The [email protected] invites essay submissions for a workshop on social media methodologies to be held at Pratt Institute on March 26th, 2019.  The workshop aims to bring together scholars pursuing research on social media phenomena within the US and globally. We are particularly interested in papers that explore both ethnographic and critical visual methodologies in analyzing social media practices that address issues of social justice. 

While analyses of social media have proliferated over the past five years, few have accorded attention to developing a precise methodological frame for the ethnographic and critical visual analysis of social media practices. Drawing from Mirca Madianou and David Miller (2012, 2013), we foreground an understanding of social media as scaffolded by “polymedia” formations -- moving away from an understanding of digital spaces as comprising discreet and separate online platforms to one in which users move seamlessly across multiple converging digital spataliaties toward the pursuit of different communicative aims. Though some scholars have proposed the utility of ethnographic approaches to social media, such frameworks can elide attention to the visuality of digital practices, as well as to the preservation, storage, and disappearance of digital visual archives and communities. We insist instead upon a methodology that foregrounds ethnographic and critical visual methods that enable us to understand the relational dynamics between media ecologies and individuals, and the ways that both are transformed through mediations. Such a methodology would also facilitate our attention to precise social media engagements within particular interactional contexts that are both individual and collective. For instance, individuals contending with precarity (e.g. militarized conflict, settler colonialism, carceral states, diasporic and immigrant communities) have used social media to visually document everyday dispossession and to subvert the metonymy of violence by documenting pleasurable everyday affective sentiments. By allowing the “field” to surprise and inform us, and by attending critically to ways that visuality enframe and circulate on social media platforms, scholars will be able to contest dominant narratives on social media use within the U.S. and the global south. 

Beyond elaborating on specific ethnographic contexts and the research questions, papers should critically evaluate the methodologies used to analyze social media practices. How do ethnographic and critical visual methodologies enable us to provide a “thick description” (Geertz 1973) of social media practices, thereby subverting “big data” approaches? How does attending to polymedia enable us to understand how individuals utilize media ecologies in unique ways in order to mediate their communication practices, and relationships with one another? What unforeseen visualities and countervisualities emerge when we analyze social media as a visual practice? How do ethnographic and critical visual methodologies in turn enable us to understand intersecting processes such as surveillance, dispossession, and subversion at the level of micro-practices? 

This workshop will serve as a platform for junior academics looking to build an intellectual community with other emergent scholars working on social media and critical visual studies. Funded by Pratt Institute’s SEED grant, this workshop is part of the Social Media Lab’s long-term plan of proposing a pathbreaking methodology for the ethnographic and visual analysis of social media practices. As an autonomous lab, we work closely with the Global South Center (GSC) and the Critical Visual Studies (CritViz) concentration to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration across Pratt Institute and beyond building alliances with fellow artists, scholars and activists within New York City and across North-South and South-South networks. 

We strongly encourage applications from advanced PhD students (post-fieldwork/writing stage) and junior scholars. Please submit a 250-word abstract to [email protected] by January 15, 2019. Recipients will be notified of their acceptance by January 31st. We plan to have targeted discussions on the essays, so participants will submit a 15-20 page, double-spaced essay by end February to their panels. Instead of a typical conference format, participants are expected to present a brief 15-min summary of their essays, and will receive comments from the invited discussant and other participants during their panel. We envision this format to spur deeper engagement with the papers. We are also planning to propose a special issue on methodology with a peer-reviewed journal drawing from the conference proceedings. 

Please note that we will not be able to fund travel costs. As such, we are encouraging applications from scholars based in the New York, Boston, New Jersey and Philadelphia area. Participants will be required to spend a full day at Pratt, attending workshops and a keynote session. All meals (tea, lunch, dinner) will be provided.  

Please direct all questions to the co-coordinators of the lab and workshop organizers: Drs. Nurhaizatul Jamil ([email protected]) or Wendy V. Muñiz ([email protected])