Accepted Paper:

Being older on SNS: online photographic practices of 50 plus demographics  


Anna Kurpaska (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the relationship between affordances of digital technologies and photographic practices of older (50 plus) demographics on popular social networking sites.

Paper long abstract:

Older demographics become increasingly active and visible on SNS despite the fact that social media are dominated by young users, who contribute the majority of personal images currently shared online. Treating personal photography as a performative practice (see Larsen 2005), the proposed paper explores the social and cultural meanings of personal photographic practices, in particular photographic self-presentations, of older (50 plus) demographics within the context of the online sphere. The paper aims to critically examine the ways in which these older subjects use personal photographs as a part of their profiles on different social media sites (e.g. Facebook vs. Flickr), paying particular attention not only to transformations and continuities of personal photography and the photographic subject in the digital age in comparison to their earlier analogue forms but also taking into account the shifting socio-cultural norms that dictate acceptable ways of self-presentation and public participation of ageing people.

Linking understanding of photography as technology with its semiotic reading and exploring the relationship between affordances of digital technologies and current photographic practices of older demographics on social media, the paper aims to assess how new technologies are changing the social scripts, or 'cultural messages' (Crawley et al. 2007) for how individuals can represent themselves in public spaces. Particularly, it questions whether the emergent digital technologies and the Internet viewed as a social setting provide individuals with means for construction of personal, and ultimately societal, discursive practices for formation of sociality and collective and individual identity.

Panel P26
Anthropology of social networking: growing visuality of digital cultures and meanings conveyed by SNS images