week 10: mediology and instagram

Regis Debray pioneered the notion that technology is influenced by culture. He described the influence of ideas on technological mediums, and the influence of culture on those ideas. Those  One example of a medium that his theories can be applied to is Instagram. Instagram fills a social need that humans have– to communicate with others– by enabling users to share snippets of their own lives, and follow what others have shared. Another need that Instagram meets is the need for affirmation. As social beings, we seek affirmation from others and this need is somewhat satisfied through the medium of instagram as users can “like” photos to denote their approval.  We are socialized to need others to like us, and Instagram makes this need for affirmation very visible.

One invisible condition is that users need to own a smartphone device, as one is not able to post photos to Instagram via the web. That condition in itself requires that one has the financial resources in order to possess a smartphone, as well as a data plan for the phone. The app’s creator, Kevin Systrom, has described his product as a method of turning ordinary moments into extraordinary ones (Behind the Hustle). Users need to have visual sensibilities, meaning their brains must be able to process visual information in order to use the application.

According to Debray, “communicating…is a way of making familiar,” while transmitting is (Debray 1) In a way, Instagram serves as a medium for communication, as users the application “prompts an instantaneous response between parties” (Debray 3). Users send and receive information via images, hashtags, and captions, and communicate with each other via comments left on each other’s images.Debray writes, “human beings communicate; more rarely do they transmit lasting meanings” (Debray 4). This is definitely applicable with Instagram; the prefix “insta-” is defined as “instant or quickly produced” (Dictionary.com). The application is designed to capture what may be considered as a fleeting moment in time.

One underlying framework and institution of Instagram is the internet. Instagram requires an internet connection in order for it to be used. Users have the ability to pick-and-choose whom they’d like to receive updates from, as well as the ability to choose who can receive their updates– if they create privacy settings.