Researcher name: Jo-Anne Sutherst
Invitation and brief summary:
I am conducting research on how the comments left on my selfie images could be used to contribute to the shaping of online identity. I am conducting this research because there is very little research (if any) investigating how crowdsourced comments can be used to construct digital identity from the perspective of a photographer. This research will provide an understanding of the selfie process as a method for identity creation and maintenance, providing new ways to think about selfies in terms of understanding the self-representation of our images in online spaces.
Purpose of the research:
The selfie can be understood as a product of recent advancements in digital image-making and online image sharing platforms. It is a socially accepted global phenomenon that serves as a means of self-presentation. Identity can be expressed through images posted to social media networks. Methodologically, the study will consist of the creation of filter edited selfies, incorporating the feedback received from others on about my selfies, and a critical evaluation of the interpretation of these processes used. Through practice-led research, I will explore the role of the creative and performative processes of producing, editing, and sharing selfies and responding to the feedback of others as a method for constructing and communicating identity in a contemporary digital world.
Why have you been approached?
You have been invited to participate in this study as you are a user of social media.
What would taking part involve?
You will be asked to comment on my selfie images. You can comment anything at all providing the comments meet the social media platform rules. The comments will be used by myself to create the next set of images to be posted.
Only the comment text will be collected as part of the research. No personal information, including your username, will be collected. You can remove your comments up to the point in which they are collected for use but after that, you will not be able to ask for them to be removed as they will already have been used in the next set of images.
Comments will be collected once a week on a Friday afternoon and all usernames and identifying features will be blacked out in screenshots straight away.
When will the project be running?
The pilot study will start on 1st August 2022 and will run until September of October. During this time the Instagram profile will remain request only and locked to the main Instagram audience.
From October/November 2022 to April/May 2023 the main project will run. The content created during the pilot project will be used to pre-populate the profile. At this point, the profile will be opened to the main Instagram audience (over 18 years old only).
At the end of the project, the Instagram profile will be locked again so that only those who have taken part will be able to view the content.
What are the possible benefits of taking part?
The study will make important contributions to the understanding of the selfie process as a method for identity creation and maintenance, providing new ways to think about selfies in terms of the self-representation of our images in online spaces.
What are the possible disadvantages and risks of taking part?
Whilst all comments used will have all usernames and identifying features blacked out in screenshots in the project, there is a remote possibility that other people can trace your comments back to your profile. The Instagram project profile will be locked and made private at the end of the project to protect the identity of commenters.
What will happen if I don't want to carry on with the study?
You can remove your comments up to the point in which they are collected for use but after that, you will not be able to ask for them to be removed as they will have been used in the creation of the next images. Comments will be collected once a week on a Friday afternoon and have all usernames and identifying features blacked out in screenshots straight away.
Due to the way that the comments are used to inform subsequent images in the project, it will not be possible to withdraw these comments after they have been collected for use as they will already have been acted on to inform the next image.
How will my information be kept confidential?
The University of Exeter processes personal data for the purposes of carrying out research in the public interest. The University will endeavour to be transparent about its processing of your personal data and this information sheet should provide a clear explanation of this. If you do have any queries about the University’s processing of your personal data that cannot be resolved by the research team, further information may be obtained from the University’s Data Protection Officer by
emailing email@example.com or at www.exeter.ac.uk/dataprotection
No personal data will be recorded as it is only the comment text that will be collected. Any screenshots of the comments will have the usernames blacked out so that the participants are not identifiable and will not be referred to in any identifying way in the documentation and analysis.
The comments will be stored in screenshots of my selfie posts. These screenshots of the comments made on my Instagram / Facebook posts will be collected weekly as a minimum and these images will be stored as jpegs on the university OneDrive. All usernames will be blacked out prior to saving. All screenshotted comment images will be retained until 04 April 2026.
No hard copy storage will be used.
Will I receive any payment for taking part?
This is an unpaid study.
What will happen to the results of this study?
Social media users will engage with and comment on my selfie images, enabling me to use these crowdsourced comments to then inform what I do with the next set of images in the project, informing the processes and how the images are then manipulated, shot, posed, all those things that go into the next image.
These images will be posted on the project social media channels, allowing participants to comment on the. At the end of the project, there will be a showcase exhibition in the Lansdown Gallery in Stroud, UK, where the images and comments will be exhibited to demonstrate the journey taken by myself through the project.
The project will also potentially be reported and disseminated through the following platforms:
Conference paper, presentation, or poster
Publication on website
Images created and comments that inspired them may be published on my on social media channels