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Metaphors of Internet

Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity

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Edited By Annette N. Markham and Katrin Tiidenberg

What happens when the internet is absorbed into everyday life? How do we make sense of something that is invisible but still so central? A group of digital culture experts address these questions in Metaphors of Internet: Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity.

Twenty years ago, the internet was imagined as standing apart from humans. Metaphorically it was a frontier to explore, a virtual world to experiment in, an ultra-high-speed information superhighway. Many popular metaphors have fallen out of use, while new ones arise all the time. Today we speak of data lakes, clouds and AI. The essays and artwork in this book evoke the mundane, the visceral, and the transformative potential of the internet by exploring the currently dominant metaphors. Together they tell a story of kaleidoscopic diversity of how we experience the internet, offering a richly textured glimpse of how the internet has both disappeared and at the same time, has fundamentally transformed everyday social customs, work, and life, death, politics, and embodiment.

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Chapter Eight: ‘Instagrammable’ as a Metaphor for Looking and Showing in Visual Social Media (Katrin Tiidenberg)

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CHAPTER EIGHT

‘Instagrammable’ as a Metaphor for Looking and Showing in Visual Social Media

katrin tiidenberg

Over the past seven years, I’ve studied different social media platforms and apps, different groups of people and different types of visual content through different research projects. My participants say a lot of interesting things, among them, about looking and showing:

I remember looking at other people’s sexy selfies on tumblr and getting curious about what I’d look like … so I took some, and of course, when you do, then they kind of sit there and burn on your laptop, demanding to be let out. (…) So I posted, and it’s become this weird dance. It’s clearly about the attention, but not in the exhibitionist sense … it’s more of a dialogue

In this piece,1 I am interested in the situational elements that shape and delimit what people are doing and what they think they are doing when they are posting, liking, or hating on social media visuals, fro example selfies, or reaction gifs. Using Goffman and Bourdieu alongside the work of affordance theorist James Gibson (1979), I suggest that once we combine situational proprieties with affordances, we can understand the nuances of looking and showing on social media. Further, I propose “instagrammable2” as a metaphor for making sense of how social media ←65 | 66→affords different practices of looking and showing, but also for understanding what the “appropriate” ways of looking and showing on...

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