Instagrammers as Information Community
SP16: INFO-200 Sec 10 – Inf. Comm – Blog Post #2
In 1945, Vannevar Bush describes an advanced form of photography and note taking:
One can now picture a future investigator in his laboratory. His hands are free, and he is not anchored. As he moves about and observes, he photographs and comments. Time is automatically recorded to tie the two records together. If he goes into the field, he may be connected by radio to his recorder. As he ponders over his notes in the evening, he again talks his comments into the record. His typed record, as well as his photographs, may both be in miniature, so that he projects them for examination. (Section 3, para. 29)
In As We May Think, Bush not only describes digital photography, he calls it “dry photography”, as a natural progression of technology but also the way in which people interact with photography. He imagines an investigator records his observations with image and sound with the ability to immediately review these notes. That sounds awfully close to how we use our phones today to take pictures and videos to record and experience our daily lives with the addition of publishing and easy sharing.
This kind of daily photography and online interaction is common today. I am interested in the information community of Instagram users or “Instagrammers”, participants in one of the many ways people share information online today. Instagram is an online mobile photo sharing app that allows users to share photos and short videos. Similar to other social media sites, members of the Instagram community can interact with each other by commenting, liking, and sharing other people’s posts.
Hashtags (a user created vocabulary of keywords) form another important feature of this community, by linking like minded images, topics, and users together. There are large scale groups unified by hashtags like the Weekend Hashtag Project and more idiosyncratic and individualized tags. Hashtags are often used to link together participants in an event in real time or a movement that happens asynchronously.
Using Durrance and Fisher’s definition of Information Communities (2003), this group could be defined as a “online community network” (p. 2). Instagram provides a place for people to give and receive information. Outside of the app there are blogs and other related information sharing sites around the interests of app users, whether its a subject interest or people seeking information to improve their photography. Instagrammers and their subgroups are a narrow focus within the broader community of photo sharing sites and social media.
Durrance and Fisher also state five characteristics that information communities share (pp. 3-5) and Instagrammers certainly can be described in these terms. The information seeking and sharing primarily happens online, taking advantage of technology for the purpose of information sharing. Users visit the app to upload, view, and interact with photos. Users also interact with external sources such as blogs or in person meetups brought together through their participation in the Instagram community. According to Pew Research Center, the Instagram user demographics skew towards a younger crowd though they span an otherwise diverse group of people, (p. 13) who then interact and collaborate via the photo app. Topics can include photojournalism, art, hobbies, fashion & lifestyle, travel, political action, family life and much more. Hashtags on photos are used to share specific events or activities, as a way of meeting people’s needs seeking information through the app. Instagrammers share back channel information (updates, directions, translations, and visual guides) that allows other to participate, digitally and in person, that might have barriers otherwise. Instagrammers create distinct socially connected communities among users that are part of larger community.
I look forward to exploring the information seeking behaviors of this information community. I hope this will inform my work as an information professional because as online image sharing becomes more ubiquitous, metadata and image management are even more vital to organizing information.
Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/
Duggan, M. (2013). Photo and video sharing grow online. (Pew Internet & American Life Project). Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media//Files/Reports/2013/PIP_Photos%20and%20videos%20online_102813.pdf
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/community/n248.xml