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Abstract: Tap that, Hack that, Map that

Tap that, Hack that, Map that: Economies, Cultures, and Materialites of Instagram

As one of the most used visual image social media in the Global North, Instagram has exhibited a variety of global impacts pertaining to platform politics, aesthetics and taste, ecologies and competition, economies and commerce, cultures and communities, lifespans and trajectories, and materialities and physicalities since its inception in 2010. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork among Influencers and their practice since the mid-2000s, this talk surveys three attention economies around Instagram, focusing particularly on the economics, cultures, and materialities of the platform through networks of Influencers, waves of global grieving posts, and the proliferation of Instagrammable places.

In assessing the commercial and visual history of Instagram, we discuss the creation of Instagram Influencers, the specificities of internet celebrity on Instagram in distinct to other popular social media, the circulation of abstract and monetary value on Instagram, the dominant principles governing advertorials, and recent controversies pertaining to monetizing Instagram content. In assessing the vernacular and transient communities on Instagram, we discuss how the platform has come to be a performative and communicative space, where shared politics, aesthetics, locations, or interests bind people together at different levels of intimacy, especially around public hashtags during global grieving events. In assessing the spillover effects and ideologies perpetuated by Instagram, we discuss how Instagram culture is driving shifts in the materiality of the physical world, as businesses and cultural institutions strive to become Insta-worthy spaces and capture fleeting audiences.

Considering how visibility (labours) on Instagram have become placeholders for insurance, importance, and impact, this talk closes by proposing and opposing the perfect Instagram Experience as the platform approaches its tenth anniversary. Portions of this talk are based on Crystal’s forthcoming books, Internet Fame: Understanding Celebrity Online (2018, Emerald Publishing), Please Subscribe: Influencers and the Commodification of Everyday Life (contracted, MIT Press), and Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures (contracted, Polity Press, co-authored with Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield).


For keynote: Abidin, Crystal. 2018. “Tap that, Hack that, Map that: Economies, Cultures, and Materialites of Instagram.” Instagram Conference 2018, London. June 1, 2018.

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