography entails more than the automated making of images; that personal photographs serve to reinforce social relations.” (356 – 357)

“Van Dijck’s research on contemporary digital photographic practices concurs with Chalfen, and further she asserts that this phenomenon is not new – photography has always ‘served as an instrument of communication and as a means of sharing experience’ (Van Dijck 2008, p. 59).” (357)

“In her study of cameraphone photography, Van House finds that digital photographs sent and received in this social context are not intended as memory artefacts, but rather are fleeting forms of communication. This, as Van Dijck asserts, has a significant impact on the photograph as medium of social interaction…” (357)

[Similar to that of Instagram] “On Flickr photographs are displayed in real time. As members upload and contribute photographs to groups, individual members’ home pages are immediately updated with the new contributions (Figure 1). Interactions on Flickr, like those via cameraphones, do not necessarily need to be textual, as their significance can lie in sharing a ‘moment’––that is, an experience.” (357)

“The temporal distribution of these images makes them more akin to messages or ‘moments’ than to memory artefacts. Moreover the photographs gain communicative value in being contributed to the group, just as the cameraphone photograph becomes a message upon sending. Contribution modifies these images from artefacts into communications and thus makes the group an active social space rather than an archive.” (357)

[Consider this encounter on Instagram] “When photographs are contributed to a Flickr group, they are presented in two different ways: as a slideshow or as a page of thumbnails (Figures 2 and 3). These presentation modes offer different ways in which to interact with the images in the group’s pool. For example, viewing the photographs as a slideshow shows the collection one image at a time, in chronological order of submission.” (357)

The photographs are not organised like an exhibition, where narrative or categorisation orders the viewer’s experience. In slideshow mode typical silhouettes of the Sydney Opera House are followed by tightly cropped details of the tiled surfaces of the roof forms; spectacular sunsets which proclaim their authors technical skill are followed by flat, slightly-out-of-focus snapshots.” (358)

However, these visual messages are not operating like a verbal dialogue. Their specific meaning remains ambiguous. It raises the question of how images convey meaning.” (358)

“Further, Elizabeth Chaplin (2006, p. 42) states that ‘what is distinctive about images – including photographs – is that they are polysemic: [that is] their meanings float’. Sequential contributions to the group ‘Sydney Opera House’ do not operate like a verbal dialogue but rather work together to build a larger more complete picture or representation of the place, albeit one which is messy, dissonant and contingent. In short these contributions are part of an ongoing dynamic visual discourse.” (358-359)

“The second way of exploring the photographs of ‘Sydney Opera House’ is through the group’s ‘photo pool’ page (Figure 3). Here the images are presented as an array of thumbnails, 30 images to each page, each one underlined with the photographer’s name. Clicking on any thumbnail will link to the individual page for that photograph, where members can leave comments and feedback (Figure 4). In contrast to the sequential viewing of the photographs in slideshow mode, seeing them laid out as ‘massed images … create[s] a micro-world whose visual coherence is such that we acquire an understanding of that society and its ethos which is not straightforwardly a function of verbal conventions’ (Chaplin 1994, p. 212).” (359)

Images collected in the online space of the Flickr group come together to collectively form a specific kind of representation of the Sydney Opera House. The contributions serve to connect members with each other in a collective project, where experiences of photographing the same building are shared.” (359)

“The point here is that the images cannot be neatly categorised as either message or artefact, but rather operate in multiple ways. As Van House (et al. 2004, 2007) outlines from her research into cameraphones, there appear to be three types of motivations for the sharing of photographs: as artefacts which mediate ‘memory, identity and narrative’ as practices which help to ‘maintain relationships’, and as modes of ‘self representation’ or a medium of ‘self expression’.” (360)

Van Dijck surmises that the increase in photography as communication is not really attributable to the advent of digital technologies, but rather is part of a social and cultural change…” (360)

[Cites Van Dijck] | “…Digital photography is part of this larger transformation in which the self becomes the centre of a virtual universe made up of informational and spatial flows; individuals articulate their identity as social beings not only by taking and storing photographs to document their lives, but by participating in communal photographic exchanges that mark their identity as interactive producers and consumers of culture. (Van Dijck 2008, p. 63)…” (361)

[Social Formations through photosharing practice]

“Flickr is part of a new culture of online photo sharing, an area recently explored by Andrew D. Miller and W. Keith Edwards (2007). Photosharing on Flickr, they find, is implicated in new socialisation styles associated with social media sites. Miller and Edwards find two major types of users on Flickr.” (361)

“One is an infrequent participant who tends to share within their existing social networks. The second, whom they call ‘Snaprs’, are more active participants who have embraced Flickr as a public online space. Snaprs make their whole photographic collection accessible, not only to Flickr members, but to anyone on the Internet. Snaprs are also more active in discussion threads: textual debates implicated in the formation of new groups.” (361)

“This visual discourse centred around what represents Sydney (and by extension Australia) is a generative negotiation process leading to new public formations. These Flickr members, or ‘Snaprs’, are jointly negotiating a collective identity through the definition and re-definition of a group’s visual criteria. These negotiations expose the groups on Flickr to be dynamic and interconnected formations.” (361)

“The conversation exemplifies the active role Snaprs play in the definition of the guidelines of groups, and how a rift between members leads to the formation of new publics on Flickr.” (361)

“Flickr groups like most social formations are politically structured. The group has three tiers, members, moderators, and administrators who govern the group and can remove photographs or posts.” (361)

“These negotiations of inclusion and exclusion serve to draw together some members and exclude others. Like all social formations, Flickr groups are subject to peer pressure, dynamics and ruling hierarchies. But Flickr’s structure encourages new public formations by allowing any member to establish a public group.” (362)

“Michael Warner’s Publics and Counterpublics (2002) addresses the notion that publics are complex and multifarious entities. Warner disagrees with much of the literature in the social sciences, which frames publics as existing entities to be studied empirically. Warner proposes a more interpretive approach towards publics, one that embraces these social entities as animated, dynamic and multileveled (Loizidou 2003, p. 77). Further he argues that rather than producing texts, publics emerge in relation to texts: each ‘text’ (or photo or Flickr group) co-constitutes an audience, and a public.” (363)

“This imagined sense of belonging as described by Warner is illustrated by members’ relationships to the groups ‘Sydney Opera House’ and ‘Sydney-alt’. These groups, although defined by the inclusion and exclusion of photographs of the Sydney Opera House respectively, in fact share members.” (363)

“These photographs that apparently contravene the curatorial guidelines of the group have nevertheless not ‘been deleted on sight’. Arguably then it is the group’s imagined sense of identity, their rejection of the Sydney Opera House as a symbol for Sydney, which fuels their cohesive presentation as a public form.” (363)

On Flickr, members and groups can represent themselves with a thumbnail image (Figure 7). This idea is rejected by the group as they consider these to be clichéd symbols for Sydney, and refer ‘Xenedis’ to an earlier discussion titled ‘Two Sydney groups … why?’ (Sydney, Australia 2006a).” (364)

“The visual association between the building and the city of Sydney somehow impacts on the sense of identity of the members of ‘Sydney, Australia’ (or at least those vocal in the discussions cited). It is too clichéd, too expected, too simplistic to represent oneself visually through these icons, as if to do so would imply a public that is unthinking and uncritical. Further these discussions also reveal popular attitudes towards the building: people have affection for it, they identify with its World Heritage listing, but they do so critically.” (364)

“Further, these practices demonstrate two things: first the way images are socially embedded in these interactions, and second that images operate distinctively to textual discussion. An image represents in a way which text cannot. Images are ambiguous; their meaning is referential and contextual, unspecific. However it is arguably this very ambiguity and lack of specificity that make them interpretive objects, and messages, around which these conversations and discussion can occur.” (364 – 365)

“Images communicate experience instantly in a way that might take a thousand words. The increasing ubiquity of images in communication and expression heightens their import as an area of study and research.” (365)

“Taking personal photographs is a powerful way of reappropriating the building back into everyday life. The complex and dynamic public formations on Flickr, centred on or defined by the Sydney Opera House, reveal that public sentiment about this building is not straightforward, but personal and entwined with collective identity, and that the significance of this building is not a static entity which can be measured or fixed, but exists dynamically in the lived experiences of its publics. Photosharing publicly on Flickr is a generative, discursive practice, which reframes heritage from residing in the past to actively existing in the present.” (365)

Carah, N. Shaul, M. (2016) Brands and Instagram: Point, tap, swipe, glance. Mobile Media & Communication. [Online] Vol. 4 (1) pp. 69-84

Carah, N. Shaul, M. (2016) Brands and Instagram: Point, tap, swipe, glance. Mobile Media & Communication. [Online] Vol. 4 (1) pp. 69-84

Brands are a critical part of the ongoing experimentation that underpins the development of mobile social media platforms like Instagram. Instagram had no dedicated advertising or analytics tools until 2014 so, in the absence of such devices, brands have developed uses of the platform that engage with the productive ability of cultural intermediaries and consumers to create and circulate images of their bodies, everyday lives, and cultural practices. This article examines the Instagram activities of the global vodka brand Smirnoff and the fashion retailer General Pants. Each brand engages with cultural intermediaries and builds themed activations at cultural events to orchestrate the production of images. Following Wissinger’s (2007a) study of fashion models, we conceptualize Instagram as an image machine that captures and calibrates attention.” (69)

Instagram as an image machine that captures and calibrates attention. Instagram expands the terrain upon which brands operate by dispersing the work of creating and engaging with images into consumers’ everyday lives. The efforts made by brands to experiment with mobile media demonstrate the need to critically examine how participatory, discursive, and algorithmic modes of control are interrelated.” (69)

“The aim of this article is to extend accounts of brands as ongoing social processes embedded within cultural life by conceptualizing the process of open-ended innovation undertaken by brands on Instagram.” (70)

“Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram has never gone through a period of attempting to demarcate advertising from other content on the platform. The majority of brand activity on the platform remains native in the sense that it uses the same conventions, tools, and devices as the content generated by all other actors on the platform. Instagram’s emerging paid advertising model is one that aims to enhance the native activities already developed by brands.” (70)

“Users promote brands by incorporating them into narratives about their lives, and they undertake reconnaissance by generating streams of data that enable media platforms to respond to them.” (70)

“Our account of brands’ use of Instagram to create value without any dedicated advertising or analytics tools makes three contributions. First, it conceptualizes Instagram as an “image machine” (Wissinger, 2007a, 2007b) that harnesses the continuous and habitual use of mobile devices to scroll, tap, and glance at a never-ending flow of images.Second, the article examines the self-presentation of consumers and cultural intermediaries, thus making a contribution to debates about identity, gender, and the branded self (Banet-Weiser, 2012; Hearn, 2008; Wissinger, 2007a, 2007b) by arguing that users not only reproduce brands’ preferred depictions of bodies, but also make their bodies available to the increasingly calculative nature of these media platforms.Third, we explore the use of Instagram to channel and orchestrate uses of realworld cultural spaces. This brings together accounts of the extensive use of cultural space by brands (Banet-Weiser, 2012; Moor, 2003) with the calculative nature of mobile media devices and platforms. Focusing on the relationships between these activities, it is argued that mobile media platforms enable brands to extend the forms of attention and action they appropriate.” (70)

Instagram as an image machine

“Branding on Instagram relies on the active participation of users, who present their bodies as images. In this section, we use Wissinger’s (2007a, 2007b) account of modeling as affective labor to conceptualize Instagram as an “image machine.” Wissinger (2007a) describes fashion modelling as the work of “being (and being assisted to be) open to interaction with technologies, such as photography, that channel attention.” (70)

“The model poses and the photographer captures images. Images are then selected, framed, cropped, filtered, and edited before being distributed via magazines, television, stores, and billboards. The model and the photographer affect one another with the intention of creating images that will in turn affect viewers. Affect flows “between bodies,” in an “unpredictable process that is difficult to control” (Wissinger, 2007b, p. 262). Here, affect is understood as an open-ended, social and preindividual capacity to attract attention and stimulate bodily responses (Clough, 2007). Specific affects may be narrated or qualified as part of the performance of particular emotions, meanings, and identities. In the first instance, though, they depend on the embodied capacity to channel attention. The subjects, producers, and consumers of images are affective laborers, who interrelate in an ongoing effort to give and gain attention from each other.” (71)

“Instagram, combined with the smartphone on which it runs, is an image machine that stimulates and captures the productive activity of producing, circulating, and attending to images. Like fashion models and photographers (Carah, 2013; Wissinger, 2007a), Instagram users’ affective labor has two facets. First, the production of images involves individuals affecting one another. They make judgments about how to capture, edit, and circulate images of their lived experience. Second, they watch flows of images and modify them by scrolling, liking, and commenting. Both activities are valuable forms of engagement on the platform.” (71)

“Furthermore, Instagram expands the array of aspects of everyday life that become organized in relation to flows of images. Instagram’s architecture of affecting enables spaces like clubs, cultural events, bedrooms, bathrooms, and other locations where bodies and web-connected smartphones appear to become sites where affect is released, channelled, and directed. For example, as a consumer puts on clothes they have bought from a fashion retailer in the privacy of their own bedroom, takes a selfie and posts it to Instagram with the brand hashtag, their bedroom and body becomes part of the promotional apparatus of the brand. Instagram enables market relations to form through everyday life and cultural space around the production and circulation of images.” (71)

“Instagram’s capacity to calibrate affect is interdependent with the smartphone and its in-built devices: the camera, the touch screen, and the web connection are used to capture, manipulate, and upload images by pointing, tapping, cropping, filtering, and swiping. The portability and habitual use of the smartphone within everyday life enables Instagram to extend the role played by images in the stimulation, capture, and modulation of attention. Where the work of fashion modelling requires interaction between cultural intermediaries in bounded industrial settings, Instagram and the smartphone disperse the work of calibrating flows of affect in everyday life.” (71)

“Engagement can take the form of likes and comments, but also pauses on particular images, tapping on hashtags, or visiting individual accounts. Likes and comments also make images visible to people elsewhere in the network, interjecting images into customized flows of content. Instagram iteratively develops devices to calculate and modulate these forms of engagement. The app has a combination of curated and algorithmically generated feeds of images. The “home” feed is a stream of images curated by users, based on the accounts they follow. The “explore” feed is algorithmically generated, based on images and accounts that are popular in a user’s network or region. Over time, Instagram has developed the sophistication of the “explore” feed algorithm to be more responsive to individual users.Users can also generate a flow of images in the explore feed by searching for a hashtag, a kind of “manual” algorithm whereby users collectively code and assemble a flow of images by adding hashtags to them.” (71-72)

“Users navigate flows of images by scrolling through the stream, using their finger on the smartphone touch screen. This is a material, habitual, and interstitial practice. Users might scroll back a short or a long distance. They might scroll so quickly that only the account names show up, as images whiz by underneath. As users bounce back to the top of the feed, it refreshes, displaying the most recent images that have been uploaded. Users typically scroll in both directions, down a certain distance, then bouncing to the top of the feed to bring new images into the flow, then down again until they reach images they have already seen, prompting them to bounce the top of the feed again. This might go until the intervals between bounces for new images become so short that attention is diverted—perhaps by another app and its flows of content or something happening around them. The flow of images is live and unending in both directions. The speed of the flow is dependent on the productivity of users within that feed. Users access a momentary position in whatever stream they are engaged with.” (72)

“Users tap in and out of the flow with their mobile devices as they go about their daily lives. Older images are rendered invisible as the stream updates; they cannot be found by searching or saving a link.Wissinger (2007b, p. 265) theorizes a shift in contemporary visual culture from a “cinematic gaze,” in which viewers relate to subject positions within constructed narratives, to an ephemeral, sensational, and instantaneous “televisual glance.” The glance is momentary, nonnarrative, and repetitive. Instagram is a media device designed for glancing, directed by the swiping and tapping of the user’s finger on the screen of their smartphone. The continuous flow and small size of the images seem to work against the possibility that the content could be open to contemplative viewing.”. (72)

“Moments of fleeting interest, affect, and desire are generated from a constant pulling and pushing at individually customized feeds of images. The images circulated on Instagram are softly and persistently promotional in character, as users seek attention from one another. The composition of images, use of filters and hashtags, and time and space from which the image is sent are each oriented toward catching a glance.” (72)

“In this regime media technologies exert control by engaging consumers in endless loops of body work that both produce forms of calculable attention and embed the construction of the self within market processes (Wissinger, 2013).” (73)

“Using these two brands as an instructive case, we develop an account of how Instagram works as an image machine that brands use to harness our capacity to affect one another by producing images of our bodies, identities, and everyday lives.” (73)

Examining Smirnoff and General Pants hashtags on Instagram

“The predominant mode of branding on Instagram involves interaction between brands, cultural intermediaries, and consumers who follow each other, like, and comment on images, and create hashtags that group images together around particular tastes, identities, cultural events, and practices.” (73)

“In the analysis that follows, we examine images circulating under four brandcreated hashtags: General Pants’ #generalpants and #gpwetdream and Smirnoff’s #doubleblackhouse and #vipublic. Examining a flow of images under a hashtag enables us to describe the interaction between brands, cultural intermediaries, and consumers.” (73)

“In compiling a sequence of images we made judgments about times when consumers, cultural intermediaries and brands were actively using the hashtag. We coded the images to determine the producer of the image (brand, consumer, or cultural intermediary), the gender of any bodies depicted in the images, and the engagement with the images in likes and comments.” (73)

“The purpose of this descriptive analysis was to determine who produced images under brand hashtags, whose bodies appeared in those images, and where the images were produced. From this description, we develop a critical analysis of the role played by self-presentation and real-world brand activations in brand-building on Instagram.” (73)

“Like Marwick’s (2015) study of Instafamous accounts, the goal of this study is not to collect a representative sample of Instagram brand hashtags, but rather to examine the practices employed by two brands around hashtags in order to develop an explanatory and critical account of how branding functions on the platform.” (73)


“We focus here on two examples of Smirnoff leveraging real-world brand activation using Instagram. “Activation” is the marketing industry term for the real-world spaces created by brands to embed themselves within cultural events and practices. The activation process has developed over the past 20 years as part of culturally embedded branding strategies aimed at influencing peer leaders at such cultural events as music festivals and club nights. Activations are critically important to the way brands produce content for social media platforms like Instagram. They are a device for organizing consumers and cultural intermediaries to produce flows of images that connect together brand iconography and experiences with cultural events and identities.” (74)

“The cultural intermediaries and consumers then posted images from each activation using hashtags like #doubleblackhouse and #vipublic. These hashtags were displayed on screens and marketing collateral in the venues. The activation is a “set” or “stage” for the production of brand images. As consumers and cultural intermediaries at brand activations post images via their own social media accounts, they attract the attention of their own followers. Their use of hashtags places the brand within a wider flow of images related to their own bodies and identities.” (74)

General Pants:

“This section examines images circulated under two hashtags. General Pants encourages consumers to use #generalpants to post images of themselves wearing the retailer’s clothes, periodically offering gift vouchers to consumers who post using the hashtag. On the company’s website and in its stores, consumers are encouraged to use the hashtag whenever they upload images of themselves in General Pants clothing to social media networks.” (74)

“General Pants uses images that consumers have tagged with #generalpants as promotional material on its website and in-store. The second hashtag is one of a number of event-specific hashtags used by the brand. #gpwetdream was used to catalogue images of a summer swimwear launch where General Pants set up a large blow-up waterslide and had models in swimwear slide down it while DJs entertained.” (75)

“Both Smirnoff and General Pants are innovative brands with a long history of experimentation with participatory and culturally embedded activities and media technologies. Each offers an instructive example of the use of “native” modes of branding on Instagram that are interconnected with the broader mediation of cultural life on the platform. Each brand also demonstrates how mobile social media activity is interrelated with the larger media infrastructure that brands develop by engaging with cultural intermediaries and cultural events.” (75)

Cultural intermediaries & Engagement

“Cultural intermediaries and consumers together significantly outweigh the number of images produced by brands. Under all hashtags, the analysis demonstrates that cultural intermediaries (and, to a lesser extent, consumers) are important to the production of both content and engagement. Marwick’s (2015) analysis of Instafame offers a way of conceptualizing the activity of cultural intermediaries on Instagram. In the social media economy the creative labour or activity of cultural intermediaries is bound up with their identity, taste, and appearance. Their practices of self-presentation and creation of networks generates value for media platforms, brands, and events they are associated with.” (75)

“Cultural intermediaries often occupy a precarious position in the cultural industries generating value in the form of attention but not income and being subject to constantly changing professional and cultural circumstances. Marwick (2015, p. 156) argues that Instafamous cultural intermediaries are “more edgy than mainstream celebrities but still rely on aesthetic display and are aspirational for a particular segment of followers concerned with cutting-edge cool.”  (75)

“In this study, the cultural intermediaries engaged on brand hashtags include musicians, DJs, photographers, stylists, fashion bloggers, designers, artists, and models. In the case of General Pants, we also include the company’s retail staff, who are employed on the basis of their “fit” with the brand’s style.” (75)

“Conceptualizing engagement as the combination of likes plus comments is a standard marketing industry practice. Engagement is significant because each interaction with an image generates data that makes the image available in wider flows of content on the platform.” (75)

“Cultural intermediaries increase both the amount of engagement and its extent across the platform’s networks” (75)

“Brands harness the efforts of cultural intermediaries (and, to a lesser extent, consumers) to gain attention from each other. In the case of the activation-based hashtags #gpwetdream, #doubleblackhouse, and #vipublic, this is also facilitated by the creation of a purpose-built, real-world space that orchestrates image production. All images circulating via these hashtags were produced at the brand activation (with the exception of four images on #vipublic, produced at the music festival). The labor of cultural intermediaries involves more than just producing images that perform frameworks of taste useful to the brand; they also undertake the reconnaissance work of translating life into data that informs the development of increasingly calculative media platforms. The following analysis critically explores how brands orchestrate cultural intermediaries’ self-presentation of their bodies under brand hashtags and within real-world brand activations.” (76)

Producing Images of the Self

“Instafame is primarily organized around efforts to garner attention via visual self-presentation. Instagram’s attention economy reinforces already existing hierarchies of taste and judgment, especially those relating to the body, gender, and cultural consumption (Marwick, 2015, p. 141). This reinforcement is underpinned by both the practices of users who acquire attention by performing already established norms, and by the platform’s devices that recognize attention being given and gained in the form of engagement metrics. Instagram users commonly produce images of their bodies.” (76 -77)

“Across all the hashtags, females are more likely to be both subjects and producers of images. Each of the hashtags #generalpants (51%), #gpwetdream (46%), and #vipublic (46%) has half of all images depicting only females. In each case, this is substantially higher than images depicting only males or mixed company. Furthermore, these images depicting females generate more engagement in total than those depicting males or mixed company across all hashtags. Images depicting only females generate 60% of total engagement from 50% of the images, whereas images depicting males only generate 15.3% of total engagement from 21.42% of images.” (77)

“On #gpwetdream, the images of models are mostly female, despite the fact that the event launched male and female swimwear. In these images, female bodies are depicted in the “conventional” ways described by Marwick (2015) in her analysis of Instafame and Banet-Weiser (2012) in her analysis of YouTube.” (77)

“Cultural intermediaries and consumers creatively “model” brands using their identities and bodies. Like models, Instagram users embody the style and “vibe” of brands by “doing” their bodies in ways that personify brand characteristics (Entwistle & Mears, 2013, p. 326). These depictions of the body routinely draw on gendered norms of physical appearance, body positioning, and movement (Marwick, 2015).” (78)

“Commercial brands and popular culture work as “structuring narratives,” within which we craft our identities. Like fashion models (Entwistle & Mears, 2013; Wissinger, 2007a) and YouTube users (Banet-Weiser, 2012), Instagram users labelling their images with the brand hashtags examined here reproduce common and mundane gender scripts. Banet-Weiser (2012) observed young girls on YouTube drawing on the gender tropes of commercial popular culture in the way they styled their hair, dressed, and moved their bodies. Similarly, nonbrand users posting under the General Pants hashtag draw on “cultural scripts” (Banet-Weiser, 2012, p. 66) provided by the brand in their performances of the self. “ (78)

“Cultural intermediaries and consumers mimic the brand in their own images tagged with #generalpants. For instance, in one image a consumer stands alone on an internal balcony while a second person takes their photo. The consumer wears ripped jeans and an all-black outfit purchased from General Pants. They stand with their hands in their jacket pockets and their face turned away from the camera. The consumer’s physical surrounds, their clothing, how they hold their body and their facial expression mimic the brand’s urban style. Here we can see a blurring of boundaries between the brand models and nonbrand users in the performance of gender, both in the social codes that are drawn on and the aesthetic and affective labor that is characteristic of the performance (Entwistle & Mears, 2013; Wissinger, 2007a).” (78)

“While the production of the body relies on the affective capacities and creativity of consumers and cultural intermediaries, the brand and social media platform provide the resources, stage, background, and devices for images to be produced. Under the General Pants hashtag, users appear to draw on the brand’s “template” in their performances of the gendered self.” (78)

“Presenting and judging images of bodies are both ritualized on social media platforms via a series of devices and associated actions: posing, framing, cropping, filtering, swiping, liking, and commenting. As argued by Marwick (2015) and Banet-Weiser (2012), these rituals of creating and circulating images reproduce gender as social relationships. ” (78)

“Branding on Instagram does not reproduce gender as a deliberate ideological project as much as it iteratively learns to use the platform as an image machine within which gender can be performed in ways that attract attention and affect others. Nurka (2013) argues that we need to see the creation of devices to orchestrate and exploit these rituals of judgment as problematic in a culture where it is overwhelmingly female bodies that are being judged.” (78)

“As consumers and cultural intermediaries faithfully recreate and personify the brand in their images, they perform work that is similar to that of fashion models. They undertake the labor of drawing on gender scripts and styling the body in ways that personify the brand.” (78-79)

“As consumers and intermediaries add to the flow of images under the brand hashtag, they create an archive on which the brand can draw in its broader marketing activities. Brands can appropriate the images for use in other contexts, or use them as a source of market research to identify trends and consumer innovations. Consumers and intermediaries undertake the affective labor of not only attracting attention to the brand and incorporating the brand in their identity, but also innovating the applications and uses of the brand and its products. The negotiation and performance of identity visible on social media are part of a larger production of the self as a brand. Hearn (2008, p. 298) describes this work as “creating a detachable, saleable image or narrative, which effectively circulates cultural meanings” in promotional and competitive ways. The creation of a branded self is a predictable consequence of social media networks in which users and brands are produced and evaluated through the same “rubric” and devices (Banet-Weiser, 2012, p. 57). Engagement on the social web is organized around users participating in the production and judgment of images of their bodies, identities, and lives (Banet-Weiser, 2012; Nurka, 2013).” (79)

“The female body appears to be most often the subject and producer of the images upon which brands depend. As Instagram’s advertising and analytics model develops further, brands will be offered the capacity to track and target users and use algorithms to organize more valuable formations of attention. “ (79)

“In algorithmic culture, the coherent and repetitive enactment of discursive scripts is useful not only because it forms an ideal subject that identifies with particular meanings, but also because it makes the subject recognizable to algorithms. This is important in thinking about the trajectory of mobile social media platforms such as Instagram. Instagram appears to be undertaking an incremental process of becoming more algorithmic and calculative in the way it organizes images and brokers attention.” (79)

“As platforms become more algorithmic, the repetitive performance of identity establishes patterns that the media system can predict and to which it can respond. A user is an ideal subject—not necessarily because they adhere to established discourses as such but because, in adhering to discourses they create repetitive and predictable flows of attention and data that make algorithmic decision-making more efficient. As algorithms learn the gendered patterns of representation and production on mobile social media platforms, they may contribute to their reinforcement, enclosing rather than opening up the performance of our bodies around established gender scripts.” (79)

“By doing so, they secure engagement from other users. While Instagram’s algorithms don’t understand the cultural specificity of these performances, they do register the higher engagement with them and work over time to make them more visible on the platform because they increase engagement.” (79 – 80)

On Instagram, the labor of the branded self extends beyond incorporating brands into images of ourselves or acting like brands in the way we communicate. The production of the branded self also involves making the body available to image machines (Wissinger, 2007a) in predictable and dependable ways.” (80)

“The escalating capacity of media technologies to “calculate” attention place new demands on the body. By developing an account of the shift from the “glance” to the “blink” Wissinger (2013) opens up a way of accounting for the role algorithmic media technologies play in the standardization and optimization of the body. A digital technology like Photoshop acts on the body by emphasizing particular proportions and tones. By altering representations it affects what bodies are seen as desirable. Instagram is a technology of the “blink regime” in the sense that it uses its capacity to “calculate attention” to manage flows of images of bodies. In addition to editing the appearance of the body in the image, Instagram collects data about engagement with particular bodies that it uses to optimize flows of images over time and space.” (80)

“In a mode of branding that is open-endedly social and data-driven, the labor of the branded self also involves the work of producing, cataloguing, and contributing to an analysis of data via the interplay between the body and media devices.” (80)

Kittler (2009, p. 238) argues that media devices both produce narratives and store data about everyday life that enable populations to be monitored and managed. Kittler’s formulation helps us to situate accounts of the narrative labor of the branded self, as detailed by Hearn (2008) and Banet-Weiser (2012), in relation to the data-collecting, storing, and processing labor of the branded self. If narratives promote and persuade, then data enable the production of a more responsive and customized media system. In a mode of branding that relies on the participation of consumers in generating data, as much as it relies on them mediating brand narratives, the “work of being watched” (Andrejevic, 2002) is a central element of branding. Instagram prompts us to consider the so far undertheorized “reconnaissance” or data-generating work of the branded self. “ (80)

“The participation of ordinary people in generating an account of themselves as both narrative and data is critical to image machines like Instagram, and especially to the mode of branding that operates through them.” (80)

“Following this formulation, the linking together of the bodies of users, smartphones, Instagram, and activations constitutes a mobile media and market device that orchestrates action, generates data, and calibrates attention. This combination of components comes together in an iterative and experimental way. Activations emerged during the 1990s as purpose built spaces in which brands engaged with peer leaders within cultural scenes as part of below-the-line and guerrilla marketing strategies. The value of activations increases as they become important components in the attention and image machinery of mobile social media. The interplay between the platform and cultural spaces shapes both as they adapt to each other’s capacities and requirements. Brands are key actors in developing interconnections between Instagram and real-world cultural spaces. The activation is one of the specific devices they use to develop these connections.” (81)

“Activations comprise a series of social relationships, performances, and symbolic objects and motifs that orchestrate the production of images circulating under the brand hashtag. The activation is a critical device for producing images that are thematically and aesthetically repetitive.” (81)

“The tub was an object that stimulated “affective flow” between bodies in the activation, which was then translated into the circulation of images online. While the people and poses in the images might have changed, the tub acted as a device that produced a repeated branded motif through images circulating in many different flows on Instagram.” (81)

“In a previous mode of branding, an object like this tub might have been used with a model posing in a staged photograph. In the mode of branding described in this article, the tub and activation are devices that organize the production of images. The tub is not just a symbol in an image, but plays a material role in calibrating attention. Where once an object like an old bathtub might have been used as a prop in a staged print advertisement, in this mode of branding the tub orchestrates the production of standardized images by multiple actors. The market device created here is one whereby the activation and its objects, social media platform, and smartphones work together to orchestrate the interplay between bodies and brands.” (81)

“Such objects are analogue media and market devices. They not only work in a representational sense to convey specific brand qualities, but also operate to stimulate forms of sociality that weave the brand into flows of images online. Instagram is the product of a longer history of developing devices for storing, manipulating, circulating, and scrolling through images. Furthermore, the Instagram user operates within media-dense urban spaces that provide the technical telecommunication infrastructure to mediate everyday life.” (82)

“Within these spaces, with mobile media devices in hand, users create and participate in the development of a culture where our engagement with images shifts from narratives to glances (Wissinger, 2007b). The streams of images created by Instagram users might narrate everyday life and cultural practices, but in an open-ended and nonlinear way. For instance, as a hashtag forms around an event like a music festival, the thousands of images flowing under that hashtag tell a repetitive story as motifs, performances, and practices relating to the festival are captured and circulated by users.” (82)

Just as audio tape enabled multitracking, overdubbing, and tone-shifting in popular music, the smartphone enables an image culture to emerge that is fast-moving, nonlinear, and dynamic, as users swipe, filter, and tap. At least in part, this image culture is the product of the technical development of mobile media, urban space, and cultural practices.” (82)

“The image machine created by Instagram is also increasingly computational. Filtering, locating, liking, and swiping all generate data that can be used in a variety of ways. Image machines prompt the generation of data that can be used to predict, open, shut, and experiment with social life (Packer, 2013, p. 295). The interplay between bodies, media devices, media platforms, and purpose-built cultural spaces is a system of “stimulus, adaptation and response” (Schüll, 2012, p. 157).” (82)

“The more we interact with media devices, the more they collect information that is used not just to curate the flows of images that come back to us via the screen, but increasingly also to design the real-world spaces with which the image machine is interdependent. There is an iteratively developing circuit of feedback and innovation between social media platforms like Instagram and real-world cultural spaces like brand activations, music festivals, clubs, and retail environments.” (82)

Branding and Mobile Image Machines:

“Mobile social media platforms like Instagram are engaged in an iterative and experimental process of designing devices like advertising tools, data analytics, and algorithms for calibrating attention. Instagram illustrates how the discursive symbolic and data-driven work of branding is interrelated. As much as brands might seek to instruct or persuade, they are also part of the creation of a media system organized around the capacity to “experiment with reality” (Packer, 2013, p. 297) through the design of cultural spaces and the orchestration of social practices.” (83)

“The images produced under the brand hashtags studied here illustrate how gender norms are reproduced on mobile social media. As algorithms recognize the performance of gendered norms as patterns associated with valuable formations of attention, they are likely to reproduce them. Analysis of how brands reinforce and exploit gender norms needs to account for the interdependence between the discursive and algorithmic aspects of mobile social media platforms.” (83)

“The design of urban spaces like brand activations, nightlife precincts, clubs, festivals, and retail environments becomes integrated into the calibration of attention on mobile social media. Critical accounts of algorithmic social media have begun to address how cultural content “addresses” algorithms (Hallinan & Striphas, 2014). By “address,” Hallinan and Striphas (2014) mean that cultural content is produced with the algorithmic decision-making of media platforms in mind.” (83)

“This image machine depends on constant interplay with bodies that move about urban space with smartphone in hand: pointing, tapping, swiping, and glancing. Rather than being subjects that narrate, users make themselves available to the device and its modes of capturing and channelling affect and attention. Mobile social media platforms are driven by the experimental, participatory, and data-driven logics of contemporary branding. Users’ image production does not just perform brands in a symbolic sense, but creates forms of action that brands and platforms modulate and calibrate in an openended way. “ (83)

Boy, J. D., Uitermark, J. (2017) Reassembling the city through Instagram. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Vol 42 (4) pp.485-668

Boy, J. D., Uitermark, J. (2017) Reassembling the city through Instagram. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Vol 42 (4) pp.485-668


How do people represent the city on social media? And how do these representations feedback into peoples uses of the city? To answer these questions, we develop a relational approach that relies on a combination of qualitative methods and network analysis. Based on in-depth interviews and a dataset of over 400 000 geotagged Instagram posts from Amsterdam, we analyse how the city is reassembled on and through the platform. By selectively drawing on the city, users of the platform elevate exclusive and avant-garde establishments and events, which come to stand out as hot spots, while rendering mundane and low-status places invisible. We find that Instagram provides a space for the segmentation of users into subcultural groups that mobilise the city in varied ways. Social media practices, our findings suggest, feed on as well as perpetuate socio-spatial inequalities.” (612) 


“Areas and groups considered undesirable – and banlieu, the disabled, the elderly, immigrants, the homless – are frequenlty degraded or rendered invisible, while spaces of upscale communication and sanitised tourist havens are elevated.” (612)

“In this context, the proliferation of distributed media technologies is often heralded as a seismic shift: the power to represent the city is no longer concentrated in the elites controling the state and mass media, but is distributed as people use their smartphones to produce and circulate messages of their own making (Castells 2009).” (612)

“We develop an approach that traces the relations underlying social media representations to answe these questions. We apply our approach in a study of how the city of Amsterdam is reassembled through Instagram. Instagram revolves around images. Users take pictures and optionally apply filtered to them. They then share them, making them discovereable by adding hashtags. Initially used by digital photography enthusiasts to add filters and effects to their photos…” (612)

“…Instagram is a compelling case study how the ubiquity of communication tehcnologies and the acceleration of image-sharing are changing relations of urban dwellers among each other and with their environments.” (612)

“Our analyses demonstrates how social media representations reflect and reinforce processes of gentrification as Instagram users partake in the aestheticisation of everyday life and promote places of high-end consumption.” (612)

A Relational Approach to the Interface between the City and Social Media

“While people’s experience of place has always been shaped by communication – whether informal conversation on the street corner or news accounts drawn from mass media – the proliferation of media technologies has provided users with the capacity to instantly share their impressions and images with distant audiences. ‘The key feature of wireless communication’, Castells notes, ‘is not mobility but perpetual connectivity’ (2009, 69).” (613)

“One way is to view the interface beteen the city and social media as a membrane that filters images and impressions: only some are recorded and circulated, most are not (DeWaal 2014).” (613)

“What has changes is that images can now be instantly uploaded and shared (Sarvas and Frohlich 2011). While mobile technologies allow users to instantly and incessantly feed thoughts and image into their timelines, this, too, is an uneven process. Users are, by necessity, highly selective about where, with whom and through which channels they communicate.” (613)

“Alternately, we can view the interplay between digital technologies and urban space in dramaturgical terms. In this conception, social media are stages on which users enact performances. Social media users do not merely represent a city or self that is prior and external to the process of representatio, but rather are engaged in an ongoing production.” (613)

“The ‘selfie’ – a digital self-portait – is exemplary in that users develope an understanding of whom they are as they craft intimate images for public display. While the selfie genre is numerically less prominant than commentary would lead one to expect, other images shared on Instagram – group portraits, still lifes – are also carefully staged, composed and edited.” (613)

“Reassembling the city is a creative and open process, but it plays out on the uneven terrain of the city. As such, the array  of subject positions that can be enacted is bounded. Instagram users can only stage a performace in an exclusive club if they have access to that club. They can only fill their timelines with pictures of exquisite fare if they can afford going to haute cuisine restaurants.” (613)

“We conceive of the reassembling of the city through social media as a recursive process: Instagram users selectively and creatively reassemble the city as they mobilise specific places in the city as stages or props in their posts. Instagram images, in turn, become operative in changing the city (de Souze e Silva and Sutki 2011: Hoezl and Marie 2015).” (613)

“On Instagram, users select certain places and moments, choose an angle and a frame, invent witty hashtags, and use one of a selection of filters to produce an image for circulation to thier followers. Even if users post images without giving them much thought, they are nevertheless conveying – consciously or unconsciously – a sense of what is beautiful, enjoyable, humourous or interesting. This process of communication continues as users view the posts of thers. Social media, inslucding Instagram, offere users the possibity to curate their feeds by following others, which means they get to see their world from their perspecitve. These processes of selective communication also implicate the city: users mark (‘tag’) and see some places but ignore or skip others (Kelley 2014: Kitchin and Dodge 2011; Zook and Graham 2007).” (613)

“The mundane practices of following, ‘liking’ and commenting weave patterns of uneaven relations, investigating recognition in some posts, place and people and not others (cf. Graham et al, 2013). These individual actions acts to contribute to stratification as some users and posts achieve greater recognition than others.” (613-614)

“User’s Interactions also create segmentation. Social media afford users opportunities to associate with like-minded people in segmented networks colloquillay know as ‘bubbles’.” (614)

Data and methods

“On a microscopic level, we researched how people see their worlds and especially the city through Instagram by analysing our corpus of Instagram posts (see below) on an ongoing basis to get a sense of who is using Instagram ans what pictures they post. We selected posts and users, by exploring the representation of specific places.” (614)

“On a macroscopic level, we examine the broader patterns of strattification and segmentation that emerge from users interactions (see also Boy and Uitermark, 2016). We collected the data for this analysis through Instagram’s application programming interface (API).” (614)

“To study segmentation, we identitify communities of users who have relatively strong direct and indirect ties. We detect communities in an unweighed network of reciprocated ties.” (615)

“We also looked at the places cluster members tagged. Users who taged places are not simply there, they want to show other that they are there. Place tags thus serve as markers to identity and lay a symbolic claim to a place.” (616)

Seeing the world through Instagram

“Instagram feeds are colourful and variegated, but at the same time. Instagram projects a certain image of the world. What Instagram users see as they scroll through their feeds, what they posts and how they use the platform to navigate social and urban worlds are marked by thie prevailing aesthetic. Instagram posts capture moments – moments are set apart by their refined beauty and good vibes. They are rarely spectacular, but rather capture an individual’s street-level view of daily urban life, lovingly arranged possessions or convivial occasions.” (616)

“As Henri Lefebvre notes, moments can be distinguished from mere instants, as the former entail ‘the hope of reliving that moment or preserving it as a priviliged lapse of time, embalmed in memory’ (2002, 343). Instagram users train their eye to spot slices of the world around them worthy of embalming. In the process of reassembling their life-world in this manner, the everyday appears as merely ordinary or mundane. Looking through a stream of Instagram posts, one sees a seemingly interminable series of peak moments. Instagram thus conveys aesthetics norms that induce a degree of conformity (Bourdieu et al 1990) in how individuals use the platform.” (616)

“This conformity has been the subject of numerous parodies, a sure sign that media practices on Instagram are subject to a set of unwritten rules. In fact, the exception proves the rule, because even reflexive and critical users do not play outside them. They, too, are enticed to use the platform to engage in strategies of distinction and the digital market of space.” (616)

“Our respondants were all acutely  aware that the pictures in their feeds are taken and curated to convey that their posters are happy, healthy and hip. While the beauty and grandeur in their feeds may be a source of enjoyment, some are also expressed frustration at the santised ideal embodied in the images that often are purged of all blemished and negativity.” (616)

“Respondants mentioned that it is undesireable to come across a ‘catfish’ – somebody whose appearance is simply too perfect to be believeable. There are acceptable levels of preening and peacocking, but there is also a point where one has clearly overdone it.” (616-617)

“The idea that the selective presentation of one’s life amounts to a ‘fake’ was taken up by many of our respondents as they scrolled through their own pictures.” (617) –> Fake performances!

“Sophie said she often feels social pressure looking through her social media feeds, because everyone always seems to be doing impressive things. But mostly she appreciates how Instagram users curate their images: ‘You can just scroll, and you’re looking at it, like, “pretty!” And the pictures are always very happy, and everybody is so healthy!’ This exclamation came over as at one delighted and exasperated.” (617)

“Such geotagged histories in turn help other navigate. Several respondants look up Instagram pictures before they go on a trip to get a preview of the scenery and the places and their patrons. Alexis was planning a trip to Morroco and has used Instagram to decide which places to travel to, and Sophie was seeoking our Parisian Instagram users to see what places she could visit during her study abroad semester.” (617) –> I have done this also!

“The same logic applies when respondants use Instagram to navigate in their own city. When they see an appealing picture, they may get the idea to join the user or to visit the places at a later point in time.” (617)

“For some, Instagram has taken the place of apps like Yelp whose main function is to seek out, review and recommend places (cf. Zukin et al. 2015).” (617)

“The new places our respondents brought up – such as Walter’s in Indische Buurt – are part and parcel of gentrification. Instagram confirms the status and visibility of these places, furhter boosting their competative position and their role as engines of gentrification. In this sense, Instagram not only feeds on but also reinscribes socio-spacial inequalites.” (617)

The Stratified world of Instagram

“Mundane acts of recognition in the form of ‘likes’, comments or place tagging result in strattification, making some posts, users and places stand out while other remain an undifferentiated part of the everflowing stream.” (617)

“These hubs in the network are sucessful symbolic entreneurs who are in distingushed postition to shape how other users percieve the city. We then introduce the places that come out on top.” (617)

“According to our estimation, the age of the women and men running these accounts is on average around 24. Only a third are aged 30 and above, while others are as young as 18. The clear majority of the central accound are run by women.” (617)

“We know from surveys that Instagram users are overwhelmingly adolscents and young adults, and we know that a greater proportion of women use Instagram than men.” (618)

“These professional prepare poeple to be successful symbolic entreprenuers. The skills learned in these fields can be applied to craft a successful online image. It is also not clear whether there users’ Instagram activity is even distinct from their professional life. Their ‘social life’ on Instagram may just be an extention or outgrowth of their professional life and vice versa, to the extent that the lives are completely blurred.” (618)

“These users may not work directly in fashion, for instance, but they are fashion enthusuasts who maintian blogs on the subject. Similarly, we find food bloggers who are hobbyist restaurant reviewers. In these cases the distinction between work life and social life is blurred as well. We also find full-time city marketeds who hype local scenes and explicitly turn to Instagram to promote what the city has to offer.” (618-619)

“When Instagramers in Amsterdam tag places in their posts to advertise their presence there, they favour certain kind of locations. The urban imagination promoted by Instagram sees the city as a collection of ‘hot spots’, and what is in between these hot spots gets the cold shoulder.” (619)

“Other commonly tagged places include nightlife locations in the city centre, such as lounges and clubs. These frequently host glamourous parties that are promoted on Instagram and then have an afterglow there when attendees share their pictures from the night. Users signal their presence at other temporary evens, especially music festivals, fashion shows but also a weekend-long food truck festival. Further down the list we find restaurants, barsm coffee houses and retail stores. While there are several hundren posts tagged at Starbucks and Coffee Company franchises, they are far outweighed by posts tagged at independent establishments owned and operated by local entrepreneurs. The same is true for stores.” (619)

The Segmented worlds of Instagram

“The cluster of ‘city image makers’ (cluster III) has many users specialising in film or photography who love taking the city as their object. They are expert image makers, both amateurs and professional, who picture the city from original angles, but they focus their lenses on the same landmarks and landscapes as tourists do, including the canals, museums and historical districts. Their streams are full of pictures of characteristic streets or buildings. This cluster also contains a number of expats who register what they find beautiful as they get to know they city. Users in this cluster are more likely than most users to tag places in their posts.” (619) –> Am I becoming a statistic? Part of the crowd? ;o

“Several of the most central accounts in this cluster are run by marketing entrepreneurs who assits gentrifiiers in navigating the city: they picture places (sometime for a fee) that appeal to gentrifiers’ taste for branded authenticity. This cluster is locally orientated: users organise around places with a neughbourhood vibe. Through thier pictures and discourse, they promote new establishments that they consider real assets to the neighbourhood because of their authentic and local feel, as expressed for instance by the availability of local craft beers.” (621)


“We find that Instagram users act outside aesthetic lifestyle ideals as they craft images and strategically display aspects of their life-worlds. Instagram contitutes a distinctive way of seeing that composes an image of the city that is sanitsed and nearly devoid of negativity. The feeds are full of desireable items, attractive bodies, beautiful faces, healthy foods, witty remarks and impressive sceneries. The messiness and occasional gloom and doom of the city have no place there. Instagram users are acutely aware of the images’ selectiveity; it is what excites them about the platform and it is also what, occasionally, causes them stress as they feeel they have to follow suit and produce images that their followers will appreiciate.” (622)

“As Instagram users ‘like’ and comment on pictures, they construct asymmetric relationships within Instagram’s symbolic universe. Our results indicate that these networks are far more horizontal; there are a few ‘stars’ who recieve the bulk of attention, and many more peripheral users who recieve comparitively little.” (622)

“The ideals that are cultivated and visualised on Instagram and the uneven relationships that are constructed also implicate the city: some places are elevated and feature centre stage, while others remain peripheral or are altogether ignored. While we found that users often tag public places such as parks, the places that are elevated above all others are part of local scenes centred around high-end consumption, glamour and refined lifestyles. Instagram serves to showcase patronage of exclusive places. Our analysis show how social media partake in reassembling the urban landscape.” (622)

As Instagram users boost their own status by picturing themselves in certain places, they also boost the status of those places. By producing and circulating appealing pictures of these places, users promote trendy bars, restaurants, coffee houses and stores. While it is plausible that Instagram users help to aestheticise neoliberal urbanism, they do so in particular ways. They do not bring attention to large chains or big brands but picture distinctly local and often small places.” (623)

“While all Instagram users creatively reassemble elements of their life-worlds to fashion their identity displays, there are marketed inequalties among users in terms of the places they display. Our analyses show some type of users are way more likely to tag than others.” (623)

“For instance, we found that users in a cluster of gentrifiers are six times more likely to tag places than users in a cluster of young women and men of colour. This suggests that some groups have greater symbolic and spending power to reassemble the city, and Instagram is a tool they use to achieve this.” (623)

“Materiality or visceral experience do not become less important but are increasingly intertwined with images and messages circulating through a range of communication circuits. Mapping these new layers becomes increasingly essential to address perennial issues in geographical and urban scholarship.” (623)

Schwartz, R., Halegoua, G. R. (2015) The Spatial Self: Location-based identity performances on social media. New Media & Society. [Online] Vol. 17 (10), pp. 1643-1660. [Accessed 6th March 2018]

Schwartz, R., Halegoua, G. R. (2015) The Spatial Self: Location-based identity performances on social media. New Media & Society. [Online] Vol. 17 (10), pp. 1643-1660. [Accessed 6th March 2018]

“As a growing number of social media platforms now include location information from their users, researchers are confronted with new online representations of individuals, social networks, and the places they inhabit. To better understand these representations and their implications, we introduce the concept of the “spatial self”: a theoretical framework encapsulating the process of online self-presentation based on the display of offline physical activities. Building on previous studies in social science, humanities, and computer and information science, we analyze the ways offline experiences are harnessed and performed online. We first provide an encompassing interdisciplinary survey of research that investigates the relationships between location, information technology, and identity performance. Then, we identify and characterize the spatial self as well as examine its occurrences through three case studies of popular social media sites: Instagram, Facebook, and Foursquare. Finally, we offer possible research directions and methodological considerations for the analysis of geocoded social media data.” (643)

“Public officials, urban planners, technology developers, and researchers have begun to gather and analyze geotagged photos and videos, status updates, and location-announcements in order to make claims about the use and design of public space, urban infrastructure, mobility patterns, local sentiment, and experiences of place. These efforts raise many questions about the use of location-based social media and the representation and documentation of physical mobility and physical presence that are in need of further investigation.” (1644)

“…what can we learn about users from the growing number of visualizations of their physical activity on social media? What are the intentions, conditions, and situations under which these digital traces are produced and understood? How do these geocoded data inform our understanding of mobility, the meaning of physical place, and identity performance that occurs via location-based social media? This article is an effort toward answering these questions and understanding how people harness location-based technologies in order to represent themselves through social media.” (1644)

“The spatial self refers to a variety of instances (both online and offline) where individuals document, archive and display their experience and/or mobility within space and place in order to represent or perform aspects of their identity to others. We focus on a particular articulation of the spatial self, one that is performed through digital applications that record activities and experiences in physical places, which can be shared with others via social media. In other words, the way we present ourselves to our online audiences is no longer only by textual and visual cues such as status messages, photos, or videos but also through geocoded digital traces, geographical data visualizations, and maps of individual patterns of mobility.” (1644)

“First, we examine Instagram and the way participants’ photos are presented and plotted in relation to geographic locations. Second, we describe the use of geotagged data and mapping tools on Facebook. Finally, we trace the various affordances of Foursquare in regard to physical activity sharing practices.” (1664)

“First, we provide an interdisciplinary survey of works that study the relationships between location, information technology, and social identity. Second, we introduce and discuss the characteristics and potential applications of the spatial self. We extend current discussions of the socially driven, performative aspects of location-announcement in order to present the spatial self as a theoretical framework for making sense of practices of location-announcement and expressions of place online.” (1644-1645)

Identity, Place, and Social Media

As Hogan (2010) observes, Goffman’s theories regarding identity and self-presentation, “front stage” and “back stage” presentations, and a focus on situations, contexts, and audiences for social behavior have been incredibly prevalent in social media literature. Additionally, Butler’s notion of performativity has been utilized in discussions of mobility and subjectivity (Gregson and Rose, 2000) as well as collocated online representation and sharing.” (1645)

“…Van House (2009) analyzed how both Goffman and Butler’s interpretations of performance apply directly to mobile photography and concluded that by taking and posing for photographs, we enact identities and manage impressions of ourselves, both individually and collectively. Overall, scholars tend to agree that through images, video, status updates, profiles, friend lists, visible conversations, tastes and interests, and comments that appear within their profile, social media participants present a highly curated version of themselves (Mendelson and Papacharissi, 2010).” (1645)

“Sutko and De Souza e Silva (2011) introduce the “presentation of place” in order to explain the performance of identity via location-aware technologies. However, “presentation of place” tends to focus on the impressions of a physical place provided by its visitors or the social construction of place through location-based social media, rather than the harnessing of place to perform identity to a social network.” (1645)

Location-based social media and the Self

“In the years preceding the pervasiveness of location-based social media platforms, feminist geographer Mei-Po Kwan (2002) suggested that geocoded digital traces such as photographs, audio, and video clips can be gathered and analyzed in order to access the complexities and local knowledge of mobility and urban experience.” (1645)

“De Souza e Silva and Frith (2012) note that although location-based social media have been promoted in terms of coordination or meeting up with other users in physical space, many users choose to selectively broadcast their location even when there is limited or no possibility for a face-to-face meeting.” (1646)

“Humphreys (2012) suggests that practices of cataloging and archiving personal mobility and presence within place encourage intimate bonding with friends, are used in the service of bragging or “showing off,” self-promotion, making inside jokes, recording places as a memory aid, or receiving points or rewards for particular habits or actions. Location based social media users often understand their participation in location-announcement as augmenting or reinforcing other online profiles (Frith, 2012; Humphreys, 2007; Patil et al., 2012). In all of these instances, the personal narratives and individual representations of physical mobility on social media undoubtedly omit certain locations, emphasize others, and reveal traces of mobility which are calculated but imprecise.” (1646)

“As Barkhuus et al. (2008) observed, expressing “where you are” over a social network does not solely inform others of your location, but may also signal mood, lifestyle, or life events and maintain or support intimate social relationships. The manner in which certain locations or activities are named, captioned, or annotated can be understood as performative.” (1646)

“Sheller (2013) has noted that several mobile media artists and activists have attempted to override the commercial and surveillance aspects of mobile technologies and platforms and to create creative and “disruptive spaces of resistance, of sharing, and of convivial publics” and “serendipitous play.”…” (1646)

“We present the concept of the spatial self as an effort to identify and examine the ways in which individual and collective agency is routinely enacted by participants within these systems. Building on previous and ongoing research, this article considers expressions of the spatial self as performance in addition to play, equating the spatial self more along the lines of self-presentation, ontology, and identity production rather than coordination, ludology, or creative misuse. In the following section, we introduce the concept of the spatial self as a lens through which to read the myriad expressions and performances of identity and place online via social media.” (1647)

The Spatial Self

“The spatial self might be a novel term, but it is not a new concept. We employ the “spatial self” to refer to a variety of instances (both online and offline) where individuals document, archive, and display their experience and/or mobility within space and place in order to represent or perform aspects of their identity to others. These are historically rooted practices that combine lived and/or imagined social and spatial realities in order to express identity and socio-spatial position.” (1647)

“Pre-digital examples of the spatial self abound. Diaries of urban flaneurs, maintained as early as the Victorian era, not only archive individual physical movement through urban environments, but also document social and cultural change and serve as a window into relationships between social class, gender dynamics, public and private spaces, and the city (Wilson, 1992). The curated photo album, slideshow, or home video footage that documents vacations or personal moments and might have been put on display or shown to friends and family members are expressions of where someone was located both socially and spatially (Walker and Moulton, 1989). Postcards with photographs of distant locales or familiar places, annotated by the sender, articulate something social and spatial about presence at particular moments in time (Milne, 2010).” (1647)

“Digital expressions of the spatial self are becoming increasingly embedded in our spatial practices and the social production of space.” (1647)

“However, the spatial self is not merely a byproduct of mobile social media use, nor is it simply an aggregation of geocoded data. The spatial self refers to intentional socio-cultural practices of self-presentation that result in dynamic, curated, sometimes idealized performances of who a user is, based on where they go.” (1647)

“In this article, we suggest that through social networks like Instagram, Foursquare, and Facebook, participants present the spatial self without explicitly being invited to do so, in more “organic” circumstances than via directed research studies.” (1648)

“The spatial self on social media portrays similar characteristics to other instances of online self-representation. As Papacharissi notes, through social media, an individual “gains access to a variety of multimedia tools that enable the possibility for more controlled and more imaginative performances of identity online …” (Papacharissi, 2011: 307). Building on this understanding of identity performance and social media, we consider digital expressions of the spatial self to be a particular type of “networked self,” one that primarily relies on the curation of representations of physical place and mobility to perform identity online. As is the case with other types of self-presentation, the spatial self is enacted in both synchronous and asynchronous online environments and may be coordinated across a variety of platforms. As Hogan (2010) notes, selfpresentation practices on social media can be split into performances, which take place in synchronous “situations” and artifacts that take place in asynchronous “exhibitions.” This distinction also applies to locative media practices as users are both sharing their location with others in real time as well as archiving these physical actions which are then aggregated and presented in various forms such as dots on a map or summarized statistics.” (1648)

“The significance of real-time sharing disappears when we look at the exhibition aspects of the spatial self. When aggregating users physical actions and location data over time, the subtleties of the temporal nature of these actions are removed in favor of artifacts such as maps and infographics that showcase an aggregated representation of the user’s entire historical online–offline actions.” (1648)

“Much like many other online identity practices on social networks, the spatial self is based on a highly curated depiction of the individual. Users of these services do not share every offline, physical action with their online social circles, but carefully choose the places and times when these actions are broadcast. Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of identity performance put forth by Goffman and Butler, we recognize the spatial self as a practice of identity performance that is constituted over time through “a stylized repetition of acts” (Butler, 1988: 519). In this case, the spatial self relies on a stylized repetition of presenting certain places, with certain connotations and meanings, as constitutive of one’s identity performance. By curating their experiences, people share only a portion of their daily life, mostly focusing on physical locations that can shape others’ perceptions of who they are and where they go, or places and events that they select to archive over time.” (1648)

“Frith (2012) observes that these curated performances regularly occur via locationbased social media and categorizes some of these practices as “presenting an idealized self to others” and “the presentation of the present self to the future self.” (1649)

“As such, users select which kind of places they would like to associate with their constructed “social identity” online and utilize their social identity “to construct a performance that will allow them to negotiate social situations” (boyd, 2002: 22). Therefore, the traces that manifest on these systems are usually filtered, choreographed displays of mobility and experiences of place that play a significant role in identity performance as well as sociability: they are not absolute or precise but abstracted, symbolic, and performative.” (1649)

“The spatial self is shaped by the character of a physical place and the ways users associate themselves with physical place.” (1649)

“When a user chooses to broadcast their location in relation to a specific venue, they are relating themselves with the values and social groups that are represented by that specific physical place. In this way, users are building their online identity through attaching themselves to the specific narrative of a physical place (Schwartz, 2014). This combination of “private geographies” or geographies that have shared meaning among an intimate group (Brown et al., 2007), wider social connotations and understandings of particular places, and the selection of particular places to be added to ones online profile combine to produce the representations of the spatial self.” (1649)

“…like other aspects of our identities, the spatial self is not a unique, singular representation but rather a multifaceted and fragmented depiction of the self that has many different versions, each with its own characteristics and targeted audience (Van Zoonen, 2013). Its representations are therefore messy, sometimes even contradictory, as people commonly perform more than one spatial self in different situations or contexts, at different times, and to different audiences. As different social networks cater to users’ interaction with various social groups or audiences, each user can create several distinct depictions of their physical activity, taking into consideration how each platform will showcase their actions and how audiences will interpret them.” (1649)

“These digital traces can be read as new styles of inscribing the body within digital and physical socio-cultural environments, revealing fragments of larger ontological stories about space, place, and embodied mobility.” (1649)

“The spatial self is constituted from a bricolage of personal and collective, private and public meanings and narratives of place. Finally, although the spatial self is constructed by many small, recorded actions at the coffee shop, the bar, the park, or the movie theater, it is often experienced by the audience as an aggregated representation. The spatial self is therefore the result of computational processes, social and physical practices that “connect the dots” and produce a depiction, often in the form of a map or networked visualization, that conveys the user’s archive or catalog of broadcasted physical actions.” (1649-1650)

Case Studies

“We focus on three categories of social media platforms that exhibit three distinct ways of representing the spatial self via social media: photographic, mixed use, and location-based social media networks. (As new platforms, design innovations, online communities, and social norms emerge within pre-existing social media services, these categories will undoubtedly change.)” (1650)

Photographic Social Networks

“A current trend in social media and location-based services is the production of geocoded photographs that represent images of particular locations and the events that take place within these locations, which are then shared with a social network or more public audience.” (1650)

“The location-based social media categorized as “photographic” in this article utilize photography as the primary mode of expressing the spatial self. These platforms are centered around the creation, exhibition, and sharing of geocoded photographic images and highlight the camera as the primary tool needed in order to participate on these platforms.” (1650)

“Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing social network that offers its users the ability to take photos directly from their mobile phone and instantly share them with friends as well as the general public.” (1650)

“As users upload more and more photos, their Photo Maps are augmented, showcasing their activity in various physical locations around the world. Other Instagram users can view these maps through the individual user’s profile page. Users can also “drill down” using this interactive map and study the various places a user has taken photographs, down to street level specificity. In this way, local and individual patterns of mobility can be visualized and archived as well.” (1650 -1651)

“By utilizing Instagram’s application programming interface (API), recent works have tried to make sense of the massive collections of photographic representations on Instagram (Hochman and Manovich, 2013; Hochman and Schwartz, 2012).” (1651)

Mixed-use social networks

“These sites do not rely primarily on location-announcement or photographic representation in order to function. Instead, these platforms employ a variety of modes of communication (rather than a primary type of functionality) in order to connect with members of a social network and often combine photography, video, text, links, graphics, and location-announcement within individual profiles.” (1651)

“In addition to posting a status update or uploading a photo or video or link, Facebook mobile application users have the option to check-in to a physical venue. The check-in action is then displayed to the user’s friends via timeline or through a mobile notification, similar to a status update. Users can also check-in to places and tag friends who are collocated with them.” (1651)

“Similar to Instagram’s Photo Map, users can zoom in and examine an individual’s checkins based in their geographical clustering. Facebook imagines this location functionality as an archive of past, present, and future personal mobility (Cox, 2011).” (1651)

Location-based Social Media

“Foursquare is a location-based social network that was first launched in March of 2009 and offered participants a way to “check-in” to the places they visit and instantly share that information with their friends.” (1652)

“Every day, millions of users share their check-ins with friends and explore new places in their local surroundings as the application is designed to encourage the sharing of local knowledge as well as finding out where your friends are located.” (1652)

“Foursquare use have also revealed that participants are sometimes concerned about acquiring virtual rewards such as mayorships and/or badges that might “threaten” their online identity or selfpresentation, which often led to non-disclosure of their location (Cramer et al., 2011; Lindqvist et al., 2011).” (1653)

“Motivations for location disclosure as well as non-disclosure via location-based social media have revealed interesting connections between check-ins, impression management, and presentation of self through these platforms. Some reiterated reasons for nondisclosure include the following: embarrassment, privacy concerns, professionalism and ethics, self-presentation, and not wanting to spam a social network with superfluous check-ins.” (1653)

“Foursquare users have noted that an archive of their check-ins can be used as a memory aid (to remember where they have been, when, and with whom). Examining Foursquare check-ins, geocoded images, and annotations through the lens of the spatial self can add a qualitative framework for understanding individual patterns of mobility and sociality and can highlight the online social contexts and practices within which location-announcement and documentation of personal mobility occur.” (1653)


“Given the multiple and distinct depictions of the spatial self produced over a variety of platforms and within a variety of contexts and situations, this section identifies some of the unique opportunities the spatial self introduces for studying individuals, physical places, and social networks. More specifically, we consider how studying articulations of the spatial self via social media may yield valuable information pertaining to differential mobility patterns, polysemic meanings of place, and collective geographical patterns of social networks.” (1653)

“The spatial self is an additional means through which people perform their online identity and manage self-presentation on SNS and location-based social media.” (1653)

“The spatial self reminds researchers that these digital traces are produced and embedded within particular social contexts, significations systems, and subject to certain audiences and norms. If anything, they are more performative than precise. Therefore, the spatial self is a concept that urges methodological caution in analyzing location-based social media data, patterns of mobility iterated through social media, and location-announcement online.” (1654)

“The spatial self provides several unique aspects that can help researchers better understand collective and individual experiences and mobilities within urban space. In the following section, we identify three categories of possible directions of study that set the spatial self apart from other forms of online representation of the self.” (1654)

Individual Users

“Instagram, Facebook, and Foursquare users exhibit and archive physical experiences alongside other markers of identity and employ the spatial self as a way to communicate where they are/were, what they are/were doing, as well as who they are.” (1654)

“The spatial self is a way to gain access to personal and collective memories and a way to share and display these memories in order to connect with others. Through investigations of the spatial self on social media, researchers can gain access to diverse experiences of geography and mobility in relationship to class, race, gender, sexuality, and other markers of social identity; potentially disrupting hierarchical or hegemonic manners of understanding physical space and place. Moreover, the production of geocoded digital traces can reveal unique, selective daily patterns of mobility. Aggregating and visualizing data from social media platforms can provide researchers with new ways to study patterns of different users based on their historical activity throughout the city.” (1654)

“In the Phototrails project, Hochman and Manovich (2013) demonstrated how researchers can follow an individual user’s online activity and visualize their pattern of mobility based on the type of places frequented (Figure 2). As the user’s actions are highly curated and intended to present a certain depiction of the self, the type of places users select to checkinto or take photos of hold valuable meaning beyond their physical location.” (1654)

Physical Place

“Utilizing users’ historical actions on social media sets the foundation for dynamic narratives of a physical place. Examining the patterns that emerge from the users’ demographics, comments, tips, photos, and videos, we can infer how certain places function within particular social landscapes (Schwartz and Hochman, 2014). The communicative act of cataloging inner space (social distance or intimacy between people), outer space (physical distance between people in public space), and metaspace (which we expand to mean social space or social interactions that take place under certain conditions, contexts, or situations at given times) is present within all of the platforms discussed in this article and can be used to signify important markers of identity (Humphreys, 2012). Studying expressions of the spatial self can teach us about the popularity and the patrons of a specific place.” (1655)

“Places have multiple meanings to the same person or to different types of people, and these meanings may change over time. Representations of the spatial self can provide an entry point into accessing and reading these polyvocal interpretations and meanings of place. The contexts and situations under which these digital expressions of place are produced inform the image or check-in and the motivation for location-announcement.” (1656)

Social Networks

“Individual actions in physical places can help characterize and uncover collective geographic patterns of social networks.” (1656)

“An understanding of the spatial self can more robustly represent patterns of mobility for different groups of people and what these patterns might signify. For example, the Livehoods project offers a glance into the areas of the city that like-minded people visit (Cranshaw et al., 2012).” (1656)

“Researchers can gain insight into how certain geopolitical inequalities are experienced and uncover strategies for managing high or low mobility in both physical space and digital environments.” (1656)


“Digital expressions of the spatial self might help researchers highlight and understand new performances of self and re-inscriptions of the body in place and space. The digital traces that people produce through location-based social media networks may help inform researchers’ understanding of urban experience and urban mobility, but should be recognized as performed or exhibited “traces” or fragments of larger articulations of physical presence and spatial realities. Geolocated posts, tweets, images, check-ins, and other forms of location-announcement and artifacts of personal mobility are parts of larger narratives and performances of embodiment and experience of place. ” (1657)

“Moreover, there are privacy concerns (locational privacy and otherwise) that need to be considered when gathering user-generated geolocated data, especially since researchers and planners are not an intended audience for these expressions, and the isolation and re-circulation of these digital productions was not consented to by participants. While we urge researchers to apply ethical caution in gathering and analyzing these digital traces of mobility and presence, we also urge methodological caution as well. As tools of analysis for user-generated geocoded data are still under development, we need to figure out ways to verify user-produced information (or volunteered geographic information), understand the biases in their production, and use these data sets without overestimating what they actually reflect.” (1657)

“To think about Instagram images, Facebook or Foursquare check-ins as representing the places that are “most important” to participants or as the “places that matter” is inaccurate. We need to understand not only the motivations for producing these images and check-ins but also what they mean to the participants and their audiences—how they are being used as a form of self-presentation as well as (re)productive practices of experience and reception of urban space.” (1657)

“Performativity within social media and the expression of place as linked to self-presentation within SNS is deserving of further study. We suggest that the spatial self is a lens through which to read some of the texts produced over social media and to understand the biases and limitations of the geographic and temporal precision of this data.” (1657)

“Expressions of the spatial self are not always precise in terms of calculating actual mobility or physical presence, but they are precisely calculated, choreographed articulations of space and the self based on identity production and self-expression.” (1657)

Bell, D. and Hollows, J. (2005) Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste. Berkshire: Open University Press.

 Bell, D. and Hollows, J. (2005) Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste. Berkshire: Open University Press.


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