“By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences”(Jenkins 2006)
New technologies have empowered audiences to shift from passive to active consumers (Rosen 2006), creating a merging effect on industries, markets and the content it creates and nurtures. A social networking application such as Instagram, succinctly creates an example of such convergence, and fits into the concept of convergent media. Instagram was launched in 2010 and bought by competing platform, Facebook, in 2012 (Upbin 2012). Since then, its growth in active users has at one point led the way, according to a ‘Global Web Index’ survey in 2014, in overtaking its sister application Facebook, which only had a 3% growth (GWI Social 2014). This is a revealing statistic of how new platforms of media file sharing, such as Instagram, are changing the dynamics of the use of technologies with audiences. Instagram is a powerful social networking tool to own. It is a dialogic media platform, allowing users to share media such as photos and videos; to comment and to share data created. Users are able to instantly create media and share it with no entry fee, no gatekeepers (Mitew, 2015) holding back the publishing of their creativity, and changing the industry of photography as a medium. The relationship that Instagram has as a platform between the audiences’ control of the flow of content, and the utilization of the platform by industries old and new, reinforces the fact that it is a strong example of the affect convergence has between media technologies and audiences (Jenkins 2004). Therefore I will be discussing this affect convergence in regards to Instagram with the ethics and battles arising from censoring in an open medium, and the new relationship audiences have with Instagram as a platform, and how the Instagram has changed the social media game.
Instagram is a relatively new photography and video media technology. It started out as an online phone application and then evolved, through new ownership of Facebook, as a leading media sharing application on multiple platforms. Instagram is an open dialogic medium with the ability for discussions and engagement through hash tags, tools such as the ‘like’ button and the ability to comment and create a dialogue on the media shared. It can be viewed, at first glance, as a monologic media platform, yet the amount of successful user accounts that have utilised those tools available are proof of Instagram’s ability to be a platform that is highly accessible and a key player in audience ‘participatory culture’ (Jenkins 2006). The user mainly performs the regulation of comments, photos, replies and what is shown on their user pages. As censorship on Instagram occurs through the actual hash tag system, and the ability to ‘report’ content, this allows ethical and moral issues to occur. Instagram, as a company, has assumed the role of the moral gatekeeper. Although hashtags are used to find and share content to a wider audience, the hashtag system has been censored. Consequently, there is a list of words and criteria, which are banned from being searched and found on the application (Mchugh 2013). Instagram actually has a history of promoting itself as a free, unambiguous and ‘open platform’. However it censors images, and deletes accounts of users who do not follow their slightly misogynistic, and strange guidelines for users (Dewey 2015).
Australian online magazine “Sticks and Stones” was subject to this censorship. Their account was disabled from Instagram after the company shared a photo from a shoot, which showed female pubic hair and a hint of a nipple in a tasteful, un-pornographic way (Vagianos 2015). Instagram had acknowledged their mistake by targeting the photo and the account, but it has since showcased the issues involved in mediating a public social media platform used by all genders, ages and cultures (Vagianos 2015). It is hard not to argue then that Instagram has a reputation now for misogynistic decisions on what should be acceptable on Instagram, and what is deemed inappropriate. The same kind of violation of community guidelines for an instagram account such a “Sticks and Stones” has been seen in other cases such as poet and artist Rupi Kaur’s photographic piece about menstruation that was shared on Instagram (Dewey 2015). Within twenty-four hours of posting the photo series, the artist had faced the repercussions of Instagram. Twice removed, when they finally restored the photo due to pressure from Kaur and her supporters, it was clear that there was underlying reasoning for the removal of the photo in the first place. It is challenging that pornography can be viewed and allowed to remain and yet a woman’s body and a natural occurrence can be classified as ‘obscene’ and a ‘violation’. The idea that Instagram holds itself in esteem as an open, free and accessible platform for anyone to utilize is ironic, at most, when minorities and women are frequently targeted and censored.
Instagram has followed in the lead of old photo and media sharing sites such as flikr, and added to the new era of user-submitted creative content (Bruns, 2007). It has been recorded that there are four common uses for personal photography. These include being for memory and identity; to reflect and sustain personal relationships; self-representation and the storage and sharing of these images (Van House and Davis 2005). This is important to note as Instagram is used primarily by most for precisely those reasons. The application uses both generative platform and closed platforms to be used by users, and with such phones that have cameras attached now it becomes easy to record, create, distribute and access these images privately and publically (Hunt, Lin, Atkin 2014). Public access to Instagram and the content uploaded by users is restricted as a result. Their privacy guidelines and the fact that at one point you could go around the privacy limitations, proves the adage set by Steve Rambam that “Privacy is dead – Get over it” in relation to what is put on Internet. In a Huffington Post article it was said that at one point if an image on Instagram’s phone application was locked by the privacy option, you could search for it on the online, webpage version of the application (Beres 2015). This is an example of how not only has Instagram no issue betraying the trust of their users, but how the application itself has bypassed just standard the android/iphone platforms. Instagram has found itself under criticism for doing so, creating a web option for the original iphone application. Embedding their mark on web pages goes against the idea of being inherently mobile as their layout, and content (certain sized images, short 15 second films) is mainly formatted to mobile platforms (Buchanan 2013). This change to web from mobile is intrinsically begot from its ‘new’ ownership under competing social media platform Facebook. Facebook obtained instagram in 2012, for almost twice the valuation placed on it, by Mark Zuckerburg its creator. Unlike Instagram, Facebook did not start out as a mobile application starting out as a web only format, and therefore had an advantage of user conformability that Facebook’s mobile application at the time did not have (Malik 2012). Not only was Instagram a competitor, but also a new and emerging leader in social media sharing and a game changer in the world of photography itself. The impact of Instagram on legacy photography media has mixed reviews, but it has had a positive affect on users that specialize in photography as an art (Prives 2014).
Convergence affects the relationship between media technologies and audiences substantially in many ways. This convergence, to quote Jenkins (2004) “…alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences”, has essentially summed up what Instagram has been able to do in its short life span, so far. Convergence is the cultural shift of how consumers and audiences seek out, connect and explore the platforms they use (Jenkins 2004). Where old and new media collide this is where the art of convergence begins and thus creating entirely new forms of platforms, media, mediums and bringing new meanings to the world. Instagram shows this through its ability to create a niche for photography as an old art turned into a documentation system that transcends the material world. Instagram is a sum of Jenkins’ (2006) definition of convergence showcasing a flow of content, multiple media industries cooperating and the very obvious “migratory behaviour” of the users.
– Henry Jenkins, 2006, ‘Introduction: ”Worship at the Alter of Convergence”, Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, New York, pp.1-24 <http://www.nyupress.org/webchapters/0814742815intro.pdf>
– Nancy Van House, Marc Davis, 2005, “The Uses of Personal Networked Digital Imaging: An Empirical Study of Cameraphone Photos and Sharing” pp. 1- 4
– Steve Rambam, 2010, “Privacy is dead – Get over it”, Youtube Clip, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaYn_PkrfvQ
– The New Yorker – Matt Buchanan. 2013. The Problem with Instagram Everywhere. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-problem-with-instagram-everywhere
– Bruce Upbin. 2012. Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion. Smart Arbitrage.. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2012/04/09/facebook-buys-instagram-for-1-billion-wheres-the-revenue/. [Accessed 02 June 15].
– Dr Axel Bruns . 2007. Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for user-Led Content Creation. [ONLINE] Available at:http://eprints.qut.edu.au/6623/1/6623.pdf. [Accessed 04 June 15].
– Huffington Post – Damon Beres. 2015. Your ‘Private’ Instagram Account Actually Wasn’t. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/12/instagram-privacy_n_6456316.html.
-Digital Trends – Molly McHugh. 2013. Instagram relaxes terms on censored hashtags, but its criteria remains confusing. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/instagram-relaxes-terms-censored-hashtags-criteria-remains-confusing/.
– Washington Post – Caitlin Dewey. 2015. “Why did Instagram censor this photo of a fully clothed woman on her period?” [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/03/27/why-did-instagram-censor-this-photo-of-a-fully-clothed-woman-on-her-period/?postshare=9111430116274556>
-Huffington Post – Alanna Vagianos. 2015. “Instagram Admits They ‘Don’t Always Get It Right’ When It Comes To Nudity.” [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/21/instagram-pubic-hair-censorship-sticks-and-stones_n_6515654.html>
-Global Web Index. 2014. GWI Social Summary. [ONLINE] Available at: http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/304927/file-462418234-pdf/Content_Marketing/GWI_Social_January_2014_Summary.pdf?submissionGuid=f790bb19-0d98-4796-9a56-84a465d6460b. [Accessed 01 June 15].
-Kate Knibbs. 2014. Instagram is growing faster than Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest combined . [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/instagram-is-growing-faster-than-twitter-facebook-and-pinterest-combined-in-2013/. [Accessed 01 June 15].
– Jenkins, H, 2004. The cultural logic of media convergence . International Journal of Cultural Studies , 7(1), 33-43.
– Jay Rosen, 2006. “The people formerly known as the audience” [ONLINE] Available at:http://archive.pressthink.org/2006/06/27/ppl_frmr.html. [Accessed 02 June 15].
– Teodor Mitew, 2015, “I Love Gadgets”, Lecture Prezi Slide, BCM112, University of Wollongong, week four, 22 March 2015