Assignment 3 – Report
Name: Taras Rego s3604578
I declare that in submitting all work for this assessment I have read, understood and agree to the content and expectations of the assessment declaration – https://www.rmit.edu.au/students/support-and-facilities/student-support/equitable-learning-services
(TIP: These blog entry titles would have links to each weekly post in your blog).
Making Media blog links
This report responds directly to the course prompt:
How do the affordances of Instagram affect the way photos and videos are authored, published and distributed in the network?
Word Count: 1099
Instagram: Aesthetics and Themes influenced by Affordances and Constraints
This report will examine the affect of affordances and constraints on authoring, publishing and distributing photos and videos on the online social platform Instagram. This report considers the ways in which both previous and current affordances and constraints have current influences on Instagram practices and trends. Instagram’s affordances and constraints have evolved and changed over time, which has impacted present day practice. Initially, the app limited media type to photographs, dimensions to square and posts to one photo. Now, Instagram’s affordances have changed to allow the publishing of videos, dimensions to move beyond just the square and the ability to post multiple photos or videos (McCrackin 2017). I will delve into the ways in which Instagram content is authored, published and distributed to establish aesthetic and content themes is impacted by the affordances and constraints of the app itself.
This report establishes its assertions through engaging with a number of key concepts and ideas. Affordances, to start with, is a term that was discussed extensively by Norman (1998, pp. 9), and refers to the perceived and actual properties of an object and how this impacts how an object is used. In comparison, constraints refer to the limitations of an object, and, in the context of this report, Instagram.
Clarification of the term network in relation to Web 2.0 is also necessary to establish where Instagram is situated within that network. The defining characteristics of Web 2.0 include “co-creativity, participation and openness” (Lister et al. 2009, pp. 204), which in the case of Instagram refers to the ways in which you can author, publish and distribute and re-distribute materials. If we consider the ways in which Web 2.0 has allowed for audiences to become producers, Instagram is a platform that exists within the network to facilitate these re-imagined relationships between producers and consumers of media. Both the affordances of Web 2.0 and of Instagram allow for this to occur.
Continuing, it is necessary to define the terms authoring, publishing and distributing in relation to Instagram. Deriving my own definitions from the previous assignment, authoring refers to producing photos and videos for Instagram. Publishing refers to the process of uploading the authored content to the platform and distributing refers to the ways in which that content reaches its audience.
In order to gain an understanding of how Instagram impacts the authoring, publishing and distributing of media products, it is necessary to use the software and gain an understanding of it’s affordances and constraints through it’s functions and features. As “at the level we as users encounter an application, our engagement is both fostered and constrained through the affordances which that piece of software provides” (Khoo et al. 2017, pp. 5). To investigate this and gain insights into the prompt that influences this report, I practiced media on the account I created, @adorabledoors. This media making process was an experiment influenced by the work of media scholars and also my own experiences on the app. Throughout this experience I documented my opinions, perspectives and insights in blog posts over four weeks.
My main objective throughout the media production process was to solidify my understandings of the influence of affordances and constraints on Instagram practice. One aspect of doing so, was to use the overall theme of the account, which was doors, to explore other popular content topics. As I explained in my blog post titled ‘The Lion Door Video’, I wanted to understand the way in which Instagram’s affordances in terms of authoring, editing and publishing impacted on the ways in which content themes were developed and maintained. Utilising these “photos cultures” (Manovich 2016, pp. 10) within an Instagram profile, and capitalising on them to generate popularity for the post or account. Hashtags and geotags are an example of a significant affordance that enables posts to be collated in one place, therefore impacting on the type of content that gains traction. Throughout the time I was posting I would author photos and videos related to various categories of content including graffiti, Game of Thrones, dogs and fashion. I leveraged Instagram’s affordances through the publishing process by using relevant popular tags. These tags were a major form of distribution for my posts, allowing them to circulate more and generate traffic to my page.
Another aspect of Instagram I explored throughout the process of posting, was aesthetics. I used Instagram’s constraints and affordances to generate a thematic aesthetic on my Instagram page. In spite of the fact that Instagram now affords photos of various dimensions, the constraint of the square still prevails in the form of the grid feed. Therefore, more successful Instagram users, such as Rachel Aust, keep the grid in mind when they post in order to “develop a particular style” (Manovich 2016, pp. 13) and establish a consistent aesthetic. Therefore, my theme contained a particular colour palette and contrasted content choices (Manovich 2016, pp. 13). I posted content with warm colours, mainly reds and pinks, and used a consistent filter throughout. Additionally, I posted content in a way that created an aesthetic within the grid in blocks of content.
Ultimately, content and visual themes can be considered as derived from a large variety of cultural, social and other factors however, in my opinion it is highly likely that Instagram’s affordances and constraints have a major impact on these aspects of the app. While other factors may be involved in the initial popularisation of a particular theme, Instagram’s affordances and constraints continue to facilitate that popularity. Indeed, affordances can be considered as relational, in the way that a number of outcomes can emerge from the factors involved in the relationship between the affordance and the practitioner (Giles 2018, pp. 33). Not just in terms of content but visual aesthetics, themes are a notable intricacy of Instagram, and arguably a significant factor in the success of an Instagram account. Users that understand “Instagram’s rules and strategies for creating popular feeds” (Manovich 2016, pp. 4) can become successful through number of followers or engagement; utilising Instagram’s software to propel them into online fame and success by capitalising on popularised visual and content themes.
My major conclusion in relation to affordances and constraints and their relationship to Instagram practice is drawn largely from my own practice, with influence from other scholar’s work. Ideally, in order to validate my perspective, I would need to conduct a larger case study in Instagram practice, not just from my own practice but through examining other content on Instagram. Additionally, I would need to support my assertion with more comparison to other scholarly work.
Giles, D 2018, ‘Towards a Theory of Media and Affordance’ in Twenty-First Century Celebrity: Fame In Digital Culture, Emerald Publishing Limited.
Lister, M, Dovey, J, Giddings, S, Grant, I & Kelly, K 2009, New Media: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edn, Routledge, New York.
Norman, D 1998, The design of everyday things, Basic Book, New York.
Manovich, L 2016, ‘Subjects and Styles in Instagram Photography’ and ‘Designing and Living Instagram Photography: Themes, Feeds, Sequences, Branding, Faces, Bodies’, in Instagram and the Contemporary Image, University of San Diego, USA.
McCrackin, H 2017, How Instagram Changed – Before It Had To, Fast Company, viewed 2 June 2019, <https://www.fastcompany.com/3068655/how-instagram-changed-before-it-had-to>.
Khoo, E, Hight, C, Torrens, R & Cowie, B 2017, ‘Introduction: Software and other Literacies’, in Software Literacy: Education and Beyond, Springer, Singapore.