As Lev Manovich suggests in his monograph Instagram and Contemporary Image (2017), the Instagram platform has drastically altered traditional visual aesthetics, how digital images are distributed and archived, and how the practice of photography is performed, particularly within the myriad rhythms of daily life. This study takes this statement as its starting point to explore the experience of contemporary urban photographers who use the social media platform Instagram as their primary mode of distribution and a site for communal engagement. This paper is particularly focused on elucidating the methodological approaches implemented to understand the full scope of this experience: netnography and phenomenology, the latter being a research method that has emerged out of necessity due to the steady digitalization of social worlds, and the former being one that questions the way we experience the world as human beings. This paper specifically argues that amalgamating these approaches and using them as complementary pairs permits the most comprehensive avenue to identify the most ubiquitous depictions of urban areas, which explicit factors motivate Instagram users to repeatedly upload photos exhibiting familiar imagery, and what notions we can draw about how urban centers are experienced from each of the aforementioned questions. Approaching these questions through a combination of the aforementioned methodologies will provide a clearer and more thorough understanding of how social media photographic practices transform how geographic places are experienced and defined whilst still retaining a sense of how fostering social connection, in this case through digital photography, remains pivotal to human existence.
Instagram, Instagrammability, Social Media Listening, Phenomenology, Methodology, Netnography, Tourist Gaze
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Lecturer, Professional Communications, RMIT University Vietnam, Viet Nam