Mind mapping

FullSizeRender

Thought I’d share this picture from a recent research mind mapping task… It was actually really useful for me to think about how all my research projects fit together and where I could add value to RGU’s strategic research agenda of Northern Culture.

I also managed to get all the good coloured pens before they were gone!

Over the next month I’ll be busy finalising a research paper and writing up my latest PhD progress report and then I’m off on maternity leave again!

My love for Instagram

madeleineinstagram

My love for Instagram just keeps growing ❤

Last night I was looking back through my own photos and thought it was really interesting to see how my visual identity has changed over the past 2-3 years since I created my profile. It was also fascinating to see how image quality and filters have developed over this time (something I hadn’t appreciated!)

Here’s the most recent snapshot from my Instagram profile (which I think sums me up quite well). Mum to baby Romy, auntie to two amazing nieces and a nephew, dog lover, birthday cake connoisseur and consumer of fashion; the latter has evolved from personal to baby fashion as you can see! A more recent addiction (over the past year or so) is children’s books! I just love spending time in the book shop, library or garden centre (yes – they have the best books!) with Romy and she just loves a book! I think this all reinforces some of Veblen’s ideas about conspicuous consumption where social media has simply made this all the more conspicuous; is the reason we consume to be seen to consume?

After pondering my own identity I revisited the profiles of two of my closest (and oldest) friends:

eilidhinstagram

I’ve been friends with Eilidh and Adele since we met at School about 16 years ago (such a long time really!) and we’ve been close ever since. We have very particular ideas about what is nice and our tastes are actually very similar.

These screenshots are from their most recent array of photos; none of us are hugely regular posters. We probably average around 1-2 posts most weeks. Eilidh (above) is a makeup and fashion lover from Aberdeen. She loves her sisters, friends and family (and cocktails – of course). Eilidh is a fabulous present buyer and a loyal and generous friend – she takes her time over detail (and is as a result a fantastic organiser of events). Eilidh tells it like it is and is one of the funniest people I’ve met.

adeleinstagram

Adele (probably the least frequent poster of us all) is a successful restaraunteur, who runs 210 Bistro in Aberdeen. She’s a clever cookie and works so hard to make her business amazing! She enjoys fine dining almost as much as she loves skiing and snowboarding. Adele is a thoughtful and caring friend and girlfriend who is very close with her family. She loves to bake (mostly for friends’ birthdays) and travel.

It’s hard to believe that Instagram has only been around for 5 years and it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve…

Research context

Untitled

I’m super excited for my first proper lecture (on Friday) after returning from maternity leave! I seem to have spent so much time at my desk over the last few weeks (which has actually been really good as it’s allowed me to get on with my research and plan my classes for this semester). I’m definitely ready to get back to teaching though!

I’m also looking forward to a couple of opportunities to present on my previous and past research projects. I thought I’d share one of the Wordles I created as a visual to help me demonstrate the various contexts in which fashion communication might be studied. I love a Wordle and hadn’t done one in ages!

Hypertextuality and Remediation

The work of Agnès Rocamora has helped me understand, more fully, the evolution of fashion communication where she synthesises, really clearly, ideas from a number of theorists such as that of Barthes, Bourdieu, and Baudrillard. I’d very much like to meet her one day.

Today I was rereading her article Hypertextuality and Remediation in the Fashion Industry (2011) as I’m starting to think about how I’ll carry out my discourse analysis and some of the ideas presented here really stand out to me as being useful in helping me do so.

First there’s the concept of the blogosphere as a “hypertextual space [or] electronic linking of a wide range of written texts and images, brought together in a constantly shifting configuration of networks” (p. 94). This leads on to the notion of fashion blogs as dynamic – “texts in perpetual movement, always new, never ending”.

Another interesting observation in this article is the linking that goes on between one blog and another (or a number of others), which Rocamora positions as being unlike fashion magazines and more traditional media. This is something I hadn’t really considered before but I do know that community is a huge thing for bloggers, both on and offline. There are strong networks that exist today for bloggers to network, for example the North East Blogger Network. This implies that bloggers do not view each other as competition but rather as equals and colleagues of the profession who can (and will) help each other.

The other line of discussion I took from this article was “where printed text is static, hypertext responds to the reader’s touch” (Bolter 2001, p. 42, in Rocamora, 2011, p. 96). I just really like this quote and feel that it adequately demonstrates the power of the reader. I’m starting to build up a really clear mental of image of an interconnected blogosphere where fashion bloggers provide signposts for the much valued followers the needs of whom they serve.

References

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Writing space. New York: Routledge.

Rocamora, A. (2011). Hypertextuality and remediation in the fashion media. Journalism Practice. 6(1). Pp. 92-106

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.

Me, myself and I

Our identities are not only ours to form and to anchor our existence on; they guide other people’s interaction and behaviour towards us… And visual communication of our identities through dress and/or fashion is ubiquitous and a fundamental tool that proclaims who we are, both to ourselves and to people around us (Sika, 2014, np).

Sika (2014) examines the ways in which fashion influences identity in Fashion for Feminists. This article is really interesting in that it summarises key themes in identity literature in relation to fashion.

A common theme in the literature (discussed by Sika) is the extent to which individuals adopt a number of identities which has led to the subsequent use of “identity salience” where the value individuals attribute to an identity influences the extent to which this identity is adopted (Kleine and Kleine, 1993). Social, role and personal identity are combined to form an individual’s overall identity (Sika, 2014). Social identity relates to the groups one is part of; in fashion terms this might correlate with disposable income and age. Role identity relates to an individual’s functions in life, e.g. student or mother, where identity related expectations are associated with an individual; in fashion terms this might relate to how we are perceived to be successful in said function. How does a “good” mother dress? Personal identity relates to our own unique goals and value system; fashion allows individuals to express themselves but this is usually balanced by their social and role identity. So whilst one may wish to dress in an eccentric fashion they might choose not to due to their career or religion, etc.

References

Kleine, R.E. and Kleine, S. S. (1993). Mundane consumption and the self: a social identity perspective. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2(3). Pp. 209-235.

Sika, V. (2014). Fashion for feminists: how fashion and dress shape women’s identities. Open Society Initiative of South Africa. [Online]. Available at: http://www.osisa.org/buwa/regional/fashion-feminists-how-fashion-and-dress-shape-women’s-identities. [Accessed: 6th November 2014].

Trust me, I’m a fashion blogger.

There seems to be some mixed reviews amongst industry professionals regarding the credibility of fashion bloggers. There’s no denying that there are some hugely successful examples of bloggers (now opinion leaders) who have become accepted as experts in the sector!

We’re seeing an evolution of the fashion blogger making a timely entrance, and all for the better. You can pick out the influential and credible fashion blogger from the rest; they have a consistent brand, a cult following; do their research just like any seasoned fashion journo and are determined to take care of their business (Ahwa, 2010, p. 36).

The issue of blogger credibility comes up frequently and, where this was once mostly concerned with whether bloggers actually had any substance or knowledge behind their commentary, a key talking point today is that of “gifting”. Suzy Menkez highlights the increasing pressure on bloggers from brands and advertisers who target bloggers with the hope they’ll showcase their products in a favourable light. Jennine Jacob (Independent Fashion Bloggers, 2010) discusses this further in an interesting article where she expresses worry about gifting but also touches upon the unfairness that bloggers come under criticism for a practice that editors have engaged in for years.

But does the fact a product was gifted for review guarantee positive coverage? Bloggers may cry, ‘NO!’ but to be honest, I don’t see negative or even questioning reviews very often. Even for products that don’t get good reviews elsewhere. Bloggers want to maintain good relationships with companies (I know, I try) as much as companies want positive press (Independent Fashion Bloggers, 2010, np).

Sadly I cannot see any fabulous freebies coming my way any time soon… *Must blog more often*

References:

Ahwa, D. (2010). Time to evolve. New Zealand Apparel. 43(8). P. 36.

Independent Fashion Bloggers, (2010). Does gifting affect blogger credibility? [Online]. Available at: http://heartifb.com/2010/06/14/does-gifting-affect-blogger-credibility/. [Accessed on: 1st November 2014].

“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.

“Pinterest makes me hate my house”

“Pinterest makes me hate my house”

“Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life”.

This is a really interesting article by Shauna Niequist on Relevant Magazine’s website (2013). It more or less sums up aspects of the identity part of my research, where I want to explore the identity that’s being portrayed through social media and the way that identity is then received by the follower.

“Our envy buttons… get pushed because we rarely check Facebook when we’re having our own peak experiences. We check it when we’re bored and when we’re lonely, and it intensifies that boredom and loneliness”.

I also think there’s another side to this, where we’re becoming quite suspicious and critical of the communication we are exposed to each day through media like Instagram. One of the questions I ask my first year students, when we discuss social media, is “which media gives you the best insight into an individual or brand’s identity?” and they almost always agree that this comes through Instagram, because a picture says a thousand words; and brands and users are taking advantage of this.

However, when someone posts a photo of flowers their boyfriend has just had sent saying what a lucky girl they are, do we truly believe that this one-off romantic gesture means they have the perfect relationship and are far happier than we are? Or do we actually think the opposite might be the case, where by posting this, the girlfriend is actually confirming that this was unexpected and doesn;t happen all the time; therefore it’s only natural that she’d to make others envious by sharing this publicly. Where the identity becomes more believable (or more constructed, depending on how critical you wish to be) is where this is reaffirmed by regular sharing of “look how wonderful my life” type images or statuses.

I think we’re all guilty of this type of sharing though, in fact when my fiance proposed to me with cupcakes from our local bakery, I shared the news on social media pretty swiftly. Surely everyone’s entitled to initiate a little insta-envy now and again? And if people didn’t “like” these posts then sure we wouldn’t continue to share them? Another question I ask my students is “how would you feel if you posted an image and noone liked it?” and a huge number of them actually admit they’d delete it. I think this demonstrates the extent to which the relationship we have with our followers on social media is two way.