Accepted Paper:

Illustrating anthropology through the smartphone: Instagram as a mode of public dissemination  

Author:

Laura Haapio-Kirk (University College London (UCL))

Paper short abstract:

This paper will present the Illustrating Anthropology exhibition launched in September 2020, supported by the RAI. This experiment in pedagogy and public anthropology provokes questions about how digital visual communication can be especially effective for communicating affective understanding.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will present the Illustrating Anthropology exhibition which launched in September 2020, supported by the RAI. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition took place physically in a socially-distanced manner in two galleries, and online via a dedicated website (https://illustratinganthropology.com/) and an Instagram account (@illustrating_anthropology). While the pandemic on the one hand constrained opportunities for public anthropology, it also prompted a deep engagement with online forms of communication, for which illustration proved to be apt. This experiment in pedagogy and public anthropology provokes questions about how illustration combined with the affordances of the smartphone work to capture attention and deliver anthropological insights to broad audiences. Examining Instagram and associated media as platforms for knowledge exchange, this paper seeks to build on a growing awareness of the potential of the smartphone for anthropological public interventions ('The Global Smartphone', Miller et. al., forthcoming 2021). By focusing in particular on the affordances of visual digital communication to convey anthropological knowledge, we see how the truth/fiction spectrum of ‘vérités graphiques’ (‘Drawing-Writing Culture’, Visual Anthropology Review, Dix, 2019) can be especially effective for communicating affective understanding when moved online, embedded in wider communication practices.

Panel P07
Critical play: Smartphones as a mode of creative engagement with crisis