Intensive 2 | Further Research

Research Materials |

Most businesses now have active profiles on Facebook and Twitter, but an Instagram account is also a must. It’s actually now the second-most active of the big three, with over 300 million daily users.”

“Instagram users engage more per post than any other social network. Furthermore, 50 percent of users follow at least one business. This business could be yours!”

“A range of paid advertising options are also available on Instagram for those that want to supplement or bypass organic posting. According to the company’s pitch, 70 percent of performance campaigns have generated statistically significant lifts for advertisers for online conversion or mobile app installs.”

 Connect With Your Niche

“If you want to find your audience on Instagram, you will need to connect with the competition and their followers, influencers and thought leaders, and other profiles related to your industry. This includes following them (in hope they will return the favor) but also commenting, liking and sharing their posts when it’s suitable and you have something of value to add.”

Utilize Hashtags

“On Instagram, using hashtags is one of the primary ways you can attract new targeted followers.”

“The benefit is that when a user searches on Instagram, the results are drawn from these hashtag feeds, i.e. if you used the hashtag #soccer in a recent post and somebody searches “soccer,” they will see your post in the feed even if they don’t follow you. Perhaps now they will? Users might also follow a specific hashtag to get aggregated content on their favorite subjects.”

Marketers need to strike a balance between broad and popular terms, highly relevant terms, and not including too many per posts — which can appear spammy.”

Promoted Posts

“Instagram’s paid advertising options include “promoted posts,” which take your regular posts and put them directly in front of the audience you choose. Options include age, gender, location and interests, so you can really laser target your campaign.”

“There are currently around 500,000 advertisers on the platform, so pricing is still competitive.”


“This might involve giving review copies of products or free access to services, with the agreement that the user promotes them and gives their honest opinion. You can even directly pay users to promote your brand.”

“One of the most liked photos of all time on Instagram, and an example of influencer marketing, is actress and singer Selena Gomez promoting Coca-Cola.”

Credit score – Digital Identity | ‘Datafication’

‘What is My Credit Score, and How is it Calculated?’


“While your credit reports are simply a track record of your payment history—no judgments—your credit score is more akin to a school GPA. It’s a cumulative number that measures your success relative to others, in this case grading you as a credit-worthy individual.”

“But credit scores aren’t just used by banks. Increasingly, insurance firms, landlords and even employers are using credit scores as a proxy for figuring out how responsible you are.”

“The most widely used score, from a company called FICO, ranges from 300 to 850. On the FICO scale, the higher the number, the better. In general, anything over 740 is considered excellent and will qualify you for the best rates: if your score is below 650, you’ll pay very high rates on loans and credit cards, if you qualify for them at all.”

“Even 20 or so points can make a big difference in what you’ll pay for credit. Someone with a score of 659 could get a 30-year mortgage at 5.3% at today’s rates; if his score was 680 he’d qualify for a loan at just 4.7%. That’s about $950 a year less in interest, or about $28,000 over the life of the loan.”

“Fair Isaac, the makers of the FICO score, is tight-lipped about exactly how the scores are calculated. But they do give the weights of various criteria that they look at: 35% payment history, 30% amount owed, 15% length of history, 10% new credit, 10% types of credit used.”

“The most important factor in determining your score, payment history, is simply a record of whether you’ve paid your bills on time. The second more important, amount owed, is a little more complicated. It looks at how much you’re using of the total credit you have available – also known as your “utilization ratio.”

“Lenders believe that borrowers who are close to maxing out their credit are more likely to miss payments. The third factor, length of history, is determined by the average age of your accounts, as well as how long it’s been since those accounts were used. The two smallest factors are how often you’ve opened new accounts(opening a bunch at once will hurt your score), and whether you’ve got a mix of different types of credit (such as a mortgage, student loan and car loan). Lenders like to know that you can manage different kinds of accounts responsibly.”

‘What’s in my FICO Scores’


“Your FICO Scores consider both positive and negative information in your credit report.Late payments will lower your FICO Scores, but establishing or re-establishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score.”

“For some groups, the importance of these categories may vary; for example, people who have not been using credit long will be factored differently than those with a longer credit history.”

“Therefore, it’s impossible to measure the exact impact of a single factor in how your credit score is calculated without looking at your entire report. Even the levels of importance shown in the FICO Scores chart are for the general population, and will be different for different credit profiles.”

“Your credit score is calculated from your credit report. However, lenders look at many things when making a credit decision such as your income, how long you have worked at your present job and the kind of credit you are requesting.”

Corresponding Categories:

‘Experian – Introducing your Data Self’ [Ego- Serfing]

“In this interactive guide, we shed some light on common misconceptions around the role financial data plays in people’s lives and how a credit score is constructed. We also explain the concept of your “Data Self” – the version of you out there made up entirely of your financial data – and offer some advice as to how to best work with that “Data Self” so that it’s in the best shape it can be.”


“Each time you interact with the digital world, whether that’s through a phone, computer, tablet, or any connected device, you’re creating data with your activity.”

“Personal data means any piece of information that can be used to identify an individual. You create it when you’re exercising, listening to music online, messaging friends or doing anything that involves a smartphone or connected device.”

“An increasing number of everyday objects are now connected to the Internet, meaning the quantity of data created continues to grow. By 2020, Intel estimates that there will be 200 billion Internet-connected devices on the planet. It might not be long before your fridge, car or washing machine are hooked up to the Internet and generating personal data, (or perhaps they already are).”

“At Experian we process over 1.5 billion records a year. We’re passionate about data – as a force for good, as a tool to empower and improve people’s lives – but we know it’s not always the most exciting topic for you. That’s why we commissioned research asking the views of 3,000 people in the UK about personal data, with a particular focus on their attitudes to their financial data footprint. In the following sections we’ll talk more about Brits’ attitudes to their personal data, and look in more detail at the financial data that goes to make up a credit report – your Data Self.”

“Personal data means any piece of information that can be used to identify an individual.

“We’re a nation of “egosurfers”

The study found that people are naturally curious about what their data says about them. There’s even a name for it – “egosurfing”, which describes the activity of looking up your name on a search engine. Nearly three quarters (72%) have searched for themselves online.”

“On average, people update their online image 168 times a year – that’s a big increase in their personal data footprint.”

“The most common reason for “egosurfing” was curiosity (81%). Far fewer people (21%) said they searched for themselves to help protect their online reputation.Other reasons given included research into ancestry, checking who has the same name as them and “for a laugh”.”

“Many of those surveyed also enjoy having a nose around for online information about friends, family and acquaintances, with 71% admitting to checking someone out online before meeting them. A further 60% have searched for someone they went to school with but no longer speak to, and 39% have searched for an ex-partner online.”

“The younger generation in particular value their online profile; 24% of 16-24 year olds care a great deal about it, compared to just 13% of those aged 55 or over. It may not come as a surprise that those aged 25-34 are also savvier about the value their data brings and feel more in control of it than their elders; 86% of this age group think their online data is important to them, compared to 61% of those over 55.”

“Those under 25 are much more likely to take a laissez-faire approach to reviewing the conditions of sharing their data to download a new app; 39% of 16-24 year olds never read the Ts&Cs, compared to only 16% of those over 55.”

“Although many people are drawn to researching their online profiles, and those of others, understanding what their financial data says about them does not hold the same appeal. The study found that 24% of people are bored by the topic of financial data and a fifth never talk about their financial data. Some find it confusing (19%); others are fearful of it (9%).”

16% of people believe they have no influence on their financial data. That’s a misconception. Whether you are looking for a mortgage, planning a family or making any life-changing decision, your financial data matters because it influences what types of deals and offers you can access. While it might sound dull to spend time understanding how to manage your financial data, it can actually be life-changing.”

“There’s another version of you made up entirely of your financial data, which we call your “Data Self”. It’s made up of your credit card transactions, phone contracts, mortgages and loans, as well as other financial information.”

Your Data Self can be really important when it comes to the big financial events and decisions you face in your life. That’s because it is used to create your credit report; important information that lenders use to decide whether you can access the services or products you want. (See section below “Your credit report and your Data Self”). Your Data Self is constantly evolving, based on your credit information, which includes your borrowing activity.”

“Understanding and improving your Data Self could make all the difference between getting a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ from lenders, and could even help you unlock better borrowing rates. That’s because lenders’ decisions about whether you can afford something are made from the financial data available about you.”

“Checking your credit score with a credit reference agency on a regular basis is an important step in taking control of your Data Self, as it gives an idea of how lenders may view you. Currently a fifth of people never talk about their financial data.”

A credit score gives you an idea of how lenders may view your Data Self for a broad range of important services and life essentials such as credit cards, loans, mortgages, car financing and even mobile phone contracts. In essence, it is a number that reflects the likelihood of you paying credit back.”

“Your credit report is used to calculate your Experian Credit Score. Your report brings together data on your previous borrowing over the last six years to give an overview of your credit history – the same information lenders could use when they call upon your Data Self. “

“When you’re making financial decisions with a partner, you need to understand the link between your Data Self and theirs. The truth is you only become financially linked to someone when you apply for joint credit or when you open a joint account. These financial associations remain on your credit report until you tell the credit reference agency that the link has ended. It is important to break the link to previous partners with whom you were financially linked.”

‘The Data Self (A Dialectic)’

“Rob Horning has been working on the topic of the “Data Self.” His project has a close parallel to my own work and after reading his latest post, I’d like to jump in and offer a conceptual distinction for thinking about the intersection of the online/data/Profile and the offline/Person.”

“The problem is that our online presence is too often seen as only the byproduct of our offline selves. Sometimes we talk about the way online profiles are passive reflections of who we are and what we do and other times we acknowledge our profiles are also partly performative adjustments to the “reality” of the person.”

“…the discussion of individuals creating this content what is often neglected is how the individual, in all of their offline experience, behavior and existence, is simultaneously being created by this very online data. We cannot describe how a person creates their Profile without always acknowledging how the Profile creates the person.”

“…I use the term profile(lower-case ‘p’) to mean our presence on any specific web service, e.g., our Twitter or Facebook profiles. I use the term Profile (capital ‘P’) to refer to the aggregate set of our entire online presence across all profiles including data we have uploaded or others have gathered.”

“And let me call the “agentic bias” the tendency to conceptually grant too much power to individuals to create their online Profiles by neglecting the ways in which individuals are simultaneously being created by their digital presence. Lots of social media writing, academic and popular, looks like this:

“Many otherwise terrific articles about the self, identity and social media suffer from this bias.”

“For now, I want to focus on responding to and joining in on Rob Horning’s work on “the data self.” He makes many useful points, but fundamentally conceptualizes “data” and “self” in a manner in which the latter causally precedes the former (I happen to know he doesn’t like that ‘latter-former’ turn of phrase).”

“Horning describes how we “convert ourselves into data”; we are “monitoring [our] vital statistics and uploading them for analysis and aggregation.” Further, Horning goes on to say,

“data collection is slowly becoming the ideological basis of the self”

“interactions within social networks are now easily captured

“The assumption is that by letting Facebook capture and process everything, a more reliable version of the self than our own memory can give us will be produced.”

And Horning cites Facebook as saying “the Timeline to be a place for self-expression: A way for users to reveal who they are and what their lives are about”

(all emphases mine)

The “data self” as described here has everything to do with how self creates, produces, collects and revels itself through data. This is indeed an important concern, and, to be clear, there is far more I agree with than disagree with in Horning’s analyses.”

“…lots of attention has been given to how the self creates the data, what I called the agentic bias above; but what about when this data also creates the self? Both considerations must be simultaneously taken into account to understand either.

Instead of an agentic bias, I propose a dialectical understanding of the causality between the individual/offline/self and the data/online/Profile:

“Indeed, the name Cyborgology makes explicit reference to Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory of bodies and technology as enmeshed. Further, I have written extensively on what I call “augmented reality,” the perspective that views the on and offline as enmeshed, opposed to the “digital dualist” bias to view atoms and bits as separate. To fully theorize the self from the “augmented” perspective, one must rigorously take into account the data-flesh-enmeshment from both directions.”

“I describe how one great power of social media is not just what happens to us when logged in uploading data about ourselves and our lives, but also how sites like Facebook change how we view the world even when logged off and not staring at some glowing rectangle; what I call The Facebook Eye. To only focus on how the self produces data is to miss how data influence our experience of the world; how we behave within it and how data creates that same self that creates the data.”

“Let’s take some concrete examples:

When listening to music on Spotify, a streaming service that syncs with and publishes to one’s Facebook profile, I am publishing that listening-data to Facebook for others to see. It becomes part of my Profile. But to end the story here is to suffer from the agentic bias. Let’s put the other causal arrow back in and think dialectically: because my Profile contains listening behaviors that I know are being judged by others, I may choose to listen to slightly different music to “give off” the impression I wish to portray. More than just a better-than-accurate presentation of self, the fact that the Profile exists changes my experience and behavior as a person.”

“But we must go further than just potential changes in behaviorWhat I find most interesting is how the Profile changes our experience of that behavior.”

“We experience a concert differently when we know we can post photos on Facebook and videos on YouTube; hence the music-venue-plague of glowing document-screens held high instead of hands. We see the food we just prepared differently when we know we can post a photo of an especially delicious-looking meal to Facebook. As I’ve posed before: think of traveling with and without a camera in your hand: the experience is at least slightly different. Today, we are always living with the camera in-hand; we can always document our lives via status updates, tweets, check-ins, photos, videos, etc. Like those on reality TV, social media users are deeply influenced by the fact of near omnipresent documentation potential.”

“…the conceptual opposite of the agentic bias would be a structure-bias that views people as only the result of our Profiles. Once, on a subway, I heard a woman claim that “the real world is the place where we take pictures for Facebook.” But this is probably going to far, right?”

“To conclude, and to provide a last probe to Rob, the implications of all this is that we cannot continue to view the Person as the temporal and causal antecedent and the Profile as something that is the subsequent result. We have clear evidence that the person is also being co-constructed by the Profile. Experience creates documentation and documentation creates experience.”

‘Data, Self & Society’

“The research group “Data, Self and Society” at the Consumer Society Research Centre explores how datafication, referring to the conversion of aspects of life into quantified data, is promoted, practiced, analyzed and received in the contemporary world. Current research falls under three thematic areas:

Self-tracking and living with data:

“The rapidly expanding research on wearables and self-tracking practices reflects the rise in the use of digital technology in the everyday. The defining characteristic of self-tracking is that people are confronted with their own personal information, including sleep, steps, stress levels, and eating. Self-tracking relies on personal data streams in an attempt to slice life into comprehensible and controllable units.”

” Recent publications discuss co-evolving with self-tracking technologies, forms of emotion tracking and the situational objectivity characteristic to personal metrics.Demonstrating that the study of data practices and datafication benefits from a more thorough analysis of the everyday, the aim is to critically address the active and ever-changing work around personal data streams.”

Digital methods and data explorations

“The analysis of large data sets calls for new kind of reflexivity from researchers, including novel research perspectives. In recent publications, we study the datafication of hate and explore the Suomi24-dataset through the concept-metaphor of broken data. We utilize data analytics in an attempt to develop tools and frameworks for understanding how conversational landscapes and topics develop in time. By identifying online practices and engagements, we promote the development and understanding of digital research methods which will allow investigators to gain a more detailed view of the production and analysis of data and deepen the understanding of how temporal aspects of social life, or social media discussions affect, guide, and constrain their participants.”

“Smarter Social Media Analytics studies and develops methods to identify trends and phenomena using large social media datasets. To this end, we use the full data set of online forum Suomi24 (see above) and the full data set collected and owned by Futusome Oy, covering approximately 1 billion Finnish language messages from different social media services (2001-2016). As a comparative data set we use the representative survey data collected by Taloustutkimus Oy (2007-2016). By cross-investigating these datasets using both computational and qualitative methods, we develop and validate algorithms to identify and explain emerging trends and individual phenomena from the online conversations. Currently we are focusing on various food-related trends. Simultaneously, using an ethnographic approach the project explores how data is used and transformed to knowledge within the data analytics companies, and what are the epistemological considerations that frame data, data analysis methods and visualizations.”

Datafied power and digital citizens

“The third thematic area explores forms of datafied power and their consequences. We study the evolution of the data economy, datafication of health, and reactions to surveillance economy. The work builds on the notion that software and algorithms produce data and work with it in particular ways and, by doing so, have social, political and economic implications.”

“We follow market developments by exploring the visions and aims of start-up companies and citizen-led co-operatives that aim to modify, with their technologies, platforms and business approaches, the current data economy landscape and forms of digital work.”

“Further research analyses patents related to personal data uses and user/consumer action in relation to personal data management models, from blockchain-based distributed models to dominant US tech-giant models. The project called Becoming Data Citizens explores social and political alternatives that aim at promoting more transparent and citizen-centric data use. We investigate data activism by developing the notion of non-data-centric data activism.”

“When an earthquake occurred in the Bay Area, California in the night of August 2014, many people living in the area were monitoring their sleep patterns using a wearable device. The developers of one of these devices, the Jawbone Up, released the accumulated data from these users’ sleep that night.” (62)

“While these data are perhaps unsurprising and banal in the insights they offer, they are signifi cant in another way. They represent the use of accumulated data from tens of thousands of people worldwide who are using digital devices to engage in self-monitoring of their everyday routines, behaviours and practices.” (62)

“The reporting of these personal data by Jawbone demonstrates not only that people are tracking their sleep using a wearable digital device such as the company’s Up, but that these personal data may be aggregated and used by developers for their own purposes as part of publicising their product and demonstrating how information about an individual’s private behaviour (in this case, their sleeping patterns) can be part of gathering insights into populations.” (62-63)

“Data is a keyword in discourses on self-tracking. Most recently and noticeably, detailed quantifi able data have become valorised above other forms of information about one’s life, health and wellbeing. I will discuss the valorisation of quantifi cation as a self-tracking data practice, but I also go on to examine alternative data practices with which some people are experimenting as part of self-tracking strategies.” (63)

“The advent of digital technologies able to assist in the collecting, measuring, computation and display of these data has been vitally important in promoting the cause of self-tracking. While people have been able to monitor and measure aspects of their bodies and selves using non-digital technologies for centuries, mobile digital devices connected to the internet have facilitated the ever more detailed measurement and monitoring of the body and everyday life in real time and the analysis, presentation and sharing of these data.” (63)

Digital devices are employed to collect numbers on body functions, emotional states, sexual and social encounters, work productivity, physical activities and geo-location, to name just some variables. While much of these data are collected and displayed in quantitative form, several others are qualitative, using words, images and objects to record and display personal details.” (63)

“Self-tracking is not only a technology of the self, but it is also a data practice. Self-tracked data are merely one form of a vast array of methods and strategies related to gathering, interpreting, portraying and acting on data. In an increasingly sensor-based and surveillance society, in which digital data are continually gathered on people as they use digital technologies and move around in space and place, massive datasets are generated. These datasets are having an increasingly important role in shaping policy, commercial dealings, education, social welfare and healthcare, the management of groups and populations and in individuals’ personal and everyday…  (63-)




“Since interactions within social networks are now easily captured and standardized, the quantifiable data thereby produced have become far more constitutive of identity.”


“The assumption is that by letting Facebook capture and process everything, a more reliable version of the self than our own memory can give us will be produced.”



“The more work we put into making a coherent story out of the data Facebook collects, the more useful, marketable information we give them.”


‘List of Countries by Credit Rating’

  • This is a visual representation that depicts “long-term foreign currency credit ratings for sovereign bonds as reported by the three major credit rating agencies: Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s. The ratings of DBRS, China Chengxin, Dagong, JCR are also included.” (List of Countries by Credit Rating, 2018)

Credit Rating Break Down:

  • SP – Investment bond [BBB- or higher]: United Kingdom: (Rating= AA) (Outlook = Negative)
  • Fitch – Investment bond [BBB- or higher]: United Kingdom: (Rating = AA) (Outlook = Negative)
  • Moodys – Investment bond [Baa3 or higher]: United Kingdom (Rating = Aaa) (Outlook = Stable)
  • DBRS – Investment bond [BBB- or higher] : United Kingdom (Rating = AAA) (Outlook = Stable)
  • JCR – Nationally Recognised statistical organisation based in Japan: United Kingdom (Rating = AAA) (Outlook = Stable)


Are we consumed by our consumption?

From data fetishism to quantifying selves: Self-tracking practices and the other values of data:

“This article foregrounds the ways in which members of the Quantified Self ascribe value and meaning to the data they generate in self-tracking practices. We argue that the widespread idea that what draws self-trackers to numerical data is its perceived power of truth and objectivity—a so-called “data fetishism”—is limiting.” (2016: 1695)

“we describe three ways in which self-trackers attribute meaning to their datagathering practices which escape this data fetishist critique: self-tracking as a practice of mindfulness, as a means of resistance against social norms, and as a communicative and narrative aid. In light of this active engagement with data, we suggest that it makes more sense to view these practitioners as “quantifying selves.” (2016: 1696)

““Data is the new oil” is a phrase that has come to express the growing value of data in an era where Big Data promises to generate new insights and solutions for everything from healthcare to city planning.” (2016: 1696)

“…the data sets that make up Big Data are always creations of human design, and thus are always implicated in social relations and power dynamics (Andrejevic, 2014; boyd and Crawford, 2012; Crawford et al., 2014; Van Dijk, 2014).” (2016: 1696)

“Where the question of the value of data for those who generate it is addressed, this value is typically understood as residing in the aura of neutrality and objectivity that numbers convey, and their role in a will to (quantified) truth (Lupton, 2013a, 2013b; Morozov, 2013).” (2016: 1696)

“Avid self-trackers, such as members of what is known as the Quantified Self (QS) movement, are thus typically portrayed as “data fetishists,” enamored by the authority of numerical data and motivated by a desire to control and optimize the overwhelming complexity and uncertainty of life (Dormehl, 2014; Morozov, 2013; Rettner, 2014). Data, in such accounts, are framed as inherently reductionist, and practices of quantification are seen as a tool in the quest to reduce all phenomena, no matter how complex, to numbers while displacing other forms of meaningful expression (Lupton, 2015).” (2016: 1696)

“Instead, more effort needs to be made to understand the myriad ways in which data are deemed valuable and meaningful for self-trackers themselves. Focusing our analysis on the self-tracking practices of members of the QS community, we argue that an ethnographic focus on self-tracking practices (Mol, 2002) offers a perspective that moves beyond the limiting frameworks in which self-tracking is conventionally understood.” (2016: 1696)

“…we suggest that rather than seeking to achieve a perfectly optimized, calculable and controlling “quantified self,” it makes more sense to look at members of this movement as “quantifying selves,” who actively engage with data and render it meaningful in and through self-tracking practices.” (2016: 1696 – 1697)

“…we unpack the main analytical components of the data fetishist critique that is widely held in academic and popular accounts of QS. Next, we describe how QSers attribute meaning to their self-tracking practices in ways that escape the fetishist critique. Our overall aim is to contribute to the growing critical conversation on the culture of Big Data, but by means of a broad, ethnographically grounded understanding of the variegated ways in which people interact with and become involved with their data in everyday life.” (2016: 1697)

“In light of Wolf’s words, self-tracking holds the promise of identifying signals and patterns that remain hidden when one relies solely on the limited toolbox of human senses. Measurement, quantification, graphs and spreadsheets do not lie; their emotional detachment and arithmetic precision, both painful and trustworthy, can render these patterns visible, knowable and, hopefully, manageable. Numbers, in this sense, with their particular appeal of scientific objectivity, seem to provide a privileged access to the truth, and generating and tracking them may, as the movement’s self-proclaimed motto upholds, lead to “self-knowledge through numbers.” (2016: 1697)

“Self-tracking works on the basis of categories or indicators that act as proxies for what are commonly very messy and rich phenomena, from “mood” to “health” to “productivity.” In the process, critics protest, an entire world of human, social and environmental complexity may get lost.” (2016: 1967)

“Deborah Lupton (2015) argues that such apps suggest that women can achieve more accurate knowledge about their bodies than they did with non-digital means of tracking such as experiencing and observing their bodies’ signs, rhythms and sensations. This “imperialistic streak” of quantification, as Morozov calls it, implies that as one’s trust in numbers grows, one’s trust in subjective, embodied and intuitive knowledge decreases. As Morozov (2013) cautions, “Human experience, run through the quantification mill, is reduced to little more than a stream of silent and mind-numbing bytes” (p. 256).” (2016: 1697)

“More recently, a growing number of sociological analyses are demonstrating that no less than their forebears, the generation, collection and analysis of digital data is situated in powerful public and private sector institutions, that may use these for aims of government surveillance and online advertising (Andrejevic, 2014; boyd and Crawford, 2012). For some theorists (e.g. Cheney-Lippold, 2011), this marks a shift to a subtle yet no less pervasive form of control, via the digital constructions of “new algorithmic identities.” ” (2016: 1697)

“The commitment to self-improvement that QSers subject themselves to can thus easily be read against a backdrop of the neoliberal project of citizen activation and responsibilization (Ayo, 2012; Lupton, 2012; Sharon, 2015). As data fetishists, self-trackers are commonly considered to be unaware or unconcerned by the normative assumptions and diverse sinister uses their data-generating efforts can be put to.” (2016:1697)

“We did so while organizing break-out sessions at QS conferences, interviewing active participants and sharing our thoughts online.3 During this time, we became increasingly aware of how detached perceptions of the QS movement, and “tracking culture” in general, can be from the different forms of meaning-making related to self-tracking in the context of this network.” (2016: 1697)

” …the stereotypical image of the QSer is of someone obsessively datafying the self into a calculable, objectified quantified self. Yet, we observed the QS movement to be a heterogeneous network of people actively exploring many different other effects, affects and objectives of tracking practices, suggesting that it makes more sense to speak of QS as a loosely knit network of “quantifying selves.” QS is home to different types of trackers (from the high-tech to the low-tech, the occasional to the intensive tracker, the purposeful to the “random” tracker, the private to the public tracker), to different kinds of objectives and goals (from tracking the effects of medication on Parkinson’s or diabetes, to tracking the effects of music, the weather and particular types of food on one’s mental state), and to many different types of tracking methods.” (2016: 1697)

“What we found to be the most significant common denominator to these various tracking practices was the cultivation of reflection on and through tracking. To this end, different formats define the contours of various QS gatherings, from “show & tell” talks, to break-out sessions, to online discussions around specific topics.” (2016: 1697)

“…we discovered three other forms of meaning-making that QSers drew on as part of their selftracking practices, which we discuss below: self-tracking as a practice of mindfulness; as a means of resistance against and a remaking of dominant social norms and conventions; and as a narrative and communicative practice that can articulate experiences at the boundaries of different domains of knowledge. (2016: 1699)

“…one of the main concerns underlying the data fetishist critique is that a trust in numbers will trump other forms of subjective, intuitive and embodied knowledge.” (2016: 1699)

“…while new technologies always help create new conditions for human behavior, how this dynamic unfolds is not determined a priori (Verbeek, 2011). The self-trackers whom we listened to often spoke about this relationship as a tension, or a negotiation, that produces meaning.” (2016: 1699)

“Because the “work of tracking can be a lot,” he explains, “you sometimes simplify,” “avoid[ing] complex recipes and prioritiz[ing] food that best fits the capabilities of [your] databases and sensors.” But for this participant, this simplification never came at the expense of losing his intuitive sense of food. ” (2016: 1700)

“…he told us, “increased [his] mindfulness”—in the context of a relationship to food that had been mind-less. This connection to mindfulness practices is more than coincidental, as other commentators of the QS movement have also observed (Boesel, 2013).” (2016: 1700)

“…the concept of mindfulness has by now become secularized and merged with a host of Western institutional traditions, from health, to business, psychology, and, now, also to technological practices (Zandbergen, 2012).” (2016: 1700)

“In the context of QS, participants often use the term to refer to the way in which the practice of tracking helps them to focus their awareness on habits, unconscious actions, and patterns that are typically unperceivable.” (2016: 1700)

“In such examples, numerical data are not at all the end-goal of tracking; they are more like an unsophisticated, intermediate stage towards more augmented senses. For some self-trackers, the cultivation of this awareness is more significant than the actual data generated by tracking.” (2016′: 1700)

“In 2004, the conceptual artist Alberto Frigo began a project to track all his daily activities by recording every object he held in his right hand. “If I keep up the project until I turn 60,” Alberto explains, “I will have photographed 1.000.000 objects and could thus claim to have some kind of DNA code of my life” (QS14). In the decade Alberto has been at it, he has also started tracking his dreams, songs he hears during the day, his social surroundings and the weather, all of which he brings together using various media such as photography, notes and audio-recordings (see” (2016: 1700 – 1701)

“Yet for Alberto, the significance of his tracking practices lies not in some truth that his databases may reflect back at him. As he told us, he rarely looks back at his data. Nor does he attempt to automate and perfect his data-gathering in the hope of achieving ever more complete and objective information. Rather, he invests in imperfect and time-consuming manual registrations. As we discuss his project over lunch, Alberto stops, pulls out a simple camera and photographs the spoon he is about to use. His choice of this somewhat outdated and cumbersome medium is telling, as it becomes clear that the ultimate meaning of self-tracking for Alberto resides in the very process of recording. He describes his tracking as a way of “activating himself,” and creating a “playful engagement with an otherwise dull surrounding.”” (2016: 1701)

“As he explains, the act of constantly recording allows him to see more—interesting trash, fantastic cloud shapes, street musicians—and to appreciate as special an environment that others may regard as mundane, dull and ordinary. In this way, Alberto describes the meaning attributed by him to his tracking activities in very different terms than those usually ascribed to him, for example, as the overriding or replacement of the embodied sensorial, “real” world by a “permanent digital life” (cf. Preston, 2014).” (2016: 1701)

“Dana Greenfield designed her self-tracking project, Leaning into Grief, around the death of her mother, as a means of tracking her grief. Using a custom-made digital spreadsheet, she logs various experiences related to her grief—sights, conversations, events that elicit memories of her mother, comments on them, where they took place, and the mood she associates with them. Similarly to Alberto’s, Dana’s project is as much about concretizing her mother’s legacy in her own life as it is about cultivating an awareness of the experience of moving through loss.” (2016: 1701)

“The practice of tracking here opens up a reflective space in which memories can be “explored and cherished,” and in which grief can “work itself out.” As for Alberto, the act of logging the data becomes more meaningful—and therapeutic—than the actual data-as-memorabilia that is its content.” (2016: 1701)

“…the mindfulness emphasis on being “in tune” with one’s personal sensations, thoughts and feelings speaks out against a mainstream culture that is seen as discouraging people from being active producers of this world.” (2016: 1701)

“Alberto presents his tracking practices as a way of gaining access to “hidden processes” that are typically inaccessible: “When you are photographing the tools … [you] want to be authentic … to know a bit of the processes that are hidden from you, along the way, by the society in which one grows.” For Alberto, self-tracking becomes a way of revealing the “nuts and bolts” of the world. Dana also attributes value to her tracking practices in opposition to widespread societal expectations—of how one should grieve, how long it should take and how much of a focus it should be.” (2016: 1702)

” …self-tracking takes on an oppositional value, by which practitioners enact various forms of agency and autonomy vis-a-vis a larger society, its institutions and corporations, by resisting and remaking social norms and conventions.” (2016: 17002)

“For her, the choice to actively track herself is, as she put it, “liberating”. One of the ways in which self-trackers enact this autonomy is by tweaking the hardware, software and analytical categories set by their tracking tools.” (2016: 17002)

“Alberto’s decision to use outdated tracking technologies and self-written software is informed by a rejection of proprietary software, hardware and data platforms that are designed and owned by private corporations and that, he feels, turn him into a passive consumer. Not complying for Alberto means one has to “keep on, move on, tweak things.”…” (2016: 1702)

“Larry Smarr, for example, whose self-tracking led him to detect he had Crohn’s disease before his doctors did, is often referred to as somewhat of a QS hero. Smarr tracked in defiance of his doctors, who believed nothing was wrong with him.” (2016: 1702)

“Since the 1960s, in this region, digitization processes were informed by a subversive discourse of (digital) technologies enabling people to “break through” conventional and oppressive ways of knowing the world. The emphasis placed on the personal appropriation of these technologies—as opposed to simply consuming products built by others—has been an important element of this subversive technological culture.” (2016: 1703)

“In line with Theodore Nelson’s (1974) contention that “if you can’t control the button, the button will control you,” technology-minded activists embraced the development of the smaller, cheaper and more accessible personal computer as a tool that would provide control over knowledge, communication and perception in general to more people.” (2016: 1703)

“While QS is currently an international network bringing together very diverse people from different backgrounds, it makes sense to root it in this longer tradition of high-tech counterculturalism and digital resistance.” (2016: 1703)

“As Wolf told us, from the outside, it may seem like QS is an integral part of the normalization of surveillance and compliance. But, “here it’s quite different. Here you have conversations about, ‘how do you protect your data?’, ‘how do you get your data?’ ‘how do you imbue your practices of formalizing your experiences with a spirit of autonomy?’” Reflecting this awareness, typically, QS conferences include a significant number of sessions devoted to critical discussions on access to data, data management, data ownership and privacy.” (2016: 1703)

“Yet, we suggest that this type of problematization should also apply to the counter-trope of QSers as data fetishists uncritically internalizing societal norms. As we have shown, QSers challenge and remodel the assumptions, norms and categories that are built into tracking devices, sometimes quite literally as they assemble their own projects. As such, the QS movement is best described as one that both feeds into mainstream Big Data culture and that continuously resists, reshapes and redefines it (Nafus and Sherman, 2014; Neff and Nafus, 2016).” (2016: 1703)

“In the following, we discuss the notion that self-tracking is also about exploring new forms of expression that do not privilege numbers a priori, but integrate and combine the seemingly objective language of numerical data with other forms, as a means of meaningfully communicating in and navigating a world that speaks both.” (2016: 1704)

“Data fetishism seems to be at its strongest when data pertains to one’s self. But while the QS official tagline is indeed “self-knowledge through numbers,” QS is also characterized by a strong communal and communicative quality.” (2016: 1704)

“Standing on stage, self-trackers speak about painful episodes in their lives (depression, divorce, disease); they expose their dreams, their diary entries and their meditation practices, and they reveal minutiae about their physical ailments and their struggles with weight and mental well-being.” (2016: 1704)

“Another self-tracker used the term “mingling” as a way of describing the relationship between the quantitative data generated on her device and subjective terminology. Data become “signals,” that are added on to, or into, subjective narratives, in the form of what she calls “digital storytelling”…” (2016: 1704)

self-tracking is not just instrumental in identity construction but also serves to mediate between and across various realms of meaning and knowledge, such as appropriate and taboo topics of conversation, diagnostic fields and subjective and objective experiences of health and illness.(2016: 1705)

“The qualified self refers to processes by which quantified data are interpreted, transformed and integrated into qualitative narratives. Jenny Davis (2013) argues that this term better represents the actual entanglements and negotiations between quantitative data and interpretive schemes that create meaning for self-trackers: “If self-quantifiers are seeking self-knowledge through numbers, then narratives and subjective interpretations are the mechanisms by which data morphs into selves.” Data in these types of self-tracking practices are a new element in an aesthetic and continuous process of identity construction. It is not just used to learn about oneself but also to construct stories about oneself.” (2016: 1705)

“In these examples, quantified data helped render aspects of a private, subjective and somewhat inaccessible world of feelings and problems more tangible and comparable. Understood as a narrative and communicative practice, self-generated data may thus enable the social sharing of private experiences and mediate between subjective experiences of physical or mental health and more objectifying framings of health and ill-health.” (2016: 1705)

“…we argued that insofar as the value of data has become a main focus of critical data studies, more attention needs to be paid to the ways in which data are valuable and meaningful for those individuals…” (2016: 1705-1706)

“…we argued that the idea that what draws self-trackers to numerical data is its perceived power of truth and objectivity, which underlies the “data fetishist” critique, only offers a partial explanation of the appeal self-tracking has for trackers.” (2016: 1706)

“The data fetishist critique cautions that quantification tends to reduce all phenomena to numbers, to displace other forms of meaningful expression, and that numbers, although seemingly neutral, always imply tacit, normative assumptions.” (2016: 1706)

“Self-tracking can be a practice of mindfulness, in which sensorial and emotional experiences of being in the world are not replaced by automated, quantified registers but are actually given more space, heightening one’s awareness of the everyday. Self-tracking can be a practice of resistance, in which practitioners enact various forms of agency and opposition in relation to social norms and societal institutions and corporations.” (2016: 1706)

“…self-tracking can be a communicative and narrative practice, where data are used to enrich self-narratives, to share experiences that may otherwise be difficult to convey and to mediate across realms of knowledge. Data are deemed valuable in these practices insofar as they may extend (rather than displace) one’s senses, they may enable users to resist (rather than comply with) normalization and they may supplement (rather than solely constrain) what can be said.” (2016:1706)

“…self-tracking practices thus reveals that alongside the figure of the quantified self, as the perfected, optimized, calculable and controlling subject and object of self-tracking, emerges a quantifying self. The quantifying self ascribes meaning to self-tracking and the data generated by it through a process of continuous negotiation with self-tracking methods and tools (literally dismantling them at times), of constant interaction with the daily environment, and of involvement with others who share similar interests.” (2016: 1706)

“By foregrounding this active engagement, we theorize the QS movement as one that both feeds into and contests the culture of Big Data, reproduces and meaningfully escapes it, thus contributing to its (re)definition.” (2016: 1706)

“…QS may be seen as a network of people who seek to find new ways of navigating, finding agency in, and making sense of an increasingly datafied world.” (2016: 1706)

The diverse domains of quantified selves: self-tracking modes and dataveillance:


“There is evidence that the personal data that are generated by the digital surveillance of individuals (dataveillance) are now used by a range of actors and agencies in diverse contexts. This paper examines the ‘function creep’ of self-tracking by outlining five modes that have emerged: private, communal, pushed, imposed and exploited. The analysis draws upon theoretical perspectives on concepts of selfhood, citizenship, dataveillance and the global digital data economy in discussing the wider sociocultural implications of the emergence and development of these modes of selftracking.” (2016: 101)

“Notions of selfhood, embodiment and social relations have increasingly become developed via digital technologies. Many social and commercial interactions now take place online; most homes, educational settings, health care institutions, security and policing enterprises and workplaces have become digitized to a greater or lesser degree. Physical spaces have become embedded with sensors that can detect humans’ movements and other activities.” (2016: 101)

“A global knowledge economy has developed that relies in part on the generation and use of the data that are collected by digital technologies.” (2016: 102)

“Indeed, it has been contended by some theorists that power now operates principally via digital modes of communication. In this context, the software, hardware devices, the digital data that they generate and the algorithms that make sense of these data have become key actors in constituting and exploiting knowledges (Amoore & Piotukh, 2015; Kitchin, 2014; Lash, 2007; Thrift, 2005).” (2016: 102)

“Self-tracking is also referred to as lifelogging, personal analytics and personal informatics. In recent years, ‘the quantified self’ has become a popular term to describe self-tracking in the wake of the establishment of the Quantified Self website and movement, involving online interactions and face-to-face meetings and conferences. Once the data are collected, self-tracking practices typically incorporate organization, analysis, interpretation and representation of the data (such as producing statistics or graphs and other data visualizations) to make sense of them, and efforts to determine how these data can offer insights for the user’s life.” (2016: 102)

“With the advent of mobile and wearable digital devices and associated software, such details can be more readily collected, analysed, searched, aggregated, visualized and compared with others’ data than ever before.” (2016: 102)

“I contend that these technologies are raising new issues concerning the use of people’s personal information about their lives and bodies. These include the ways in which this information is purposed and repurposed as part of the global digital knowledge economy, data privacy and security issues and the implications for concepts of selfhood and citizenship.” (2016: 102)

“Digitized self-tracking is a form of dataveillance, or the watching of people using technologies that generate data, increasingly in digitized formats (van Dijck, 2014; Raley, 2013). Digitized self-tracking technologies promote a culture of dataveillance and offer diverse methods by which it is undertaken.” (2016: 102)

“Many dataveillance activities monitor people in ways of which they may be unaware: closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera and sensormonitoring of people’s movements in public spaces, national security agencies’ and policing bodies’ surveillance of communication metadata and internet companies’ commercial data-harvesting activities, for example.” (2016: 102)

‘Dataveillance’ – invasive, unaware, clandestine ways of gathering data, e.g. CCTV, Sensor capturing in public spaces, policing bodies, commercial data harvesting advertising

‘Self Tracking’ – Involves subjects knowingly engage with and examine their own personal information, often as a means of optimising or increasing mindfulness or efficiency within daily living. Self-Tracking can also be an inherently social excersize as people are often invited to compare and contrast data collected. (Self-Surveillance)

“In contrast, self-tracking involves the data subjects themselves being confronted with their own personal information and, in many cases, being invited to engage with this information in some manner as part of optimizing and improving their lives. They are therefore engaging in self-surveillance.” (2016: 103)

“Social surveillance is itself an element of ‘sousveillance’, or ‘watching from below’ (Mann & Ferenbok, 2013), which differs from classic surveillance, or ‘watching from above’. The use of digital self-tracking technologies blurs the spatial boundaries between public and private surveillance, bringing public surveillance into the domestic sphere but also often extending private surveillance out into public domains.” (2016: 103)

“The concept and practices of self-tracking are now dispersing rapidly into multiple social domains, displaying evidence of ‘function creep’. Increasingly, the collection and analysis of personal data via self-tracking practices are advocated and implemented in many social contexts and institutions, including the workplace education, medicine and public health, insurance, marketing and commerce, energy sustainability initiatives, the military, citizen science and urban planning and management.” (2016: 103)

“As yet, there has been no sustained examination of the spreading out of selftracking cultures and practices from the purely personal into multiple social domains.” (2016: 103)

“…focusing on a typology I have developed of the five distinctive modes of self-tracking that have emerged in recent times. These are private, pushed, communal, imposed and exploited self-tracking. These categories are for heuristic purposes – a means to distinguish and elaborate on the ways in which self-tracking has become diversified. There are, of course, intersections and recursive relationships between each of these self-tracking modes.” (2016: 103)

“What I call ‘private self-tracking’ is undertaken for voluntary and personal reasons that are self-initiated. ‘Pushed self-tracking’ involves encouragement for people to monitor themselves from other agencies, while the mode of ‘communal self-tracking’ relies on people sharing their personal information with others. ‘Imposed self-tracking’ involves moving from encouragement to requiring people to collect or engage with data about themselves in situations in which they have little choice. The ‘exploited self-tracking’ mode represents the use of personal data by other actors and agencies for their own purposes, either overtly or covertly.” (2016: 103)

“Traditional self-tracking practices have included age-old strategies such as journaling and diary-keeping.” (2016: 104)

“Mobile digital devices connected to the internet, devices and environments that are fitted with digital sensors and the possibilities for data archiving and sharing that are afforded by computing cloud technologies have contributed to the ever more detailed measurement and monitoring of people’s activities, bodies and behaviours in real time. People who engage in self-tracking may use devices that they carry or wear on their bodies or software for their mobile or desktop computers, or they may generate data from ‘smart’ objects with which they interact.” (2016: 104)

“Digitized self-tracking gained greater public attention with the establishment of the Quantified Self movement in 2007 by two Wired magazine editors, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. Wolf and Kelly had noticed that several of their friends and colleagues had begun to engage in digitized self-tracking. They began to host meetings and went on to establish the official website (Quantified Self, 2015) and its associated Quantified Self Labs, a collaboration of users and tool-makers who are interested in working together to share expertise and experiences of self-tracking.” (2016: 104)

“Digitized self-tracking has attracted a high level of attention from developers and entrepreneurs seeking to capitalize on the practice. The technologies themselves are viewed as a major source of potential revenue for digital developers and entrepreneurs, who are taking a keen interest in how best to produce technologies to market to self-trackers and often attend Quantified Self meet-ups and conferences (Boesel, 2013; Nafus & Sherman, 2014).” (2016: 104)

“Tens of thousands of self-tracking apps are available for downloading to smartphones and iPod devices. Smartphones themselves include in-built sensors such as GPS, gyroscopes and accelerometers that can be employed for self-tracking, and iPod Nanos come already equipped with fitness tracking apps such as Nike+ and a pedometer. The new Apple Watch incorporates even more sophisticated biometric monitoring sensors and includes two physical activity apps for self-monitoring.” (2016: 104)

“The term ‘smart cities’ is now often used to encapsulate the intersections of data from smart objects that are both sited in public spaces and used for personal reasons in the private domain, while ‘smart schools’ employ predictive learning analytics to create data profiles on individual learners as part of working towards educational objectives. The discourses and practices contributing to all of these ‘smart’ initiatives continually emphasize the importance not only of generating personal data about individuals but returning these data so that people can reflect – and importantly – act on this information.” (2016: 105)

“A major feature and attraction of self-tracking for many practitioners is using the information they collect on themselves to achieve self-awareness and optimize or improve their lives. The data and the knowledge contained therein are represented as enabling self-tracking practitioners to achieve better health, higher-quality sleep, greater control over mood swings, improved management of chronic conditions, less stress, increased work productivity, better relationships with others and so on.” (2016: 105)

“Private self-tracking, as espoused in the Quantified Self’s goal of ‘self knowledge [sic] through numbers’, is undertaken for purely personal reasons, and the data are kept private or shared only with limited and selected others. Portrayals of self-tracking in the popular media often focus on this mode, with regular references to the ‘narcissism’ or ‘self-experimentation’ that self-tracking supposedly involves (Lupton, 2013c).” (2016: 105 – 106)

“Not only do self-trackers make choices about what data about themselves are important to collect, but they also make sense of and use data in highly specific and acculturated ways. They seek to make connections between diverse sets of data: how diet, meditation or caffeine affects their concentration, for example, or how their mood is influenced by exercise, sleep patterns or geographical location or the specific interactions of all of these variables.” (2016: 106)

“A Nielsen market research survey in early 2014, for example, found that only one in six American adults used wearable devices (including digital fitnesstracking bands) in their daily lives. While women and men were equally likely to use them, owners of fitness bands, in particular, were more likely to have a high income (Nielsen, 2014). Many such individuals associate themselves with the ‘geek’ culture of the Quantified Self movement and associated website and meeting groups (Choe et al., 2015; Nafus & Sherman, 2014; Ruckenstein & Pantzar, 2015).” (2016: 107)

“Pushed self-tracking departs from the private self-tracking mode in that the initial incentive for engaging in dataveillance of the self comes from another actor or agency. Self-monitoring may be taken up more or less voluntarily, but in response to external encouragement or advocating rather than as a wholly self-generated and private initiative.” (2016: 107)

“In pushed self-tracking, those who are advocating others to engage in these practices are often interested in viewing or using participants’ personal data for their own purposes. Self-trackers may not be provided with the opportunity to choose whether to share their information with others.” (2016: 107)

“Advocates for pushed self-tracking are particularly evident in the patient self-care, health promotion and preventive medicine literature. Arguments for persuading people to self-track such bodily features as their body weight and physical activity level, and, in the case of patients with chronic illnesses, such aspects as blood glucose level and blood pressure, are becoming increasingly common in this literature.” (2016:107)

“Self-monitoring is otherwise presented as a form of self-care that allows people with chronic conditions to reduce their interactions with health care providers and become ‘digitally engaged’ (Lupton, 2013a, 2014b). Pushed self-tracking is becoming a feature of children’s lives. In many school settings, software is employed to monitor individual children’s learning, and data analytics is used to track their progress, compare them with other students and to predict their future learning (Selwyn, 2015; Williamson, 2015b).” (2016: 107).

“These ‘exergaming’ technologies are also becoming used in schools as part of physical education and health curricula (Lupton, 2015a; Williamson, 2015a). Children are expected to review their data and make changes if they are defined as deficient or lagging behind compared with the norms established by these types of software.” (2016: 108)

“Many employers are turning to the use of digital self-tracking technologies (‘digital wellness tools’) as part of workplace health promotion programmes or ‘wellness programmes’. Various software packages are now offered to enable employers to monitor their employees’ health and fitness and even their sleep patterns as well as their work habits in the name of good health and worker productivity.” (2016: 108)

“Mobile apps and software programmes that remind employees to get up from their desks and take exercise breaks and to help them manage stress and sleep better are becoming more often used in the workplace (Zamosky, 2014).” (2016: 108)

“Motor vehicle insurers led the way with their telematic devices attached to car engines to monitor driving practices as part of ‘usage-based’ insurance that calculates customized premiums using these data as well as demographic information (NAIC, 2014).” (2016: 108)

“They use social media platforms designed for comparing and sharing personal data and sites such as the Quantified Self website to engage with and learn from other self-trackers. Some attend meet-ups or conferences to engage face-toface with other self-trackers and share their data and evaluations of the value of different techniques and devices for self-tracking.” (2016: 109)

“While there is constant reference to the ‘Quantified Self community’ among members of the Quantified Self movement, this community largely refers to sharing personal data with each other or learning from others’ data or self-tracking or data visualization methods so that one’s own data practices may be improved. Several commentators have begun to refer to ‘the quantified us’ as a way of articulating how the small data produced by self-trackers may be usefully incorporated into large data sets to ‘get more meaning out of our data’ (Ramirez, 2013).” (2016: 109)

“Another portrayal of communal self-tracking is that which is frequently championed in discourses on citizen science, volunteered geographical information, environmental activism, healthy cities and community development. These initiatives, sometimes referred to as ‘citizen sensing’ (Gabrys, 2014), are a form of crowdsourcing.” (2016: 109)

“The concepts of the ‘healthy city’ and the ‘smart city’ are beginning to come together in some attempts to use the digitized sensing and monitoring technologies for health-promoting purposes (Kamel Boulos & Al-Shorbaji, 2014).” (2016: 109-110)

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A World without Causation: Big Data and the Coming of Age of Posthumanism:

Chandler, D. (2015) A World without Causation: Big Data and the Coming of Age of Posthumanism. Millenium – Journal od International Studies. [Online]. Vol 43 (3). pp. 833-851

“Data – is capable of changing the ways in which knowledge of the world is produced and thus the ways in which it can be governed.” (2015: 834)

“This article seeks to take the debate on Big Data in International Relations forward by foregrounding an analysis of Big Data’s epistemological claims and their ontological assumptions, rather than engaging with Big Data from already well-established critical positions, largely developed in the fields of politics and sociology.” (2015: 834)

“For many critical theorists, epistemological and ontological claims are secondary to concerns raised with regard to civil liberties, privacy, ownership and access issues,4 or when concerns with issues of knowledge production are raised they tend to quickly dismiss the claims of Big Data advocates on the basis that practical limits, regarding both the quantity and quality of the data available, mean that these claims cannot be met.” (2015: 834 – 835)

“Thus it suggests that the attractiveness of Big Data lies less in the serendipitous development of technological possibilities than in the growing dominance of posthumanist trends in social science; trends that are increasingly influential in the policy and practice of International Relations.” (2015: 835)

“…it suggests that the rise of posthumanist ontologies, reified in discussions of Big Data as a technique of knowledge production and of governance, profoundly constrain the possibilities for politics: reducing governance to an ongoing and technical process of adaptation, accepting the world as it is.” (2015: 835)

  • Big Data is characterised as “…the 3 ‘Vs’ which characterise it: volume, velocity and variety. Big Data includes information from a multitude of sources, including social media, smart phones and mapping, visualising and recording equipment7 and the number of data-sharing devices is growing exponentially.” (2015: 835)

“The term ‘Big Data’ is capitalised to distinguish it (as a set of ideas and practices discursively cohered around a certain approach to knowledge production) from its use as a merely descriptive term for a large amount of data.” (2015: 836)

“Thus Big Data discursively refers to a qualitative shift in the meaning of data, in not just the amount of data (approaching exhaustiveness) but also its quality (approaching a dynamic, fine-grained relational richness).” (2015: 836)

“Thus, Big Data transforms our everyday reality and our immediate relation to the things around us. This ‘datafication’ of everyday life is at the heart of Big Data: a way of accessing reality through bringing interactions and relationships to the surface and making them visible, readable and thereby governable, rather than seeking to understand hidden laws of causality.” (2015: 836)

“Big Data is thereby generally understood to generate a different type of ‘knowledge’: more akin to the translation or interpretation of signs rather than that of understanding chains of causation.” (2015: 836)

“Thus Big Data appears to lack certain attributes of the modernist ‘production process’ of knowledge and appears as less mediated through conceptual apparatuses.” (2015: 836-837)

“Big Data is the mirror image, methodologically, of other large data gathering exercises, such as national censuses based upon 30 or 40 questions, designed to elicit comparative and analytical data for policy-making. Big Data is understood to be generated from complex life or reality itself in the data trails left from our digital footprints as we go about our everyday lives.” (2015: 837)

“The analysis comes after the data is collected and stored, not prior to this. However, the fact that the data is not consciously generated, through the desire to test theories of models, is seen as an asset rather than a problem: ‘Big Data analytics enables an entirely new epistemological approach for making sense of the world; rather than testing a theory by analysing relevant data, new data analytics seek to gain insights “born from the data”’.” (2015: 837)

“Rather than starting with the human and then going out to the world, the promise of Big Data is that the human comes into the picture relatively late in the process (if at all).” (2016:837)

“Instead of beginning deductively with an hypothesis or theory, which is then tested through experimentation and modelling, Big Data seeks to be more inductive and thereby to preserve more of the ‘reality’ left out by abstract and sometimes reductionist causal assumptions.” (2015: 838)

“The possibility of data-intensive knowledge production informing policy developments has been broadly welcomed in International Relations, especially in the fields of disaster risk reduction, peacebuilding and resilience.” (2015: 838)

“The article then considers the affinities that these assumptions share with critical and posthuman understandings, suggesting that the rise of Big Data can be understood as enabling posthumanism to come of age: to inform new ways of governing in the world based upon process-based understandings and relational ontologies.” (2015:838)

“The discourse of Big Data seems to be inexorably drawn to reproducing its own methodological dynamic, data which cannot be used to govern from above, ‘serendipitously’ becomes a mechanism to enable governance ‘from below’.” (2015: 839)

“Not surprisingly, the rise of Big Data as a real-life policy solution (away from the commercial hype of deterministic predictions and total knowledge) is intimately linked not with the increase in governing responsibilities, based on centralised digital technologies of knowledge production and use, but the opposite: the conceived need to enable communities to govern themselves.” (2015:839)

“Big Data thus emerges not as a tool of international interveners equipped with predictive knowledge and able to redirect paths to development and peace but rather as a tool of local communities and ‘civil societies’, expected to generate their own knowledge of themselves and to act upon it accordingly.” (2015: 839)

“The unmediated and contextspecific nature of Big Data enable it to enable local communities to be proactive in their own governance, for example, in the ability to measure energy consumption, even located down to the energy consumption (from multiple sources of consumption) of individuals and households, or in the local measurement of environmental attributes such as pollution, river levels and land use changes. Big Data is thus held to enable empowerment in new ways at the most micro levels due to the digitalisation or ‘datafication’ of life.” (2015: 839-840)

“Rather than centralising data produced through everyday interactions and applying algorithms that produce linear and reductive understandings, the aspiration of Big Data is that multiple data sources can enable individuals, households and societies to practice responsive and reflexive self-management in ways which were considered impossible before.” (2015: 840)

“Big Data is alleged to help knowledge enable the people themselves rather than for them to provide knowledge to others. Thus Big Data can potentially empower precisely those that are most marginal and vulnerable at the moments of highest risk. Open information flows contribute to the building of resilience by making communities aware of the risks and hazards they may encounter so that they can mobilise to protect themselves.” (2015: 840)

“Thus, it is increasingly argued that Big Data should not merely be used by communities in response to disasters but could play a more preventive role. However, the preventive role of Big Data should not be confused with the linear predictions of reductionist models based on cause-and-effect theorising. It is this lack of theory that enables Big Data to be context dependent on local knowledge and correlations or factual information generated in real-time.” (2015: 840)

“In these instances, Big Data goes from being an accidental by-product of digitalised exchanges and becomes a technique of governing through the inculcation of self-knowledge.” (2015: 840-841)

“As Evgeny Morozov argues, Big Data approaches aspire to remove the need for governance on the basis of rules and laws, displacing this with real-time feedback mechanisms based on new forms of (datafied) self-awareness…” (2015: 841)

“It is important to note that in this perspective of Big Data as empowerment, the ‘power’ which Big Data promises local communities, in terms of capacity-building, relational awareness and resilience, is not the same type of power which governments claimed for themselves in the modernist era of linear cause-and-effect understandings.” (2015: 841)

“The ‘gift’ of Big Data does not seem to be very empowering for those who most need social change. Big Data can assist with the management of what exists, for example, redesigning transport or energy networks to meet peak demands or adapt to system breakdowns but it cannot provide more than technical assistance based upon knowing more about what exists in the here and now. The problem is that without causal assumptions it is not possible to formulate effective strategies and responses to problems of social, economic and environmental threats. Big Data does not empower people to change their circumstances but merely to be more aware of them in order to adapt to them.” (2015: 841 – 842).

“…the role of Big Data is not that of understanding and predicting disasters so as to prevent them but to enable communities to cope with them, through a better understanding of themselves. This process of inner-orientated knowledge replacing externally-orientated knowledge is captured well by Patrick Meier…” (2015: 842)

“Big Data aims not at instrumental or causal knowledge but at the revealing of feedback loops in real-time, enabling unintended consequences to be better and more reflexively managed.Disaster risk reduction thus becomes a way of making communities more selfaware so that the unintended consequences of social interaction do not undermine coping capacities. ” (2015: 843)

“Thus, It would be more useful to see Big Data as reflexive knowledge rather than as causal knowledge. Big Data cannot help explain global warming but it can enable individuals and household to measure their own energy consumption through the datafication of household objects and complex production and supply chains. Big Data thereby datafies or materialises an individual or community’s being in the world. This reflexive approach works to construct a pluralised and multiple world of self-organising and adaptive processes.” (2015: 843)

“Rather than engaging in external understandings of causality in the world, Big Data works on changing social behaviour by enabling greater adaptive reflexivity. If, through Big Data, we could detect and manage our own biorhythms and know the effects of poor eating or a lack of exercise, we could monitor our own health and not need costly medical interventions. Equally, if vulnerable and marginal communities could ‘datafy’ their own modes of being and relationships to their environments they would be able to augment their coping capacities and resilience without disasters or crises occurring.” (2015: 843)

“The increasing focus on cities that understand themselves and thereby govern themselves is driven by the technological possibilities of Big Data, where cities are understood as industrial and social hubs of complex interconnections, which through datafication can produce realtime knowledge of themselves. This reflexive awareness of cities’ own ‘vitality’ – their own ‘pulse’ – then enables a second order of reflexivity or of artificial intelligent ‘life’…” (2015: 844)

“The governance of the self, seemingly involves a different form of knowledge production and different forms of governance. This shift in understandings of knowledge, governance, power and agency is often captured in discussions of the posthuman.” (2015:844)

“The view of Big Data as empowering and capacity-building relies upon the reconstruction of societies as self-governing, as self-reproducing or autopoietic. However, this approach to self-government appears to be very different to modernist approaches of top-down governance, based on cause-and-effect understandings of policy interventions.” (2015: 844)

“It is therefore quite important to understand how this process works and how it is reflected in increasingly influential intellectual understandings. Data enables our embedded relationalities to become knowable. The more our interrelations become datafied and become transparent and readable the more we can understand the chains of contingent, complex and emergent causality which previously were invisible. The visibility of the complex world removes the need for causal theory and for top-down forms of governance on the basis of cause-and-effect. The self-awareness of a datafied world thereby blurs forever the distinction between human and nonhuman and subject and object. Big Data thereby articulates a properly posthuman ontology of self-governing, autopoietic assemblages of the technological and the social. Whereas the ‘human’ of modernist construction sought to govern through unravelling the mysteries of causation, the posthuman of our present world seeks to govern through enabling the relational reality of the world to become transparent, thus eliminating unintended consequences.” (2015:845)

***Pick up from page 845 ***

Egor Tsvetkov – YOUR FACE IS BIG DATA:

Egor Tsvetkov is a Rodchenko Art School Student and Russian Photographer. In 2016, he created a project that was aimed to create awareness to the pervasiveness of technology alongside the imminent lack of privacy that is associated with increased technological integration. Tsvetkov started by photographing about 100 people that sat across from him on the subway, he then used a proprietary facial-recognition app called: ‘FindFace’. The application then ‘taps neural-network technology’ and then tracks them down on Russian social media site ‘VK’ (PC World, 2016).

Unsurprisingly, Egor Tsvetkov found around 60-70% of his subjects with ease, those aged 18-35 were easiest to find whereas those who were older were more problematic (although this could be down to a lack of social networking use or even aged characteristics).

The photographer states that during the process, he was able to discover lots of information about the lives of these strangers. “Acting “like a Web stalker” was “uncomfortable for me,” Tsvetkov said via email”, “Then again, “my point in this art project is to show how technology breaks down the possibility of private life,” he said,. “It shows us the future”…”(PC World, 2016).

“Nowadays the power structures begin to lose their monopoly control over the ability to identify a person’s face and identify him with the help of photos and videos. But people are accustomed to differentiate patterns of behaviour in society and social networks, and leave the ability to spy on their best, successful moments of their lives for strangers. Such digital narcissim – a product of a culture of free expression that defines the new boundaries of private and public.

Intentional failure of using privacy settings has created a network stalking. Using free-for-all software, I was looking for the people who sat in front of me on the train underground. I learned about the life of people without any contact with them through the photos on the social network by comparing a real image with a web representation. The ability of quickly and anonymous serching people in network helps trace not for impersonal subject and within seconds concerts to a friend incognito.”  (Tsvetkov, E. 2018)


(BBC NEWS, 2018)

Trevor Paglen is a contemporary photographer that successfully created a critique of surveillance culture. He created a project through the acquisition of ‘spying and bulk data’ that has been collected by governmental bodies, by recreating this data physically, in the form of “landscape portraits of the US Intelligence buildings and the various infrastructures that are used to conduct their mass surveillance programs”. Paglen’s use of documentary style and abstract photography creates an in-depth analysis of cultural issues around freedom, big data, online anonymity, and the durations individuals spent online. “Paglen tells The Creators Project. “The internet, for example, is a thing that we think about in a very mystifying way. It’s this thing that nobody can quite describe that seems like its nowhere but everywhere at the same time.” (Chapman, 2018).

One of Trevor Paglen’s most notorious data-based project is titled “Trevor Paglen’s Deep Web Drive”, whereby he visited Florida beaches and coastlines underwater and examined “the internet cabled that channel an immeasurable flow of data and online traffic” (Chapman, 2018). These cables are utilised by “the National Security Agency to monitor and store digital information”, capturing absolutely everything from “selfies to Skype sessions”.

As our lives continuously and increasingly begin to spill out onto databases, we are all creating digital trails that are comprised from anything from internet searches, image posts or even simple ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. Increasingly, human life is becoming quantified, examined and stored for later referral.

“Today, the digitization of imagery breaks into both the conceptual and impressionistic areas of fine art, where experimentation is even more pronounced, and nonconcrete subjects such as the ‘digital sphere’ can be explored, and visualised using the photographic medium.” (Chapman, 2018)

Paglen states that we consider “images within the domain of culture where they’re open to interpretation” however due to the prolific use of the internet, “images are turned into data and producing data within the world”. Images are no longer recognised as a by-product of light and imaging processes but rather now are filled with additional layers of meta-data, geographical and temporal information. However, now, an image’s live only begins on the internet, as now it is shared over and over, assigned multiple meanings and contexts, and is assigned various tags, and keywords through social networking and hashtags.

“Paglen believes this is an indication of contemporary images have taken on a larger role, becoming active participants in the world, rather than a mere representation of it.” [E.g. Surveillance or traffic enforcement cameras] “That image will issues a ticket to the driver automatically”, he says. “That’s the kind of thing that I mean. The image is actually doing something between you and the traffic ticket.” “This sort of digital processing, indicative of mass surveillance and tracking techniques, is where visualisation and Paglen’s style of photographic documentation becomes important: using art to educate, advocate and explain the almost philosophical concepts of the online space.” (Champman, 2018)

Trevor Paglen – Trinity Cube (2015)

Trevor Paglen – Autonomy Cube

Trevor Paglen – Code Names

Paolo Cirlo – Street Ghosts

Paolo Cirlo created a project that is born from the data collected from Google Street View, these images were then posted and exhibited at the same physical locations in which they were extracted from via Google Street View. The images taken from Street View were printed at life-size scale and proportion and then returned to the original space in which they were captured. This scale and proportions used in printing these images have worked well to create a sense of realism whilst also working to highlight and add another layer to the digital and physical space by directly making visible the metadata attached to a certain space or time.

It is interesting to mention that there are various layers of construction and creation that take place here. Cirio has firstly discovered these images at specific sites and locations via Google Street View, he has then extracted these images and then he has isolated the subjects from their context or location by solely outlining the figures rather than extracting the whole composition. These extracted figures have then been taken and exhibited in a gallery space and lastly, these outlined and isolated figures are then placed in the original space in which they were first identified, as a means in which to raise awareness to contemporary issues. It is interesting to mention that the identities of these individuals have not been obscured by the artist but have simply been extracted via Google Street View which workes to raise awareness to the pervasive accessibility and availability to the public; these images are available to see to anyone who has an internet connection. The artist has both extracted the original subject and has been replaced in its original space and location. This is a multi-layered project that successfully investigates issues around data availability, mass surveillance and privacy issues in an interesting and highly understandable way.

Hasan Elahi – Tracking Transience

Hasan Elahi is a contemporary artist that critically examines contemporary issues such as “surveillance, citizenship, migration, transport, and the challenge of borders and frontiers.” (Elahi, 2018). His works have been featured in various prestigious exhibition venues such as the Sundance Film Festival and Venice Blennale. His works have frequently been picked up by Journalistic platforms such as ‘The New York Times”, “Forbes” and “Wired”. Elahi’s work addresses a wide and varying demographics, working alongside Tate Modern, TED and  The American Association of Artifical Intelligence to name a few. One of his most ambitious projects, titled “Tracking Transience”; is described as “… a self-tracking system that constantly and publically presents his exact location, activities, and other personal data. This self-surveillance project is a critique on contemporary investigative techniques and provides an ongoing “albi” for Elahi in the event of future accusations.” .

Fujitsu | Digital Co-Creation.

Computer-Based Image Categorisation & Algorithmic Image recognition software (APIs)

In relation to my analysis of big data, its uses, consequences and limitations, I am also largely interested in how computer-based neural networks can be used to categorise and understand existing images. Google Inc. has one of the largest Image recognition APIs that is used to fulfil seemingly mundane tasks such as Google Images. It is a very complex system that is based on the premise of a system working and learning through multiple and varied exposures to a particular type. [E.g. If the word ‘Beagle’ was typed into Google images, the first 100 times data was generated it may have mistaken other dogs as a beagle whereas, after 1000 times, the accuracy of this categorisation system would increase and thus it would experience fewer mistakes…]. It is important to note, that this is an incredibly complex system that is still in constant development even today, yet as time progresses it is becoming more accurate. This is all attached to cloud-based neural systems that store massive amounts of data, and the computer or software is having to differentiate between an image recognised as these key phrases: ‘Dog’, ‘Puppy’ ‘Fur’ ‘Small Breed’ ‘Brown’ ‘Smooth Coate’ ‘Shorthair’ ‘Dushound’ ‘Beagle’ etc. It is constantly having to narrow down and become more concise as to accurately fulfil such image requests.

Introduction into ‘Convolution Neural Networks and Image Recognition

Google Cloud Platform:

‘These Are What the Google Artificial Intelligence’s Dreams Look Like.”

“Google’s artificial neural networks (ANNs) are stacked layers of artificial neurons (run on computers) used to process Google Images. To understand how computers dream, we first need to understand how they learn.

In basic terms, Google’s programmers teach an ANN what a fork is by showing it millions of pictures of forks, and designating that each one is what a fork looks like. Each of network’s 10-30 layers extracts progressively more complex information from the picture, from edges to shapes to finally the idea of a fork. Eventually, the neural network understands a fork has a handle and two to four tines, and if there are any errors, the team corrects what the computer is misreading and tries again.

The Google team realized that the same process used to discern images could be used to generate images as well. The logic holds: if you know what a fork looks like, you can ostensibly draw a fork.”

“…even when shown millions of photos, the computer couldn’t come up with a perfect Platonic form of an object. For instance, when asked to create a dumbbell, the computer depicted long, stringy arm-things stretching from the dumbbell shapes. Arms were often found in pictures of dumbbells, so the computer thought that sometimes dumbbells had arms.” (Gershgorn, 2015)

“Researchers then set the picture the network produced as the new picture to process, creating an iterative process with a small zoom each time, and soon the network began to create a “endless stream of new impressions.” When started with white noise, the network would produce images purely of its own design. They call these images the neural network’s “dreams,” completely original representations of a computer’s mind, derived from real world objects.”

(Images Taken from: Hern, A. (2015) The Guardian)

Deep Dream Generator – | Interesting JPG


Pinning Down Ideas / Thoughts

“This is what happened when I Instagrammed the worst parts of my day for a week”

“Social Media: Practices of (In) Visibility in Contemporary Art”

“According To Social Media, I’m A S**T Photographer And So Art You. Really?”

“The Toxic Sublime: Landscape Photography and Data Visualization.”



“Hashtags were created by Twitter as a means of organizing content and now are found on many social media channels like Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and others. Using hashtags on Instagram and elsewhere helps users tag content of a particular subject with the # symbol to organize and categorize messages or photos.”

  • “If your Instagram account is public, anyone searching for a hashtag you used will be able to see your content. This is one method of gaining more engagement for your photos and more followers for your account.
  • Don’t overuse hashtags with your photos, make sure to use three to five max per photo.
  • Only use hashtags that are relevant to your photo, don’t use them to only gain more likes or followers. This can quickly become a spam tactic if abused.”

“Using data compiled by Instagram management platform  Webstagram,  here’s the list of top 100 most popular hashtags on Instagram as of today. Take a look and see which hashtags can be naturally incorporated into your photos.”

1. #love – 143,817,139 photos
2. #instagood – 97,570,915 photos
3. #me – 80,693,198 photos
4. #tbt – 75,411,509 photos
5. #cute – 75,047,873 photos
6. #photooftheday – 70,995,806 photos
7. #instamood – 64,925,462 photos
8. #beautiful – 54,570,181 photos
9. #picoftheday – 53,776,027 photos
10. #igers – 52,997,258 photos
11. #girl – 52,960,538 photos
12. #instadaily – 51,313,415 photos
13. #iphonesia – 51,124,375 photos
14. #follow – 46,372,281 photos
15. #tweegram – 44,656,230 photos
16. #happy – 43,360,681 photos
17. #summer – 42,718,347 photos
18. #instagramhub – 42,101,798 photos
19. #bestoftheday – 40,202,550 photos
20. #iphoneonly – 39,287,795 photos
21. #igdaily – 36,932,129 photos
22. #fashion – 35,815,277 photos
23. #webstagram – 35,073,684 photos
24. #picstitch – 34,965,202 photos
25. #nofilter – 34,196,209 photos
26. #sky – 33,913,231 photos
27. #jj – 33,899,949 photos
28. #followme – 33,865,057 photos
29. #fun – 33,069,338 photos
30. #smile – 30,236,252 photos
31. #like – 29,636,123 photos
32. #pretty – 27,687,567 photos
33. #sun – 27,583,417 photos
34. #food – 27,409,451 photos
35. #instagramers – 26,197,524 photos
36. #friends – 26,182,561 photos
37. #lol – 24,989,254 photos
38. #hair – 22,859,451 photos
39. #bored – 21,586,314 photos
40. #swag – 21,569,900 photos
41. #cool – 21,370,212 photos
42. #funny – 20,780,049 photos
43. #onedirection – 20,410,001 photos
44. #life – 20,334,119 photos
45. #nature – 20,266,828 photos
46. #family – 19,848,462 photos
47. #christmas – 19,542,006 photos
48. #my – 18,660,172 photos
49. #blue – 18,489,451 photos
50. #pink – 17,953,933 photos
51. #dog – 17,943,442 photos
52. #beach – 17,670,037 photos
53. #art – 17,538,396 photos
54. #hot – 17,384,494 photos
55. #tagsforlikes – 17,089,894 photos
56. #photo – 16,794,388 photos
57. #amazing – 15,979,281 photos
58. #repost – 15,893,445 photos
59. #girls – 15,820,604 photos
60. #instahub – 15,466,981 photos
61. #sunset – 15,426,384 photos
62. #party – 15,419,737 photos
63. #awesome – 15,292,933 photos
64. #red – 15,223,775 photos
65. #baby – 14,963,775 photos
66. #statigram – 14,813,215 photos
67. #black – 14,756,443 photos
68. #versagram – 14,670,529 photos
69. #cat – 14,587,895 photos
70. #music – 14,582,697 photos
71. #instalove – 14,561,589 photos
72. #likeforlike – 14,451,644 photos
73. #night – 14,371,566 photos
74. #followback – 13,602,164 photos
75. #throwbackthursday – 13,395,605 photos
76. #clouds – 13,228,789 photos
77. #white – 12,911,807 photos
78. #bestfriend – 12,393,864 photos
79. #yummy – 12,388,898 photos
80. #yum – 12,280,256 photos
81. #like4like – 12,151,613 photos
82. #textgram – 12,025,992 photos
83. #eyes – 12,014,859 photos
84. #green – 11,927,125 photos
85. #2012 – 11,722,646 photos
86. #sweet – 11,696,715 photos
87. #all_shots – 11,652,778 photos
88. #school – 11,642,671 photos
89. #igaddict – 11,568,790 photos
90. #style – 11,470,768 photos
91. #i – 11,304,169 photos
92. #beauty – 11,016,473 photos
93. #harrystyles – 11,009,421 photos
94. #instacollage – 10,942,042 photos
95. #jj_forum – 10,905,037 photos
96. #foodporn – 10,647,412 photos
97. #nice – 10,633,312 photos
98. #boy – 10,414,825 photos
99. #instago – 10,314,053 photos

100. #best – 10,271,100 photos

Instagram | Social Media Style & Aesthetics [Bloggers]

Here is a selection of bloggers that appear to encapsulate the kind of aesthetic appearances and symbolic layouts within their images. Although these bloggers are not exclusively on Instagram, these individuals all post very high-quality, glossy and vibrant images that are aesthetically appealing, most images are meticulously laid out and constructed in such a way that they are satisfying to look at and to visually consume. However, on another level, I also feel that to some degree, these images act as micro still lives that collectively act to denote and symbolise a particular kind of lifestyle and identity that is bolstered by luxury, high-class, leisureful and glamorous lifestyles. Each image is meticulously constructed, with an immaculate attention to detail, each photograph is very knowing and conscious of the act of photographing for attention. It is interesting to mention that it is images such as this feature such high-production values are blurring the boundaries between domestic and commercial advertising. Increasingly, advertisers and companies are increasingly taking up marketing on social media sites due to the changing and dynamic human behabiours. There is a selection of blogs that feature this particularly polished and perfectly immaculate aesthetics.



In The Frow | ‘The Importance of Pampering’

Write a micro analysis, including relevance…


Instagram Performativity & New Identity

It is interesting to mention that in a completely mundane and unrelated way, I stumbled across an Instagram profile called ‘Lil Miquela’. It is interesting to acknowledge that images and content featured under this account alias almost solely includes CGI imagery. Squier (2016) notes that “Lil Miquela whose Instagram account, having amassed over 58,000 followers in about three months, is causing a pretty big stir. Her mere existence is has left a lot of people, very confused, trying to figure out exactly what she is. Because Lil Miquela’s account might have selfies, pictures with friends, everyday life and classic memes but she is not a human..” (Squire, 2016) Although it is clear from images posted on this account that ‘Lil Miquela’ is not strictly human, but rather sits in the realm of Computer Generated Avatar/Imagery, however, it is interesting to stay with this idea around performativity. I think it is really interesting that a predominantly human platform is now being used in new and alternative ways; as the rise of cyborology and computer, citizenship takes hold in contemporary life. Despite this, no-one appears to definitively know exactly what ‘Lil Miquela’ is, some feel that this is account is linked with CGI imagery, others feel that this is a real person who is just heavily Photoshopped. It is interesting that accounts and phenomena such as this are increasingly blurring the boundaries between identity, humanness and cyborg lifeforms.

Squier states “Whatever she is, Lil Miquela has blurred even further the already very hazy boundaries between reality and virtual or augmented reality.” (Squier, 2016)

I  discovered this account, and I just had to slip it in here.. Especially as I am really interested in the idea of role play and performativity within social networking sites!. What a gold mine!


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, andfurther 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 publicsPhotosharing 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

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


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]

“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)

Lury, C. (2011) Consumer Culture. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity.

“The term ‘material culture’ is useful then, because it implied that the material and the cultural are always combined together in specific relations and that these relations may be subject to study.” (9)

“The Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines ‘consume’ as ‘make away with, use up, devour, eat or drink up’, and there is a common conflation that of consumption with the final use or destruction of something.” (10)

“…it is not concerned with consumption practices in and of themselves, but rather with the significance and character of the values, norms and meanings produced in such pratices. This focus emphasises the complexity of the relationship between ownership and use of material goods, economic status and inequality and meaning.” (11)

Cites Zygmunt Bauman who states

“All commodities have a price-tag attached to them. These tags select the pool of potential customers. They do not directly determine the decisions the consumers will eventually make; those remain free.” (11)

“…poverty places severe limits on the ability to participate in consumption insofar as it is linked to the purchase of commodities. Economic status restricts the possible extent of an individual’s participation in consumer culture…” (12)

“First, it is important to stress that by no means all consumption is consumption of commodities, but also includes consumption of gifts, or self-produced objects, of freely given services, and so on.” (13)

“Consumption is to do with exchange and value communication as much as exchange and economic relations.” (14)

“… material goods are not only used to do things, but they also have a meaning, and act as meaningful markers of social relations.” (14)

Ritual Possession…

“These rituals allow the owner to lay claim to a kind of personal possession of the meaning of an object that is beyond simple ownership. They are a way of personalizing the object, a way of transferring meaning from the individuals own world to the newly obtained good, and are the means by which an anonymous object – often the product of a distant, impersonally process of mass manufacture – is turned into a possession that belongs to someone and speaks to and for him or her.” (15)

“Through possession rituals, individuals create a personal world of goods that reflects their experience, concepts of the self and the world. Such rituals, help to establish an individuals social identity.” (15)

“Gift rituals, especially those of birthday and Christmas, typically involve the choice of presentation of consumer goods by one person and their receipt by another. This movement of goods is also a movement of meanings.” (15)

“As a consequence of their use in ritual processes, goods come to be used for making visible and stable the basic categories of placing or classifying people in society. Goods act as sources of social identity and carry or communicate social meaning.” (16)


(Cites Paul Willis motorbike club study) “In the conclusion to this study, Willis suggests that the motorbike acted as a kind of totem for the group of young men who belonged to the club. Their dress, their appearance and their values were all linked to their use and understanding of the motorbike, and in the way the motorbike marked them out from other groups. The motorbike was not simply appreciated for its ability to get someone from A to B, that is, for its utility as a means of transport, but as a totem of a certain kind of working-class masculinity; it was part of a symbolic code.” (18-19)


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


“One of the key aims of this book is to take lifestyle medias seriously, and to show that watching makeover television or cooking from a celebrity chef’s book are significant social and cultural practices, through which we work on our ideas about taste, status and identity.” (1)

“In opening up the complex processes which shape taste formations and forge individual and collective identities in consumer culture, lifestyle media demand our serious attention, as well as our viewing, reading and listening pleasure.” (1)

“While Henry Ford’s famous claim that ‘You can have any colour as long as its black’ certainly overemphasises the degree of standardisation of consumer goods in this period, Fordism has nonetheless been predominantly characterised in terms of mass consumption in which middle-class modes of consumption operated as a norm.” (3)

“Fordism is one of age where the importance of using consumer goods to construct lifestyles began to be accentuated, but where there was little scope for lifestyle differentiation through consumption.” (3)

“The pursuit of niche markets means that goods are no longer produced for an undifferentiated mass, but instead aimed at particular lifestyle groupings. In identifying goods with specific lifestyles, Post-Fordist consumer culture heightens the importance of ‘market research, packaging and promotion’ (Hebdig 1990: 89) (4)

“The proliferation of goods is also characterised by ‘aesthetic obsolescence’, where an increasing number of commodities are distinguished only by aesthetic differences, and where things are increasingly disposed of because they are ‘out of fashion’ rather than being used up, worn out or broken (Lee 1993:136). These changes in consumer culture accentuated the importance of continually making choices.” (4)

“For some critics, the increased emphasis on making a choice between consumer goods, which gives us freedom to construct lifestyles, marks the end of traditional groupings such as class and gender, but rather ‘connotes individuality, self-expression and a stylistic self-consciousness’ (Featherstone 1991a: 83)” (4)

“A concurrent process is identified by Baudrillard (Poster 1988), in which consumption also becomes individualised as we come to inhabit a world in which consumer goofs no longer have any use value and instead only have sign value. From such a perspective, we are encouraged to play with these signs to construct our identity in a world that has lost any ‘real’ meaning.” (4)

“The stylisation of goods as signs contributes to a wider process in which there is what Featherstone (1991a) calls an aestheticization of everyday life’.” (4-5)

“For some critics, contemporary experience is marked by an intensification as much as by a transformation of modernity.” (5)

“…Giddens also concurs that there have been significant shifts in our experiences of everyday life, and of identity. Identity has become, he suggests, a project of the self’: something we are all knowingly engaged in, endlessly working to refine our sense of who we are. Lifestyles can be seen as a particularly important aid in this work, especially given its flexible accommodation of not just consumer products but also products and practice of self-knowledge and self-improvement, such as therapy (through we should note that these too are increasingly commodified, see Furedi 2003).” (5)

Cites Bourdieu’s Distinction Text… “While our ability to play with lifestyle is clearly related to the amount of economic capital we have at our disposal, for Bourdieu the distinctive ways in which classes consume cannot simply be explained by economic inequalities. He argues that our class position is not just shaped by the amount of economic capital we possess, but also by the amount of cultural capital. Cultural capital refers to the dispositions we bring to our consumption practices, demonstrated, for example, by the goods we choose to consume. Those who are rich in cultural capital not only legitimate their own dispositions as the legitimate dispositions (they have the power to do so because they possess symbolic capital), but they also pass on these cultural resources to their children.” (6)

“For example, Bourdieu argues that the tastes and dispositions of the working class (in 1960s France) were shaped by their position as manual labour and by the scarcity of their economic resources.” (6)

“The style and presentation of food is privileged, alongside a restrained and formal style of eating. While both working-class and bourgeois food tastes that are seen as legitimate and that can therefore generate ‘a profit in distinction’. While the working-class and bourgeois food practices demonstrate a specific cultural logic, it is bourgeois food tastes that are seen as legitimate and that can therefore generate ‘a profit in distinction’. While the working class may see bourgeois food practices as sterile and pretentious, they lack the symbolic capital to displace the legitimacy of bourgeois taste.” (7)

“In Bourdieu’s theory, consumption is a site of class struggle, where those classes that can, pursue strategies for gaining distinction and, in the process, ‘do’ class dominance. Those unable to compete find themselves subject to symbolic violence by being positioned as vulgar or common, and thus illegitimate in their tastes.” (7)

“Not only does Bourdieu’s work suggest that ‘some are more equal than others’ in their freedom to make individualised lifestyle choices (Dittmar 1992), it also shows how the importance of the idea of lifestyle in post-Fordist consumer culture coincides with the rise of new middle-classes, who are perfectly positioned to capitalize on the new emphasis of lifestyle.” (7)

The new bourgeoisie (new-middle-class) are ‘the new taste-makers’, who reject the sobriety and abstinence of the old bourgeoise ‘in favour of a hedonistic morality of consumption, based on credit, spending and enjoyment’, where people are judged by ‘their capacity for consumption, their “standard of living”, their lifestyle as much as their capacity for production’ (Bourdieu 1984: 310).” (7)

“From such as perspective, the expansion of lifestyle media is not about the rise of lifestyle as a move beyond class, but rather an emphasis on lifestyle as an attempt to gain authority by new middle-classes whose cultural capital afford them considerable ‘riches’ in this area of life.” (8)

***Instagram is producing a circulating new ideologies and concepts around lifestyle, luxury and taste… “A key focus of Ordinary Lifestyles is the role of lifestyle media in producing, circulating and promoting ideas around taste and lifestyle.” (9)

[Life Style Media] “First, it demands an accommodation of the different media products that are centred on ideas of taste and lifestyle. Such a list includes, not exhaustively radio and television programmes, plus spin-off videos and DVDs; print media (books, magazines, newspaper columns and supplements, again including spin-offs); web-based media, both authorised and unofficial (see Goldstein, this volume); advertising and promotional materials (print, broadcast and web); live performance and personal appearance (PA), and so on – not to mention the dense intertextuality and extra-textuality between these platforms, or the ‘micro-media’ produced to circulate ‘subcultural capital’ (Thornton 1995; Duncombe, this Volume).” (9)

***”Next we need to factor in the focus of this media content: the topics of lifestyle media. Again without claiming exhaustivity, these include cookery and other food and drink topics; fashion, style and grooming; home improvement, including DIY, gardening, spirituality and so on); travel; shopping and consumer issues – including cultural consumption.” (9)

“In fact, one of the key – and most remarked upon – featured of lifestyle media media is its intense proliferation and hybridisation, as well as increasing genre blending and blending.” (9)

“Given that the makers of lifestyle media are centre-staged as cultural intermediaries, setting out standards of taste in society, these programmes, publications and events have a key role to play in producing distinction: in teaching their audiences how to accrue and deploy cultural capital.” (11)

“Television’s limited ‘sense-scapes’ cope more readily with plaisir than with jouissance, even when Crouch (2002: 217), positing tourism as an encounter with space, offers a reminder that ‘the world is grasped through the body and the world is mediated through the body. Yet a concurrent critical shift towards considerations of performance, not only in the sense that the tourist destination is staged by those who service it but also in that it allows tourists to take on new roles (Edensor 2001), has inevitably found greater resonances in a medium where the destination has always been staged for the camera, and in which presenters have assumed touristic roles which inform their reports and their performances.” (134)

“Berghoff (2002) argues that tourism is not rooted in basic needs, since it requires an excess of purchasing power. Material consumption is more than matched by dreams and desires and it is, he argues, ‘the ultimate consumer commodity because it is almost indefinitely expandable as a product’ (p.169).” (135)

“It is to emphasize the rather mundane, often remarkable and typically imperfect events around which everyday life becomes familar histories of critical thought, this contained and enclosed. In formative histories of critical thought, this reading has also often prevailed. Ideas of ordinary cultural have frequently been treated as an issue of ‘disenchantment’, ‘alienation’ and ‘lack’, and it is telling that in accounting for this ‘condition’ of ordinary life. the imaginary of the city, and the social relations of the disempowered and duped inhabiting it, has tended to predominate.” (158)

 Beer, D., York, U.O. and Uk, U. (2013) Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation [online]. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [Accessed 15 April 2018].

“Millions of people on a global scale are engaging with culture via these new media forms as they enchant, distract, entertain, reveal and occupy.” (1)

“The intersections of popular culture and new media have media have become central in shaping our everyday lives in ordering our routine experiences.” (1)

“I ask how data accumulate as a result of the changing nature of objects and infrastructures. I then use the concept of archiving to ask how these accumulating data are ordered and organised. I asked how these accumulated data are made visible or utilised by automated algorithmic systems, and how these data are appropriated into practice through various types of play.” (2)

“This book then is concerned with how popular culture and new media intersect in the context of day-to-day life and in the circulations and infrastructures that underpin it. By bringing to the fore the material dimensions of everyday life, embodied in these infrastructures and data circulations, we are able to see how culture and media combine and fold into ordinary routine life.” (2)

“More specifically, this book focuses upon the different ways that digital data circulate through popular culture; it is here that we can locate an underlying politics of circulation. It begins by looking at the infrastructures and objects that allow digital data circulate through popular culture. It then uses this as a foundation for exploring the different flows, blockages and manipulations of these data through an examination of the part that archives, algorithms, data play and the body perform in such flows. As this suggests, the book moves from the pathways of data circulation to look at how these circulations operate, shift and reshape culture itself.” (2-3)

“This book attempts to update our understandings of contemporary culture by unpicking its everyday materiality in a changing socio-technological context. It uses various resources and materials to uncover the systems and flows that are now coming to shape and constitute what popular culture is, how it is organised, how it is disseminated and how tastes are formed.” (3)

“Cultural tastes are often understood to be a product of our social position, our friendship groups or taste communities, the subculture we might associate with and so on.” (4)

“This book explores a number of such examples of recombinant cultural formations and how these data flows are channelled, directed, blocked and stimulated.” (4)

“I argue that these complex data circulations have become central to the forms that popular culture now takes, I also argue that popular culture is now defined by its recursive data flows and that this requires some careful consideration in order for us to fully understand what this means for culture more generally.” (4)

“Popular culture and new media, particularly when in tandem, move together quite rapidly, plus they are defined by ephemerality, fragmentation and splintering. They are in flux, they are protean and mobile, transient and changeable, chaotic and ephemeral.” (5)

“It is here we can identify an important shift from the way that object evoke memories and towards objects that have their own capacity to remember. We still, of course, attach our own memories to objects evoke memories to objects, but rather, over time, objects that capture something of their use have become embedded in everyday life and have come to mediate a number of forms of cultural engagement.” (15)

“The first piece (Beer, 2008a) questioned the rise of what are often thought of as ‘virtual’ objects, such as MP3 and other digital compression formats, and asked what this might mean for the type of material biographies that Benjamin described.” (15)

“The second piece (Beer, 2012a) used Benjamin’s essay to suggest that we might need to think about the nature of our relations with mobile media devices as material objects, to think about how such attachments might simply move between different media – with iPods, iPhones, iPads, Kindle and like having the material properties that we still see as a part of our biographies.” (15-16)

[Cites Sherry Turkle’s Evocative Objects] “Turkle’s collection then is an attempt to show how ‘evocative’ these ordinary objects might be, to show how they are embedded in everyday practices and understandings. The aim is to see what it is that they evoke and how they are a part of a biography and the materialisation of memory.” (16)

“…the connection between objects and memory is based upon the individual’s placing of the object within moments, events or emotional times in their lives. The material biography here is about this very personal understanding of the object and its meaning for the individual as they engage with it. The memory here is on the part of the human agent, who has some emotional response to the object based on their understanding of it.” (17)

“For Benjamin, the object always captured its history of use in its particular auratic qualities, the marks on it, the sun damage, the curling of pages, the yellowing of paper, the scuff marks, the aromas and so on. So there was a capturing  of something of the biography of that particular object. The difference is that this was inscribed on the physical form that object rather than being extractable as data.” (17)

“This physical inscribing of the object’s history on its form still exists, but the difference now is that many objects also actively capture data about their use that can be extracted and used in various ways.” (17-18)

Plaugic, L. (2016) An Instagram perforance art stunt is making its way to London’s Tate Modern. The Verge [Online] 19 January. Available from: [Accessed 17th March 2018]

“Over the course of several months in 2014, a women named Amalia Ulman amassed more than 50,000 Instagram followers.”

“She was a young and conventionally attractive; her posts featured images signifying a normal, if slightly enviable, life: kittens swaddled in blankets, matching striped pajama sets, rain-dappled rose petals, elegant latte art, and post-shower selfies. But this wasn’t the real Amalia Ulman, and not in the way Instagram’s inherent curation makes it a not real thing – this was performance art.”

“In a piece she called Excellences & Perfections, Ulman, born in Argentina, was playing a role: that of a young women who moves to Los Angles from a shallow town, trying to make it big.”

“The same year Ulman Began her project, the artist Richard Prince began showing other people’s Instagram photos at a how at New York’s esteemed Gagosian Gallery. Some sold for more than $100,000.”

“Ulman’s work was largely received positively, but it did draw some skepticism. Some have argued that Instagram, but its very function, is already performance art. In an essay for The Fader, Emille Friedlander argued that Ulman’s project was no different than what people did on Instagram every day, but it was “a little too over the top” to be believable. “In its unabashed food portraiture and selfie use, [Ulman’s Instagram] lacks the self-awareness of the characteristically self-aware generation of which she is a part ,” Friedlander writes. “Most millennials I know construct their online image very painstakingly, but are also very careful not to appear to be doing so.”

“Still, because Instagram is designed to encourage users to view photos in their feed rather than dig through individual profiles, any follower who missed  this image or began following Ulman after it was posted, would likely never have seen it.”

Excellences & Perfections is supposed to be a criticism of constructed femininity. Over the course of the five months, Ulman portrayed three stereotypes of women she thought were common on Instagram: a small town girl in a big city, what Ulman regrettably calls a “ghetto aesthetic” (she wears a hat with the word “bae” on it), and a “girl next door” who likes “Yoga and juices.” The images range from pink bars in soft lighting, the Chanel logo constructed out of cocaine, and Ulman mediating near a bedroom window.”

“Though the line between performing and mocking runs through some questionable territory here (one wonders if Ulman could find a similarly reductive aesthetic to frame her own tastes), it does fall within a relatively recent lineage of personas constructed entirely online.”

“But using Instagram as a performance art medium adds another level of complexity that Twitter and Blogspok lack. With Excellences & Perfections, Ulman’s own face became the face of the people she was pretending to be.”

“Last year, a 24-year-old British tourist named Eleanor Hawkins was arrested after taking a semi-naked selfie on top of a mountain in Malaysia. Hawkins was found guilty of committing ‘obscene acts in a public place’, fined and sentenced to three days in jail. The case was discussed largely in terms of an apparent clash of cultures, between the traditions and values of the local population and those of twenty-first-century Western young people. However, it also says a great deal about the pervasiveness of media – the sense that mediation now happens anywhere and everywhere, including on remote mountain tops in Malaysia.”

” According to a recent Guardian report, wi-fi is now available to climbers on Japan’s Mount Fuji. Media are everywhere to be consumed, but so increasingly are the means to create and distribute media.”

“A new exhibition at London’s Tate Modern, Performing for the Camera, provides a wider historical and cultural context for thinking about these new forms of self-representation. As the title suggests, the exhibition focuses on the idea of self-representation as a kind of performance. In choosing to represent ourselves in particular ways, we are not necessarily reflecting some kind of truth about who we really are: rather, we are performing different ‘selves’, or different versions of identity.”

“Here the camera becomes a constructive tool, not just a neutral recorder. Some of this work – most notably the photographs of Francesca Woodman – seems highly ‘personal’, while in other cases – such as Cindy Sherman and Samuel Fosso – we see artists using self-portraits to comment on mainstream media representations. And towards the end of the exhibition, there are artists like Amalia Ulman who use the conventions of the selfie to create complex narratives about identity.”

“It could be argued that the growth of self-representation is tied up with the growth of ideas of individuality that emerged with the origins of modern capitalism.”

“Some theorists have argued, in line with the ideas of Michel Foucault, that selfies – like other aspects of social media – are a symptom of the self-surveillance that is typical of contemporary society. In the modern world, we are constantly being watched, but we are also constantly watching ourselves, monitoring our public image, and working on how to present (and represent) ourselves to the wider world.”

“. Psychological researchers have explored the relationship between people’s use of selfies and personality traits like inflated self-importance, self-regard and exhibitionism – although they don’t provide conclusive evidence about whether selfies are a cause or a symptom of such things. This argument often feeds into broader stories about social decline, whereby the media are seen to be destroying traditional forms of civilized social interaction.”

“This also takes on a gendered dimension, when selfies are accused of sexualizing girls and young women, or encouraging them to sexualize themselves.”

“In general, there’s a strong age and gender dimension to this discussion: selfies are often seen to be a preoccupation for teenage girls, who are assumed by definition to be stupid and vain – despite the fact that there are plenty of other people who are taking them.”

“Here again, there’s an oversimplified story about media power – as though the media have some magical ability to transform innocent children into sex-crazed exhibitionists. While some argue that young women (and men too?) are ‘objectifying’ themselves, others suggest that selfies can also be empowering.”

“Another aspect of this – and another perennial topic in debates about media effects – is the idea that selfies have a distorting effect on our ideas about body image.”

“Taking selfies is what some call a vernacular or mundane media practice. It overlaps in this respect with the family photo-album or home movie- or video-making, which I have written about elsewhere on this site. Like home video-making, its significance is not only about the actual images themselves, but about the social relationships that they sustain and potentially create. These relationships are most obviously with friends and family, but when images are shared on social media, they are also about wider public audiences. When we share a selfie, we are saying ‘look at me!’ We are addressing an audience, and the images we share depend upon what we know and assume about that audience.”

“So the taking and sharing of selfies is subject to social rules and conventions, which are likely to be interpreted in different ways by different people in different contexts, and to change over time. For example, how do we decide where and when it’s appropriate to take a selfie? How do we decide what to show and not show, and what poses and facial expressions to strike? Where and with whom do we decide to share these images, and why?”

“Our choices of camera angles, lighting, gestures and poses, and how we prepare our appearance – as well as which images we select to share or instantly delete – all reflect wider assumptions about how images are constructed, and what functions they serve.”

“With smartphones, we all have the means of representation (and self-representation) in our pockets, and the opportunity to distribute what we create. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we have absolute power or control over what we do – as Eleanor Hawkins discovered to her cost.”

Dumenco, S. (2012) Instagram Is Ok, But Photoshop Is Evil? The truth about digital lies. Available from: [Accessed 12 July 2018].

Rettberg, J.W. (2014) Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves [online]. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. [Accessed 12 April 2018].

Written, Visual and Quantitative Self-Representation

“There are three distinct modes of self-representation in digital media: written, visual and quantitative.” (1)

“Selfies are descendants of visual artists’ self-portraits, and the quantitive modes of lifelogs, personal maps, productivity records and activity trackers are descendants of genres such as accounting, habit tracking and to-do lists. In today’s digital culture, the three modes are intertwined. Digital self-representation is conversational and allows new voices to be heard. However, society disciplines digital self-representations such as selfies and blogs through ridicule and pathologizing.” (1)

[Cites Parmigiano] “Parmigianino used a convex mirror to see himself; today we use digital technologies. We snap selfies on our phones and post them to Instagram. We write about our lives in blogs and in status updates to Facebook.” (2)

“The data we track is displayed back to us as graphs, maps, progressive charts and timelines. Parmigianino’s self-portrait may not seem to have much in common with a FitBit user’s charts of steps and sleep patterns, but both are examples of how technology is a means to see part of ourselves.” (2)

“Whether we use a wearable, networked step-counter or a convex mirror and oil paints, technology can reflect back to us a version of who we are. And the data, filters and social media we use to see and share our reflections distort our images in their own particular ways, just as Parmigianino’s convex mirror distorted the perspective of his face.” (2)

“With digital cameras, smart phones and social media it is easier to create and share our self-representations. But self-representations have always been part of our culture. We have drawn, carved, sculpted and painted images of ourselves for millennia; we have kept diaries, scrapbooks and photo albums; we have sung ballads and told stories about ourselves. Sometimes we use the mediation of technology to help us see ourselves better, to understand ourselves or to improve ourselves, or simply to imagine someone to speak to, a ‘dear diary’ to tell our secrets to when nobody else will listen.”

“We paste photos and memorabilia into a photo album to share with family and imagine one day passing it down to our children and their children. Some of us write autobiographies or memoirs to be published for a wider audience.” (2)

“This book explores the ways in which we represent ourselves today through digital technologies. Like Parmigianino, we create visual selfportraits and share them.” (2)

“In this book I aim to show how these strands of self-representation intertwine in digital media in three distinct modes: visual, written and quantitative. In the following chapters, I discuss selfies and photographs as tools for self-improvement and self-knowledge and the power relationships that shift and are contested when new groups of people share their self-representations in the public sphere. In chapter 3, I propose using the word ‘filter’ not just to describe Instagram filters or the filtering of the posts we see in our Facebook newsfeeds but also as an analytical term that allows us to understand how certain aspects of our self-expressions are removed or filtered out, and how our self-expression may be altered as we use different technologies, genres and modes to represent ourselves. Chapter 4 discusses the ways in which wearable tracking devices and web services are automating our self-representations and writing our diaries for us. In chapter 5 I look at our new trust in quantitative data, even to express our experiences and emotions. And finally, in chapter 6, I discuss the balance between self-expression and surveillance. Although we take selfies, post updates to Facebook and use a step-counter, others are putting together the data we generate to create their own representations of us.” (3)

“There are other possible modes. Curation is one, whether we are showing our identity through our record or book collections or by our careful reblogs or retweets on Tumblr or Twitter, or by sharing the music we listen to on Spotify in playlists or as automated Facebook updates.” (3)

“Self-representation online began in text, with images and some sounds being added as graphical browsers were introduced. The visual turn in social media has been particularly strong in the last few years, especially after smart phones with cameras and fast broadband connections for downloading images and video files became increasingly accessible.” (3)

Writing about the Self

“We humans have carved, painted, drawn, sculpted and written about ourselves since we first found ways of making marks in the world.” (4)

“In her study of early blogging, Vivane Serfaty (2004) compares blogs to the diaries of the Puritans, which were, she writes, ‘a requirement of religious self-discipline’ that ‘recounted a spiritual journey towards personal salvation’ (5). In this tradition one examines one’s own flaws and failures, seeing self-examination as the source for self-improvement and attaining grace.” (5)

“Although Heehs and Serfaty argue that diary-writing was important to Protestants in particular, writing about the self as a method for self improvement was also part of Catholic traditions.” (6)

“A later, secular tradition of personal writing that also has influenced contemporary digital forms of self-expression is the commonplace book.” (6)

“Blogs and online diaries are obvious descendents of the diaries and autobiographies of past centuries.” (6)

“Filter blogs often have a very personal style, much as Montaigne’s essays did, but their aim is to share material and ideas that the blogger is interested in rather than to tell the story of the blogger’s life. Personal blogs and online diaries are more unequivocally self-representations. The lines between a self-representational blog and one that is not self-representational are not always clear cut.” (7)

“Anonymous blogs may consist of nothing but captioned reaction gifs, and expose nothing of the author’s identity, yet still express a personal experience of life.” (7)

Visual Self-Portraits in History 

“Some of the most interesting pre-digital self-portraits in our context are those created by early photographers. Our digital cameras can slip into a pocket or be a lens tacked onto a mobile phone. The first cameras, on the other hand, were huge devices. Just as the camera taking the photograph is visible in digital self-portraits taken in a mirror, so early photographers often included the tool of their trade in their self-portraits.” (8)

“Decades later, many self-portraits showed still more fragmented versions of the self, tending to ‘conceal or suppress the face and head, thereby thwarting traditional physiognomic/phrenological readings’ (Hall 2013, chapter 10, para. 2).” (8)

“As performance art and video art gained territory, self-portraits have become more and more common. Cindy Sherman uses her own image in most if not all of her artwork, posing in different roles. She claims these aren’t self-portraits at all, but acting. Sometimes it is hard to draw the line. Perhaps they are a little of both.” (8)

“Today’s selfies are different in that they are a true vernacular genre. They are rarely exhibited in art galleries; instead they are shared with friends and followers on social media.” (9)

The History of Quantitative Self-Representation

“If the mode of the diary is narrative, then the modes of quantitative self-representation are numbers, lists, maps and graphs. Before today’s spreadsheets, activity trackers and GPS diaries, people used pens and paper to track their habits, their money, their sleep patterns and their travels. A prisoner scratching tally marks on the wall for each day of imprisonment is creating a form of quantitative diary, as is the teenager keeping a list of every book she has read or the father noting down the time when he puts his baby down to sleep and the time the baby wakes up. The ways in which we have represented ourselves with numbers and data have been less studied than the histories of visual self-portraits and written autobiographies, memoirs and diaries, at least from the point of view of self-representation and aesthetics.” (9-10)

“The first writing was developed not to record words and sentences but to keep accounts. Arguably, recording quantities of grain or other valuables can be a form of self-representation, or at least representation of what belongs to the self.” (10)

“Quantitative self-representation is pre- or post-narrative.”  (11)

“Quantitative self-representations are dependent on other forms of literacy: understanding counting, tables and graphs for instance. For digital forms of quantitative self-representation, we need to understand not only both these basic forms of numeracy and data literacy but also some procedural literacies (Mateas 2005). You don’t need to be able to program to use an activity tracker or a lifelogging app, but certainly the most engaging examples of quantitative self-representation are produced by people who know how to access and manipulate their data, and also have the graphic design skills to present it in an appealing and effective way, like Nicholas Felton’s annual reports or the examples reported daily at sites like Quantified Self and Flowing Data.” (11)

“In the last few years, however, we have seen an ever-increasing number of consumer devices that automatically track our activity, posture, health and so on. One in ten adult Americans now owns an activity tracker. Quantitative self-representation is becoming commonplace.” (11)

Texts or People?

“Self-representation with digital technologies is also self-documentation. We think not only about how to present ourselves to others, but also log or record moments of our lives for ourselves to remember them in the future.” (11)

“Mirrors allowed us to see our own reflection, but not to record it. Cameras allowed us to record our own image, but until the digital display and front-facing camera of the smartphone, they did not allow us to see our face as we pressed the shutter (Warfield 2014). That, and the ease and inexpense of deleting digital images and taking new ones, allows us to control the way we are represented to a far greater degree than in a photobooth or holding an analogue camera up to a mirror.”  (11-12)

“Writing a diary is also a way of externalising our thoughts and the way we see or think about ourselves. A private, paper diary may be written for a future self who will look back upon the time of writing. Although wearable devices like Fitbits or apps like Moves or Runkeeper generally suggest we share our steps or runs or productivity in social media, many (perhaps most) users prefer to keep their activity data private, or to only share some of it.” (12)

“Social media is about communication with others, but we should be equally aware of how we use social media to reflect upon ourselves. Creating and sharing a selfie is an act of self-representation – which as Gunn Enli and Nancy Thumin (2012) note, means that it involves the creation of texts which will be read and interpreted. A selfie also exists in a social context, once shared. But just as importantly, creating and sharing a selfie or a stream of selfies is a form of self-reflection and selfcreation.” (12)

“As readers, we encounter other people in social media as texts. From our perspective their self-expression is self-representation. This is particularly true when we are readers more than participants.” (12)

“In her study of Internet users’ experience of being online, Annette Markham (1998) discusses the relationship between our bodies and the virtual online experience. There weren’t many photographs on the Internet in the 1990s. Few people had digital cameras or scanners, and download speeds were so slow that images took a long time to load anyway, so our bodies for the most part were hidden. We imagined that the Internet was disembodied, anonymous and virtual. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that webcams became popular (Senft 2008), and we began to communicate with each other visually as well as through text. The shift to the visual on the Internet and especially in social media has increased a lot since then. Facebook was originally created to show photos of peoples’ faces, and today shared images are central to most social media. Our bodies are no longer hidden online.” (12)

“Images are the primary content of many services such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and We Heart It. The earlier Internet, on the other hand, relied on words and conversations. People who just watched and read and didn’t participate were given the derogatory term lurker, and it was clear that the expectation was active participation. Seeing yourself as a peer communicating with others was key to your identity online, Markham wrote: ‘through conversations, self and reality are co-created and sustained’ (1998, 227). We ‘write self into being,’ but to ‘recognize our own existence in any meaningful way, we must be responded to’ (Markham 2013a).” (13)

“When we write and share photos with our friends on Facebook we primarily see the social communication we are engaging in, rather than the text of their and our own self-representations. But when we merely lurk or follow, we position ourselves as traditional readers, as voyeurs, as an audience – and from this point of view, we analyse the other writer primarily as a text rather than as a living, breathing human being. This is the perspective from which selfies and other forms of online self-expression primarily become self-representations.” (13)

“We Heart It is an Instagram-like photosharing space that does not allow commenting and only allows users to interact by ‘hearting’ each other’s images.” (13)

“It is possible to use Twitter for communication between equals or to be a broadcaster or an audience. In the latter case, a reader – and perhaps also the writer – will see other users’ tweets as text, as self-representations rather than as self-expression. The same tweets may be primarily experienced as social communication by other users who engage in conversation with the tweeter, and the tweeter himself or herself may see them primarily as self-exploration and not even really care whether he or she receives any response to them.” (13)

Disciplining self-representations

“Some of the hatred is quite direct, such as the t-shirts with the slogan ‘Go fuck your #selfie’, or the PBS YouTube video ‘Why Do We Hate Selfies?’ that normalises the hatred.” (17)

“Ridicule is another approach, and it is for instance seen in the Chainsmokers’ video #SELFIE, which Burns discusses in her 2 May 2014 blog post ‘The Curious Confusion of #Selfie’. Here women are shown in the bathroom having vapid conversations about men and dresses and repeating the chorus, ‘First, let me take a selfie.’ Burns sees the hatred, ridicule and pathologising as mechanisms that society uses to discipline the stereotypical selfie-takers: young women.” (17)

“Of course, blogging and selfies are not phenomena that are exclusive to women – far from it – but the accusation of blogging or selfies as being narcissistic or exhibitionistic is particularly common when women engage in these practices.” (18)

“In 1960, Abbott Joseph Liebling wrote that ‘Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.’ Today you don’t need to own a printing press, a newspaper or a television station to share your ideas with the world. Anyone with Internet access can publish whatever they want. But society is finding new ways to regulate who will be heard and who will be taken seriously.” (18)

Filtered Reality 

“Abstract: This chapter proposes using the term ‘filter’ as an analytical term to understand algorithmic culture. In everyday speech, we filter our photos and filter our news. In today’s algorithmic culture the filter has become a pervasive metaphor for the ways in which technology can remove certain content and how it can alter or distort texts, images and data. Filters can be technological, cultural or cognitive, or they can be a combination of these. Examples discussed are the skin tone bias in photography, Instagram filters and the genres of social media as filters that embed a drive towards progress, and baby journals and the apps that automate them.” (20)

“Instagram was one of the first sites to really popularise filters, and now they are everywhere, allowing us to make our selfies and other photos look brighter, more muted, more grungy, or more retro than real life. We don’t just filter our images before we post them to Instagram, though: filter has become an important and far more general concept in today’s digital culture. We filter our images, our email and our newsfeeds.” (20)

“The word filter has been used in many domains, but usually to describe a process where something is removed. A filter can be a piece of felt or a piece of paper which filters out dust, dirt or other impurities when water is poured through it or air blows through it. A screen can filter out certain colours in light. On a cigarette a filter stops some of the harmful substances from reaching the smoker’s lungs. In electronics a filter is ‘A passive circuit that attenuates all signals except those within one or more frequency bands,’ the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states.” (21)

“Instagram filters may in fact remove data, for instance by making a colour image black and white, but often the perceived effect is of adding to the image: boosting the colours, adding borders, creating a vignette effect or blurring parts of the image. A coffee filter does something similar, though coffee filters are not mentioned in the OED’s list of usages for filter. ” (21)

“Filters can get worn out or clogged up over time, letting more particles through than before, or altering the flow of the water, air, rays or words, images, numbers and behaviours that pass through them. We can change, clean, adapt, resist or remove filters. But most of the time we simply take them for granted, not even noticing that they are there.” (21-22)

Technological & Cultural Filters

“By using the popular cultural term ‘filter’ as an analytical term, I want to emphasise the similarities between the visual filters we apply to our photographs, the technological filters we apply to our blogs and other social media feeds and the cultural filters (norms, expectations, normative discursive strategies) that teach us, for instance, to mimic photo models in fashion magazines or Instagram selfie stars when we photograph ourselves.” (22)

“Language can certainly be understood as a technology, and it is another of the filters that surround us. Using the term filter to understand today’s digital culture is a conscious choice: let us use the terms that are popular in our culture to understand it.” (22)

[Cites quantitate data apps such as Sprout Baby] “Sprout Baby App is an example of how an app can streamline and limit our options for personal expression even more than pre-digital media. A pre-formatted baby journal may constrain our creativity, but Sprout app does so even more. You cannot tear out a page or glue an extra photograph over pixels.” (23)

“Technological filters allow us to express ourselves in certain ways but not in others. We can apply certain filters to an image we post to Instagram but not others. We can post animated gifs to Tumblr or Reddit but not to Facebook, although this may change. With Photoshop or programming skills and a self-hosted website of course we can express ourselves in other ways, but most of us do not have these resources and simply choose between different available filters.” (23)

“Marwick’s (2013) argument in her ethnography of developers of social media in Silicon Valley, we could say that social media in general filters out people who are not effective neoliberal subjects. Perhaps in this case, social media is not simply the kind of filter that removes impurities, but also shapes them and flavours people as the ground coffee beans flavour the water that passes through them.” (23)

“Marwick argues, ‘attends to fashions, is focused on self-improvement, and purchases goods and services to achieve “self-realization.” He or she is comfortable integrating market logics into many aspects of life, including education, parenting, and relationships. In other words, the ideal neoliberal citizen is an entrepreneur’ (2013, 13). These are the people most likely to succeed in social media, most likely to gain followers on Twitter and most likely to have their Facebook posts filtered into your newsfeed.” (24)

“Cultural filters are as important as technological filters. Our cultural filters, the rules and conventions that guide us, filter out possible modes of expression so subtly that we often are not even aware of all the things we do not see. ” (24)

“We cannot represent our lives or our bodies without using or adapting, resisting and pushing against filters that are already embedded in our culture, whether those filters are cultural or technological. Cultural filters change over time and are different in different cultures. We can and often do resist or change cultural filters, but most of the time we simply act according to the logic of the filter without even realising that that is what we are doing.” (24-25)

Aestheticising, Anesthetising and Defamiliarising

“Many photojournalists for mainstream media have taken to using smartphones and filters in their work, both as an aesthetic choice and because the look of a quick, filtered smartphone photo carries with it a sense of realism that documentary photographers may desire. The millions of people on Instagram and other photo sharing sites may have no qualms in editing their photos, but photojournalists and theorists do sometimes object.” (25)

“The photo filter both aestheticises and perhaps, as Sontag wrote of images of war , the filter anesthetises our everyday lives (1973, 20). At the same time filters show us images that look different than the world we are used to seeing.” (25-26)

“One reason the filter fascinates us is that it gives the image that strangeness that defamiliarises our lives. The filter makes it clear that the image is not entirely ours. The filtered image shows us ourselves, or our surroundings, with a machine’s vision.” (26)

“Instagram-style filters may make our selfies and photos of our everyday life seem unfamiliar, but the filter itself is repeated so often that the defamiliarisation effect wears off and becomes a cliché. For the most part, however, our everyday photos are not intended as art. They are a way of heightening our own daily experiences and making them special to ourselves.” (26)

“When we take a selfie (or any photograph) with a phone, the phone suggests running it through a filter. After Instagram and apps like Hipstamatic popularised filters, almost every camera or photo sharing app now comes with built-in filters. When you snap a photo on your iPhone, there is a filter icon at the bottom of the screen. When you upload a photo to Instagram, Facebook or Flickr you click through a screen that asks whether you want to filter it, crop it and adorn it. Taken together, filtered selfies are clichés. But for each individual me, seeing ourselves though a filter allows us to see ourselves anew.” (26)

“Selfies can be raw and revealing. They can feel too authentic, too honest. Perhaps running them through a filter to boost the colours, overexpose the skin to hide its imperfections or give them a retro tinge is sometimes the only way we can bear to share these images of ourselves. Putting a filter on our selfies, or framing them by placing them in a blog or an Instagram feed, gives them a distance that makes them new to us.” (27)

Choosing what technology can do

“Our cameras know when we point them at a face, and can even wait until the person smiles before shooting a photo, but they cannot measure whether we love that person or not. Our bodies themselves are technologies with their own constraints and affordances: we can see colours and use language but cannot hear as well as dogs or navigate using biomagnetism and sonar as whales and dolphins do. Our brains and senses filter our perception of the world.” (27)

“Many filters are both technological and cultural, and often we are not aware of these filters. An example that is particularly relevant for selfies and photography in general is that of the bias towards white skin in most twentieth-century photography (Roth 2009; McFadden 2014). Early camera film was calibrated to provide good detail for white faces, but the light sensitivity was so narrow that faces with darker skin were shown with hardly any detail, with eyes and teeth often the only discernable features.” (28)

“The skin tone bias of photography is a technological filter that distorts photographic representations of many people, but it isn’t just about technology. The common stereotypical drawings of Africans in the midtwentieth century show that the visual distortion was not just embedded into camera technology, it was also a strong cultural filter. In many ways, the skin tone bias in cameras is equivalent to an Instagram filter, but not a flattering one – rather, this filter dehumanises people. And importantly, it wasn’t, and isn’t, a filter we choose to apply, it is a filter or distortion that is almost inescapable using conventional technology.” (29)

“Feeling misrepresented by the camera is one common reason for beginning to take selfies instead of being the subject of other people’s photographs.” (29)

Genres as Filters

“Facebook functions as a filter that echoes this story of constant progress, especially with the strong structure embedded in the life events in its Timeline. As Roberto Simanowski (2012) points out, Facebook lists weight loss as a kind of life event you can add to your time, but it doesn’t list weight gain. It suggests you might like to add quitting a habit to your Timeline as a life event, but does not suggest sharing that you have started a habit (23).” (31)

“The progress narratives of social media can be inverted, with progress still a drive that calls for more and more, but where that ‘more’ may lead to ever stronger depression, self-harm or hatred of others.” (31)

A Filtered World | Serial Selfies 

“Abstract: Social media genres are cumulative and serial. Looking at an individual post, tweet, status update or selfie tells us only part of the story. To really understand social media genres we need to see them as feeds and analyse each post or image as a part of a series. This chapter looks at visual self-representational genres that are strongly serial: time-lapse selfie videos, profile photos in social media, and photobooths, one of the closest pre-digital precedents of today’s selfies.” (33)

“Rather than curation, Szucs emphasises quantity and rhythm: a photograph every single day, no matter what. The immediacy of the photos is important, too: Szucs used an instant Polaroid camera and scribbled a few words or a sentence in the white space at the bottom of the photo.” (34)

“The photos are organised in lines downwards, so the following day’s photo is beneath this one, and shows a bleak three quarter profile shot of Szucs’s face, slightly overexposed against a black background.” (34)

“Szucs’s mass of self-portraits cannot be seen today without thinking of Instagram and the millions of selfies posted every day in social media. Szucs began her series in 1996, well before Instagram, but not before many people had begun sharing their lives online, in online diaries and on homepages. The Polaroid photos were already retro when Szucs used them: an analogue version of the filters offered today by Instagram and Hipstamatic.” (34)

Cumulative Self-Presentations

“A weblog or social media feed consists of a continuously expanded collection of posts, each of which may express a micro-narrative, a comment that expresses an aspect of the writer or an image showing a version of themselves. This cumulative logic is built into the software and into our habits of reading and sharing online, and it acts as a technological filter that lets certain kinds of content seep through while others are held back, either never being expressed or finding other outlets (see chapter 2). ” (35)

“Artists have anticipated almost every form of self-expression we see in digital media.” (35)

“This chapter focuses on a selection of genres of serial visual selfrepresentation online: time-lapse video self-portraits, profile pictures and self-improvement selfies. I also look at photobooths, which are an interesting historical precedent to today’s selfies. All these forms emphasise the cumulative, serial practice that underlies most digital self-representations.”

Time Lapse Selfies

“Now we use smartphones more often than webcams for our selfies, and there are apps such as Everyday, Selfie Time Lapse Camera and Picr that will remind you to take your daily photo, help you line up your camera so your face is positioned the same in each image, and automatically generate a video of your daily selfies.” (38)

“Part of the fascination of watching time lapse selfies is watching how the subject changes and eventually ages.” (38)

“At first she smiles. Her expression changes often, her hair is long and worn in many different fashions and the backgrounds and lighting constantly change. Sometimes there are other people with her in the selfies. She is playful. She holds a hand in front of her eyes in one image and has drawn a moustache on her lip in another. As the years go by, though, her smiles give way to a standard expression: a faint smile that sometimes but not always seems to extend to her eyes. Hair growth and hair cuts are always important in time lapse selfies, but in Brown’s case hair is particularly important: she explains that she has trichotillomania, a condition which caused her to lose her hair and cut it short at many points.” (39)

“As selfies increasingly become part of our vernacular culture, it is likely that more of us will generate our own time lapse videos in some way or another. At the end of 2013, Facebook generated personalised videos for each user, consisting of photos from their timelines. Perhaps next year we will have posted enough selfies that the annual video will be an automatically generated time lapse video of our own faces.” (40)

Profile photos as Visual Identity 

“We often use photographs taken of us by other people for our profile pictures, so they are not always selfies, but a profile picture is a visual expression of identity, and our choice of profile photos is clearly a form of visual self-representation.” (40)

“Like most self-representations in digital media, profile photos are part of a serial and cumulative visual communication.”  (40)

“Profile pictures don’t always show a person’s face. Sometimes the profile picture marks not individual identity but a connection to a social group or political cause.” (40)

“Another way of using the profile image as an identity marker is by using a photo showing the profile holder with a friend, a child, a lover or a group of friends (Mendelson and Papacharissi 2011). Some users even use a photo of themselves as a child, or a photo of their own child instead of a photo of themselves, in a move that simultaneously anonymises them a little and shows how profile pictures can function as metonyms: this is part of me.” (41)

“Another of Uimonen’s informants used a portrait image where the colours of the Tanzanian flag were overlaid on an image of his face, and at another point, an image of his face superimposed on a map of Africa with the words ‘Strictly African’. These kinds of visual identity performance in social media can also be coercive; people can feel pressured into demonstrating a certain group identity.” (41)

“In a sense we present a different version of ourselves in each profile picture we choose. In social media we not only present different fronts to different groups of people, as Goffman described in his foundational work on self-presentation (Goffman 1959; Markham 2013a), but we also change our self-presentation over time.” (42) **

Automatic Portraits

“The automation of the photobooth is obviously closely connected to today’s selfies, although a selfie with a digital camera allows the photographer far more freedom and aesthetic options than did the photobooth. The analogue, physical photobooth both gave and refused to give the subject control over their own image.” (43)

“The curious combination of intimate, hidden space within a public setting (often there would be a line of people right outside the curtain, waiting to use the photo booth after you were done) is an interesting counterpoint to the line between public and private we see in today’s selfies: the moment of photography is intimate. There is nothing there but the person herself and the machine, the camera. There is no other human to operate the camera or to tell you how to pose or to make you embarrassed – unless the photograph is of several people, which was often the case in a photobooth as it is in today’s selfies.” (44)

“The serial nature of most digital self-representation is closely connected to the tradition of the diary, which is written bit by bit over a period of time. It is also connected to pre-digital quantitative self-representations, where data is likewise collected and logged over time.” (44)

Automated Diaries 

“Today’s diary writes itself for you. Apps can turn your smartphone into an automated diary that will keep track of where you go, sort your photos for you and pull in your social media updates to generate detailed records of your life.” (45)

“This chapter discusses the information and images that these devices record and the ways in which they present the data to try to make it meaningful for the user. Are our devices ‘active cognizers’, to use N. Katherine Hayles’ term, making us cyborg selves collaborating with our machines? How do these devices and apps filter our lives?” (45)

“The very act of starting a blog or an Instagram or Facebook account carries with it an intention to write or share more, again, another day.” (46)

“Social media embed this ‘call for yet another one’ into the software. Facebook asks ‘What’s on your mind?’, Twitter offers me retweet buttons and a box to write my tweets in, and HeyDay and OptimizeMe push notifications to the home screen of my phone, suggesting I might want to look at my photos or update the log of my activities today.” (46)

“Smartphones are ideal devices for logging our day-to-day experiences. For a start, they automatically store information about what we are doing: a phone can log our geographic location and thus where we go and how fast we are moving from place to place, and many models can also track motions, meaning it can estimate whether we are running, climbing or dancing. ” (46)

“The phone not only knows whether we make phone calls or send texts or emails, but also knows which apps we use and what we search for online. It knows what version of the operating system we are using, what music we play, what videos we watch and what we read. It can measure how fast we read and the style of our writing.” (46)

“Sites such as TimeHop allow us to connect our various social media streams and add in text messages and photos sent or taken on our phones to create a timeline of our days.” (47)

Life Poetry told by Sensors

“Chronos Data Collector and OptimizeMe also try to help you analyse and improve your life by automatically logging it. On the Chronos website, we read ‘Find your time. See how you are spending your time without lifting a finger. Chronos runs in the background on your phone and automatically captures every moment’ (2014). The blurb for OptimizeMe reads ‘Get the best out of every day of your life. Simply track your everyday life with OptimizeMe and learn how to improve it’ (2014).” (48)

“They promise to analyse your daily movements and actions and to create meaning, help you get to know yourself better, get the best out of every day, enrich your life, improve your life – and predict what you might be interested in doing next.” (48)

“When I was exploring the hedge maze at the Morton Arboretum outside Chicago with my family, Saga beeped my phone to warn me that it was going to start raining in nine minutes. Sure enough, a heavy but brief downpour began soon after, and I was grateful we had time to find shelter. Of course, other weather apps will do the same thing only using my location. Saga didn’t need to know my whole life to warn me of rain.” (48)

“For instance, the infographic shows the average hours and minutes I sleep on weekdays and weekends, basing my bedtime on when I turn my phone face down and leave it alone for a few hours and wake up time on when the phone is moved again. It estimates my time working based on how much time I spend at places I have categorised as ‘work’. It gives me a score for how social I am based on how much time I spend at places that are categorised as social/out, such as cafés, restaurants, movie theatres and museums.” (49)

“But in addition to these cultural filters that are built into the app, the app is of course also constrained by technological filters: an iPhone can easily track a user’s location, or whether the phone is face down and still or not, but it can’t really know whether a user is working or sleeping. These apps can see that I’m ‘in transit’ when I do the child drop off and pickup rounds every morning and afternoon, but none of them register that the five minutes I spend at each of their schools are in fact fairly important points in my day. I don’t spend long enough there for the locations to even show up in my logs.” (49)

Capture All 

“Transmediale is responding to the logic of a culture where it has become possible to record everything. We can store all our photographs, all our emails and all our text messages. Leaving the personal we also know that Google is trying to digitise all books ever published, that they are pretty close to having indexed all webpages and that they store data about all searches.” (50)

“The Quantified Self movement with its blogs, conferences and meetups is the personal equivalent to big data: collecting and analysing data about oneself. Barker would have been thrilled to see the detailed streams of information about human behaviour collected by quantified selfers. But despite the promise of ‘big data’ we are still working out what kinds of questions can be answered by the data.” (50)

“Quantified Self ‘is not something oriented to build knowledge toward a purpose, but instead a way to collect data, like collecting butterflies [or] beer caps. [It is an] end in itself ’ (2014, 240). Perhaps we simply want to ‘capture all’.” (51)

A photo every 30 seconds

“Collections have usually required some form of selection and curation. When we make photo albums or write diaries or post a photo to Instagram we intentionally choose what we want to remember and share and what we want to leave out.” (51)

“In the mid-nineties Mann streamed continuous video from the camera he wore to his website, which became very popular.” (51)

“The aesthetic of the everyday and the ordinary and what Ellen Rutten (2014) calls the aesthetics of imperfection is familiar to us from reality television, craft blogs and oddly-cropped Instagram photos. Awkward angles, poor focus and unharmonious composition are all markers of a certain kind of visual realism. The automatic snapshots generated by the Narrative clip certainly fall within this aesthetic.” (52)

“To my disappointment, when I viewed the images, my daughter was not in any of the photos. Neither did the Narrative Clip capture any photos of my four-year-old son when I wore the camera while playing with him at a playground. My children were invisible to the camera. I tried wearing it clipped to the pocket of my jeans instead, thinking I just needed to get the camera closer to their height. This time it did capture a couple of blurry photographs of the backs of my kids’ heads as they shot off ahead of me on their scooters. But the photos from the playground itself were mostly of the clouds again, because when I sat down to watch the kids play the camera, still fastened to the front pocket of my jeans, tilted upwards.” (52)

“Strikingly, my children were almost completely erased from my life as envisioned by the Narrative Clip. That is certainly not the intention of the camera. On the contrary, their marketing videos show parents capturing everyday moments with children.” (53)

“. Back when we had to buy film for our cameras and pay to have it developed, we had to think about the expense of each photograph we chose to take. The cost wasn’t simply financial, we also had to consider how many shots were left on the roll of film, as we wouldn’t want to run out of film before we had captured a range of interesting images. With digital photography, individual photos have no cost, unless we are close to running out of battery or memory space. A camera that takes photos regardless of whether there is anything worth photographing is a natural development.” (53)

“Bourdieu argued that what is photographable, seen as worthy of being photographed, is quite rigidly determined by social norms. Perhaps much of the discomfort we see surfacing around selfies is related to this: we are still bound by these social norms but technology allows us to photograph so much more than when the social norms for photography developed. The technological filter has changed, but the cultural filters are still in the process of changing.” (53)

“Photography, for most people, was a ritual. It was not something done every day or continuously, but something that marked important events.” (54)

“Photography is no longer about documenting social rituals, but about documenting the everyday.” (54)

“Clearly, part of the reason we take more photos is that technology makes it possible, easy and cheap. This is the technological filter that gives us the aesthetics of the everyday. If we always have a camera in our pockets, of course we will take more photos, and many of those photos will be taken on days when there are no ritual events happening: no weddings, birthdays or funerals. There is also a cultural filter, perhaps originating in reality television, but also strengthened by seeing more of each other’s photos on Instagram and in blogs.” (54)

“There are also technological reasons for the new emphasis on capturing everyday moments rather than established rituals, as there were for the more rigid style of older photos.” (54)

Algorithms to find meaning

“The vast quantities of data need to be analysed if they are to be useful as a diary. The iPhone app where users can browse through their photos needs to analyse the images to display them in meaningful groups, based for example on location or people in the images, and to emphasise the most important images. Here every moment of a day is recorded as potential material for a diary, and only afterwards is it edited.” (55)

“The camera can automatically collect visual information but lacks the knowledge of the human’s emotions and memories that make those images meaningful or not.” (55)

“Biometric or other algorithmic visual analysis may be able to recognise what Roland Barthes calls the studium, the average affect a person feels about most photos, where he or she may be interested in the literal content of the photograph or about what it says about a place or a period (1981, 26). But algorithms cannot yet find Barthes’ punctum, the ‘wound’ that makes a photograph poignant to an individual. The punctum is not generalisable (27).” (55)

“When our computers write our diaries for us, automatically logging where we’ve been, who we’ve communicated with, how we moved, what we ate and what photos we took, we have allowed technology to become very deeply enmeshed in our self-representations.” (56)

“To follow Hayles, collaborating with machines in this distributed cognition means that we – as she writes, ‘in some sense’ – become cyborgs.” (57)

“Hayles was not thinking of smartphones logging our every move. But even just as readers sharing the act of interpretation and cognition with a machine she wrote that we were constructed as cyborgs…” (57)

Gamified Lives

“There is a promise of eternity in this software, although we know that at some point the device will be broken or lost, and the software won’t be kept updated forever.” (57)

“When machines write our diaries, our human choices and life spans no longer decide when or whether a diary ends. On the contrary, we have online identities before we are born and well after we die (Leaver and Highfield 2014).” (58)

“Automatic journals and lifelogs cannot end. You can delete the app, and possibly delete your data, but there is no closure to the narratives these apps tell. There is no happily ever after, and even death will not conclude your Facebook timeline.” (58)

“The basic premise of these trackers has a lot in common with games: you have a goal (lose three kilos or run a half-marathon) and you are given challenges through which you can earn points that move you towards that goal. The goal is outside of the game mechanics, but by using a wifi-connected scale or a location and motion tracking smartphone app the physical and digital aspects of the game are connected.” (58)

“. Lifelogging apps likewise claim that the current situation is a game, but these gamified lives of ours are games that will never end. There is no winning or losing situation, only a series of goals. Once one goal is achieved we must work towards the next.” (59)

Quantified Selves

“Abstract: The title of this chapter is taken from the quantified self movement, where people track and analyse aspects of their lives such as steps, travels, productivity, location, glucose, heart rate, coffee intake, sleep and more to understand and improve themselves. Quantified selfrepresentation has rapidly become common far beyond this movement, though: one in ten Americans owns an activity tracker such as a Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, and there are hundreds of other devices and apps to measure different aspects of our lives. This chapter considers what we can measure about ourselves and what we cannot measure, and the consequences of seeing ourselves as data bodies, using smart baby monitors, sex tracking and activity trackers as examples. Concepts discussed include dataism, the new aesthetic and machine vision.” (61)

“Being able to measure something gives us the sense that we can control it. We can work to improve it, whether it’s a marketing campaign or our productivity or our health. Having measurements readily available can also make us forget about all the things we cannot measure.” (62)

“There are to-do apps that show us how efficient we are and time monitors that track whether we’re spending time using a word-processor or checking Facebook.” (62)

“Sometimes our own lists of data and the quantified charts that track aspects of our lives might even give us the sense of punctum that Barthes wrote of seeing in certain photographs, though others would see nothing but a studium.” (63)

A fantasy of knowing 

“‘Self Knowledge Through Numbers’ is the slogan of the Quantified Self movement, a group of people who use wearable devices, spreadsheets, notebooks and more to track and analyse data about themselves.” (63)

“Many quantified selfers use consumer devices such as activity trackers or glucose monitors, but their analyses of the data provided tend to go beyond the standard visualisations provided by the brands’ own websites or apps. Quantified selfers use spreadsheets, statistical tools and visualisation software to understand and present their data.” (63)

“The interest isn’t solely driven by technology. Society in general is increasingly invested in quantitative measures that we hope will allow us to improve our performance.” (64)

“This is the way we run our education systems, our companies and our lives now: by analysing the data. Of course we use data in our self-representations. Our quantitative self-representations are not entirely objective, though the numbers, checkboxes and graphs give them that appearance. In reality, of course the data is fuzzy.” (64)

“Sometimes we fudge the data to make ourselves look better (even just to ourselves) and other times we fudge it to represent ourselves in a way that feels more accurate, although it may not be exactly true.” (65)

“When we slip an activity tracker onto our wrist rather than enter data manually, the output may feel less subjective. We have less direct control over it.” (66)

“Quantitative self-representations can be like visualisations of big data, in that they, represent ‘a fantasy of knowing, or total knowledge’ (McCosker and Wilken 2014). We think that the numbers tell us the objective truth.” (66)

Datasim & Subjective Data Visualisation

“She writes that ‘the ideology of dataism shows characteristics of a widespread belief in the objective quantification and potential tracking of all kinds of human behavior and sociality through online media technologies’ (van Dijck 2014).” (68)

“Often big data analysis works, in the sense that it can be used to predict buying patterns or personality traits, and van Dijck cites a number of scholarly articles showing direct connections between data such as tweets and personality traits or between liked pages on Facebook and sexual preferences.” (68)

“Dataism is becoming ‘a belief in a new gold standard of knowledge about human behavior’, van Dijck writes, and argues that it is crucial to be aware of the different reasons for and contexts within which data is gathered.” (68)

“The data gathered about us by our devices becomes an artifact that is separate from us and can be viewed at a distance. At the same time, it represents us, or a part of our lives.” (68)

“She proposes that instead of talking about data, we should use the term capta, which would emphasise a constructivist approach: capta is taken from reality, while data is conceived as given, objective.” (69)

“Put differently, data is beyond argument. It always exists, no matter how it might be interpreted. Data has an incontrovertible “itness” ’. Susan Sontag notes something similar of our assumptions about the reality of photographs…” (69)

“…neither data nor photographs are truly ‘pieces of the world’ devoid of interpretation. They are representations, but ones that we tend to find more authoritative than more obviously qualitative representations.” (69)

“An alternative approach is taken by many francophone theorists, who use the term digital traces (traces numeriques) to refer to the tracks we leave behind us when we use digital media.” (69)

“We do not take the traces of a person (footsteps in the snow, steps measured by a Fitbit) as being the same as the person herself.” (69)

“The Misfit Shine shows little glowing dots instead of precise step counts. The Withing Activité has an analogue clock face with a pointer moving clockwise from 0 to 100 to show whether the user has taken enough steps that day. These less precise visualisations show a desire to humanise our data, although the premise is still that you are at a measurable point on your way to a fixed goal.” (69)

Measure More

“More measurements and more different kinds of measurement can make forecasts and analyses more accurate, or more appealing.” (70)

“The ability to share one’s personal weather report and comments directly to Twitter or Facebook also suggest that this feature is more about selfexpression than about the subjective human experiential data actually influencing the machine.” (71)

“Tracking data isn’t simply about the data, either. Once we have personal, quantified data about ourselves, we look at it and we interpret it. We use the data to adjust the stories we already tell ourselves about our lives, and we use our stories about our lives to adjust, excuse or understand our data.” (71)

“Self-tracking can be used as a means of power, whether to make contributions visible or to fight back against surveillance. UPS drivers are monitored in great detail throughout their workday: digital equipment in their trucks track when parcels are delivered, how long the truck is stopped, whether the seat belt is fastened, how much the truck backs up and more.” (72)

What we cannot measure

“Spreadsheets monitors your sex life automatically. That is, Spreadsheets tracks every aspect of sex that an iPhone can automatically track when placed on a bed: frequency of thrusts, total duration of thrusting activity and the decibel levels of the participants in the act. That’s really all an iPhone can automatically measure about sex: motion, sound and when that motion and sound begins and ends.” (72)

“The Spreadsheets app applies a technological filter to its representation of sex. The representation is constrained by what an iPhone can measure. Interestingly enough, though, the way a machine – or specifically a smartphone in the early twenty-first century – can understand or perceive sex is very close to a strong cultural understanding of sex that we are familiar with from traditional pornography. Sex seen through this cultural filter is all about thrusting hard and fast, screaming loudly and keeping at it for as long as possible.” (72-73)

“Notably Spreadsheets cannot perceive aspects of sex that do not involve thrusting or loud vocalisation, such as caresses, kisses or whispers. And importantly, Spreadsheets can do nothing to measure our emotions during lovemaking.” (73)

“If we see ourselves and expect to be seen as data bodies, as quantifiable selves, what do we see? What is left out? Would we want a ‘happiness blanket’ to tell everyone around us whether we are calm or anxious? Do we want automated diaries to tell us about emotions we aren’t even aware of?.” (74)

The Pleasure of Control

“‘Privacy is theft’, she declares, and ‘Sharing is caring’. The main characters use wearable devices constantly, and their different comfort levels with this are interesting to follow. Mae enjoys the objectivity of the devices that track her.” (74)

“This idea that technology can be a neutral, objective observer that can alleviate the uncertainty of human perception is alluring to many.” (74)

“Most activity trackers do not offer a great deal more than telling us how many steps we walk each day, but they also convert this into an estimation of calories burned and invite us to enter information about the calories we eat.” (74)

“When you click ‘finished logging for today’ the app quickly calculates what you would weigh in five weeks if each day was like today. Any uncertainty is erased by the apparent precision of the data.” (75)

“Most of this data is useless, mere decoration, eye candy. Why keep detailed daily logs of my heart rate when I step on the scales or the temperature in the bathroom? Why know how much ‘deep sleep’ I got when nothing on the Misfit website can explain what that term means, or what might be optimal? If I am a data body, which data is meaningful?” (75)

Machine Vision 

“When we use devices to represent ourselves, we rely on what the devices are able to measure.” (75)

“Others warn that you risk being targeted by muggers if you check in at a bank or by stalkers if you check in at your home.” (76)

Privacy & Surveillance

“Abstract: In addition to our intended self-representations, our digital traces are being gathered by entities far beyond our control: government agencies, commercial companies, data brokers and possibly criminals. We have little or no access to these representations of us, although the data that shapes them comes from us. Foucault’s idea of the panopticon is frequently mentioned in discussions of surveillance, but the practices of surveillance are changing yet again. Employers and insurers are just starting to ask us to willingly agree to constant surveillance of certain aspects of our life: our driving or our health, and in return we are promised discounts if we prove ourselves worthy. How can we create a balance between using our machines to see ourselves and being forced to be seen by machines?” (79)

“Governments collect data about us, as do many different commercial companies. Data brokers combine information about each of us and sell profiles of us to other companies. Commercial websites like Facebook or Amazon generate representations of me based on my data. We live in a time that is teaching each of us that constantly being monitored is normal and even to our benefit.” (80)

Forced Portaits

“One of the most frequent reasons given for enjoying taking selfies is that it allows the subject full control over the photographic process, from deciding to take a photo, to choosing the angle and expression, to editing the image to choosing which photos to share with others.” (80)

“Personal photographs can also be co-opted by authorities, for example, in an immigration process when an immigrant may have to prove that a marriage or relationship is authentic by providing personal photographs of the couple together over a period of time.” (81)

Who the advertisers think  I am 

“Your data is extremely valuable to companies that want to sell you things or to organisations that want to convince you to support their agenda. You can easily see some of the consequences of your data being tracked.” (81)

“In addition to data gathered from your web surfing habits, sites such as Facebook and Google use the demographic information you explicitly give them and information they glean from your status updates, private messages and email to customise your news feed and the ads they show you. If you switch your status to ‘Engaged,’ you will immediately be shown ads for wedding dresses and caterers.” (81)

“If you are a woman over 40, you will see ads for wrinkle cream and botox. The recently married will see ads about pregnancy and baby products, whereas those who have been married for a year without posting anything about being pregnant will likely see ads for fertility aids.” (81)

“Avoiding being tracked and profiled by data brokers is not easy to do.” (82)

“As Vertesi points out, many of the strategies you might legitimately use to stay private – such as using encryption or using cash instead of credit cards – are also likely to flag you as a potential criminal.” (82)

“You don’t even have to be online to have your data tracked. Companies track your purchases using loyalty cards or simply taking note of the credit card you use to make a purchase. There are companies that drive around taking photos of every car they come across and its license plate, creating a gigantic database of the location of millions of cars. The data is primarily intended for repossession of cars whose owners have not paid their car loans, but can also be used for many other purposes (Angwin 2014, 27).” (82)

“The boundaries between government and commercial data collection are not always watertight. ” (82)

Power and Discipline 

“Foucault’s theories of discipline are often referenced both in discussions of surveillance and of selfies and self-representations.” (83)

“Kathrin Tiidenberg (2014) invokes Foucault‘s self-cultivation, noting how an informant expressed that ‘self-shooting gave her a way to care for herself and increase her self-awareness.’ Through photographing herself, this woman developed a ‘new gaze’ that ‘taught her to feel sexy in her body, but it also altered her material body-practices in terms of how she held herself, how she dressed and accessorized, whether she used make-up and how long she let her hair grow.’” (84)

“We are watched to a far greater degree than when Foucault was alive, with surveillance cameras on every street corner and the NSA and many other entities able to access our emails or phone calls. It’s not clear that today’s surveillance functions in the regulatory way Foucault described, disciplining us to be well-behaved citizens. Surveillance has become complicated in the digital age. Even the word has been altered.” (85)

“If my data shows me (and my insurer) that I am a safe driver, that I am doing a great job looking after my baby, or that I am walking 10,000 steps a day and doing my best to stay healthy, I will feel good about myself. If I can look at graphs showing that my weight gain during pregnancy is normal and that the baby is growing well I’ll feel safe. I might feel differently if I wasn’t able to keep up the 10,000 steps my employer required or if I started admitting to my pregnancy tracker that I wasn’t getting enough sleep or was eating nothing but ice cream.” (86)

“These transactions – our data for a discount or for health care – will quite likely save lives, but it is very easy to see how they can be abused. And this technology is already here.” (86)

Seeing Ourselves

“When we willingly share data from an activity tracker, a safe driving monitor or a health app with our employer or insurer, we willingly trade our personal data in return for lower costs or better services.” (87)

“Sometimes we might appreciate being ‘seen,’ whether we feel that we are seen by the technology or by our health care providers or insurers. But, importantly, these apps allow us to see ourselves.” (87)

“Apps which allow us to see our own data allow us to see ourselves. We look at our data doubles as we gazed into the mirror as teenagers wondering who we were and who we might be. We look at our data in much the same ways as you might flick through your selfies to find the one that shows you the way you want to be seen.” (87)

“Our self-representations are always distorted in some way. The data doubles that are generated by our health trackers or productivity apps are not complete or even entirely accurate likenesses any more than Parmigianino’s self-portrait was, although it may be harder for us to see how they are distorted.” (87)

“The audience for our selfrepresentations is no longer, as a few decades ago, ourselves and each other. Our audience today includes machines. The machines parse the data we provide, running selfies through facial recognition software, our status updates through sentiment analysis software, our health data through risk indication analyses, and send the results on to marketers, employers, insurers or governments. Machines helped us create those self-representations in the first place.” (87-88)

“In practice, for now, we don’t think too much about our machine audiences. We are too busy learning more about ourselves and each other by taking selfies, writing blogs, talking together on Facebook or Tumblr. We no longer need to rely on others to represent us. We represent ourselves.” (88)

Tate Modern (2018) Performing For The Camera. Available from: [Accessed 16th April 2018]

“This exhibition explores the relationship between the two forms, looking at how performance artists use photography and how photography is in itself a performance.”

Performing for the Camera includes over 500 images, including vintage prints, large scale works, marketing posters and Instagrammed photos. It shows how photographs have captured performances by important artists including Yves Klein and Yayoi Kusama, and ground-breaking collaborations between photographers, performers and dancers. It looks at how artists including Francesca Woodman, Erwin Wurm and others have used photography as a stage on which to perform, and how figures from Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke to Marcel Duchamp and Samuel Fosso have used photography to explore identity.”


Highmore, B. (2002) Questioning Everyday Life: In: The Everyday Life Reader. London: Routledge, pp. 1-8.

“The underside of this, of course, is that this everyday life is haunted by implicit ‘others’, who supposedly live outside the ordinary, the everyday. Claiming everyday life as self-evident and readily accessible becomes an operation for asserting the dominance of specific cultures and for particular understandings of such cultures.” (1)

“To invoke everyday life can be to invoke precisely those practices and lives that have traditionally been left out of historical accounts, swept aside by the onslaught of events instigated by elites. It becomes shorthand for voices from ‘below’: women, children, migrants and so on. But while designed to challenge certain conventions, this can still maintain an unproblematic acceptance of everyday life as a transparent realm: instead of looking at government records, attic rooms are plundered for diaries, letters and such like.” (1)

[Questioning the transparency of everyday life] “it is dedicated to a less everyday use of the term everyday life. It explicitly and implicitly addresses the ‘every-day’ as a problematic, a contested and opaque terrain, where meanings are not to be ready-made.” (1)

“Everyday life is not simply the name that is given to a reality readily available for scrutiny; it is also the name for aspects of life that lie hidden. To invoke ordinary culture from below is to make the invisible visible…” (1-2)

“Everyday life can both hide and make vivid a range of social differences.” (2)

“Everyday life becomes the stage where the unconscious perfoms (individuality via slips, dreams, and neurotic symptoms, socially via accepted morality and the protocols of conventional behaviour), but never with its gloves off. Instead, the unconscious can be seen only in glimpses: in the oblique and devious forms of mistakes and fancy; in the circulation routes in takes to fashion social protocols.” (6)

“For Marx everyday capitalist us a catastrophe engine devouring material and human resources and structures across class antagonism.” (8)


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Papacharissi, Z. (2010) A Networked Self. [Online] New York: Routledge. [Accessed 17th March 2018]

Singh, S. (2012) Brand Performances in Social Media. Journal of Interactive Marketing [online]. 26 (4), pp. 189-197. [Accessed 17 March 2018].

Plaugic, L. (2016) An Instagram perforance art stunt is making its way to London’s Tate Modern. The Verge [Online] 19 January. Available from: [Accessed 17th March 2018]

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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]

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

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

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]

Rettberg, J.W. (2014) Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves [online]. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. [Accessed 12 April 2018].

Tate Modern (2018) Performing For The Camera. Available from: [Accessed 16th April 2018]


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