Research Question: What Role Can Social Media Play In Creative Research?
When undertaking this research I decided to take an Applied, Exploratory and Qualitative Research approach. The outcome was to explore contemporary art and documentary based photography, in order to spur on further research. Due to social media's premier place within the information timeline, a Qualitative approach was utilized because I was more interested in examining and reflecting on the approaches and methods of contemporary practitioners. My final goal was to apply my findings to my Migrant Narratives project.
Twitter was selected as it is a micro-blogging platform that incorporates both text and visuals, Richardson (2015). My method, since February 2018 I have been using Twitter daily to document my research on contemporary photography, @jasonmachinski. Hashtags were employed to help structure my findings and to organize the content for quick access after. The goal was to apply these finding to my Migrant Narrative project so the majority of the posts focus on art and documentary photo practitioners.
The structure of the posts:
- Monday: #photoread - explores contemporary non-academic articles on photography and photographers. This was one of the greatest benefits of using Twitter. As it is a micro-blogging platform photographers/artists share articles and offer opinions often. Sharing these on my public timeline allowed me to catalog the information, share, discuss with others and connect with the original publisher.
- Tuesday: #photohistory - looks at historical practitioners and resources. This turned into a great list of resources of Museums, Archives and Art Galleries, then used for further research.
- Wednesday: #photographyquote - quotes I found interesting and was using in my research. This also spurred on conversation both online and offline with my students.
- Thursday: #favphoto - this series of posts focused on images I was using in my research and allowed me to give my opinions, catalog links, and connect with photographers.
- Friday: #photogtofollow - these posts highlights and cataloged contemporary photographers that I found through my research. By sharing their content I was also able to connect with many of the photographers. Using direct messages and comments through Twitter has been great to build my network.
- Saturday: #ottawaart - these posts look at the local art scene in Ottawa. Many of my MA modules stressed looking at both the global and local level of practitioners and resources. This has helped me immensely, it expanded my local connections and Twitter is a great way to find and share local art events.
- Sunday: #photowatch or #photolisten - this stream of posts focuses on video and audio content related to the art and documentary photography. Great first hand and documentary resources for my research.
Through my experiential use of the platform, I realized that it was an excellent source to glean first-hand information from contemporary photographers. These included personal and first-hand accounts of new projects by photographers, their struggles with processes and methodologies, successes and links to sources further down the information timeline, i.e. trade magazines and books, which were invaluable. This was echoed by Lorna-Jane Richardson in her case study, Micro-blogging and Online Community, looking at the use of social media by archaeologists, Richardson (2015) 'These archaeological activities were taking place on Twitter in a very unstructured and informal manner, and the platform was also being used as a 'first-port-of-call' means of transmitting archaeological news among archaeological peers'. Twitter has also been a great reflective tool, looking back on what I have posted/cataloged has acted as flag posts helping me remember ideas and concepts for MA project.
There are drawbacks to using Twitter as a research tool, written content is limited to 280 characters so very superficial information can be shared in the actual post. Information on the platform is not peer reviewed so all information has to be vetted. Subjective opinions are also often shared with little basis of fact. There is also an algorithm on the platform that suggests similar content (Twitter, 2018): 'We may make suggestions based on your activity on Twitter, such as your Tweets, who you follow, and accounts and Tweets that you view or otherwise interact with'. This feature is excellent for locating similar content but If all that you see is one point of view on a subject you might fall into the trap of believing that is the only point of view on the matter.
Twitter is an excellent tool for firsthand information as it is an early source on the information timeline. It’s position is very well suited for gleaning direct information on the practice and methods from photographers and artists, and locating sources like trade publications through posted links from others. Twitter is not a peer reviewed platform so all information should be reviewed for accuracy and it is a platform where people express their own subjective viewpoints. Nevertheless, Twitter can be an effective tool for initial research and to build a network of peers.
Machinski, J. (2018) research & practice Social Media. April 2018. Unpublished.
Richardson, L. (2015) "Micro-blogging and online community‟. Internet Archaeology [Online]. no. 39. Available at: https://doaj.org/article/2d612885b4e3422f95f35dd131ab6df4 [Accessed: 3 April, 2018].
Twitter (2018) Twitter Help Center: Following and Unfollowing. Available at: https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/account-suggestions [Accessed: 6 April, 2018].