Why buttons matter: repurposing Facebook’s reactions for analysis of the social visual

Marloes Geboers, Nathan Stolero, Anna Scuttari, Livia Teernstra, Arran Ridley

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Abstract

Studying images on social media introduces several challenges that relate to the size of datasets and the different meaning-making grammars of social visuality; or as aptly pointed out by others in the field, it means ‘studying the qualitative on a quantitative scale’. Although cultural analytics provides an automated process through which patterns can be detected in large numbers of images, this methodology doesn’t account for other modalities of the image than the image itself. However, images circulating social media can (and should) be analyzed on the level of their audience as the latter is co-creating the meaning of images. Bridging the study of platform affordances and affect theory, this paper presents a novel methodology that repurposes Facebook Reactions to infer collective attitudes and performative emotional expressions vis á vis images shared on the large Syrian Revolution Network public page (+2M). We found visual patterns that co-occur with certain collective combinations of buttons, displaying how socio-technical features shape the discursive frameworks of online publics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Communication
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2020

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