Picturing the Social 2016 Conference Programme

A one-day conference exploring contemporary image sharing on social media & online visual cultures, which aims to create productive dialogue

Monday, 20 June 2016

Grand Hall, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (attendance at the conference costs £20. Please register here)

10:00 – 17:00




9.30-10.00       Registration


10.00-10.15     Welcome and Introduction

Farida Vis (Visual Social Media Lab/University of Sheffield)


10.15-11.00     Talk 1: Language of the Eye: How Computer Vision is Remaking Social Media

Susan Etlinger (Altimeter Group, A Prophet Company)

Images have the power to capture emotion and call people to action in a way that words often cannot. They can frequently be interpreted and understood without need for translation. They can spark trends and movements overnight, as we have seen with everything Black Lives Matter to Star Wars memes. But there is another factor at play. Social and mobile media have fueled an explosion of images on the Internet, whether in the form of photos, emoji, GIFs or video. According to a recent report, people share and upload more than 3 billion photos daily. This is both exciting and terrifying for industry, because approximately 80 percent of images that include a brand logo do not refer to the brand directly, which means that organizations are flying blind when it comes to detecting the content and context of images, and acting on the opportunities or risks they may present.

Today, organizations from start-ups to industry goliaths such as Facebook and Google are working on technologies that analyze the content of a photo. Increasingly, they’re also applying artificial intelligence to understand the context, manage brand reputation, detect opportunities and threats, better understand customer attitudes and behaviors, and identify product and service opportunities. Yet while the image recognition market is expected to increase at a 19.1% combined annual growth rate by 2020, it is still a nascent technology.

This talk will lay out the context of the growing image recognition market, outline use cases and challenges of image recognition technology for industry, discuss the social and ethical concerns presented by the increasing use of images for organizations that wish to better understand not only what people say about them, but what they see.

Chair: Farida Vis


11.00-11.15     Break


11.15-1.00       Panel 1: Qualitative approaches to social media images

This panel explores a range of qualitative approaches to and interpretations of the use of images on social media, via a number of different case studies, including: the sharing practices of the Alan Kurdi image in September 2015, the way in which different groups in Sheffield use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to ‘image’ Sheffield, and a recent case study from France, to encourage women to wear the hijab for a day to combat the rise of Islamophobia.


Lin Prøitz (Visual Social Media Lab/University of Sheffield) “This was a simple image just presented bluntly and there weren’t many ways to interpret it really”: A study of on the reception of the photograph of Alan Kurdi by a group of young volunteers in Sheffield and Oslo

Fatima Aziz (EHESS, Paris) From #AllVeiled to Hijab Day: a visual campaign against islamophobia in France

Anne Burns (Visual Social Media Lab/University of Sheffield) Imaging Sheffield: Location Specific Narratives Enacted Through Online Photographic Sharing

Katharina Lobinger (University of Bremen) Picturing and constructing the social. A repertoire-oriented perspective on networked visual practices in romantic relationships 


Chair: Ray Drainville (Visual Social Media Lab/MMU)


1.00-2.00         Lunch


2.00-3.45         Panel 2: Social media images, politics, and protest

This panel addresses relationships between images on social media and political practices and identities, focusing examples on the use of social media images for the purposes of policy-making, journalism, activism and protest. Two cases discussed will include the use of Facebook for political purposes by Palestinian photographers and journalists and the May 1st demonstrations in Milan in 2015.


Simon Faulkner (Visual Social Media Lab/MMU) Palestinian press photographers, Facebook, and the presentation of the political self

Matteo Azzi and Gabriele Colombo (DensityDesign/Politecnico di Milano) Fakes, flames and memes. Explorations on Twitter visual imagery during the no-expo demonstration in Milan

Rebecca Moody (Erasmus University, Rotterdam) The influence of the visual in public policy making

Paolo Gerbaudo (King’s College London) From Data Analytics to Data Hermeneutics: a blueprint for the qualitative sampling and interpretation of large social media datasets in the study of online political phenomena

Chair: Jim Aulich (Visual Social Media Lab/MMU)


3.45-4.00         Break


4.00-4.45         Talk 2: ‘Diversity on the Internet: A Goat Thing’

An Xiao Mina (Meedan)

“Kittens,” said Tim Berners-Lee, when asked on Reddit what he never thought the internet would be used for. And yet cats themselves are culturally situated, reflective of those who have historically been the internet’s primary users: middle class Westerners. As the internet’s global population diversifies, cats’ presumed dominance deserves a second look.

Over the past year, I led research on a world map of animal memes shown at “How Cats Took Over the Internet,” an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image. Reflecting the collective work of over a dozen internet scholars and researchers, the map looks at animal memes in different regions, with a special focus on the global south. What’s revealed is a diverse meme-nagerie, including llamas in Mexico, donkeys in Tajikistan and—perhaps most revealingly—a global trend toward goats.

In this talk, I will take a brief look at cat media online vis a vis the history of internet users and global connectivity. Discussing the map, I will argue that new meme cultures reflect a profound shift in internet population, as connected users reflect a wider range of lifestyles.

Chair: Olga Goriunova (Visual Social Media Lab/Royal Holloway)


4.45-5.00         Closing Remarks – Farida Vis


5:30 – 6:30       Drinks Reception (Benzie Building, Manchester School of Art)