'Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal': cultural practices of repetition in (visual) social media
Tim Highfield @timhighfield
Stefanie Duguay @dugstef
The cultural logics and practices of everyday
social media use, the affordances and
capabilities of platforms and users
Examination of social media content for
personal and public LGBTQ expression
(Visual) social media content’s potential to
influence individuals, attitudes, practices,
platforms, and the presentation and
interpretation of identity
On repetition and loops
(visual) social media content
– its formats, practices,
(cf. Cho, 2015; Ash, 2015;
Poulaki, 2015; Maeder &
The importance of repetition
to memes, to internet culture
but differences between discrete repetitions of
‘same practice, different instance’ and the
perpetual looping of GIFs and Vines?
On visual social media
Cultural and social media literacies, practices
including identity, play, fandom, community,
image-sharing apps, platforms, cultures
selfies (Senft & Baym, 2015, et al.).
GIFs (Eppink, 2014; Ash, 2015)
memes and macros (Shifman, 2014; Milner,
2013; Miltner, 2014...)
LGBTQ social media
Use of digital tech for
(e.g. Cooper & Dzara, 2010; Raun, 2014)
Embodied and visual social media
From <> (Campbell, 2004; Correll 1995) to 🍆
Exchanging porn & dickpics (Mowlabocus, 2010;
Heteronormativity/homonormativity often persist
Platform politics (Gillespie, 2010; Gehl, 2014)
Political economy of platforms (van Dijck, 2013)
Software, algorithms, and design (Bucher,
2012; Light & McGrath, 2010)
Materiality of visual objects (Buse, 2010)
Launched by Twitter in 2013
Over 40 million users reported in 2013
24% of American teens (Pew, 2015)
6.5 second videos
Featured Viners, memes, # conversations
Founded 2007; ~260 million blogs (Oct
2015); bought by Yahoo! in 2013
Blogging (of sorts), emphasis on resharing
importance of the visual (GIFs, videos,
crossposted media, users’ art and photos)
(Lasting) communities formed around
identity, content types, fandoms
(Tiidenberg, 2015; Fink & Miller, 2014; Renninger,
2014; Cho, 2015; Petersen, 2014)
#lgbt on Vine and Tumblr (safe-search on), four
days in June 2015 – most recent ten Vines,
Vines on Tumblr, GIFs on Tumblr added to
Following review of corpus, 30 Vines, 15
Tumblr Vines, 30 GIF posts (including GIF
series) in our analysis
Coding – using approach from Morse &
Richards (2002), descriptive, topic, and analytic
coding; iterative design; selected findings
Vines created to tell a story, with set-up and
‘resolution’ in six seconds
Series of GIFs tell narratives through
progressions of feeling
series of loops work both in isolation and
in sequence (rather than overload/over-
extend a single GIF, make the looping
focused and efficient)
Loops accentuate humour – repetition to let
a joke sink in, to realise full details (situation,
set-up, reaction); more effective in more
Reward rewatching, without needing to
actively seek out replaying; surreal and
ridiculous content can become accentuated
Vines build sexual tension or other feelings,
especially through drawing attention to
Temporal structure of Vines with a common
point of highest tension/emotion several
seconds in, encouraging a second/third/[n]th
GIFs primarily focus on one emotion,
accentuate a single feature (with diversity of
feels through series of GIFs)
Immerse in emotion through facial focus,
encouraging identifying with these feelings
User creativity on Vine through mash-ups
and remixes, personal engagement with
existing media (including lip syncing)
Looping draws attention to the detail a Viner
has put into the video (e.g. rapid succession
of curated clips; splicing of music; special
effects and editing; signatures and
GIFs feature user creativity through
artworks, animations, and intertextual
fandom, isolating and recontextualizing
moments for other purposes
Using secondary media to stand in for
Loops provide emphasis for statements
around Pride, LGBT rights, marriage
Mix of personal views and identification with
ideas through celebrities
Looping media + LGBTQ identity
Small sample, researchers’ interpretation
Need for further platform analysis & interviews
Tumblr’s participatory fandom perpetuates
LGBTQ images from mainstream media = young,
white, high SES, domestic, ‘cute’
Vine’s norm of self-representation = wider
diversity in terms of race, gender, SES,
expressing more explicit sexual desire and
messages challenging norms and stereotypes
Tumblr’s mainstreaming was evident in cross-
Talking points and next steps
Differences in looping content, user practices,
communities – the demographics of the
platforms, cross-platform posting?
Clear contrasts between Vines on Vine and
Vines shared on Tumblr in our corpus
Beyond #lgbt – unexpected/differently
intentioned uses of hashtag within sample, the
motivations of using #lgbt vs. LGBTQ identity
construction through visual social media;
everydayness of shared loops
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