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  • An exploration of recurring visual images on Instagram to examine the impact of networked technology on social norms

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  • New technologies, among them social networking, appear to restructuring traditional ways of communication that society has been accustomed to. One social network, Instagram, is making social networking more of a visual experience. Instagram makes people more visually aware of their surroundings due to the smartphone that enables high-quality photographic experiences.

    This research argues that contemporary social norms result from the use of photographic images. That is, to immediately visualise experience and upload that experience in image form on Instagram. This research argues that when individuals upload content to Instagram, they contribute to the production of meaning. Four social norms emerge from this production of meaning: mediocrity and laziness, visual language, we the product, and becoming the features. The researcher posits the need for a study of visual language that is emerging from networked technology with the aim to deepen the understanding of contemporary social norms.

    This research uses a two-pronged qualitative strategy to capture the complexity of the material. These prongs are firstly five semi-structured interviews with a sample whose age varies from 22 to 26, and secondly netnographic research that collects a series of recurring images on Instagram which are used for a visual analysis in the interviews.

    The argument made here is influenced by the work of Nick Couldry (2012) who contemplated what the impact of evaluating each other’s performances on social media would have on social norms. This research also applies Gilles Deleuze’s (1993) concept of the fold to understand how Instagram produces subjective meaning within images. Deleuze’s concept extends Couldry’s argument and emphasises the key findings.