This research investigates how the practices of sharing pictures with specific audiences on social media may be related to aesthetics and affordances. Based on fieldwork (interviews, picture analysis and digital ethnography) with a group of female teenagers in Vienna, Austria, how they visually curate their accounts is mapped and reconstructed. Regarding content and aesthetics, different kinds of pictures are shared using different apps. Snapchat, for example, (for this specific group at the time of the investigation) is the preferred medium for live communication with very close friends using fast, pixelated, “ugly” pictures, while Instagram serves to share polished, conventional, “beautiful” pictures with broader audiences. Based on this case study, three conceptual arguments can be made. First, visual communication is practised in relation to specific social settings or audiences. Social media is part of these practices, and users navigate differences between platforms to manage identities and relationships. Second, the analysis of practices embedded in specific software, therefore, has to be contextualised and related to the structures of these environments. Software co-constructs processes of editing, distribution, sharing and affirmation, and its affordances have to be related to the ways in which users exploit them. Third, as visual communication becomes an intrinsic part of online communication, the exploration of how distinctions between audiences and affordances play out stylistically appears to be of particular interest, which entails calibrated aesthetics; however, this visual layer is seldom investigated closely.
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