Visual Methods for Digital Research Online Symposium
The symposium will offer insight into methodologies to study cultural and social practices through and with social media visual content. It will tackle questions related to the strengths and weaknesses of computational tools and techniques to produce deep understandings of these practices, suggest alternative ways (e.g., ethnographic, feminist, interpretative) to approach “big data”, and provide guidance to investigate the intersection of technology, media and culture. Applications of these “alternative” visual methods will be discussed in relation to a range of contemporary social media platforms, among which, Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).
The symposium will develop through ‘visual methods tasters’ delivered by five international experts in the field. The tasters will be organised in two sessions and will be followed by a final roundtable discussion. Each taster will include a Q&As element. Students will also be able to submit questions on visual methods ahead of the symposium.
Session 1: Making Big Data Small? (3 tasters)
Researching visual protest and politics with “extra-hard” data (Suay Özkula)
Drawing on worked examples, we suggest that contemporary research presents several new potentialities for “extra-hard” visual data, including: (1) rich cross-project comparisons; (2) complementing platform data with on-the-ground engagement, and (3) quali-quanti visual methods. These allow for rich data journeys through multi-modality, hybridity, comprehensive data curation, reiterative image data collection and interpretation, and the inclusion of contextual reflections in focused visual research.
Feminist digital ethnographies in an algorithmic interface (Radhika Gajjala)
This presentation draws on continuing work that I am doing with a team of co-researchers. We examine the research challenges faced in attempting to use tools developed for running computational data analytics on various kinds of data to examine social media events through a feminist ethnographic lens. Our explorations open up ways to appropriate computational tools meant for “big data” research” in order to understand smaller chunks of data while emphasizing their situatedness. As Annika Richterich notes “researchers need to move away from bigdata-driven approaches, focused merely on techno-methodological innovation, towards data-discursive research foregrounding ethical controversies and risks as well as moral change. This discursive development needs to occur in combination with innovative approaches for engaging potentially affected individuals and stakeholders”
Brief notes on collective and embodied visual analysis
Drawing from her work on visual artefacts linked to #HermanaYoSíTeCreo, Patricia Prieto-Blanco will share some thoughts on “alternative” ways to work with large data-sets. She will explain how working collaboratively, developing an ethnographic sensibility, and applying feminist principles of exploring and disrupting customary modes of knowledge production, allows for implicit rules of the perceptual, representational and epistemological codes of concrete audio-visual cultures to emerge.
Session 2: Researching Social Media Visuals as Media, Technology and Culture (2 tasters)
Moving with digitally mediated stories: A method of virtual dwelling
This presentation will offer some thoughts on how, through the method of virtual dwelling, social media stories from marginalized and targeted communities can gain traction. Through a case study of multiracial identity accounts on Instagram, Wiens will discuss how mixed-race representation can stand as sites of expression that function as alternate rhetorical spaces where mixed-raced vernaculars are mediated, validated, and circulated. By demarcating embodied data curation as a key space of method and analysis, this work suggests that the relationships we develop in community as researchers with located acts of transgression, like these posts, are significant to consider more fully, offering a glimpse of what she calls “the ethos of the in-between”: a methodology and ontoepistemology of intermediality.
Reading Memes as Media Events: The Case of Barbie
(Shana MacDonald )
Building on a chapter from my forthcoming book Memeing the Resistance, I will discuss the value of reading memes as a medium that are tied up in complex sets of technological and cultural affordances that often produce media events. In doing so we can better understand the role they play in the production and shaping of contemporary knowledge, politics, and identity. This method of looking at the medium specificity of memes reveals how they inform current notions of time, space, and social identity. Through the case study of the explosion of Barbie memes from the summer of 2023, I consider how intertextuality helps re-perform our cultural scripts to often critical ends. I will trace the texts, contexts, and paratexts of several Barbie memes to better understand the discursive force of memes within contemporary culture.
Prof Radhika Gajjala
Radhika Gajjala (PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 1998) is a Professor of Media and Communication and of American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, USA.
Dr Shana MacDonald
Dr. Shana MacDonald is Associate Professor in Communication Arts at the University of Waterloo, Canada.
Dr Suay Melisa Özkula
Dr. Suay Özkula is Research Fellow at Paris-Lodron-University Salzburg, Austria.
Dr Patricia Prieto-Blanco
Dr. Patricia Prieto-Blanco is Lecturer in Digital Media Practice at Lancaster University, UK.
Dr Brianna Wiens
Dr. Brianna Wien is Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo, Canada.
This is an online training event. Part of this event will be recorded.