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Is being #instagay different from an #lgbttakeover?

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*Edited version; see full conference paper here: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/85139/
This paper introduces research in progress that examines how queer women perform sexual identity across social media platforms. Applying a lens of queer theory and Actor Network Theory, it discusses women’s embodied self-representations as taking on forms that both conform to and elaborate upon the selfie genre of digital representation. Acknowledging similarities and differences across platforms, specifically between Instagram and Vine, a novel walkthrough method is introduced to identify platform characteristics that shape identity performances. This method provides insights into the role of platforms in identity performances, which can be combined with analysis of user-generated content and interviews to better understand digital media’s constraints and affordances for queer representation.

*Edited version; see full conference paper here: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/85139/
This paper introduces research in progress that examines how queer women perform sexual identity across social media platforms. Applying a lens of queer theory and Actor Network Theory, it discusses women’s embodied self-representations as taking on forms that both conform to and elaborate upon the selfie genre of digital representation. Acknowledging similarities and differences across platforms, specifically between Instagram and Vine, a novel walkthrough method is introduced to identify platform characteristics that shape identity performances. This method provides insights into the role of platforms in identity performances, which can be combined with analysis of user-generated content and interviews to better understand digital media’s constraints and affordances for queer representation.

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Is being #instagay different from an #lgbttakeover?

  1. 1. Is being #instagay different from an #lgbttakeover? A cross-platform investigation of sexual and gender identity performances Presentation for the workshop “Selfies: Inter-faces and “#me”-diated bodies” Social Media and Society 2015 July 27-29, Toronto, Canada Stefanie Duguay, PhD Candidate Digital Media Research Centre Queensland University of Technology @DugStef
  2. 2. https://instagram.com/p/4NnsHAMWw0/ Aim: To understand the everyday practices used by women who are attracted to women in performing sexual identity on social media. • What is involved in the performance of sexual identity on social media among women who are attracted to women? • What influence do social media platforms have on these women’s practices of sexual identity performance? • How do practices of sexual identity performance vary or extend across different social media?
  3. 3. • Studies of old tech (Correll, 1995; Laukkanen, 2007) • Focus on men attracted to men & LGBT people collectively (Mowlabocus, 2010; Szulc & Dhoest, 2013) • Few cross-platform studies (Rains & Brunner, 2015) Image courtesy of mass:werk @DugStef
  4. 4. What do selfies have to do with it? • Queer theory - Sexuality constructed through performances (Beasley, 2005) • Embodied digital self- representations (Campbell, 2004; Gosine, 2007) • Selfies: • Feeling transmitted through a relationship (Senft & Baym, 2015) • Staged self-reflection (Bellinger, 2015) Image from iTunes store
  5. 5. Walkthrough Method • Interdisciplinary + ANT (Latour, 2005; Callon, 1998) • Interrogates app: • Technology • Content • Users • Ownership & governance • Business models (van Dijck, 2013) (Burgess, Light, & Duguay, 2015; Duguay, Burgess, Light, 2014)
  6. 6. Technical Walkthrough • Looking for mediators (Latour, 2005) • Step-by-step • Field notes • Screen shots • Multiple iterations: Registration, everyday use, discontinuation
  7. 7. Some mediators - App stores
  8. 8. Content discovery features
  9. 9. Content sharing features
  10. 10. Content generation - Recording
  11. 11. Content generation - Editing features
  12. 12. A starting point for understanding digitally mediated identity performances @DugStef
  13. 13. No conclusions yet • Limitations • Understanding configurations of users and technology that result in: • Actual connections/communities (Correll, 1995; Edwards, 2010) • Merely profitable sociality (Gehl, 2014; van Dijck, 2013) • Queer publics/world making (Warner, 2002)
  14. 14. No conclusions yet • Limitations • Understanding configurations of users and technology that result in: • Actual connections/communities (Correll, 1995; Edwards, 2010) • Merely profitable sociability (Gehl, 2014; van Dijck, 2013) • Queer publics/world making (Warner, 2002) References Barker M, Richards C and Bowes-Catton H (2009) ‘All the world is queer save thee and ME …’: Defining queer and bi at a critical sexology seminar. Journal of Bisexuality, 9(3-4), 363–379. Beasley C (2005) Gender & sexuality: Critical theories, critical thinkers. London: Sage. Bellinger M (2015) Bae caught me tweetin’: On the representational stance of the selfie. International Journal of Communication, 9, 1806– 1817. Blackwell C, Birnholtz J and Abbott C (2014) Seeing and being seen: Co-situation and impression formation using Grindr, a location-aware gay dating app. New Media & Society, Available from: http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/1461444814521595 boyd d (2012) White flight in networked publics? How race and class shaped American teen engagement with MySpace and Facebook. In: Nakamura L and Chow-White PA (eds), Race after the Internet, New York: Taylor & Francis, pp. 203–222. Bucher T (2012) A technicity of attention: How software ‘makes sense’. Culture Machine, 13, 1–23. Burgess J, Light B and Duguay S (2015) Studying HookUp apps: A comparative platform analysis of Tinder, Mixxxer, Squirt, and Dattch. ICA 65th Annual Conference: Communication Across the Life Span, 21-25 May, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Burgess J and Green JB (2009) YouTube: Online video and participatory culture. Cambridge: Polity Press. Butler J (1990) Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. Callon M (1998) Actor-Network Theory - The market test. In: Law J and Hassard J (eds), Actor network theory and after, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 181–195. Campbell JE (2004) Getting it on online: Cyberspace, gay male sexuality, and embodied identity. New York: Routledge. Cooper M (2010) Lesbians who are married to men: Identity, collective stories, and the Internet online community. In: Pullen C and Cooper M (eds), LGBT Identity and Online New Media, New York: Routledge, pp. 75–86. Cooper M and Dzara K (2010) The Facebook revolution: LGBT identity and activism. In: Pullen C and Cooper M (eds), LGBT Identity and Online New Media, New York: Routledge, pp. 100–112. Correll S (1995) The ethnography of an electronic bar: The Lesbian Cafe. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 24(3), 270–298. Crogan P and Kennedy H (2008) Technologies between games and culture. Games and Culture, 4(2), 107–114. Duguay S (2014) ‘He has a way gayer Facebook than I do’: Investigating sexual identity disclosure and context collapse on a social networking site. New Media & Society, Available from: http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/1461444814549930 Duguay S, Burgess J and Light B (2014) Dating and hooking up with mobile media: A comparative study of Tinder, Mixxxer, Squirt and Dattch. Digcult14: Making digital cultures of gender and sexuality with social media, 28 October, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. Edwards M (2010) Transconversations: New media, community, and identity. In: Pullen C and Cooper M (eds), LGBT Identity and Online New Media, New York: Routledge, pp. 159–172.
  15. 15. No conclusions yet • Limitations • Understanding configurations of users and technology that result in: • Actual connections/communities (Correll, 1995; Edwards, 2010) • Merely profitable sociability (Gehl, 2014; van Dijck, 2013) • Queer publics/world making (Warner, 2002) Ferreday D and Lock S (2007) Computer cross-dressing: Queering the virtual subject. In: O’Riordan K and Phillips D (eds), Queer online: Media, technology & sexuality, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 155–176. Foucault M (1979) The history of sexuality, Vol. 1: An introduction. London: Allen Lane. Frabetti F (2012) Have the humanities always been digital? For an understanding of the ‘Digital Humanities’ in the context of originary technicity. In: Berry DM (ed.), Understanding Digital Humanities, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 161–171. Gehl RW (2014) Reverse engineering social media: Software, culture, and political economy in new media capitalism. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Gillespie T (2010) The politics of ‘platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347–364. Gosine A (2007) Brown to blonde at Gay.com: Passing white in queer cyberspace. In: O’Riordan K and Phillips DJ (eds), Queer Online: Media, technology & sexuality, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 139–154. Gray ML (2009) Out in the country: Youth, media, and queer visibility in rural America. New York and London: New York University Press. Harris S (2013) 8 suprising new Instagram statistics to get the most out of the picture social network. Buffer. Available from: https://blog.bufferapp.com/instagram-stats-instagram-tips (accessed 25 June 2015). Latour B (2005) Reassembling the social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Laukkanen M (2007) Young queers online: The limits and possibilities of non-heterosexual self-representation in online conversations. In: Queer online: Media, technology & sexuality, New York: Peter Lang Publishers, pp. 81–100. Light B, Fletcher G and Adam A (2008) Gay men, Gaydar and the commodification of difference. Information Technology & People, 21(3), 300–314. Moore RJ (2013) Vine takes early command in the mobile video market over Viddy, Socialcam and others despite low adoption. TechCrunch, 6th March, Available from: http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/06/771378/ (accessed 2 February 2015). Mowlabocus S (2010) Gaydar culture: Gay men, technology and embodiment in the digital age. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. Papacharissi Z (2009) The virtual geographies of social networks: A comparative analysis of Facebook, LinkedIn and ASmallWorld. New Media & Society, 11(1-2), 199–220. Rains S and Brunner SR (2015) What can we learn about social network sites by studying Facebook? A call and recommendations for research on social network sites. New Media & Society, 17(1), 114–131. Raun T (2014) Video blogging as a vehicle of transformation: Exploring the intersection between trans identity and information technology. International Journal of Cultural Studies, Available from: http://ics.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/1367877913513696 Senft TM and Baym NK (2015) What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon Introduction. Intenational Journal of Communication, 9, 1588–1606. Stern J (2012) Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion. ABC News. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/04/facebook-buys- instagram-for-1-billion/ (accessed 2 February 2015). Szulc L and Dhoest A (2013) The internet and sexual identity formation: Comparing Internet use before and after coming out. The European Journal of Communication Research, 38(4), 347–365. Van Dijck J (2013) The culture of connectivity: A critical history of social media. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Warner M (2002) Publics and counterpublics. Brooklyn, NY: Zone Books. Wuest B (2014) Stories like mine: Coming out videos and queer identities on YouTube. In: Pullen C (ed.), Queer youth and media cultures, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 19–30.
  16. 16. Workshop Question • Can you identify one mediator in your favourite app? o How does it shape your activity on that app? @DugStef

Remarques

  • As promised, this is a ‘work in progress’ – so I’ll be presenting some ideas today, many questions, and a few approaches for addressing them. I welcome all of your thoughts and suggestions. Ok, so as you know – today we’re asking whether being #instagay is very different from an #lgbttakeover. This is a Vine video with the #lgbttakeover.
  • And this is an Instagram collage with the #instagay, among others. Clearly these are just snapshots of a wide range of content with these hashtags, but it gives you and idea of the kind of content that I’m looking at in my PhD as I just start to make sense of how queer women enact sexual identity performances across social media. Specifically, I’m looking at these three questions:

    What is involved in the performance of sexual identity (e.g. through posts, videos, photos, etc.) on social media among women who are attracted to women?
    What influence do social media platforms have on these women’s practices of sexual identity performance?
    How do practices of sexual identity performance vary or extend across different social media?
  • Why?

    Much attention to men attracted to men and LGBT people’s use of technology as a population (Campbell, 2004; Mowlabocus, 2010; Szulc & Dhoest, 2013)
    Research about queer women’s use of early technologies, like BBS (Corell, 1995) or chat rooms (Laukkanen, 2007)
    Few cross-platform studies/too many Facebook and Twitter studies (Rains & Brunner, 2015) – examining Instagram, Vine, Tinder (and maybe Tumblr)


    Focus on identity performances (Raun, 2014, Wuest, 2014) OR platform influences (Cooper & Dzara, 2010; Duguay, 2014
  • Queer theory - gender and sexuality as constructed through our relations with others as we engage in identity performances (Beasley, 2005)
    Performed in embodied self-representations even through digital media (Campbell, 2004; Mowlabocus)
    Performed through various forms within the selfie genre – transmission of a human feeling in the form of a relationship (Senft & Baym, 2015); staged self-reflection (Bellinger, 2015)
  • The walkthrough method – discussed at conferences – Jean at ICA, Ben and I at conferences in Brisbane; working on a paper. A way of investigating platforms and apps that combines Science and Tech Studies approaches with cultural studies and social science approaches.

    From an interdisciplinary perspective, it combines practices from the digital humanities, such as close reading of software as texts (Frabetti, 2012), the social sciences, including identification of discourses built into platform architecture (Papacharissi, 2009), and software studies, uncovering the technicity through which users and technical systems influence each other (Bucher, 2012; Crogan and Kennedy, 2008). Operating from an overarching Actor Network Theory (ANT) approach, this method takes into account the role of both human and non-human actors in networks of relations (Callon, 1998; Latour, 2005). It analyses what Van Dijck (2013) identifies as techno-cultural constructs - technology, content, and users - as well as socioeconomic structures of ownership, governance, and business models.
    However, interrogating the technology is a key method of analysis, done through what we call the technical walkthrough.
  • Technical walkthrough of an app’s technological architecture
    Step-by-Step
    Looking for mediators “transform, translate, distort, and modify the meaning or the elements they are supposed to carry” (Latour, 2005, p. 39) of sexual identity performances

  • Some mediators: App stores- the gatekeepers for apps

    “Works of art” vs Vine “makes video fun”
    Different ratings
    Related apps

    The apps differ even at their point of acquisition in Apple’s App Store where Instagram invites users to transform “everyday photos and videos into works of art” while Vine “makes video fun”. The apps’ different ratings may both reflect and reinforce behaviour, as users may seek one out one over the other if it accommodates certain activities. It is not yet clear to me why the apps have different ratings. Both apps have violent, suggestive and drug-related content. Further exploration into the way they address this content and their policies is necessary to determine whether Facebook’s reputation as a safe, clean platform (boyd, 2012) has bolstered Instagram’s status over Vine’s.
  • Some mediators: Social media companies

    Connect seamlessly, overlaps everywhere
    Changes the user experience and may shape what people share, and also allows businesses to collect data
  • Some mediators: Ways of finding content

    Categories vs suggested accounts
  • Some mediators: ways of sharing content – where you put things, which audiences you imagine when producing it
  • Some mediators: Tools for content creation
    Instagram’s few recording tools vs Vine’s edit, crop, ghost
  • Instagram’s stylized filters vs Vine’s clip editor
    Instagram - automatic, less about the user doing things and more about a polished final product whereas Vine you cut and edit clips, more fun and storytelling
  • Returning to earlier examples, it is possible to identify how these platform characteristics feature in specific identity performances. nomnom209 responds to Instagram’s invocation to produce a work of art by displaying herself in an aesthetically pleasing manner, configuring the lighting to illuminate her face and body while leaving the background mysteriously in shadow. She has applied a black and white filter and possibly used other editing features. Her caption is serious, heartfelt, and simultaneously directed to everyone and no one in particular. Alternatively, Uh_Lexxuh’s video falls under Vine’s category of Music & Dance, providing subscribers to this category with fun and entertainment through a catchy song loop. Her lip sync and emojis add to the light-heartedness of the clip while the shaky camera and lack of any distinct video finishing techniques (though a filter may have been added using a third party app) make this performance seem less polished than nomnom209’s photo. There are more likes and comments on nomnom209’s picture, which was posted much more recently, but Uh_Lexxuh may have reached many more users through the video’s five revines, leading to it being played through 977 loops.
  • Limitations – need to talk to users and look at more content
    Possibilities
    Understanding what sorts of configurations of users and technology result in identity performances being obscured, visible or challenging to heteronormativity.
  • Limitations – need to talk to users and look at more content
    Possibilities
    Understanding what sorts of configurations of users and technology result in identity performances being obscured, visible or challenging to heteronormativity.
  • Limitations – need to talk to users and look at more content
    Possibilities
    Understanding what sorts of configurations of users and technology result in identity performances being obscured, visible or challenging to heteronormativity.
  • Workshop question
  • ×