Towards the Easy Analysis of Celebrity Representations Through Instagram: A Case Study
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This paper focuses on the analysis of celebrity representations through Instagram. We refer to representation of a person as the set of concepts, images, ideas and emotions that this person transmit to the world. Representations transmit useful information for fans, but also for the entities related with the involved person. However, the representation exposed by posted images is hard to automatically process as depend on several variables which are complex to interpret. We propose then to employ discourse analysis in order to facilitate the analysis of such people representations. Discourse analysis is a qualitative and interpretive methodology for analyzing social phenomena through any communication mechanism. We illustrate interesting results where the use of discourse analysis allows us to easily process representations through images.
KeywordsSocial networks Discourse analysis Mass media Instagram
Instagram is a widely used online mobile and social networking service based on the interchange of photos and videos. It has rapidly emerged during the last years having as distinct feature its interesting capabilities for the easy retouching of photos. Currently, it has about 400 million monthly active users and several celebrities post their photos and videos in order to instantly inform their fans about their activities. In this paper, we focus on the analysis of famous people representations through this social network. We refer to representation of a person as the set of concepts, images, ideas and emotions that this person transmit to the world. This representation varies depending, among others, on the gender, country, religion, role and activities of people, and it is constructed according to a given socio-cultural context. Representations transmit useful information for fans, but also for the entities related with the involved person. Indeed, a brand promoting sports and healthy life do not want to see their ambassadors drinking alcohol or eating fast food in social networks. However, the representation exposed by posted images is hard to automatically process as depend on several variables which are complex to interpret.
In this paper, we illustrate how the use of discourse analysis can facilitate the analysis of people representations. Discourse analysis is a qualitative and interpretive methodology for analyzing social phenomena through any communication mechanism. It allows us to understand the way people behavior is reproduced and enacted in the social context. We present a case study where this methodology is effectively used to gather and analyze representations from Paris Hilton’s and Justin Bieber’s Instagram profiles. We illustrate interesting results where the use of discourse analysis allows us to easily process the social network information in order to provide clear feedback.
This paper is organized as follows: Sect. 2 presents the problem, results and discussion, followed by the conclusions and some lines of future directions.
2 Discussion and Results
Social networks are currently the most visited Internet websites , this is known to be a phenomenon emerged in the Web 2.0. These platforms of social interaction are devoted to users who generate and provide information which will be then shared, commented, and discussed by the other members of the network. The rapid penetration of social networks has led to change habits of people. Indeed, as McClure  states: “We are not only addicted to the network, we have become the network”. This quote highlights the relevance that social networks have acquired and as a consequence the importance to study them.
Instagram, the popular photo-sharing social network is one of the most used sites for teens, soccer and television stars to expose their lives through an image. Our goal is to analyze the images that celebrities published through their accounts by observing what situations, experiences and/or objects they want to visibilize. In this way, we will be able to reveal their interest and the form in which they want to be exhibited to the world.
The study was conducted on the profiles of Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber and all images they published were analyzed for a month. Paris Hilton is a businesswoman and model, known for being the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton (founder of Hilton Hotels). She became known in 2003 for distributing a sex tape on the Internet. Justin Bieber is a Canadian singer-songwriter who has been nominated and awarded numerous times. The instrument we use for our study is the Discourse Analysis. We note that this technique understood the discourse not only as a text, but also as all that transmit meanings and proposes certain behaviors. Therefore, our task is to show the meanings behind the publication of these images, which are trying to transmit or communicate at the time of publication. Likewise, we see how these celebrities are represented  through this social network.
This celebrity uses this platform for publicizing products related to her brand.
She uses Instagram as a exhibition mean.
In this analysis we mainly focus on the second point. In this sense, we observed that she communicate and image where she can be viewed or perceived as a sexual object. In most photographs, she appears posing, with a sexy attitude, hair in the wind, smiling and scantily clad. In the society where we live, all the aforementioned features configure Paris Hilton as a sexual object. In addition to this configuration, we observe that Paris Hilton is infantilized through the images of her profile. This is done by the usage of elements that make to perceive her as little girl. She constantly employs pink dresses, with “Barbie” clothes (just as done by a child), but always maintaining a provocative attitude. The childishness of the woman figure is generally related to a woman who is not responsible for their acts, however, in the case analyzed is she who builds the image in that way.
This celebrity uses this platform for exhibiting his daily life activities.
She uses Instagram for posting some photos of his concerts.
In this analysis we will focus on the first point. Unlike the previously analyzed profile, this Canadian singer tries to show him through the social network as an ordinary young man. He posts pictures eating with friends, fishing on a lake and admiring different landscapes. He show only common activities that will do any common person. Only by images of his concerts we can deduce that is a celebrity, but other publications suggest a very normal young man.
After applying discourse analysis to the Instagram images we can conclude that these profiles have a completely different purpose, despite belonging both profiles to world famous celebrities. Paris Hilton tries to appear as someone unattainable, as a person located at the top level, like a diva. She boasts about her glamorous lifestyle and luxes she have access to. By contrast, Bieber exhibits a normal life performing common teenager activities. As future work we aim at analyzing other similar profiles to identify new social network phenomena. To study the form in which discourse analysis techniques can be integrated in mining software could be another interesting direction for future work as well.
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