Visual Life-Stories on Facebook. A Methodological Approach to Old and New Ways of Constructing Biographies

breck2.pngWith the rapidly developing online-communication new practices of creating images breck2of the self, of biographies and identities occur. However, we also can observe continuation of socially established practices to produce ‘snapshot versions’ of our lives (Chalfen 1987).

In my project I explore the specific relation of textual and pictorial narratives in Facebook-communication as to understand how biographies are created visually, especially by organising photographs in albums. By analysing the visual performance of contrasting examples of Facebook-communication, I introduce a specific combination of visual and narration-based methodologies as in-depth case reconstruction. By the method of Segment Analyses (Breckner 2010, 2012), selected images will be interpreted as to reveal implicit configurations of visual self-presentation, complemented by hermeneutic text analyses of captions and comments with which the interactional contexts and the negotiation of the meanings of the images is reconstructed.

The following questions guide the analysis: What kinds of experiences are visually constructed? In what way did the manner of creating visual images of oneself change and which stylistic forms of portraying and photographing social situations prevail? To what extent are traditional ways and functions of creating photo albums (Chalfen 1987; Hirsch 1997/2002; Pauwels 2008; Rose 2010) continued by means of new technology, and in what way new patterns of ‘doing biography’ emerge?
With in-depth-case analyses I provide insights to how the concept of ‘biography’ that has developed as a relevant social practice in modern societies undergoes more or less deep changes in the ongoing media shift.

Visual Segment Analysis reconstructs how from the relationship and formal organisation of various pictorial elements an image emerges, thereby creating, at the moment of viewing, partly determinable and partly indeterminate meanings and connotations in discursive contexts.
In this case we can observe a rather more conventional staging of commonality which can be characterised as ‘Me and the Others’.


References
Breckner, Roswitha. 2010. Sozialtheorie des Bildes. Zur interpretativen Analyse von Bildern und Fotografien. Bielelfeld: transcript
Breckner, Roswitha. 2012. Bildwahrnehmung – Bildinterpretation. Segmentanalyse als methodischer Zugang zur Erschließung bildlichen Sinns. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie (ÖZS) 2/12 143-164
Chalfen, Richard. 1987. Snapshot Versions of Life. Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press
Hirsch, Marianne. 1997/2002. Family Frames. Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Cambridge/Mass: Harvard University Press
Pauwels, Luc. 2008. A private visual practice going public? Social functions and sociological research opportunities of Web-based family photography. Visual Studies 23 (1): 34-49
Rose, Gillian. 2010. Doing Family Photography. The Domestic, The Public and The Poliltics of Sentiment. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate


breckRoswitha Breckner is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology of the University of Vienna, spokesperson of the Research Area Visual Studies in Social Sciences of the Faculty of Social Sciences (http://visualstudies.univie.ac.at/), and President of the Research Committee Biography and Society of the International Sociological Association (http://www.isa-sociology.org/rc38.htm). Her current research interest focuses on visual communication in Social Networks from a biographical perspective.

Meet the LOC – Ulrike Zartler

In our series “Meet the LOC” we would like to introduce you to the members of our Local Organizing Committee. The previous entries in this series can be found here.

ZartlerWhat is your main sociological field of study and what sparked your interest in it?

My main fields of interest are family sociology and childhood sociology. Over the past years, I have been particularly engaged in research on post-divorce families and have asked why the nuclear family still serves as an ideological code. These research interests go along with a strong focus on the sociological analysis of legal frameworks that shape families’ and children’s lives.

What characterizes your scientific work?

In my research, I adopt a concept of families as broadly defined varieties of being related. In my empirical research, I try to capture as many perspectives as possible and to include different family members. This usually gives tremendously divergent pictures about the – apparently – same family. I especially like to conduct studies with children, because they are so unpredictable and demand a particular openness and flexibility.

What is the main professional activity you are engaged in?

Doing research, writing papers, teaching and supervising are the everyday basic features. Furthermore, I am Deputy Head of the Department of Sociology, a Board member of the ESA RN 13 (Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives) and of the Austrian Society on Interdisciplinary Family Research (ÖGIF).

What are your next projects or publications?

I am currently preparing journal manuscripts on the following issues: Children’s networks in post-divorce dual residence arrangements; Intergenerational relationships at the transition to parenthood; Multiple perspectives in qualitative longitudinal family research.


Ulrike Zartler is an assistant professor of family sociology at the University of Vienna, Department of Sociology. Her research interests cover family sociology, childhood sociology, divorce and post-divorce families, legal aspects of family and childhood, and qualitative research methods.

Meet the LOC – Roland Verwiebe

In our series “Meet the LOC” we would like to introduce you to the members of our Local Organizing Committee. The previous entries in this series can be found here.

VerwiebeWhat is your main sociological field of study and what sparked your interest in it?

All issues related to social stratification and social inequality. Research on migration and the labor market using quantitative as well as qualitative research methods has been my major focus during the last 10-15 years. I was living in Berlin when I started to work in this field. In the mid-1990’s the city changed dramatically. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, one driving force was a newly emerging migration to Berlin, mainly from European countries (e.g. UK, France, Sweden, Poland) and the US. Continue reading

Meet the LOC – Frank Welz

In our series “Meet the LOC” we would like to introduce you to the members of our Local Organizing Committee. The previous entries in this series can be found here.

frank_welzWhat is your main sociological field of study and what sparked your interest in it?

My main field has been interest-driven, historically-anchored theory. For C.W. Mills individual lives reflect societal transformation. For studying, for instance, the impact of the Great Recession on the lives of individuals, it can’t work without theory. Theory raises the big questions, such as the transformation of sovereignty in the current global era. It provides guidance in the face of sociology’s internal fragmentation and it pervades the discipline by providing conceptual tools for sociological research. We all draw on theory for building our arguments — but we hardly have time to reflect on it. If sociology should have an impact on society, the eye of the needle is the theory of society. Continue reading

Meet the LOC – Martin Weichbold

In our series “Meet the LOC” we would like to introduce you to the members of our Local Organizing Committee. The previous entries in this series can be found here.

WeichboldWhat is your main sociological field of study and what sparked your interest in it?
I am mostly interested in methods and methodology; empirical data are the basis for all sociological analyses and a poor quality of data affects all findings. It’s astonishing to see that some researchers put a lot of effort and know-how into statistics and use very sophisticated data analysis methods, but don’t wonder about the origin of the data they use and how they were constructed.
Continue reading

Meet the LOC – Beate Littig

In our series “Meet the LOC” we would like to introduce you to the members of our Local Organizing Committee. The previous entries in this series can be found here.  

Beate LittigWhat is your main sociological field of study and what sparked your interest in it? 
I am especially interested in the relationships between nature and society(ies) and the non-sustainability of these. Climate Change, peak oil, the loss of bio-diversity are some of the relevant key words here. The depletion of natural resources and the ongoing  damages of ecological systems have manifold social impacts, which are closely related to social inequality on the national and global scale. Thus environmental justice, post-growth societies, a good life for all, or more general, socio-ecological transformation towards sustainable development are to me the most important  challenges of our time.

What characterizes your scientific work?

Continue reading

Global Care Gaps, Modernity and Capitalism

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Photo: Kin Mun Lee, CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Care for one’s self and others are issues moving fast upwards on the societal and sociological agenda in the countries of the Global North. Market fundamentalism, the crisis of finance in 2008, and austerity schemes have been threatening and destroying former standards of working conditions and welfare policies. In these parts of the world the fordist promise of a strong conjunction between economic growth, so-called technological progress, and welfare for all or at least most society members obviously failed. But the issue, in new ways, is emerging in the Global South, particularly in the context of the economies and welfare policies of the middle-income countries. Continue reading