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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks

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Edited By Nathan Rambukkana

This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream – in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres.
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
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Chapter Seventeen: The 1x1 Common: The Role of Instagram’s Hashtag in the Development and Maintenance of Feminist Exchange

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The 1x1 Common: The Role of Instagram’s Hashtag in the Development and Maintenance of Feminist Exchange

MAGDALENA OLSZANOWSKI

It’s little blurbs we are sharing and connecting through commonalities; [it’s] a lot of emotion in a 1x1 square. It’s crazy!

—Lanie1

The 1x1 square referred to by Lanie Heller above is the Instagram image. Lanie, a long-time Instagram user, is remarking not simply on an image, or a form of expression, but also on a point of network, a point of affective exchange. Similarly, “photography must be understood simultaneously as a social practice, a networked technology, a material object and an image” (Larsen & Sandbye, 2014, p. xxiii). Starting from this manifold definition of photography and the multiplicity of the Instagram image, this chapter unpacks and analyzes hashtag publics on Instagram. Since it launched on 6 October 2010, Instagram, a Facebook-owned IB-MSN (image-based mobile social network)2 centered on personal user–uploaded photographic content, has provided a framework for a heterogeneous mobile community out of a larger mobile public (Goggin, 2008). In December 2010, the ability to post searchable hashtags to photos was added, and the potential for organizing via hashtags came to fruition. This chapter argues that hashtags play a vital role in the production of intimate publics and are co-constitutive in the development and maintenance of communicative exchange between women on Instagram. It also demonstrates the ways in which a community of women...

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