Mobile Mediated Visualities: An Empirical Study of Visual Practices on Instagram


The escalation of photo sharing through social networking sites is one of the most substantial changes in mobile communication practice in recent years. The launch of smart mobile technologies represents a decisive moment in the production and observation of visualities with an elevated characteristic of digital shareability and reproducibility. Considering recent technological advancements and new social media services, this paper aims to study how social platforms and smart mobile devices are affecting individuals’ visual, social and digital practices. In particular, this paper examines the social exchange of photographs online in order to advance an in-depth reading of contemporary mobile media. The mobility afforded by smart mobile devices represents a fundamental condition that shapes the human-technology relationship. The paper studies this condition by concentrating on the dynamic mobility of individuals, devices and visual information. Methodologically, the paper employs a case study approach to analyse how Instagram affects individuals’ perception of their mediated lives. Qualitative interviews formed the fieldwork and a sample of 44 Instagram users took part in the study. Visual content analysis of participants’ photo sharing further contributed to the investigation. Findings from the study show that the use of smart mobile devices constitutes the development of new forms of mobile mediated visualities. The mobility and mediation afforded by smart mobile devices seem to establish new practices for producing and sharing images that push individuals to think visually of events, people and surroundings. These practices lead to the visual dataification of social practices and intensify the quantity and variety of visual data shared online. Within this context, the visual hyper-representation of social practices is exemplified by the current trend of giving to everything a visual justification (e. g. foodporn). In its conclusions, the paper offers a conceptual apparatus that can help to understand contemporary social, digital and visual interactions.

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Serafinelli, Elisa; Villi, Mikko: Mobile Mediated Visualities: An Empirical Study of Visual Practices on Instagram. In: Digital Culture & Society, Jg. 3 (2017), Nr. 2, S. 165-182. DOI: 10.25969/mediarep/13520.
 author = {Serafinelli, Elisa and Villi, Mikko},
 title = {Mobile Mediated Visualities: An Empirical Study of Visual Practices on Instagram},
 year = 2017,
 doi = {10.25969/mediarep/13520},
 volume = 3,
 address = {Bielefeld},
 journal = {Digital Culture & Society},
 number = 2,
 pages = {165--182},
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