Becoming a semiotic technology: A historical study of Instagram's tools for making and sharing photos and videos

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Abstract

Since October 2010, Instagram has provided its users with photo filters and other visual communication features with which they are changing the semiotic landscape of mobile photography. These tools, used to make and share images, are continuously updated. While these functionalities have been studied from a synchronic perspective, a diachronic study of their semiotic and interactive features has been overlooked. The purpose of this article is to investigate the design history of the tools in Instagram's mobile user interface.

Drawing on a social semiotic multimodal framework, this article presents an analysis of selected tools in the Instagram mobile user interface from 2010 until 2017. It reports on the findings of how tools changed quantitatively and qualitatively. Three interrelated developments are tracked: the number of tools, their semiotic representation and the potential meaning of these. Subsequently, the study shows that the Instagram application makes knowledge and skills available to a community of amateurs that used to be reserved for professional photographers. Thus, the study characterises the ways Instagram as a semiotic technology over time has facilitated and structured visual meaning-making.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society
Volume2
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)121-139
ISSN2470-1475
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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