There are multiple research projects in the Visual Media Workshop that explore digital media culture.
Posthuman Digital Visual Methods in Research
Two dominant paradigms underscore the research methods generally used to study socially mediated images of the body: representationalism, where photos are encouraged to be read as texts; and performativity, where images are seen as curated versions of the self. I suggest that rather than the fault of researchers themselves, these paradigms emerge from the research assemblage (Fox and Alldred 2014) or the habitual arrangement among researcher, participant(s), methods, and images of bodies. I argue that both paradigms compel distance and a degree of disregard between the image-maker, the images they produce, and the researchers who studies them. Drawing on new materialism, this on-going research project introduce a series of novel digital visual methodologies adapted for networked environments that bring intimacy among writer, researcher, and image. These methods include: 1. (Meat)ing in the story, 2. Networked intra-viewing, 3. Reading networked images horizontally, and 4. Reading the cuts. I elaborate these methods via the narratives of the various research projects I've worked on over the past 4 years.
Methods and Ethics of Digital Visual of Bodies on Social Media
The rise of mobile phones through the 1990's and 2000's, the launch of the first front facing in 2010, and the mass growth of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram from 2009 onward are the trio of technological apparatuses that have contributed to the rise in the everyday and vernacular sharing of images of the body online like selfies and sexting. Theorists have becomes particularly interested in studying the various uses and meanings, regulations and discourses around socially mediated images of the body like, for instance, selfies (Senft & Baym 2015; Lasen 2010;2012; Warfield 2017) and sexting (Albury 2014;2015; Tiidenberg 2015;2016), online porn (Bol 2017; Van der Nagel 2017), and graphic and/or violent images (Allbaran-Torres, 2017).
Concurrent to research on the socially mediated body, scholars like Charles Ess, Annette Markham, Adrienne Massanari, and Michael Zimmer have examined, published, and proposed guidelines (e.g. AoIR Guidelines for Internet Research 2.0) by which Internet researchers may conduct more ethical research in the emerging and ephemeral spaces online.
Although significant canons of literature have been produced in recent years in both of these terrains, little work has been published specifically at the intersections of digital ethics and research on images of the body shared on social media. This paper proposes to fill this gap and provide future researchers of phenomena like selfies and sexting, a summary of the methodologies and research ethics concerns that published researchers have experienced in conducting empirical studies on images of the body shared on social media.
Our research involved 18 interviews with international academics who have researched, written about, and published on this topic. The interviews inquired about their decision making process to select one methodology over another, it also asked them about their experiences with their research ethics review process, and it further examined their personal ethical decision-making processes that occurred once the empirical work got underway.
To view the findings of this research see our conference poster.
Or new scholar handout for resources and findings.