Keynote Speakers

Richard Rogers

Richard Rogers is Professor of New Media & Digital Culture, Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. He is director of the Govcom.org Foundation as well as the Digital Methods Initiative, known for the development of the Issuecrawler and other software tools for the study of the natively digital. Rogers also directs the Netherlands Research School for Media Studies. He is author of Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press, 2004), awarded best information science book of the year by the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) and Digital Methods (MIT Press, 2013), awarded outstanding book of the year by the International Communication Association (ICA). Rogers has received research grants from among other institutions as the Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and Gates Foundation.

Keynote Address: Otherwise engaged: Social Media from vanity metrics to critical analytics

In the age of social media the dominant mode of engagement is distraction. Whilst appearing oxymoronic, distracted modes of engagement have invited the coining of such terms as ‘flickering man’, ‘continuous partial attention’ and ‘ambient awareness.’ One’s engagement in social media (however distracted) is also routinely measured. Klout scores and similar are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because they measure success or ’success theater’ in social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies at least three projects: a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. The second is a corrective interface project, for users are continually distracted by number badges calling to be clicked; there is a movement afoot (initiated by John Seely Brown) for so-called ‘encalming technology’. The talk, however, focuses on the third project, i.e., how one may rework the metrics. In all, I make four moves. In an application of digital methods, which seeks to repurpose online devices and their methods for social research, I propose to repurpose Klout scores and other (media monitoring) engagement measures for social research. Building upon ‘alt metrics’ for science, an alternative metrics project, I propose another one, albeit for social issue spaces rather than for science. In order to do so, I call for a change in the networks under study by social researchers, that is, a shift from the social network (with its vanity metrics) to the issue network. The change of networks (so to speak) enables concentrating on the opportunities for an alternative metrics for the social (together with social issue engagement), which I call critical analytics. Critical analytics would seek to measure the ‘otherwise engaged,’ or other modes of engagement (than vanity) such as dominant voice, concern, commitment, positioning and alignment, thereby furnishing digital methods with a conceptual and applied research agenda concerning online metrics.

Crystal Abidin

Dr Crystal Abidin is a socio-cultural anthropologist of vernacular internet cultures, particularly young people’s relationships with internet celebrity, self-curation, and vulnerability. She is Postdoctoral Fellow with the Media Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC) at Jönköping University, and Adjunct Researcher with the Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT) at Curtin University. Crystal’s forthcoming book, Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online (Emerald Publishing, 2018) critically analyzes the contemporary histories and impacts of internet-native celebrity today. Reach her at wishcrys.com or @wishcrys.

Keynote Address: Tap that, Hack that, Map that: Economies, Cultures, and Materialites of Instagram

As one of the most used visual image social media in the Global North, Instagram has exhibited a variety of global impacts pertaining to platform politics, aesthetics and taste, ecologies and competition, economies and commerce, cultures and communities, lifespans and trajectories, and materialities and physicalities since its inception in 2010. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork among Influencers and their practice since the mid-2000s, this talk surveys three attention economies around Instagram, focusing particularly on the economics, cultures, and materialities of the platform through networks of Influencers, waves of global grieving posts, and the proliferation of Instagrammable places.

In assessing the commercial and visual history of Instagram, we discuss the creation of Instagram Influencers, the specificities of internet celebrity on Instagram in distinct to other popular social media, the circulation of abstract and monetary value on Instagram, the dominant principles governing advertorials, and recent controversies pertaining to monetizing Instagram content. In assessing the vernacular and transient communities on Instagram, we discuss how the platform has come to be a performative and communicative space, where shared politics, aesthetics, locations, or interests bind people together at different levels of intimacy, especially around public hashtags during global grieving events. In assessing the spillover effects and ideologies perpetuated by Instagram, we discuss how Instagram culture is driving shifts in the materiality of the physical world, as businesses and cultural institutions strive to become Insta-worthy spaces and capture fleeting audiences.

Considering how visibility (labours) on Instagram have become placeholders for insurance, importance, and impact, this talk closes by proposing and opposing the perfect Instagram Experience as the platform approaches its tenth anniversary. Portions of this talk are based on Crystal’s forthcoming books, Internet Fame: Understanding Celebrity Online (2018, Emerald Publishing), Please Subscribe: Influencers and the Commodification of Everyday Life (contracted, MIT Press), and Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures (contracted, Polity Press, co-authored with Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield).

Adam Arvidsson

Adam Arvidsson Professor in Sociology of Culture and Communication at the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Napoli and co-director of the Centre for Digital Ethnography at the University of Milano. He has published extensively on digital media, consumer culture, digital culture and, in recent years, new forms of value creation and measurement. Adam is the author of many compelling academic books and articles such as Brands: Meaning and Value in Media Culture (2006, Routledge), The Ethical Economy: Rebuilding Value after the Crisis (2013, Columbia University Press), Brand Public (2016, Journal of Consumer Research), and Facebook and Finance: On the Social Logic of the Derivative (2016, Theory, Culture & Society).

Keynote Address: Branded Moment on Instagram

How do ordinary people relate to brands on Instagram? This is an important question as advertising and branding investments in social media, and particularly on Instagram are growing, and as brands are relying on the content that consumers generate on these platforms as marketing channels.In the literature, there has been significant attention to how brands and other aspects of consumer culture play out on social media. However, the question of how ordinary people relate to brands has, so far, not been adequately explored. This is because most of the relevant literature has concentrated on two kinds of very visible ways of relating to brands on social media, and on the internet in general. To simplify, social media users are portrayed as brand fans who use brands as sources of identity, and sometimes community. Alternatively they are portrayed as fame seekers, who deploy branded hashtags and other branded content as platforms for gaining visibility and popularity. However our research shows that as empirical generalizations, neither brand fans nor fame seekers provide a good description of how ordinary consumers relate to brands on social media.

At the same time social media offer access to the kinds of large data sets that are able to give insights into consumer practices on a mass scale, in ways that were either impossible or prohibitively expensive before. In this paper we combine the availability of such data sets with interviews to develop a theory of how ordinary users relate to brands on Instagram. First we use a quantitative analysis to show that only about 1 per cent of our sample fit either of the models of brand fan or fame seeker that most of the literature has concentrated on. We then use a combination of quantitative and qualitative digital methods, along with conventional interviews to understand how the remaining 99 per cent relate to brands. We find that these ordinary users follow a common pattern: They post rarely on brands. When they post on brands, their postings may contain aspects of both brand fandom and fame seeking. However the most important common characteristic of their postings is that brands feature as objects that are able to confer a certain gravitas on ordinary life moments, giving them the kinds of momentousness that makes then worthy of being shared. When singularizing ordinary moments as worthy of sharing however, brands also tend to standardize these moments, making them confer to a very limited repertoire of visual tropes. For most ordinary consumers brands principally serve as a device that renders a moment common, generic and hence shareable.