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Is being #instagay different from an #lgbttakeover?


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*Edited version; see full conference paper here:
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. 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: 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: 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 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: (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: (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: 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: 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