Thesis Proposal


Title: My Selfie Image An Artist’s Multimedia Perspective to Self-Discovery

Thesis Proposal Kelly Ahern Preface: This is a deeply passionate and personal story of how I’ve become the person and the artist today because of social media. Specifically, social media immediately caught my eye and gave me a platform to express myself with art. Throughout my entire life, so many unique forms of new media have added great significance on my attitudes, beliefs, and perception of myself and the world around me. While social media opened a plethora of new communication interactions, it has also opened a great deal of controversy in the patterns through which we collect and understand information. As someone who’s incredibly dependent off media I became subjected to media’s underlying propaganda messages and values. This story, autobiography, and thesis conception describes the steps I went through to become attached to media. How I become consumed by societal ideals, depressed and by the person I was becoming, and relentlessly hooked on a technology that was feeding unhealthy obsessions. Without the knowledge obtained from going to graduate I would have never understood the motivation and research it took to push me to share this thesis project.

Table of Contents A. Statement of the Problem B. Abstract C. Hypothesis & Research Questions D. Justification for and Significance of the Study E. Methodology & Procedures F. Resources Required G. Literature Cited

A. Statement of the Problem Through graduate school I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge about the world we live in today and how new media continues to expand and advance. Through globalization and rapid technology we have resources to a wide variety new media interactions that shape our identities. As an artist and a student, I’ve come to define myself through new media and consider how other individuals continue to communicate, identify themselves, and form online communities and cultures. With a deeper understanding of these virtual communities that new media provides we can continue to adapt the definition of cultural identity. We should start to study social media as is directly affects human communication and relationships. How might cultures and people understand themselves and the world around us with constant access to media portrayals? New media allows for the expansion of visual imagery and the ability to communicate with various types of media mediums. Specific kinds of imagery represent various online social worlds that create multiple cultures of photos. These photos are used in many different interpersonal ways to interact and connect. How can we understand our culture and world if we can’t understand the messages underneath images? Can specific images be more popular and relatable than others? How can we study visual imagery in social media settings?

With only so much access to certain groups online it would be a challenge to identify individuals and how they accurately represent their culture and identity. New media allows for the ability to create and project yourself in many different ways. Some of these social adaptions could have negative impacts on individual’s perceptions of themselves and others. The process of self-identity is psychological which makes it difficult to understand and identify the value of images within various media. All types of media have different uses for images which creates difficulty when trying to generalize individual visual elements and their importance within each platform.

B. Abstract The world we live in today is filled with all different types of media exposing pictures and images constantly. Online technology allows for the exchange of this mass media instantly. With so much media swarming in our social lives, news broadcasting, and television visual imagery has become a part of our culture creating new forms of visual and perceptual communication to thrive online. This “visual culture” draws new platforms of social structures and interactions that include visual imagery such as pictures, videos, emoticons, gifs, memes, etc. These new forms of socialization continue to develop and invent innovate the ways in which we form our perception of the world. Every tiny moving picture, from the selfie you post on social media, to the video news and Hollywood blockbuster movies, how can we define which of these images matter? How are we able to identify the ways it affects us if we cannot define the image interpretation itself? Visual communication & social media theory have changed the ways in which information, connection, and communication make meaning in society. This thesis explores the visual language of specifically Instagram with influence from popular social media such as Facebook & Twitter. By immersing our interests inside these “addictive” forms of media we can begin to study the credentials and motives that power social media platforms. This new perspective gives us the question of how is this affecting modern society’s notion of visual communication. We must consider what these pictures are, how they create new communicative processes, and why they all hold specific types of value in the structure of our social world. This thesis will attempt to form a set of visual language. Are visual images so diverse and abstract that it would be near impossible to construct a mainstream understanding of a visual language? What kinds of images are at the forefront of most modern-day media? Every single day millions of audiences expose themselves to social media’s most “popular” or “liked” pictures. Without a clear understanding of what visual images do to our perception we may become blinded by misguided intentions. As a society we need to put a focus on the study of visual imagery in the media and its effect on the self-identities and world perceptions of generations to come. C. Research Questions & Hypotheses -What is the relationship between visual images in social media to self-identity and interpersonal communication? -Does the amount of activity spent on social media affect specific behaviors in groups of people? (ex. depressed, anxious, self-conscious) -What are the characteristics of visual images that repeat and reproduce as messages in online culture? - What kinds of visual images are most represented and valued within social media, which communications context do these images appear, and can they be identified and modeled for further image research? H1. Young generations will be more invested upon social media ideals/online perception of self, challenging the universal understanding of social media values between ages. H2. The importance of visual image media literacy as well as social media research will increase as the need to communicate online increases. H3. Image processing theories will offer a platform on which to structure new visual forms of interaction. Major Assumptions I have realized that my combined efforts on Instagram and other social platforms will take place over a scheduled time and naturally increase my awareness and participation. As I dig deep into my own personal media experiences I could inflect bias opinions from my natural social media uses and individualized opinion. I know I must remained objective as well as having an increasing interest on the way my work affects me and the research I am studying. D. Justification for and Significance of the Study

  • A Media Narrative/Reflection My Personal Story. I’ve developed and changed as a person and an artist in a media saturated world. What I’ve learned through my studies and life experiences have become an uplifting journey to self-discovery. During my attendance in graduate school I’ve realized how much media communication can make a difference in mine, and millions of lives to come.

• A brief statement of the reason for the selection of the problem; As a recent college graduate I’ve observed how media has affected my judgment and perceptions of myself and the people I communicate with. It has influenced me to believe societal ideals, value media trends, and allows me easily express myself with art. I study social media and self-imagery as a way to understand and better myself and wish to share my discoveries with others.

• The relation of the principal literature to the proposal; My graduate school experience taught me how social media is providing new avenues for how traditional communication theories can be researched and adapted to online interactions. People across the globe are connecting in numerous ways online, specifically within social media outlets. The spread of this advancing technology makes room for images to be a form of communication and meaning. The need to understand this visual imagery represented in the media is becoming of great importance for people to affectively interact with each other. Is it possible to study images, their characteristics, and the way they influence the world?

E. Methodology or Procedures

1. “Selfie Image” - Rhetorical introduction of my transformation as a person and artist through graduate school research and social media -Personal story of self-discovery through finding a connection between my life and my thesis -Justification research 2. Visual Imagery Lit Review Visual Imagery Literature Review Outline Introduction: Artistic connection to visual imagery and the meaning for how it creates communication in my life. A. Social Media & Self Identity 1.Study of social media logic, the historical context, and an in depth discussion of it’s impact on society and the world. -What kinds of individual and cultural changes have we seen from social media today? -How does it affect the way we perceive the world? 2. With the influence of new media we are forced to look at ourselves in our own culture while considering how that has effect on ourselves and a global identity as a whole. -How much of who we believe ourselves to be is depicted upon social media? -How is our self-identity created and is it changing because of media advancements. -What are some beneficial and negative responses to constructing cognitions from media B. Visual Culture 1. What is this visual culture? -How does it open new interpretations for meaning and connection. Visual Communication 2.What is visual imagery? - Is imagery a language/what is language/how does it create meaning 3. Visual communication as a language -What is unique to visual language compared to written or oral? -Identifying key communicative differences C. Image Representation 1. How do people process visual language differently? -psychological/ cognitive processes, what goes on in our brain? -people process messages differently 2. The Power of Images. -How to images act as knowledge in the way we perceive and construct knowledge? -Images as languages themselves: pictures, emoji, gif, video, memes. -The spread of technology & interplay of text and images online D. Social Media Psychology 1.Study of social media uses gratifications, social media logic, and how it’s innovative techniques creative new platforms of communication -What kinds of individual and cultural changes have we seen from social media today? -SMS’s obsession with the sense of self/image/popularity/commercialization -How much of who we believe ourselves to be is depicted upon social media? 3. Media Impact Through my unique artistic perspective I will communicate my thesis ideas by making social media posts. I will be using various artistic mediums and creating my own art as a source of imagery for my viewers, followers, audience etc. The posts will be through Instagram & Facebook- outreach- Introduction video, scheduled posts, events, analytics. These “mini projects” or artistic posts will analyze visual communication through: - Photography + connection to thesis reflections -Identifying qualities about how media structures new digital visual communication processes -Discussion of visual images as a language throughout social media -Exploration of Instagram’s popular motifs with powerful message captions - Hierarchy of visual intersemiosis/visual imagery characterization -Evidence of different visual messages & the connect they create between people -The perspective of different popular social media ideals and audiences -Visually eye catching and relatable images that spark inspiration and emotion -A progressive story / artistic message / empowering caption -Creative video or time lapse process 4. Self-Reflective Rhetoric -Final Viral Video -Cohesive Art Collection: -a personal self-reflective story about how this project has made me into the person I am today. -Shared through art projects in different forms of social media - synthesis between reading and creative process General characteristics of the study population; age 18-24 male and female, millennials, social media users, Instagram friends, Facebook friends, outreach of 50 mi radius around Cranston RI. Including the demographics from my social media analytics and website.

Location or calendar events in carrying out the study; January through March 2018

Tools for collecting data: will include google analytics, social media insights, scheduled posts, & record of social media data tracking. Collection of art posts and Microsoft word documents.

Definition of the most important terms and concepts will be identified and described throughout a record notebook (sketchbook) of the entire thesis process.

F. Resources Required

The resources needed for the successful completion of this study requires the accessibility to multiple social media platforms such as an Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube account. Each of this media has their analytics available. This project also requires a camera, iPhone, video recorder, and artistic mediums. The application of photo editing programs such as Photoshop and iPhone accessories will be used. Scholarly research and books will be applied as well. All of the items just mentioned are already available to me and will be taken advantage of during the thesis process. The convenience of using URI’s art studios and computer lab would be greatly appreciated. ** I AM NOT USING ANY HUMAN SUBJECTS IN THE COLLECTION OF MY DATA**

G. Literature Cited in the Proposal

A review of some small literature and research has been conducted through Media 510 and can be found on http://www.kellyahernart.com/media-s-genius & http://www.kellyahernart.com/blog Bresciani S., Eppler M.J.(2015) The Pitfalls of Visual Representations: A Review and Classification of Common Errors Made While Designing and Interpreting Visualizations. Sage Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244015611451 Chen, G.M. (2005) A model of global communication competence, china media research,1(1),

Chen, G.M. (2012). Impact of new media on intercultural communication in global context. China Media Research, 8(2).

Chen, G.M. & Zhang, K. (2010). New media and cultural identity in the global society. In R.Taiwo (ed.) Handbook of research on discourse behavior and digital communication: language structures and social interation (pp.795-809) DaConceição, A.P. (2016) Contrasting (power of) visual and textual discourses in art studies: a critical perspective. Visual Communication, Vol 15, Issue 1, pp. 33 – 53 https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357215608550

Duncum, Paul. “Theorizing Everyday Aesthetic Experience with Contemporary Visual Culture.” Visual Arts Research, vol. 28, no. 2, 2002, pp. 4–15. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20716059. Duncum, P.. (2001). Visual Culture: Developments, Definitions, and Directions for Art Education. Studies in Art Education, 42(2), 101–112. Freathy, P., & Thomas, I. (2015). Marketplace metaphors: communicating authenticity through visual imagery. Consumption, Markets & Culture, 18(2), 178-194. Guadagno, R. E., Jones, N. M., Kimbrough, A. M., & Mattu, A. (2016). Translating social media psychological research. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 2(3), 213-215. Ibrahim, Y. (2015). Instagramming life: banal imaging and the poetics of the everyday. Journal Of Media Practice, 16(1), 42-54. Jenkins, H. (2008), Convergence Culture, The international journal of research into new media technologies. (1), 5-12 Kenix, L. J. (2013). A Converging Image?.JournalismStudies,14(6) Kosslyn, S. M., & Pomerantz, J. R. (1977). Imagery, propositions, and the form of internal representations. Cognitive psychology, 9(1), 52-76. Leetaru, K. H. (2015). The user of the future: Reimagining how we think about information. Information Services & Use, 35(1/2), 23-29.

Natsoulas, Thomas. “Virtual Objects.” The Journal of Mind and Behavior, vol. 20, no. 4, 1999,pp. 357–377. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43843077. O’Halloran, K.L. (2008). Systemic functional-multimodal discourse analysis (SF-MDA): Constructing ideational meaning using language....Visual Communication. DOI: 10.1177/1470357208096210 Shin, C. I., & Jackson, R. L.(2003). A Review of Identity Research in Communication Theory. In W. J. Sarasota & G. M. Chen (eds.) Ferment in the intercultural field (pp.211-240)

Shirley S. Ho, Edmund W. J. Lee, Youqing Liao (2016). Social Network Sites, Friends, and Celebrities: The Roles of Social Comparison and Celebrity Involvement in Adolescents’ Body Image Dissatisfaction. Social Media + Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305116664216 Su, L. Y., Cacciatore, M. A., Liang, X., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D. A., & Xenos, M. A. (2017). Analyzing public sentiments online: combining human- and computer-based content analysis. Information, Communication & Society, 20(3), 406-427. Tobin, S. J., & Chulpaiboon, P. (2016). The role of social connection in satisfaction with instagram photographs. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 2(3), 303-312.

Van Dijk, J., The Reality of Virtual Communities, Trends in Communication, (1998) 1(1) 39-63 Yang, C. (2016). Instagram Use, Loneliness, and Social Comparison Orientation: Interact and Browse on Social Media, But Don't Compare. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 19(12), 703-708. Yuwei, J., Adaval R., Steinhert Y., Wyer JR., R. S. (2014). Imagining Yourself in the Scene: The Interactive Effects of Goal-Driven Self- Imagery and Visual Perspectives on Consumer Behavior. Journal Of Consumer Research, 41(2), 418-435. https://academic-oup-com.uri.idm.oclc.org/jcr/article/41/2/418/2907565 Zolkepli, I. A., & Kamarulzaman, Y. (2015). Social media adoption: The role of media needs and innovation characteristics. Computers In Human Behavior, 43189-209. Zappavigna, M. (2016). Social media photography: construing subjectivity in Instagram images. Visual Communication, 15(3), 271-292. Tavory, I. Timmermans, S. (2009). Two cases of ethnography: Grounded theory and the extended case method. Ethnography 2009; 10; 243-264. DOI: 10.1177/1466138109339042 Warfeild, K. (2014). Making Selfies/Making Self: Digital Subjectivities in the Selfie. (Talk version of paper: The Model, the #realme, and the self-conscious thespian: the digital subject in the selfie) Proceedings of the Image Conference Berlin, October 30th, 2014, Faculty, Journalism and Communications, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory, Jeffrey T. Hancock. (2014) Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2014, 111 (24) 8788-8790; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1320040111

A Strauss, J Corbin. (1994) Grounded theory methodology. Handbook of qualitative research. depts.ttu.edu Toward an Integrative Theory for Understanding Art Discourses Author(s): Ephrat Huss and Haim Maor Source: Visual Arts Research, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Winter 2014), pp. 44-56 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/visuartsrese.40.2.0044 Peterson, R., & Anand, N. (2004). The Production of Culture Perspective. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 311-334. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.uri.idm.oclc.org/stable/29737696 YUWEI, J., ADAVAL, R., STEINHART, Y., & WYER JR., R. S. (2014). Imagining Yourself in the Scene: The Interactive Effects of Goal-Driven Self- Imagery and Visual Perspectives on Consumer Behavior. Journal Of Consumer Research, 41(2), 418-435. doi:10.1086/676966

https://academic-oup-com.uri.idm.oclc.org/jcr/article/41/2/418/2907565


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