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Imagining the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Instagram

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By Dr Tama Leaver (Curtin) & Dr Tim Highfield (QUT), presented at the Association of Internet Researcher's Conference IR16, 22 October 2015 in Phoenix, USA.

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Imagining the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Instagram

  1. 1. Imagining the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Instagram Dr Tama Leaver, Curtin University (@tamaleaver) Department of Internet Studies & Dr Tim Highfield, QUT (@timhighfield) Digital Media Research Centre
  2. 2. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Overview 1. Context: The Ends of Identity 2. Method: Instagram data collection 3. Imagining Birth: #ultrasound 4. Imagining Death: #funeral 5. Imagining the Ends of Identity Discussion / Conclusion
  3. 3. [1] Context/Background: The Ends of Identity
  4. 4. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix The Networked Self / Networked Publics • Persistence • Replicability • Scalability • Searchability (boyd, 2010) • + Ownership (Aufderheide, 2010)
  5. 5. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Shared assumptions of the ‘Networked Self’ and similar digital identity models … • Individual agency is central. • Presumption that identity should be controlled, curated and managed by the ‘self’ being presented. • When agency is not the controlling influence, this is seen as an issue to be overcome (eg better privacy settings, clearer Terms of Use).
  6. 6. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix What about the Ends of Identity? Following Erving Goffman (1959) if frontstage is self performed, and backstage is the more essential self, who builds the stage, and who remembers the performance(s)?  Before (online) agency: before birth, until the ‘reigns’ of online identity tools and performances are inherited?  After (online) agency: who looks after online traces of self once the self they refer to dies? (See Leaver, 2015)
  7. 7. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix At one end: parents as initial identity curators/creators online … • Parents/guardians set the initial parameters of online identity. • From ultrasound photos to cute toddler pics, losing that first tooth etc … • How do and should young people ‘inherit’ online identities?
  8. 8. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix “The emergence of such social media platforms as Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, Bundlr and YouTube facilitating the sharing of images has allowed the wide dissemination of imagery and information about the unborn in public forums. Indeed, sharing of the first ultrasound photograph on social media has become a rite of pregnancy for many women.” (Lupton, 2013, p. 42)
  9. 9. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix NB: The ‘Real Name’ Web, Identity Persistence and Consolidation "Nowadays, however, the anonymity of the [early] internet and the construction of online personas that do not reflect offline identities have been reconstructed as 'risk factors' of internet use … Governments, schools, parents and other concerned parties now routinely warn against online imposters, bullying and identity theft, and social network sites like Facebook or Google+ have policies requiring users to register with their real names and data, and prevent them from having more than one account.” (van Zoonen, 2013: 45)
  10. 10. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Privacy and ‘Intimate Surveillance’ ‘intimate surveillance [is] the purposeful and almost always well-intentioned surveillance of young people by parents, guardians, friends, and so forth’ (Leaver, forthcoming) Image:http://owletcare.com/
  11. 11. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix At the other end: Memorializing Performed Digital Selves? • What happens to profiles, accounts, photos, videos and other social traces after someone dies? • Do we have the right to delete it all? • Should it be memorialized? • Who decides? (very few laws address social media inheritance).
  12. 12. [2] Method: Collecting Photos from Instagram
  13. 13. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Building from studies using Twitter • To map and track social media use, we start with established methods for studying Twitter (see Weller et al 2014). • Topical datasets, using similar methods around varied subjects, including: – Breaking news – Politics – Crises – Popular culture – Sports
  14. 14. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Twitter data User name Tweet Hashtag Link Date and time @mention
  15. 15. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Tags and social media • Tagging did not originate with Twitter, although a prominent aspect of how users tweet. • Tags and hashtags used on other social media, although functionality, adoption, and intentions vary. – Instagram vs. Tumblr vs. Pinterest vs. Facebook…
  16. 16. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Instagram data Creator user name Image/ video Caption Likes Comments Tag @mention Date/time
  17. 17. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Tracking Instagram activity • Our initial approach builds on Twitter-specific work and tools, which allows for comparative analysis (methods and content). • The starting focus is on #tags – practices, functions, coverage of the same topic/tag, including across different platforms. • See Highfield and Leaver (2015). • But also an evolving space with ongoing challenges – emoji hashtags, for instance.
  18. 18. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Prototype Instagram methods • Following the Twitter analytics model of querying for specified keywords/hashtags, query Instagram API for similar tag-specific results. • The tag search query retrieves data including: media id, media type, user id, user name, caption, image/video links, time and date, location data, tags, comments (count and content), likes (count).
  19. 19. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Changing data • Unlike Twitter, content posted on Instagram is not static. – Captions editable after the fact • A photo or video posted can be added to by the original user and others viewing the file. – Liking, adding comments, replying to previous comments. • Rather than creating standalone data, comments are additions to the existing image – attached to this specific data point, not in isolation.  When should we ‘capture’ the data? (How long until comments typically finish, for example?)
  20. 20. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Authorship and intentions • Comments also impact upon what is being tracked and captured. • Tracking specific tags through the Instagram API returns media where the creator has, in the process of publishing the content, included these tags in their caption. • However, it also includes media where a follow-up comment includes these tags (although this can later be filtered out).
  21. 21. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Privacy isn’t a binary … Individual and cultural definitions and expectations of privacy are ambiguous, contested, and changing. People may operate in public spaces but maintain strong perceptions or expectations of privacy. Or, they may acknowledge that the substance of their communication is public, but that the specific context in which it appears implies restrictions on how that information is -- or ought to be -- used by other parties. Data aggregators or search tools make information accessible to a wider public than what might have been originally intended. (Markham & Buchanan, 2012, p. 6)
  22. 22. Instagram Timeline Table 1. Instagram Timeline 6 October 2010 Instagram app launched via Apple’s App Store 12 December 2010 1 million registered users 3 August 2011 150 million photos uploaded September 2011 10 million registered users 3 April 2012 Instagram releases Android version 9 April 2012 Facebook purchases Instagram for $US1 billion 26 July 2012 80 million registered users 16 August 2012 Instagram Photo Maps launched 5 November 2012 Instagram Profiles for the Web launched 5 December 2012 Instagram removes ability for photos to appear as ‘cards’ on Twitter 17 December 2012 Instagram Alters Terms of Use 18 December 2012 Instagram reverts to previous Terms of Use after public backlash 26 February 2013 100 million active monthly users 20 June 2013 Instagram adds video (15-seconds maximum) 10 July 2013 Instagram adds native web embedding for photos and videos 6 September 2013 150 million users 12 December 2013 Instagram Direct messaging service added 24 March 2014 200 million users 26 August 2014 Instagram/Facebook release Hyperlapse app via Apple App Store 10 November 2014 Instagram enables photo caption editing after posting 10 December 2014 300 million users, 70 million photos & videos shared per day 24 March 2015 Instagram/Facebook release Layout app via Apple App Store 27 April 2015 Instagram adds support for emoji hashtags 27 August 2015 Instagram adds support for portrait/landscape (non-square) photos/videos 1 September 2015 Instagram Direct overhauled, adding threaded comments and a ‘send to’ link for all media in the main Instagram stream
  23. 23. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Contextual Integrity in Ethics • Instagram may be experienced as private or partially private in everyday use (contextually), despite being public at a technical level (via the API). • The shift from an iPhone-only app to Android and Windows phone, plus web profiles, makes Instagram photos more and more public. • Researchers have to weigh intentionality in sharing, not just technical publicness (“it’s freely available online”).
  24. 24. [3] Imagining Birth: #ultrasound
  25. 25. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #ultrasound Table 2. #ultrasound tagged media on Instagram, 2014 Images Videos Overall Media March 3468 151 3619 April 3847 128 3975 May 3575 151 3726 3-Month Totals: 10890 430 11320
  26. 26. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #ultrasound breakdownTable 3. #ultrasound tagged images on Instagram, 10-11 March 2014 Total number of Instagram media items 295 Items deleted or made private within a fortnight 19 Sonograms 221 Sonogram without personally identifiable metadata 145 (66% of sonograms) Sonograms with personally identifiable metadata 76 (34% of sonograms) Collages / Professional Photos 45 Social experience of sonogram 22 Selfie 14 Historical sonogram 4 Sonogram humour 4 Other medical ultrasound (not foetal sonogram) 22 Advertising 4 Irrelevant 7
  27. 27. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #ultrasound • Advertising: 4 • No relevance (hashtag spam): 7 • Ultrasound humour: 4 • Other Medical Ultrasounds: 22 (including 1 dog) • Also 19 images deleted or made private
  28. 28. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Social Experiences of #ultrasounds • 22 photos depicting social experiences centred on prenatal ultrasounds • EG parent(s) travelling to/from the ultrasound • EG selfie and caption expression nervousness or excitement prior to ultrasound (14 of these were selfies)
  29. 29. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Collages/Professional Photos incorporating #ultrasounds • 45 photos either deliberate collages or professional photographs incorporating ultrasound photos • EG professional posed shot or ultrasound on screen or printed • EG collage showing ultrasound, parent(s) plus celebratory details (eg champagne glass or ‘it’s a boy/girl’ or planned baby name).
  30. 30. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Ultrasounds with personally identifiable text in the photo • 76 photos (34% of the sonograms) included personally identifiable information in the photo (usually generated by the ultrasound equipment) • Typically includes mother’s full name, mother’s DOB, medical facility, estimated gestation period to date, date of the scan, etc.
  31. 31. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Ultrasounds without personally identifiable text in the photo • 145 photos (66% of sonograms) do not include personally identifiable information in the photograph • Some deliberately obscured, some out of focus, most zoomed to avoid those details (either consciously or simply to take a better photograph)
  32. 32. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix On Instagram alone, every month thousands of foetal images are shared and publicly tagged as ultrasounds. Often these images capture the metadata visible on the ultrasound screen, which might include the mother’s name, the current date, the location of the scan, the expected delivery date, and other personal information. For many young people, this type of sharing will be their first mention on social media, the beginning of a long and likely loving record published by their parents, guardians and loved ones. (Leaver, 2015)
  33. 33. [4] Imagining Death: #funeral
  34. 34. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #funeralTable 4. #funeral tagged media on Instagram, 2014 Images Videos Overall Media March 5375 214 5589 April 5429 220 5649 May 5059 200 5259 3-Month Totals: 15863 634 16497
  35. 35. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #funeral breakdownTable 5. #funeral tagged images on Instagram, 10-11 March 2014 Total number of Instagram media items 405 Items deleted or made private within a fortnight 35 Funereal images – flowers, wreaths, without people 54 Selfie 81 Social experience of funerals (incl. posed, group photos and funeral dress choices) 164 Collages / curated images 33 Advertising 11 Historical imagery 12 (incl. 1 #tbt) Non-human funerals 6 Funeral humour 16 Visible deceased 7 (1 person; 6 pets) Visible identifiers (name/photo) of deceased in image 21 Irrelevant 94*
  36. 36. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Social experience of #funerals • 164 images, including posed shots, group shots, funeral wardrobe choices, journey to the funeral • 81 images were selfies (self-portrait photos either of an individual or group taken with a mobile device) – Recurring imagery of sad/forlorn expression, clad in black • But not universal – smiling common too • #funeral as means for remembering and celebrating deceased – but also the personal experience and context (getting ready, on way) • See also: Gibbs et al. (2015)
  37. 37. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Funereal #funeral imagery • 54 funereal images (without people) • Flower arrangements, wreathes and typical funeral icons • Coffins, cemeteries, and images of the funeral ceremonies also represented (not as frequently) • 6 non-human (pet) funerals
  38. 38. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #funeral humour • While smaller in number (16), there were still a range of humorous images and memes – motivational ( ‘a funeral for my fat’) – emphasising funeral as a farewell rather than death – comedic subversion – death-related memes
  39. 39. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix “Irrelevant” - non-funereal #funeral • 94 images non-funereal • Images relating to: – various fandoms and fan practices, including fanfic – through visual media – as well as screencaps of on- screen funerals or cemeteries (e.g. Hawaii Five-0, The Vampire Diaries, Bones). – The album Funeral by Arcade Fire – Funeral doom music genre and the related Norwegian band Funeral • NB: 35 images deleted/made private within a fortnight
  40. 40. [5] Imagining the Ends of Identity Discussion / Conclusion
  41. 41. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix #funeral / #ultrasound • Bulk of both sets largely depicted social experiences, explicitly or implicitly intended for an imagined audience • Common types, but quite different sets • #funeral much higher proportion of selfies, humour and irrelevant (off-topic) images • #ultrasound set much more focused, less variation
  42. 42. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Social experiences • For funerals, the presentation of self rather than the deceased further underlines social mediation – personal experiences, family and friends, reflection and memory • This does not overlook or forget the context for these images – use of captions and comments to share this information rather than or in addition to the images?
  43. 43. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Privacy • 19 #ultrasound and 35 #funeral items deleted or made private within a fortnight (potentially rethinking sharing publicly). • Many #ultrasound images obscured visual metadata about mother/fetus/location/date/etc • 34% (76) sonograms publicly sharing visual metadata may be cause for concern (since Instagram’s shifting publicness may occlude how public these items are). In these cases personally identifiable information = the initial (named) social media footprint preceding birth. • Whether conscious choice (informed) or not, very hard to tell.
  44. 44. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Identity/presence forming • All shared #ultrasound photos are indicative of a growing culture of sharing photos of young people by parents/guardians/etc. • Literacies regarding the persistence of this data are haphazard, rarely informed by the apps/platforms, showing a cultural need for widespread embedding of mobile media literacies. • Social norms about sharing these images are evolving because of affordances, as much as driving them
  45. 45. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix References • Aufderheide, P. (2010). Copyright, Fair Use, and Social Networks. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (pp. 274-303). Routledge. • boyd, d. (2010). Social Network Sites and Networked Publics: Affordances, Dymanics and Implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (pp. 39-58). Routledge. • Bruns, A., & Burgess, J. (2011). Mapping Online Publics. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ • Gibbs, M., Meese, J., Arnold, M., Nansen, B., & Carter, M. (2015). #Funeral and Instagram: death, social media, and platform vernacular. Information, Communication & Society , 18 (3), 255–268. • Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Book. • Highfield, T., & Leaver, T. (2015). A methodology for mapping Instagram hashtags. First Monday, 20(1). http://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i1.5563 • Leaver, T. (2015). Researching the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Social Media. Social Media + Society, 1(1). http://doi.org/10.1177/2056305115578877 • Leaver, T. (Forthcoming). Born Digital? Presence, Privacy, and Intimate Surveillance. In Hartley, John & W. Qu (Eds.), Re-Orientation: Translingual Transcultural Transmedia. Studies in narrative, language, identity, and knowledge. Fudan University Press. • Lupton, D. (2013). The Social Worlds of the Unborn. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. • Markham, A., & Buchanan, E. (2012). Ethical Decision-Making and Internet Research Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee (Version 2.0). Retrieved from http://aoir.org/reports/ethics2.pdf • Weller, K., Bruns, A., Burgess, J., & Mahrt, M. (Eds.). (2014). Twitter and Society. New York: Peter Lang. • Zoonen, L. van. (2013). From identity to identification: fixating the fragmented self. Media, Culture & Society, 35(1), 44–51. doi:10.1177/0163443712464557
  46. 46. @tamaleaver [Curtin, Department of Internet Studies] & @timhighfield [QUT, Digital Media Research Centre] Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2015 #IR16, Phoenix Questions or Comments? For more details and slides: www.tamaleaver.net @tamaleaver t.leaver@curtin.edu.au www.timhighfield.net @timhighfield t.highfield@qut.edu.au

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