SM&Society Day 2: Visual Social Media

I attended this session, like some of the others, to find out more about issues in areas with which I’m less familiar. I know that visual media form part of the data i encounter, but until my assignment for the Discourse Analysis module I recently completed, had given little thought to their significance. In the opening paper, Dianne Rasmussen Pennington posed the idea that sources of data other than text might offer potential, but in order to access the meaning they convey, we may need to look to methods we’re less familiar with.

Ivo Furman described the situation regarding suppression of communications media by the government in Turkey. Facebook and Twitter tend to be ‘turned off’ during times of crisis; at other times, trolls are employed by the government to create disinformation and discourage others. Instagram, for the moment, presents an unfiltered channel through which to communicate, as indicated during the Pride march last year. The use of images, memos and innovative hashtag behaviour have all been employed to circumvent tools of repression.

In a paper with plenty of amusing anecdotes, Kate Miltner and Tim Highfield presented their research into ‘reaction GIFs’ as performative tools through which to respond in online exchanges. So, if you wanted t indicate how your thesis was progressing you might respond with:

And finally, Yimin Chen answered the question that had been on all our lips ‘When does the narwhal bacon?’ by looking at memes, how they spread and how we can use them as a sort of group identity marker.

These were all well presented papers; interesting, informative … and witty. Although I couldn’t see a direct connection with my study, what they nevertheless served to do was to ensure that I keep the media they were discussing in mind. They may prove to be significant in my data, and had I not attended the session, might have missed them completely. For me, sessions like this are about reminding me to attend to detail and remain open to possibilities.

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