Long time, no post…

So I’ve broken one of the cardinal rules of blogging and not posted anything for over a year! My excuse… another baby! Arlo – lovingly known as “baby brother”. Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know how active I am on there and I really don’t want to turn this into a baby blog (even though I LOVE mummy bloggers) so I’ve resisted posting some of my day-to-day maternity leave antics. Anyway I’m back at work now and back to my research. I’d actually planned to stay research active during my maternity leave and had grand plans to publish papers but you can guess what came of those plans… nothing! I had a lovely maternity leave filled with coffee dates, making new mummy friends and hanging out with my best friend – 3 year old daughter and world’s bestest big sister, Romy.

Since being off work and taking a little break from my research my focus has shifted a little – it’s broader, in that I am looking at Scotland as a whole rather than focusing on the North East of Scotland, and I plan to look more specifically at fashion communicators on Instagram. My rationale comes primarily from the preliminary interviews I carried out with fashion bloggers in the summer of 2015. During these interviews it really became apparent that bloggers in the North East of Scotland were not branding themselves to a specific city or place (mainly due to concerns around security and a perceived lack of follower knowledge or interest in a more remote region) but most were proud to identify themselves as “Scottish” bloggers, where they saw this as a unique selling point and something that made them stand out in a the ever crowded blogosphere. My interviewees also spoke quite animatedly about online relationships and communities that then became offline friendships and networks through the use of hashtags and virtual and physical meet ups; interestingly these relationships were actually a key motivator for some of my participants – something that kept them blogging. Why the focus on Instagram? Well, in some ways I’m not really just concerned with Instagram, rather fashion influencers for want of a better term, but it does seem like a good place to start in terms of building a picture (literally!) of what the Scottish fashion and style landscape online looks like. Is there a blogger in the world who isn’t on Instagram? Is there a blogger in the world that posts on their blog more than they post on Instagram? My preliminary interviews showed that bloggers 1) get most of their traffic through Instagram; 2) post on Instagram more regularly than on their blog; and 3) feel that their Instagram is an extension of their blogging identity and something they take seriously.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been carrying out a content analysis of all Scottish fashion and style related content on Instagram using a number of hashtags. Predictably, this is taking a lot longer than anticipated but it’s actually really interesting. At this stage, the analysis is quantitative where I am going through all the images (there are thousands!) and basically trying to gain a sense of what types of images that are being associated with Scottish fashion and lifestyle on Instagram. Once I’ve done this I plan to organise these into categories and sample images from these groups which will be subject to further, more in-depth, qualitative analysis. I’m delighted to have started the second stage of my research and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of my findings on the blog at a later date!

Today’s office

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Today I spent a lovely afternoon in Starbucks meeting more fabulous fashion bloggers and hearing the story of their blogging identities. I’m really looking forward to meeting more bloggers over the next few weeks and would like to thank everyone who’s responded so far!

Calling North East fashion bloggers

I’m looking for fashion bloggers from the North East of Scotland who’d be interested in being interviewed for my current research project into blogger identity and motivation. This is an opportunity to get involved in an exciting piece of research into an area that’s of increasing importance in fashion communication today! Interviews will, ideally, take place in Aberdeen during the next four to six weeks and should take no more than an hour. These will be very informal, lasting around one hour, and can be done over coffee. All responses will be entirely confidential and you and your blog will not be named at any point during the research. If you’re interested in being involved then please get in touch via email at m.marcella1@rgu.ac.uk. I’m also looking for some suggestions of fashion bloggers who I could contact and please do feel free to share this request with anyone you think might be interested. Where a face-to-face interview might not be suitable for participants, I would be happy to arrange a telephone or Skype call. Many thanks!

Screens and Mirrors

Agnes Rocamora has carried out some really interesting studies in the areas of fashion communication and marketing; observing on fashion weeks, to fashion blogs! Today I was rereading her work “Personal Fashion Blogs: Screens and Mirrors in Digital Self Portraits” (2009).

My favourite part of this article is an example where she refers to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where the magic mirror represents the blogger’s computer screen and followers will confirm them to be “the fairest of them all” by leaving positive comments. I suppose they might also leave negative comments, but then a blogger could choose for them not to be seen!

By bringing together new and old technologies of the self—screen and blog on the one hand, photography and fashion on the other—personal fashion blogs assert themselves as a privileged space of identity construction (Rocamora, 2009, p. 410).

Rocamora reflects on the self-reflective nature of blogs and draws on examples from fashion bloggers (where colour makes one blogger “feel whole”) and identifies that bloggers keep followers engaged through the technique of regularly revealing a little more about their life with each post; “personal stories are narrated supporting the practice of fashion as a technique of the self” (p. 412). This helps bloggers found a more intimate relationship with their readers and the gradual portrayal of their identity brings together individual posts to form a story.

My research will build on ideas such as those of Rocamora’s and build on their theories by looking at how identities evolve over time on blogs, how these translate to other media and whether the identity that is being actively portrayed is consistent with that which is being perceived.

Reference

Rocamora, A. (2011). Personal fashion blogs: screens and mirrors in digital self portraits. Fashion Theory. 15(4). Pp. 407-424.

“Digital Dressing Up”

When I began scoping my research (almost two years ago now!) my supervisor recommended a number of relevant journal articles, one of which was Chittenden’s “Digital Dressing Up” (2010). Although this study is a little more specific in terms of target audience (teenage, female, fashion bloggers) it is really relevant in that it links the three main strands of my literature review – fashion, identity, and online.

Chittenden (2010, p. 505) discusses “digital dressing up” and the idea that digital media (blogs, social media, etc) are reshaping “self expression and identity building” and where the fashion blog has become a “space for play” (p. 513). She suggests that the way in which fashion bloggers model themselves online might begin to influence their offline identity. They may use their online identity to experiment with new styles and, if/ when these are deemed acceptable by followers, these will permeate to the blogger’s offline identity.

 The discursive spaces formed through the interaction of bloggers and their followers (i.e. the people who regularly read and post comments to a blog) facilitate a process of exchange, whereby teens can exploit their fashion tastes to increase the value of their social capital, (Chittenden, 2010, p. 506).

Another interesting observation from Chittenden (in line with earlier research by Bourdieu) is that blogs challenge the traditional, hierarchical relationship between consumers, producers and products resulting in a “prosumer” hybrid where bloggers can post their own designs and opinions.

Reference

Chittenden, T. (2010). Digital dressing up: modelling female teen identity in the discursive spaces of the fashion blogosphere. Journal of Youth Studies. 13(4). Pp. 505-520.

My blog is me

Just like a paper diary, weblogs are structured around ‘I’ narratives. They present the life of a sovereign subject who has a continuous identity and a coherent history, (Reed, 2013, p. 226).

In his article “my blog is me”, Reed explores the identity of bloggers; focusing mainly on the “kinds of person these digital texts can become” and how their identity might be received. This is something I’m interested in exploring with my research, where I will look at the message that the sender is trying to communicate (e.g. via a photograph on Instagram or post via a blog) and how this compares to the message that is actually being received; this will help me to draw conclusions about the identity of the author (or that which they are consciously trying to portray) vs how followers perceive the identity of that author:

Indeed, I believe we need to more regularly ask ourselves (as we do with most other kinds of artefacts), what kind of person is this text? Who does it substitute for? How is agency extended? Into what kind of matrix of relations does this ‘person’ enter? How is the ‘person’ composed and how does that composition alter over time? (p. 224).

An interesting aspect of this could be the extent to which the communicator actually considers the communication and how it might be received before posting it. The instantaneous and ungoverned nature of social media has made it perfectly simple for anyone to share their thoughts and photographs almost without conscious thought. Reed reflects on this:

At the heart of journal blogging is an ethos of immediacy. Weblogs entries are meant to be ‘of the moment’, a record of how the individual felt or thought at that particular point in time, (p. 227).

Although bloggers might reveal quite personal information about themselves, Reed argues “there are always aspects of the subject that remain outside or beyond the text, impressions that they cannot or do not want to post [and] while individuals are happy to assert that ‘my blog is me’, they also insist that ‘I am not my weblog’.”, (p. 230). Where a blogger has followers who they actually know offline, Reed argues they are likely to be more considered in their communications.

In terms of methodology, Reed draws inspiration for Gell (1998) who: “describes four kinds of entities (or subjects): the ‘index’ or material object itself, the ‘artist’ or attributed creator of that thing, the ‘recipient’ or viewer or consumer of it and the ‘prototype’ or entity depicted by the art-object (such as the landscape in a painting)” (p. 223). Reed reviewed a number of blogs, mostly from London, and met some of these bloggers face-to-face; these bloggers maintained that their blogs were “unreserved” representations of themselves. The continuous nature of a blog, where communication is instant and ongoing and a blogger’s story will build up over time, makes the text seem “alive”, (p. 227).

Reed discusses bloggers’ motivations where the most common motivation was to vent or offload personal thoughts or feelings, much like a diary. One of his research participants states: “blogging gets them out of my head, it’s a thing to get all that stuff out of your head that otherwise you couldn’t put anywhere”. Reed identifies that these bloggers often view blogging as being very separate to their work. I would hypothesise that this might be different for fashion bloggers, many of whom might be motivated by career progression, using their blog as a personal portfolio and encouraged to update this regularly due to the dynamic industry’s expectations. Another motivation for most bloggers is to attract more followers and retain existing ones. Bloggers rely on their followers and one of Reed’s participants likens blog posts to “the graffiti that one finds across the city, texts left for strangers to read”, (p. 232).

Bloggers regard each other as equals; they point out that the visitor to one weblog is always the prototype (and author) of another, (p. 232).

This quote is of particular interest to me, as it was my main motivation for setting up this blog. In order to carry out my research, I would like to actively engage with fashion bloggers in their own environment, in what Reed would describe as “conversations between texts”, (p. 235).

 

References

Gell, A. (1998). Art and agency: An anthropological theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Reed, A. (2006). “My blog is me”: Texts and persons in UK online journal culture. Journal of Anthropology. 70(2). Pp. 220-242.

Changing parameters of fashion communication

The communication revolution is here! (Allen, 2009, p. 2)

Although I’ll draw some inspiration from more traditional means of fashion communication (magazines, print ads, etc), the focus of my current research is online media. I’ll be looking, in particular, at fashion blogs, Instagram and Pinterest and analyse messages from a range of “actors”, including opinion leaders, fashion critics, fashion designers and emerging voices.

Instagram and Pinterest are still relatively new media (both were launched in 2010), and there is only limited research into their use as a tool for fashion communication. Blogs, on the other hand, are one of the earliest forms of online “social” media and have played a big role in the democratisation of communication; with fashion bloggers being recognised in their own right as “the new member in the fashion industry”, (Zhang, 2010, np). The control has shifted from sender to receiver and there is a new emphasis on engagement and interactivity, as opposed to top-down instruction. 

Allen (2009) discusses blogs in her exploratory study of the changing parameters in fashion communication, where she draws on earlier theories, for example that of Roland Barthes, (1967). She makes an interesting observation about the lack of a credible “gatekeeper”, where traditionally this control would sit, for example, with the editor of a fashion magazine like Vogue.

Allen makes another valuable point, this time around the style of this communication, which tends to be informal and conversational; on the one hand, this enables bloggers to engage their followers on a more personal level, but it can also lead to careless mistakes and bad grammar; this carelessness is made worse by the general lack of governance and instantaneous nature of social media, where a blogger can communicate a message instantly with relatively no thought or reflection beforehand. 

Blogs connect with their readership in two ways firstly by the conversational communication style of the blog content which includes both written discourse and visual communication. Secondly by the fact that the reader views this on a device that is closely viewed often as a solitary activity and a device owned by them, (Allen, 2009, p. 5).

Allen draws on examples from well known fashion blogs such as Style Bubble and highlights the importance of regular updates and the creation of a sense of “insider” knowledge, in order to encourage a loyal following and appear credible. A good example of language which she uses is the term “I popped to the private view” (Style Bubble, 2009, np).

This article is insightful and I found it a useful starting point for my research.

 

References

Allen, C. (2009). Style surfing  changing parameters of fashion communication – where have they gone? In: 1st Global conference: Fashion exploring critical issues. 25-27 September 2009. Mansfield College: Oxford.

Barthes, R. (1967). The Fashion System. USA: University of California Press.

Style Bubble, (2009). When you’re a boy… [Online]. Available at: http://www.stylebubble.co.uk/style_bubble/. [Accessed on: 17th October 2013].

Zhang, C. (2010). Fashion blogs: the new member in the fashion industry. Journal of Digital Research and Publishing. 3(1). Pp. 153-160.