This section gathers papers that analyze concrete cases of identity-related images on social networks or in video archival appropriations using the epistemology of visual documents and the semio-rhetorical theoretical framework built in the first two sections.
D’Armenio, E. “The Rhetorical Dimension of Images: Identity Building and Management on Social Networks”, Semiotica (DeGruyter), Vol. 22, Issue 246, pp. 87-115.
This article proposes a semio-rhetorical epistemology for visual documents, one capable of accounting for both their internal configuration, which we shall call the compositional dimension, and their persuasive force within public space, or their rhetorical dimension. The field of reference will be that of identity-related images on social networks, because compared to other kinds of images, such as artistic or professional ones, they adopt new compositional solutions and new dynamics of circulation. To test this theoretical framework, we will conduct an analysis which has never been carried out in semiotics and which, as far as we know, remains very rare even in the overall field of visual studies, that is, the analysis of the profile of an Instagram influencer’s visual production, that of Canadian artist Rupi Kaur. Taking into account the flow of images shared over time, we will focus primarily on the compositional dimension that articulates the specificity of the language of images. The most appropriate model for investigating social network photos seems to be that of the portrait, thanks to which we will identify a first series of regularities and deviations. Secondly, we will turn towards the rhetorical dimension – the persuasive strategies found within, through, and towards images – focusing on the analysis of a single photo: on the one hand, it is a shot which presents greater compositional richness than others; on the other hand, it has greatly impacted the notoriety of the influencer, due to the censorship incurred on Instagram, its abundant coverage by traditional media, and the heated debate it triggered on social media. We will thus propose a reinterpretation of Paul Ricœur’s theory of identity in order to balance the rhetorical and the compositional dimensions through a unitary theoretical hypothesis. Visual identity on social networks is always the result of a negotiation between two opposite tendencies: on the one hand, the experiential pressure expressed through images related to the body and everyday practices; on the other, the algorithmic pressure due to the delegation of the management of identity to software. The case of Rupi Kaur is a rare example of a critical mediation between these two pressures and helps us build a methodology for the examination of images belonging to other social domains.
D’Armenio, E. “La gestione digitale del sé: Immagini e prestazioni identitarie sui social network”, Lexia, 37-38, pp. 305-324, 2020.
The article considers the images and performances of the face in social networks from the perspective of a radical hypothesis: images in social networks are always identity-related images for, while adopting strategies of self-management at the physical level, they express a constitutive tension between permanence and transformation with respect to both ongoing social debates and the behaviour of algorithms. This hypothesis is supported by a reinterpretation of Paul Ricœur’s theory of identity centred on the narratives realized through visual languages, and on the rhetorical and mediatic tensions that govern the functioning of social networks. The cases of a number of influencers are focused on to analyse the role played by the face: a common narrative structure is identified and defined as a ‘dramaturgy of the face’, adopted by influencers in order to mediate between the identity expressed by experiential images (selfies, first-person shots, live videos) and the behavioural identity modelled by algorithms (recommendations on Facebook, Instagram, Netflix and Tinder). The first part of the paper focuses on the action of influencers in order to show the mediatic and semiotic dynamics underlying social media, as well as the way in which the collective construction of values (quantitative, monetary, reputational) is managed around identities. The second part takes into account the role of the face in identity-related performances realized through images, such as reaction videos and ‘face reveals’.
D’Armenio, E. “Identity and Social Networks. A Dramaturgy of the Face in Digital Environments”, will be published for the Routledge/FACETS Advances in Face Studies series, directed by Massimo Leone in the framework of the ERC Consolidator Grant “FACETS — Face Aesthetics in Contemporary E-Technological Societies”.
In this paper, we intend to develop the idea of a dramaturgy of the face so as to explain images and videos on social networks. We will start with an analysis of the mechanisms by which value is constructed, which are based on the accumulation and transformation of the quantitative appreciation expressed by the acts of like, follow, and share into monetary and reputational value. We will then focus on the experiential and algorithmic pressures to which identity is subjected, pressures that must be managed through a narration of identity realized through the language of images. Finally, we will focus on the relationship between the semiotic qualities of the face and the semiotic qualities of images, through a comparison between two classical genres and two genres that are highly visible on social networks. On the one hand, we will compare the canons of the artistic self-portrait with selfies and identity images on social networks, and on the other hand, we will contrast the transformation of the actor into a fictional character with the performances of streamers on Twitch.