The fourth issue of the Journal of Visual and Media Anthropology presents new unpublished results from research conducted in the years 2017 and 2018 by students of the Digital Anthropology course of the MA program in Visual and Media Anthropology of Freie Universität Berlin. Their work can be seen to focus on three significant themes within digital anthropology; immersive technology, the expansion of mobile media, apps, and other digital technologies into our internal biological processes, and the amplification of communication through virtual platforms that often extends to offline spaces.
The Riders 360° examines the rider experience of employees of food delivery apps like Deliveroo and Uber Eats. In his research Jung employs one of the most traditional methods of ethnographic fieldwork, that of participant observation, however he explores augmenting this through the attachment of a 360 degree camera to his bike and helmet. The investigation also considers rider experiences expressed in YouTube videos. The result is a sensorial study of the experience of some ‘gig economy’ laborers, offering a heightened visibility to an anonymous market.
in[formal] interchange documents a dialogue between Yin and 12 Southeast Asian performance makers which was broadcast on YouTube Live. Together they explore the question 'how can performance making online can be collaborative?' In exploring this question Yin brings into focus new approaches to digital anthropology regarding notions of field site, participatory research, and the anthropologist as author. Furthermore, the film explores immersive and interactive live streaming technologies as anthropological research tools and modes of representation.
The Freed Hand is a short film reflecting on the relation between the use of our hands and our being in the world against the backdrop of technology. What does it mean for us, and our hands, if we leave all the making to machines and all our hands do is think?
Circa is a visual autoethnography exploring the bodily connection to smartphones and, more specifically, users’ experiences of period tracker applications. The research focuses on how the use of such digital applications might contribute to a self-awareness and self-manageability of bodily processes as well as how they may interfer with them.
Visual Representation of Rural Landscapes of Colombia: Redefining Territorial Misconceptions on Instagram examines how social media and virtual communities, like Instagram, can influence the construction of a collective identity and memory through the representation of the self. It follows the experience of four Colombians whose main Instagram visual content concerns their homeland. The participants share individual perspectives on the motivations behind their published content, and how their relationship with their native land is shaped and visually represented in an online environment.
Immigration, Teendom & Identity Building Online explores how social media plays a key role in the adaptation of immigrant teenagers. The research is based on fieldwork conducted with 13 adolescents who have recently immigrated to Canada and are enrolled in a classe d’accueil—meant to teach age-appropriate French-language proficiency—at a Montréal high school. The article surveys the creative ways in which these platforms are used not only to overcome language barriers, but also to enhance preexisting relationships, (re)construct one's identity, and repair the ruptures brought on by displacement. The results reveal that immigrant teens regard these platforms as tools of empowerment, engaging with them as ways to construct their own narratives and help them acclimate to their new life in Canada.
The short film YASunidos: Diversity in Conservation explores the diversity, interdisciplinarity, and intersectionality in environmental conservation activism in Ecuador. The self-appointed ‘collective of collectives’, Yasunidos is one of the main voices in Ecuador advocating for the protection of natural and indigenous rights. In 2013, after the Yasuní ITT initiative failed, young activists from different social struggles met for the protection of the Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to several indigenous communities. Cast through an online gaze, this film gives insight into activist self-representation, group-representation, processes of social activism, and the intersectionality of activisms.
Seeking Space and Place: Experiences of Online Engagement Among Queer Women in Cape Town, South Africa focuses on understanding the significance of virtual platforms in the lives of queer women in Cape Town. It investigates the motivations for engaging online, the different platforms that are used, and the degree to which these platforms facilitate meeting in physical space. Two key themes of this research are the role of the online in creating a space for marginalized identities, and the importance of intersectionality within queer communities.
SOME/BODY IS DANCING is a short film based on a digital ethnography exploring the ways in which, and implications of how, different dancers from Colombia use digital tools like smartphones and social media for their dance practice and presentation. The research explores the boundaries between physical and virtual space and movement and questions how bodily expression is communicated virtually from performer to audience.
Grief in Digital Spaces: How We Use Facebook to Grieve examines the intricacies of grief and how social media provides a platform for expression and support. This article discusses how online social networks gain importance during bereavement and allow users to feel less isolated, even if they are physically distant from their support group. The research goes on to explore how Facebook is appropriated as a means of communication with the deceased.
influencer explores the online and offline persona of Dam Bracia's sister, Caroline Viehweg, a social media influencer working predominately on Instagram and Youtube. Viehweg can be considered "instafamous" with over 100,000 followers. The content she posts is monetized which has enabled her to begin the development of a personal consumer brand with the aim of "woman empowerment". Through intertwining Instagram and Youtube content with Skype interviews conducted with Viehweg and other instagram users, the film examines how Viehweg's online persona is created and performed as well as how followers perceive her. Underlying this focus is a sensitive inquiry into Dam Bracia's and Viehweg's familiel relationship.