November 27, 2018
Reading Response # 2:
“Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy”
Word Count: 522 words
The puzzle addressed in “Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy” by Alice Marwick is the variety of microcelebrities on the social media platform, Instagram. Marwick writes, “Compared to sites like Facebook… Instagram provides users with a fairly open-ended social media tool, suggesting that individuals could choose to represent themselves using a range of techniques” and she uses this point to describe the power of self-representation and the impact it has on our changing definition of a ‘celebrity’ (138). The thesis can be found on page 139 when Marwick says, “I argue that Instagram represents a convergence of cultural forces: a mania for digital documentation, the proliferation of celebrity and microcelebrity culture, and conspicuous consumption.” Through the textual and visual analyses of Instagram accounts belonging to “traditional” celebrities (that rose to fame through music, television, and/or film) and the accounts of simply “instafamous” users (with many likes and followers but no direct associations with the media industry), Marwick was able to develop the idea of the ‘attention’ economy.
The main points Marwick makes revolve around the idea that “Instagram users’ approach to microcelebrity differs” from other platform users (138). She discusses how social media develops emotional ties between celebrities and fans (139), selfie editing/ uploading redefined the creative expression of users (144), and that consumer culture feeds into creating celebrity-esque content (156). Key theoretical concepts used by the author were visual, textual, and ideological analyses of how users of Instagram function. The methodology used to study this concept was a narrative analysis of popular Instagram profiles and Tumblr blogs. The nature of the photos, number of likes, comments, and engagement specifically were analyzed in order to build the argument.
The primary sources of evidence for the argument were famous Instagram accounts: first of “traditional” celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, and second with “instafamous”/ pseudo-celebrities like Cayla Friesz, Leandra Goodridge, and Kane Lim. Screenshots and captions were provided alongside the description of each user. The secondary sources of evidence included were scholarly articles and blog posts. Each section of her text mentions a handful of previous works that relate to the claim she is making – the first paragraph under the section “Social Media and Microcelebrity” alone has references to five different works. Rather than building on someone else’s idea, Marwick is providing her own unique perspective to the conversation. Her claim is that different popular users have their own content brand that caters to the message they want to put out. She both agrees with and argues against the authors she references - such as when she talks about reality television stars (140).
Combining the primary and secondary research, the evidence provided was sufficient, credible, and convincing to an extent. Since this article was written in 2013, Instagram has changed dramatically in terms of consumer culture, user and fan interactions, types of media being used (Instastories, IGTV), and business deals. I believe the intended audience for this article are media scholars, media analyzers, social media consumers who want to know more about the content they see, and individuals who are terrified of how easy it is to become famous on social media.
Marwick, A. E. (2015). Instafame: Luxury selfies in the attention economy. Public culture, 27(1 (75)), 137-160.