When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

One of the methods pursued in my PhD research is an analysis of how the case studies are performed or constructed by users on Instagram. To do this, I sampled the hashtags #Wollongong, #Wollondilly and #Bowral from Instagram on selected days. Some quick stats:

#Wollondilly

#Wollongong

#Bowral

No. Posts

100

176

118

Total Tags

1385

1801

1122

Unique Tags

528

980

567

Unique Users

53

132

60

Popular Filters

Normal (65%), Mayfair (5%), X-Pro II (5%), Amaro (5%)

Normal (71.2%), Mayfair (4.5%), Amaro (4%)

Normal (52.1%), Ludwig (12.6%), Crema (10.9%)

Avg. Comments

2.2

1.27

1.52

Avg. Likes

27

17.99

19.86

Tags commonly co-occurring alongside #bowral include the regional descriptions #southernhighlands (n=52) and #highlands (n=52), #nsw (New South Wales, n=20), and Australia (n=13). There are also a series related to local businesses (#bestofvintage, #dirtyjanes, #miltonpark, #weknowpets, #mantragroup, #pepperscraigieburn and #bradmanmuseum). #Wedding, #weddings, #venue and #weddingvenue were also present a combined total of 27 times, suggesting the region’s association with luxurious and escapist celebration. Such tagging practices further support my argument that places exist within broader networks of other places. In this case, #bowral is clearly presented within a broader state and national context and, importantly, as something that can be captured and exported within media networks in those communities. It is my contention that the particular assemblage of tags used alongside those sampled indicate a kind of user-generated view of the character of the place in question, in turn shaping the experience of place for both the users applying the tags and others who might view those posts.

Below is a NodeXL network map of the #Bowral tag (much larger version on Flickr):

18468797370_0c6da0e501_zI’m saving the super-detailed analysis for my thesis, but here are some observations on how users construct Bowral on Instagram:

  • There is a very clear trend to represent Bowral (and the Southern Highlands as a whole) as a wedding destination. This comes from both ordinary users and those posting on Facebook for commercial purposes including venues, photographers and other wedding suppliers. The cluster of dark blue tags at top left includes #wedding, #weddinghair, #weddingideas and #weddingdress, #weddingdetails, #weddingreception, #dreamwedding, #bride, #weddingphotography and #rainywedding. There is also a wedding presence in the fluro green cluster in the bottom row and around #hopewoodhouse in red.
  • Shopping and antiques is also quite strong, due in no small part to the work of the Dirty Jane account. See light blue cluster at bottom left, which is discrete from other clusters. This suggests these tags are not used by many other users and their strong presence on the graph is almost entirely thanks to a single user.
  • Cricket and tourism activities are also strong, in light green trending left bottom: #bradmanmuseum, #brettlee, #vivrichards, #thedon, #salutethedon, #michaelclarke, #tendulkar, #zimbabwe, #boyfrombowral
  • There are multiple clusters that gather around garden themes.
  • The brighter purple and azure clusters in the top row seem to be focused on art
  • Fashion is also prominent in the orange and navy blue clusters of the bottom row.

All of these add up to a picture of the Southern Highlands as an escape or adventure destination. There is lots of commercial activity and posts by visitors, and a few instances of apparently local posts (especially around the children’s art classes in purple).