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New mobile visualities and the social communication of photography : Instagram as a case study

Serafinelli, Elisa


Elisa Serafinelli


Athina Karatzogianni


This research intends to show how visuality, through the mobility of Instagram (a social media platform designed for photo sharing), is modifying individuals’ perception of the world and their mediated lives. It examines how Instagram transforms individuals’ perception of interpersonal relationships, marketing, privacy and surveillance, identity and memory, and communication. It attempts a critical re-reading of the combined interrelations between the concept of mobility (smart mobile devices) and the thematic areas mentioned above. Conducting an empirical examination, it delineates the changing dynamics that digitality determines within the contemporary experience of visual communication. In order to understand visual practices it is important to consider how relationships develop among individuals, visual technologies, practices and images, society and culture (Pink, 2007: 35). A qualitative research method informed by netnography, computer-mediated interviews and visual analysis (Rose, 2007) is employed in this study. Findings show that the ubiquitous use of smart mobile devices guides us towards the development of new forms and conceptions of mobile mediated visualities.

The critical analysis of the (embedded) multiple-case study presents the innovative transformations that the mediation and mobility of Instagram bring into everyday relations between human-technologies. Findings show that now that daily life is experienced as a succession of photo opportunities that allow the creation of social networks but do not replace physical relationships. Images figure as a fair means of communication although they cannot fulfil verbal ones. However, the connections that images establish become a valuable part of new social media marketing strategies. With the widespread use of the platform, companies start to monitor users and influence their online behaviour without causing concern in relation to privacy and surveillance issues. The protection of personal information instead is related to the visibility that the contents of images acquire within the virality of the Internet. Within this, the voyeuristic spirit that animates the platform affects individuals’ interest in disclosing self-identity through visual metaphors. The disclosure of visual narrations of the self, at the same time, models the sharing of new networked archives of personal and collective memories.

The ephemerality of digital culture is embraced by smart mobile technologies considering the importance that individuals give to the act of producing multimedia contents more than the content itself. Smart mobile devices represent the element of mediation in social instances and they strongly represent the foundation of a new mobile visualities aesthetic. Societies produce peculiar forms of expression and communication that are shaped by the co-presence of individual demands and the current typology of means of communication. Every alteration in the structure of societies has influence on individuals and on means of expression. This thesis shows that in contemporary life visualities have crucial functions in different environments such as business, leisure, and surveillance. Lastly, the triangulation of mediation-mobility-visuality produces a snapshot aesthetic, which radically transforms traditional functions of photography.


Serafinelli, E. (2015). New mobile visualities and the social communication of photography : Instagram as a case study. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 18, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Social sciences
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Social Sciences, The University of Hull
Award Date Apr 1, 2015


Thesis (5.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Serafinelli, Elisa. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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