Last year I wrote a blogpost on a project exploring how Instagram is used to share photographs of the Northern Irish Troubles. This morning I presented preliminary findings from this work at the 8th European Communication Conference organised by ECREA.
My talk was part of a panel entitled ‘Emotions, rituals and memories’, which should be made available later to watch on the conference platform.
The abstract for the paper is below:
Conflicting Memory and Social Media: Memorialising the Northern Irish Troubles on Instagram
Photosharing app Instagram provides unprecedented opportunities for distributing photographs challenging the ‘official memory’ of conflict. The ‘connective turn’ not only renders conflict photography searchable, but aggregates the memories of traumatised communities. This paper adds to the nascent literature in this area by exploring how Instagram is used to share photographs of the Northern Irish ‘Troubles,’ a low-intensity conflict that resulted in 3,600 fatalities and left many more bereaved, injured and traumatized. Twenty years after the Agreement, Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided society in which competing narratives over the conflict and its constitutional status remain deeply entrenched. This study explored the visual representation of these narratives on Instagram, with a specific focus on the type of images shared and the comments they generated from other Instagrammers. A content and visual framing analysis of 100 historical images tagged #thetroubleswas conducted between August and December 2019 in order to explore these issues. Results indicate that images of everyday life during the conflict, such as children playing in desolate urban landscapes, and British soldiers, typically depicted holding weapons against a backdrop of civil unrest, were the most prominent visual representations under this hashtag. Those shared by British army veterans depicting their experiences typically sparked a polarised debate between pro-British and pro-republican commenters on the origins of the conflict. While the affordances of Instagram broaden participation in processes of memorialization, they also lay bare the absence of a shared narrative on the violent past in ‘post-conflict’ societies such as Northern Ireland.
The slides can be viewed below: