Researching Instagram: Computer-Mediated Research Methods in Practice

Serafinelli, Elisa and O'Hagan, Lauren (2022). Researching Instagram: Computer-Mediated Research Methods in Practice. In: Kozinets, Robert ed. SAGE Research Methods: Doing Research Online. SAGE.



In the digital age, we have witnessed a migration of a range of sociocultural practices onto the online environment. To honor the principle that an appropriate research method should reflect the context of the subject under investigation, we have designed an online mixed-research methodology for the study of how the photo-sharing platform Instagram is shaping new ways of thinking and managing our visual memories. A combination of computer-mediated interviews, online participant photo-sharing observation, and qualitative content analysis (thematic and visual) under the umbrella of netnography formed this innovative methodology. This gave us the opportunity to explore (i) the context of analysis, (ii) users’ perspectives and practices, and (iii) the visuals they produce entirely online. This approach helped to maximize the number of participants and the range of data, which would have been impossible in a face-to-face traditional setting, as well as reduce the cost of the fieldwork. Through the case study discussed in this chapter, we highlight the effectiveness of designing online research methods for the study of mediated phenomena and social media user practices.

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