I have attended the 10th edition of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) Summer School at University of Amsterdam, under the theme “Get the picture – Digital Methods for Visual Research”. In this two-weeks intensive course I had the opportunity to work with incredible and talented researchers and doctoral students as well. In the first week, I joined the project: Making Climate Visible, led by Warren Pearce and Suay Ozkula. We questioned whether Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr, and Google image search have distinct visual vernaculars for the issue of climate change. To do so, we conducted a cross-platform analysis approach, and described how visual communication about climate change adopts a platform vernacular per social media platform.
In the second week, I accepted the challenge of pitching a project about Hashtag Engagement Research, and the proposal has expanded in quality after the invitation of Elaine Rabello (associate professor at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) and André Mintz (doctoral researcher in Communication Studies at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais). Together we pitched a project and conducted work on Visualising Hashtag Engagement – Imagery of Political Engagement on Instagram, the group was also composed by Suay Ozkula (Research Associate on the ESPRC-funded project ‘Making Climate Social’ at the University of Sheffield), Ece Elbeyi (Research Assistant in Media Department at Istanbul Bilgi University, and master student in Media and Communication Systems), Gabriela Sued (Research professor in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Buenos Aires) and Alessandra Cicali (Freelance Journalist and cofounder of Eurete – European Reporting Team).
The project main proposal was to study hashtag engagement under four perspectives*:
i) media item – using metrics of audience engagement per media item combined with user activity over time;
ii) user – using metrics of caption or hashtag adoption per user (over time);
iii) visual – analysing visual characteristics of images associated with hashtags (over time), and
iv) grammars of hashtags – looking at forms of hashtag use: positioning/alignment, double sense hashtags*, hijacked hashtags, hate hashtag.
This project thus explored visual methodologies (Rose, 2016) in order to grasp the logics and structures of hashtag engagement (production, circulation, actors, generated content), drawing the rise of political polarization in Brazil as a case study (see the project pitch slides and final presentation). In addition, the project took into account ways to include the ordinary voice along the right and left wing protests of March 2016 in Brazil. We explored new visual methods such as relying on Google Vision API to analyse label-image and tag-image networks, we also used Cortex to conduct text analysis, and finally we adopted Raw graphics and ImageSorter to facilitate the analysis of the visual culture of the dominant voices of the protests.
* Omena, J.J. et al. (forthcoming). Visualising Hashtag Engagement on Instagram
Rose, Gillian. 2016. Visual Methodologies. 4th Edition. UK: Open University.