Visual Communication on Social Network Sites: The Dynamics of Visual Production, Self-Presentation, and Computer-Mediated Communication

  • The availability of Web 2.0 for public use has brought new forms of interpersonal and public interaction opportunities, which affect people’s daily lives by stimulating the complex process of socialization. Online acquaintances are becoming common leading to offline communication or strengthening the existing online connections. Social networking users use massive visual and textual data for self-presentation. Profile images play a significant role in this regard. It investigates profile image typologies: production technique, visual motif, and photographic perspective. To answer the research questions, 1,028 randomly selected profile images, 90 online survey questionnaires and 7 in-depth interviews were randomly and purposefully collected from students at Duke University (USA) and Jacobs University Bremen (Germany). Content analysis and visual context analysis were used to analyze the collected data. The results show that profile images carry intended connotations meaningfully selected by profile owners. Images connote users’ feelings, emotions, and desires; they are used to tell personal stories, remember significant others, endorse people, promote products and institutions, and announce events. The vast majority of Facebook users prefer to use candid, person profile images, for modifying entails misleading relatives and friends. Moreover, the majority of the profile images are close-up, frontal, eye-level photographs which convey posed but authentic self-presentation. The process of visual self-presentation is analyzed from the perspective of hyperpersonal communication; it is asynchronous in that profile owners spend time with a purpose to choose relatively stable profile images suitable for most audiences. Online self-presentation in images is not about the individual profile owner; it is essentially about the complex interplay among the event, the subject, the photographer, and the technology. This research, therefore, provides both empirical and theoretical foundations of not only the power and significance of images in computer‐mediated communication but also the complex relationship among visual production, self-presentation, and computer-mediated communication.

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Publishing Institution:IRC-Library, Information Resource Center der Jacobs University Bremen
Granting Institution:Jacobs Univ.
Author:Mastewal Adane Mellese
Referee:Marion G. Müller, Arvid Kappas, Victoria Szabo
Advisor:Marion G. Müller
Persistent Identifier (URN):urn:nbn:de:gbv:579-opus-1003659
Document Type:PhD Thesis
Date of Successful Oral Defense:2013/12/06
Year of Completion:2013
Date of First Publication:2014/01/14
PhD Degree:Communication Science
School:SHSS School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Library of Congress Classification:P Language and Literature / P Philology. Linguistics / P87-96 Communication. Mass media / P93-96 Special aspects / P96.P75 Psychological aspects
Call No:Thesis 2013/35

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