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Visualising Facebook

Visualising Facebook: A Comparative Perspective OPEN ACCESS

Daniel Miller
Jolynna Sinanan
Series: Why We Post
Copyright Date: 2017
Published by: UCL Press
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Visualising Facebook
    Book Description:

    Since the growth of social media, human communication has become much more visual. This book presents a scholarly analysis of the images people post on a regular basis to Facebook. By including hundreds of examples, readers can see for themselves the differences between postings from a village north of London, and those from a small town in Trinidad. Why do women respond so differently to becoming a mother in England from the way they do in Trinidad? How are values such as carnival and suburbia expressed visually? Based on an examination of over 20,000 images, the authors argue that phenomena such as selfies and memes must be analysed in their local context. The book aims to highlight the importance of visual images today in patrolling and controlling the moral values of populations, and explores the changing role of photography from that of recording and representation, to that of communication, where an image not only documents an experience but also enhances it, making the moment itself more exciting.

    eISBN: 978-1-911307-40-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Business
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Table of Contents

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  1. 1 Introduction (pp. 1-10)

    This book has three main aims which are surprising only in terms of how little has been done previously to fulfil them. In 2011 Miller published a book calledTales From Facebook.¹ As the title suggests, that book consisted mainly of stories about how people, as it happens people in Trinidad, used Facebook, and the consequences of Facebook for their lives.

    In retrospect there were (at least) two glaring omissions from that book. The first is that there was not one single visual image –Tales from Facebookcontained relatively few examples of postings and these were all textual. Yet...

  2. Photography revolutionised our relationship to time. The assumed transience of all experience was ended by the possibility of freezing a particular moment and retaining it as a record, instantly, without the time and effort required by a painting. Yet this resulted in a paradox. If the intention was to capture and record our transient experience, the photograph itself was a serious act that most often demanded respect. As a result, people usually stopped whatever they were doing and posed specifically for the photograph. So photography is mostly a vast archive of how people posed for photographs. This has its own...

  3. Photos of young people shared on social media are a valuable resource for learning about a society for two contrasting reasons. Photographs provide an opportunity for adults to project their values on to their infants. Once these children grow up, photographs posted on social media then become their first opportunity to establish an autonomous mode of self-expression. In the case of Trinidad, this chapter will show far greater continuity between these two stages, while in The Glades there is a radical break, especially evident when people become parents and mainly signified by the way in which they relate to photographs...

  4. 4 English adults (pp. 57-94)

    In Chapter 2 it was suggested that by the ages of 16–18, various social distinctions are already starting to emerge in The Glades. By far the most important appears to be that of gender: for example, we were able to designate a group of ‘selfie girls’ but not one of ‘selfie boys’. Other than that, the most important category seems to be merely being a teenager. This chapter explores social distinctions further, examining the sharp break between being at school and being an adult, observed particularly among women. As an adult there seems to be more concern with what...

  5. Chapter 3 found both overlaps and significant differences between the ways people in El Mirador and The Glades become constituted as adults. It was suggested that while new mothers in The Glades appear to show a devotion to their identity as parents, those of El Mirador specifically repudiate such a shift and strive to ensure that they maintain a glamorous image uninterrupted by motherhood. Indeed, both glamour and looking good remain important to women even when they are elderly. This is not viewed as vanity, but rather a duty to oneself and others.¹ The underlying reasons behind this in terms...

  6. The argument of this chapter is fairly simple: while Trinidadian values, as presented through the visual postings from El Mirador, are based on a dualism of two extremes – what we will call transience and transcendence – the values of the English, as seen from visual posts in The Glades, seem to be all about cultivating the middle ground and avoiding any such extremes. So this chapter will examine how postings are used to characterise a suburban ethos, starting from the domestication of dogs and cats. We will then argue that this middle ground is protected and established through two...

  7. In this chapter we look at how postings on social media help us to understand the wider values expressed by and through Trinidadian society. One of the questions we posed when starting this project was whether an examination of visual posts, such as photos and memes, could provide the sort of insights into a society that one would gain from a more conventional ethnography. As it happens Miller had previously carried out just such an ethnography, published as the bookModernity: An Ethnographic Approach.¹ In that book he argued that it was possible to discern core values within Trinidadian society...

  8. This chapter has a rather different intention than the others. So far we have written largely from the perspective of the anthropologist as analyst of social values at a level of abstraction which most people have no reason to consider. By contrast, this chapter presents the comments made by Trinidadians themselves. The reason was not because we think that our informants’ opinions represent a more direct or authentic truth. Rather it is to show that there is considerable variety in the ways in which people interpret the same image. Indeed the same individual may consider an image to have several...

  9. 9 Conclusion (pp. 201-207)

    We began this book with several aims in mind. The most obvious was simply an acknowledgement that in the past books have emphasised the textual over the visual. This was largely for technical and financial reasons. Books and journal articles with many colour images were expensive both to print and purchase. We have been slow to recognise the bias this may have led to. Our aim was to give these visual posts their due both in terms of attention and replication, properly reflecting the degree to which photos and memes now dominate the social media posts of some regions.


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
Funding is provided by ERC