Men get the research money

A woman applying to the Norwegian Research Council’s program SAMKUL only has half the chance a man has of being supported. 

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11. July 2016 by Jill
Categories: Gender balance in academia | Leave a comment

Results from a survey of 35 Norwegian high school students about their use of Snapchat stories

Earlier this month, I met a class of high school students to learn more about how they use Snapchat stories. I already blogged about my impressions from our discussion – today I want to share the results from the survey the students kindly answered for me. I plan to visit more high schools to get more data, because obviously 35 responses is a small sample, but it certainly gives me an idea of how young people use Snapchat stories. Only one student swore he never used Snapchat, and only two others said they used it less than weekly. As you can see, the vast majority (31 out of 35 students, or 89%) say they use Snapchat every day. Most of them, 25 students or 71%, use it several times a day.

Frequency of use in a class of 35 Norwegian high school students, 1 June 2016.

Frequency of use in a class of 35 Norwegian high school students, 1 June 2016.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, 89% of the students said they had used Snapchat on that particular day. I would have said that figure might be skewed since having a professor visiting to talk about Snapchat would likely encourage you to open the app, but it exactly matches the number of students who say they use Snapchat every day.

Everyone who had used Snapchat that day had sent one or more snaps, and most had watched stories from friends or celebrities that they followed: 80% had watched a story that day, and 83% had watched a story in the last week. Posting their own Stories was far less common. Only 20% had posted a Story on that day, although 54% had done so in the last week.


Watching the global content was even less common. 26% watched a Live Story that day and 60% had done so in the last week. (I can’t believe I didn’t write down what Live Story was showing that day!! Research fail…) The Discover channel was not popular. Only 4 of the 35 students (11%) had watched it that day, and just 20% (7 students) in the last week.

Since I met these students, Snapchat has changed the interface for Live Stories and Discover Channels so that the two look much more similar. Live stories are curated from snaps from regular users. Like most of these students, I rarely watch Discover channels, which are the big media channels: Mashable, CNN, Buzzfeed, Seventeen and so on. Here in  Norway we don’t see Snapchat’s own news channel. Live Stories used to be separated out, but have now been merged with the Discover channels and given graphics that make it hard to tell the difference between the two.

This is how Snapchat looked on 17 June 2016.    Snapchat-stories-screen-14-June-2016

The first of the screenshots above is from 17 June, the second is from 24 June. In the second one, it’s a little hard to see, but the second Story in the set of rectangles at the top is actually a Live Story about Brexit. The others are standard mostly-text news stories from Mashable, Cosmopolitan and the Daily Mail, with a video or animated image at the top and text when you scroll down. I’m guessing this change was done to get more users to read Discover channels (which allow for ads) — but I’m guessing it might just mean people ignore Live Stories as well. I shall have to visit more high schools, and maybe return to the first one, in the autumn to find out.

I also asked what kind of stories students who made stories usually made. Most use still images, many use videos. Not many try to create a narrative (“en sammenhengende fortelling”) with a sequence – most simply share random moments throughout the day.


In the dataset you’ll also find written answers which I have translated but not yet analysed. Feel free to dig in. Here it is on Google Sheets, and here it is on Figshare.

If you want to use the data, go ahead, but please share any results with me! It’s licenced under a CC-BY licence, so use it however you like so long as you cite me: 

Rettberg, Jill Walker (2016): Survey of Norwegian High School Students about Use of Snapchat Stories. figshare.

27. June 2016 by Jill
Categories: Snapchat, social media | Leave a comment

What high school students think about Snapchat stories

Update June 28: Here is the dataset of my survey of these students on Google Sheets or download it from Figshare. Feel free to use it but please let me know!!

Anders and I are researching Snapchat stories. Mostly we’re watching hundreds and hundreds of stories to see what kinds of narrative techniques people use, but we also want to know what regular users actually think about stories. Do they watch stories much? Do they make stories? What do they think is a good story?

So yesterday I visited a class of media students at a local high school. They’re planning a TV journalism project for the autumn where they’ll use Snapchat as well as making more conventional news stories, so I gave a short lecture about storytelling in Snapchat and then we had the most excellent class discussion about it, after which they generously filled out a short questionnaire I had prepared. I feel like I got a lot out of this meeting, and hope to visit several other schools too – if you’re a high school teacher near Bergen and would like a visit, let me know!

I haven’t gone through the written responses yet, but there were a lot of insightful comments from the classroom discussion. So I’m using this blog post as a research journal, writing out the student comments I noted down and found particularly useful, and that I may want to quote in future research. The facts: this was a class of thirty-five 16-17-year olds in a Norwegian high school (VG1, medielinjen) on June 1, 2016. I didn’t make a recording, because I didn’t want to deal with handling research data that can be tied to an individual, so this is based on my handwritten notes.

The teachers started off the discussion  asked why they like Snapchat – to the teachers, Snapchat stories look like badly done television, and they wondered why the students wouldn’t rather watch better-quality YouTube videos or something.

“It’s easily available,” said one student (lett tilgjengelig was the Norwegian expression), and many others supportived her. “Isn’t YouTube just as easily available?” a teacher asked. The students didn’t have a real answer for that, but they clearly felt Snapchat was more available. I suspect this might be due to the feed in Snapchat. You don’t have to think about what to watch next. You just open the app and start clicking.

A lot (maybe most?) of the students said they like Snapchat because they like seeing their friends’ lives. A substantial number of the students only have their actual friends on Snapchat (I’m guessing more than half? I’ll get the numbers when I go through the written responses) but there are also quite a few who follow celebrities and bloggers they don’t know personally. A student who does follow celebrities said she liked seeing their Snapchat stories because “it’s more personal” (det blir mer personlig når du følger kjendiser på Snapchat). Other students nodded and added that they liked the behind the scenes content.

When asked why they published snaps to their own stories, one student commented, “It’s easy, because you don’t have to plan it.” Others chimed in, saying that there was so little pressure. You can just snap something and post it without worrying too much about it. On the other hand, one student said he far preferred Instagram to Snapchat because the photos are better, precisely because people take more time and are more selective about which photos they post to Instagram.

One really interesting point that came up was the idea of a social media feed as stressful. One student said she liked Snapchat because it wasn’t stressful like Facebook is. “Why is Facebook stressful?” a teacher asked. “There’s just too much! The timeline never ends,” she said (Facebook er stress. Det er for mye på Facebook. Tidslinjen tar aldri slutt.) This seemed to be a feeling shared by many of the students. A young man echoed the first student: “There is always more on Facebook,” he said. “Yes, on Snapchat I only follow people I want to see,” another student said, but then followed up, saying “Well, except the ones I don’t really want to see. I just click through them quickly to make them go away.”  I wondered why they clicked through the snaps rather than just swiped the story away, but I don’t think I really got an answer. Maybe to see whether there was something interesting at the end of the story? Or maybe because of the knowledge that the person who posted it would have

A lot of the students seemed to feel this need to cleanse their feeds or to keep their feeds empty. One of the students actually used the term cleanse (rense): “I click through all the stories to clean them away.” (Jeg klikker gjennom for å rense de vekk.) So it seems they like that they have fewer friends on Snapchat than Facebook, thus fewer items in their feeds, and that the fact that stories disappear after 24 hours maybe isn’t just about privacy but about being able to start with a clean slate, or not feel that there was more information than you could handle.

Here is of one of the survey responses I received, transcribed in my handwriting and translated from Norwegian. I’m a humanities scholar, and I’ve not done this kind of research before, so to be honest, I haven’t even figured out how to get my stack of 40 responses entered into a spreadsheet. I started bravely, but only got to the third question, where the student has (as intended) crossed off several options, before my spreadsheet broke down. Do I use several cells in the spreadsheet for each question? Maybe I don’t type in the full response but generate some kind of codes? Like this, maybe: Informant 1, uses-several-times-a-day, sent-snaps-today, didn’t-post-snapto-story-today, posted-snap-to-story-last-week. That is going to be very time-consuming. Is there better software? A better system for organising it? If you have any ideas, please let me know! I’d like to make the dataset public, so it’d be good to organise the data in a way that is useful to me as well as others. (I assume this is social science methods 101 but hey, I’m from the humanities…)

A translation of the survey I asked the high school students to answer yesterday. The handwriting is mine, I translated one of the responses so you can see what the survey was like.


02. June 2016 by Jill
Categories: Snapchat | 1 comment

What if the web is almost over?

Nearly ten thousand researchers and no doubt thousands more students have quoted danah boyd and Nicole Ellison’s 2007 definition of social media:

We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.

It’s not actually a definition of social media, it’s a definition of social network sites, which is what we called sites like Facebook and Twitter in 2007. By 2008, people started calling them social media, and quickly adopted the definition of social network sites as a de facto definition of social media as well.

Notice, though, how that definition of social media in no way holds true for Snapchat. Snapchat is not a web-based service, individuals have no profiles, you can see which other users you follow, but not who anybody else follows, in fact, you can’t even see who follows you. You certainly can’t view and traverse other users lists of connections.

It’s as if Snapchat’s founders decided to try to create a social media that completely, in every way broke the most-cited definition of social media. Who knows, perhaps they did?

Obviously Snapchat is a wonderful example of social media. Obviously, the 2007 definition no longer holds true. The internet changed.

I spent my afternoon revising a chapter, then reading what Nathan Jurgenson has written about Snapchat. I’ve read lots of Nathan Jurgenson’s writing before, mostly on the Cyborgology blog, which he co-founded, but I guess if I did read his writing on Snapchat I just didn’t really get it at the time and so forgot it. Because yes, it took me a while to get Snapchat. Nathan currently works as a researcher for Snapchat (because yes, of course Snapchat has an in-house critical theorist) and so you can read some excellent writing from him on the Snapchat blog. Obviously. He is also on Twitter and Tumblr.

The Liquid Self” may be my favourite of his Snapchat posts, at least today, because it so clearly uses Snapchat to show us how strange social network sites like Facebook and Twitter really are:

The social media profile attempts to convince us that life, in all its ephemeral flow, should also be its simulation; the ephemeral flow of lived experience is to be hacked into a collection of separate, discrete, objects to be shoved into the profile containers. The logic of the profile is that life should be captured, preserved, and put behind glass. It asks us to be collectors of our lives, to create a museum of our self. Moments are chunked off, put in a grid, quantified, and ranked. Permanent social media are based on such profiles, with each being more or less constraining and grid-like. Rethinking permanence means rethinking this kind of social media profile, and it introduces the possibility of a profile not as a collection preserved behind glass but something more living, fluid, and always changing.

Reading this made me think how short a time social media have been so dominant. Before social media, we called it web 2.0 for a short while. Before that, it was the blogosphere, or simply the web. Before that, we used Usenet and IRC and MUDs and MOOs, and before that, we used our modems to dial up local Bulletin Board Systems.

The internet has always been social. But we have only known the web for about twenty years. Less, if you want to talk about a really mainstream web used by everyone. That is a very short pocket of time in the grand scheme of things.

So many people (old like me) have asked me whether it doesn’t bother me that stories I post to Snapchat disappear. I’ve actually been saving most of them to YouTube, so I guess it does bother me, but increasingly I’ve been wondering about this. Why do we think permanent archival should be the norm? Broadcast media wasn’t archived, at least not in any way that was easily accessible to the general public, until quite recently online. We accepted that if we missed an episode of our favourite soap opera or didn’t watch the news, well, we would catch up next week. You could go to a library and dig in newspaper archives, but people rarely did. Even books regularly went out of print.

What if the idea that knowledge and communication should be permanent and always-archived is just a blip, not the new standard? What if the web itself turns out to be a short interlude, not the future? Maybe we’ve already moved on, but we haven’t really noticed?

I thought about this today, after finishing revising a chapter on self-representation in social media in the café at an indoor playspace where one of my kids attended a birthday party and another played intensely with her friend. Now that the kids are old enough that I can let them loose in a place like this, I’ve found I work wonderfully in this kind of chaotic environment, no doubt in part because I both get to feel like an awesome mum (the kids dote upon me for taking them there) and I get to indulge in one of my favourite activities: reading and writing about social media. It’s like this magical space where there is perfect life/work balance and no guilt whatsoever, neither the bad-mother-guilt nor the can-never-do-all-the-research-I-want-to-do guilt.

Of course it only lasts a couple of hours. And it probably wouldn’t work if I did it very often.

Here is the Snapchat Research Story I made about my thoughts today, with bonus noise and views of the play space.



22. May 2016 by Jill
Categories: social media | Tags: , , | 2 comments

How the Snapchat Live Story from Norwegian high school graduates’ festival in Stavanger spread around the world


Snapchat live stories as seen in Norway on Sunday, 8 May 2016, in the afternoon.

Snapchat’s Live Stories are stories that Snapchat curates from snaps submitted by users who are in a location temporarily designated as a Live Story area, and they are usually about festivals, sports events, elections or special celebrations. Sometimes (quite often?) they are sponsored. There seem to never be more than five Live Stories on a particular day, and they’re very prominently featured in the Snapchat app. They’re often distributed globally. However, I’ve found the Live Stories to be very US-centric: most are from US events, or they are about a celebration or a city outside of the US that is narrated in English as though to a global-in-an-Anglo-American-kind-of-way audience. People are really eager for their snap to be picked to be in a live story, and learn how to create a snap targeted at the right audience.

So let’s assume Snapchat through Live Stories has a lot of power. A year ago, a Snapchat live story, distributed globally, got an average of 20 million views in a 24 hour window, according to Ben Schwerin, Snapchat’s director of partnerships. That’s not so much compared to a big televised show that is broadcast internationally (the Eurovision Song Contest gets 200 million views, the Superbowl about 110 million), but Snapchat releases live stories every day. Remember also that Snapchat viewers are mostly in the 13-24 year old age range, so 20 million of that cohort is significant. Probably the number of viewers has increased in the last year.

If Live Stories are watched by a high percentage of young people, it becomes pretty interesting to think about what kind of stories are being distributed. Last weekend, one of Snapchat’s Live Stories was from the huge, annual high school graduation party in Norway. Norwegian high schoolers celebrate their graduation for a month on end, dressing in red, driving around in red-painted vans and busses, partying and playing crazy games – they’re called russ. Landstreffet is the annual festival where russ from around the country all get together and have a huge weekend-long party with concerts and so on.

So the Snapchat live story was from Landstreffet, but didn’t really explain what russ were, and to me seemed like yet another boring festival story. At 44, I’m not quite the target audience. There aren’t often live stories from Scandinavia though, and I was curious about how broadly the story spread, so asked on Snapchat and Twitter. It seems that yesterday (May 9), the day after the concert, the story was distributed throughout Europe, but not beyond. I heard from people in Switzerland, Denmark, Spain and the UK who saw the story, but friends in Singapore, Australia, Brazil and the USA did not.

Here are some of the screenshots they sent me. You’ll notice that London and New York have city-specific live stories as well. People in Chicago didn’t get the America’s Cup: NYC story, though maybe other Americans did. Chicagoans have their own Chicago story every single day though.

Snapchat Live Stories as seen in London on Sunday, 8 May 2016.

Snapchat Live Stories as seen in London on Sunday, 8 May 2016, morning.

Snapchat Live Stories as seen in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sunday 8 May, 2016, morning.

Snapchat Live Stories as seen in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sunday 8 May, 2016, morning. (Greyed out because they haven’t been loaded yet.)

The Mother’s Day story, We Love Mom! (note the US spelling) did not show up until mid-morning in the US, and mid-afternoon European time, so probably it was released everywhere at the same time. Australians apparently didn’t get it at all, although it was Mother’s Day there too, though half a day earlier than in the US due to the time difference.

Snapchat Live Stories as seen in New York City, Sunday 8 May, 2016.

Snapchat Live Stories as seen in New York City, Sunday 8 May, 2016.

OK; so we had these kinds of Live Stories that weekend:

  • city stories
  • Mother’s Day, which does include international content, though none from Asia or Australia, but which is not released until Asia/Australia already have finished their Mother’s Day. It is also released to countries that didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day on 8 May, like Norway.
  • RuPaul’s DragCon – this is a convention for a US reality TV show where drag queens compete for the prize. I had confirmation that this showed up in Australia, Singapore, throughout Europe, Brazil, and the USA, so I am guessing it was simply global.
  • Kentucky Derby – a horse racing event. This was also global, it seems, as far as my Twitter and Snapchat informants could tell.
  • Music Norway / Landstreff

And although I didn’t much enjoy the Landstreff Live Story, lots of people on Twitter said they did, mostly without realising the Landtreff is a closed party for high school graduates.


More on this later, I think.

10. May 2016 by Jill
Categories: Snapchat, social media | Leave a comment

10 reasons why you should use Snapchat to share research ideas (and 4 reasons not to)

  1. It’s exhilarating to try new things. You’ll learn to think with a new tool, and that helps you think fresh.
  2. It’s ephemeral. Your story only stays up for 24 hours, so you don’t have to worry too much about what you post. It’ll be gone tomorrow anyway. (You can download your stories if you like, and repost them to a blog or YouTube or Facebook, but you don’t have to.)
  3. It’s visual and concrete. Walking through the world as you think about how to explain your ideas, you’ll stumble across examples that will help push your thinking.
  4. There are no likes or shares, so you can’t worry about getting them. This is surprisingly odd, and anxiety-causing, and liberating, which I think is healthy stuff to experience. On the other hand, you get very detailed information about exactly who watched which part of your story. But most of your viewers will have weird usernames you won’t be able to connect to a real person anyway.
  5. You can’t edit it, so you can’t spend too much time fussing over it. All you can do is record a snap (either a ten-second-or-less video or a still image) you can add text and doodles and emoji, and then you can either post it or not. Then you do the next one. You can delete an individual snap in your story, but you can’t change a snap you already posted, or insert something you forgot. It turns out this gives you an immense freedom. When I’ve tried to make videos before, I’ve always tried to do it so well, and I’ve spent so long editing and never been happy with the result so havent finished them.
  6. Each video snap can only be ten seconds long. That means you get a lot of practice explaining your ideas in clear, simple terms. When you record a ten second video, it is instantly played back to you, and you can either redo it or post it to your story. Hearing your own words, instantly, is an amazing tool for editing speech, because you’ll immediately hear what sounds unclear or where you um and ah too much. This is great practice for giving a talk or answering a question succinctly or giving a journalist soundbites.
  7. It doesn’t take longer to create a Snapchat story than to write a blog post. Most of my stories have taken me 45–90 minutes to make. I spend at least that long on a blog post, and often end up saving it as a draft and then never finishing it. You can’t do that with a Snapchat story. Either you post it or you don’t.
  8. If you feel uncomfortable you can just use a silly selfie lens. It’s impossible to worry too much if you use a silly selfie lens.
  9. If you’re still uncomfortable you can try walking while talking. People do that a lot on Snapchat and it really does take your mind off the fact that you’re talking to a screen. Or doodle and add emojis. Snapchat is fun. And silly. And makes users happier than any other social media platform.
  10. After all that, you might actually get used to seeing yourself on video. I remember when I worked in the Student Radio, many years ago, there was a point where I finally got used to hearing my own voice on tape and didn’t find it alien anymore. To my surprise, I’m almost there with video, after just a few weeks of Snapchatting. I actually never thought I would feel this relaxed about seeing video of my wrinkly face, which I sometimes think looks pretty and sometimes think looks awful but have rarely been able to just let be what it is. I’m surprised that it’s happened this fast. And I think it’s immensely liberating. Oh, I still think I look weird?—?but I spend way less time worrying about it than I did when I started Snapchatting, just a few weeks ago.

What’s not so good?

  1. You’ll not get a lot of feedback, although a few people might snap you. I’ve received more feedback when I post a Snapchat story to Facebook than I have on Snapchat itself.
  2. You won’t really know who is watching. I’m not sure whether I should be imagining myself speaking to teens, fellow academics, social media experts or random friends on my contact list. Although Snapchat is very heavily a youth space, I doubt I really have that many 13–24 year olds watching my stories.
  3. You can’t cut and paste a Snapchat story and use it in a publication, they way you can sometimes do with a blog post. But you can reuse the ideas in the same way as you might a blog post.
  4. I can’t think of anything else bad. I suppose I could have spent those 45–90 minutes a day writing papers. But I probably wouldn’t. And since I snap chatted instead, now I have all these great ideas!

I’m jilltxt on Snapchat, and of course I’ll be snapping this.

29. April 2016 by Jill
Categories: social media | 1 comment

Researchers on Snapchat

I’ve been posting research stories on Snapchat most weekdays this month, and I’m really enjoying it. I know it doesn’t fit with the ephemerality of Snapchat, but I’ve been saving the stories and posting them on YouTube in a special playlist so I can reuse them later, and so you can have a look if you want.

If you’re interested in how researchers could use Snapchat, you might also want to take a look at the interview that Corinne Ruff at the Chronicle of Higher Education did with me about my Snapchat research stories. Or take a look at other scholars on snapchat. Here are some I’ve found so far:

Sunniva Rose (sunnivarose) is a Norwegian nuclear physicist who also blogs and is very prominent in Norwegian social media. Last night’s story about looking after the cyclotron was wonderful, except now I have all sorts of questions about what cyclotrons do that I didn’t even know I was interested in. Which I think is awesome.

Crystal Abidin (wishcrys) is a Singaporean/Australian anthropologist who does really interesting research on social media influencers and more. Her Snapchat story today summarises a paper on influencers and then explains how her own research shows something rather different. Oh, and Crystal has an active blog as well.
image image

Stine Liv Johansen (stinelj) is a Danish media scholar who has been posting snaps throughout the day, giving a bit more of a slice of life-style story that may be more Snapchat-native than my attempts at cohesive stories. I’ve enjoyed seeing snaps of preparing teaching, or heading to a meeting, or comments on a conference presentation. Also that conference she went to on play last week looked pretty awesome.

I just started following Ai Zhang (aiaddysonzhang) today after I saw her tweet:

Ai Zhang is a professor of PR at Stockton University, and yesterday was her last day of class. Her students sure express their gratitude beautifully!
image image

Emil Lou (cancerassassin1) is a cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota who has been Snapchatting about his research for a while – he tweeted me after seeing the article, and I’m thrilled to have found him. Today he was on Snapchat talking about the interview with me in the Chronicle 🙂

cancerassassin1 on snapchat Screenshot of an image from cancerassassin1 on Snapchat

Supermarie is a student, not a scholar, and also a professional Snapchatter (she is the snapchatter for a Norwegian insurance company, Gjensidige, and does an amazing job at it!) but I have to say I’ve loved the occasional glimpses into her studies. Like the other day, when she was unhappy about the lecturer’s continual abuse of the words “in relation to”.

image image

I’ve seen a few other scholars on Snapchat, but they don’t have stories up today so they’re not appearing in my feed. I’ll just have to add them to my list later. If you know of other Snapchatting scholars I should mention, let me know!!

And here are my Snapchat stories so far, gathered in a single YouTube playlist 🙂

28. April 2016 by Jill
Categories: social media | 1 comment

What kinds of narrative are Snapchat stories?

I’ve been watching lots of Snapchat stories and thinking about the narrative techniques they use – I think I need to write a paper about that. So today’s Snapchat Research Story is about Snapchat and narrative. This story is over three minutes long, which is probably way too long for Snapchat…

I really like how the ten second video limit makes you choose your words very carefully, and split what you want to say into clear points. If you ramble on you instantly see it doesn’t work and have to redo it right away which is a really good learning strategy! I find doing this is helping me clarify my thoughts. This video took me 90 minutes to make, start to finish, and wasn’t storyboarded but obviously these are things I was already thinking about.

08. April 2016 by Jill
Categories: Uncategorized | 2 comments

Snapchat Research Stories: A Daily Challenge for April

I’m currently obsessed with storytelling in Snapchat, as you may have gleaned from my last post, and so I’ve decided to post daily Snapchat Stories about my research Monday-Friday throughout this month. Add me (I’m jilltxt) to view my stories as I post them! Here are my first three, each using slightly different narrative techniques.

Narratively, I like the first and second stories the best. The first really uses the medium as it’s about selfie lenses, but not every story can do that.

In the second one, which is a kind of book review, I actually go to the library and look for some of the books discussed in the book I review, and I think the walk-and-talk thing works well in Snapchat stories. That’s a pretty common trope for successful Snapchatters (e.g. danthedirector, tornsuits, djkhaled – OK, he usually uses his waterski rather than his legs but same idea) and having tried it, I can see why. I also feel less stilted and stiff speaking to my phone while walking than just sitting up and down.

For the third story I wanted to try snapping an event, so made a story about a research seminar in Kristine Jørgensen’s Games and Transgressive Aesthetics project. I think the walking to the seminar and explaining what it’s about works well, and I like getting a couple of the principal actors to explain very briefly what they do, but I’m not sure whether there is a good way to snap from a research presentation. It’s hard to get exactly the right 10 second soundbite from a presentation. The summary at the end works pretty well though I think. And I like silly stuff like the faceswap.

I’ve been somewhat surprised that the time use for creating these videos really isn’t greater than writing a blog post. In many ways it’s quicker, because you can’t go back and edit once you’ve posted things. So you don’t have the second-guessing and the I’ll-just-save-this-as-a-draft-and-never-return-to-it that I tend to end up with in blogging.

Obviously I’ve spent some time thinking about this and exploring Snapchat over the last couple of weeks, but the actual stories haven’t taken much time to create. I storyboarded the first one on the plane (about 30 minutes work?) and certainly thought about the topic a lot while playing with Snapchat, and of course it draws from my earlier work. Actually creating the video first took me about an hour and a half. The second video took just over an hour, which included the time to walk down to the library (15 mins) which was on my way home anyway. The third took no extra time in the sense that it was entirely created around a research seminar I was going to in any case. I recorded a bit on my way to the seminar, a bit at the seminar, and a bit walking from the seminar to a coffee shop for a bit of writing before heading off to pick up the kids from school.

Another issue is that these are supposed to be transient, right, like television and radio were before the internet. But I’m saving my stories because I don’t want to put all that work into this and have it disappear. So what does that do to the medium?

I also notice that the way I’m using Snapchat could have been made for television. There’s nothing really narratively new in these (except maybe the selfie lenses). But I never would have filmed and edited a video like this without using Snapchat. I would have thought of it as too much work and also as something unachievable for me because I’m not a video producer. On Snapchat it’s just add one short clip after another and oh, look, it turns into a video.

I’ll post more another day about how I’m seeing other researchers use Snapchat – in quite different ways – but now it’s time to get the kids up for school. Oh jetlag–I woke at 5 this morning and am sure I’ll be zonked by dinner time… jilltxt-on-snapchat

07. April 2016 by Jill
Categories: Blogging, social media | 6 comments

How Can Scholars Use Snapchat Stories?

Snapchat has changed since the last time I tried it. You know, back in 2011 when I was simply too old for it. Now Snapchat has stories and has become a channel for everything: as expected it’s excellent for silly selfies and personal communication in text and images and video and gifs and everything in between. But it’s also now a news channel, a marketing channel, an information channel and a collaborative storytelling channel that has a new and fascinating aesthetics. If you weren’t on Snapchat because you were too old to have any friends on it, now is the time to pick it up again. You don’t actually need friends on it now, but if you’re interested in digital media, you need to look at the Stories. In this post I’ll explain lenses, geofilters and stories, and talk a bit about how I think scholars could use them.

1. Lenses

The reason I picked Snapchat up again was my daughter showed me the lenses, actually, which are crazy fun. Look, you have to try them:

Official Snapchat lenses demo gif

The lenses are updated daily, so haven’t grown old yet. And interestingly, some of them are actually ads, but in a fun way. They’re geolocated, so for instance, being in Chicago yesterday, one of the lenses I saw was a set of headphones that were an ad for the TV show Empire, with a note about when and on what channel the show was going to premiere. I forgot to take a screenshot, but here’s a selfie Kehler Jacob at On the Line Social Media took with the lens:


2. Filters

Next, check out the geofilters and other contextual filters you can overlay on images. Geofilters only show up when you’re in a set region. So I see none here in the Chicago suburbs, but in an urban area or a popular natural park or something there will likely be several to choose between. You find the filters by swiping from left to right on a photo or video you have taken. Community and university filters for a location can be submitted to Snapchat for free, so that’s certainly something for academics and students to consider. You can also pay for a geofilter for a company or an event, and while it might cost hundreds of dollars for a long-term filter, a filter for a conference or a one-night event might only cost a few dollars. I would love to try this for the next conference or other event I organise. Sponsored, time-dependent geofilters can also include live information, like the scores of a game, or the polling results of an election. NRKbeta has a great post (in Norwegian but even just looking at the screenshots is useful) about how Snapchat is integrating political journalism into the platform.

snapchat-cruz-geofilter  Snapchat-geofilter-game-with-score

Geofilters for personal events, like weddings, are also possible, and you can either choose from a set of templates or create your own using a Photoshop template they provide.


3. Stories

But the stories are where I really see a potential for scholars. You see stories if you swipe from right to left from the main screen, where you take your photos, but do it before you actually take a photo. A story is a publicly posted series of still images and short videos shots (up to ten seconds each) that are viewable for 24 hours. After that they are gone forever, unless you took a screen capture.

I think I really got how amazing a story could be when I saw Snapchat’s own news channel, Good Luck America, which may only be available when you are in the US, and which has only shown up once since I started paying attention a week ago. The story I saw was astounding though: a political analysis of the presidential primaries told in a video aesthetics that is unlike anything I’ve seen on television. Fascinating. But it also uses tricks that aren’t available to ordinary users, like pre-edited video. If you see Good Luck America among the available stories, absolutely take a look!

The rest of us can only create stories from images and videos that are shot live in the Snapchat app. You can add filters and text to the images, and draw on them, but you cannot upload anything to Snapchat, it has to be done in the app in real time. (Although there are third party apps that let you upload stuff, and I haven’t checked these out yet.) That means stories have a particular kind of aesthetic.

As with any social media, the best way to understand it is to see how other people are using it. Obviously your friends are likely posting stories about stuff you may be interested in (where they are, what they are doing), but right now, I want to figure out how people create stories meant for a general audience, not just for their friends.

Here are a few people I have followed who are doing interesting things. Please let me know about others I should follow! To view their stories, add them as friends by clicking the yellow ghost at the top of the photo-taking screen the Snapchat opens with and entering their user names. Then view the stories by clicking the little icon in the bottom right corner of the main screen.

The only academic I know who has used Snapchat actively is Sunniva Rose (sunnivarose), a nuclear physicist in Oslo. Here is her blog post about how she uses it. I’m not sure if she is still active on Snapchat – I only just followed her!

Danthedirector is a South African photographer who sets himself challenges to take an innovative selfie every day. Each Snapchat story begins with a quote or a thought, then he uses short videos to show us how he sets up the image, which is usually a composite of several initial shots, or requires some other kind of complicated setup, like the spiderweb below. The editing is often done by a collaborator who has volunteered on Twitter, and the result is posted to Instagram later that day. Here is today’s final image:


You’ll be able to watch the story on Snapchat for about another 12 hours after I write this blog post, then it will disappear: Snapchat stories can only be seen for 24 hours after they are posted.

Danthedirector’s use of multiple platforms is particularly interesting because it is not simply reposting the same content in every channel. Far from it, he draws upon the best qualities of each channel: Snapchat for process and live engagement, Twitter for discussion and collaboration and Instagram for showcasing and archiving beautiful visual results.

Djkhaled is a social media phenomenon on many other platforms as well, and very active on Snapchat. His stories are bizarre and extremely popular – I read somewhere he has three million followers. He constantly posts videos and images about how “they” are after him and how he loves his fans and about his workout regime and all his inspirational stuff.

Thomas Moen (tornsuits) is a social media marketing expert from Norway who does daily Snapchat stories with social media marketing advice. He’s a good example of how you can make informational stories simply by recording a sequence of videos of yourself explaining something. For the few days I’ve followed him, he often speaks while walking somewhere, and the inclusion of his surroundings in the videos makes this feel quite different from a vlog on YouTube, where the surroundings of the speaker are usually downplayed, or at least unchanged for the duration of the monologue. Thomas also uses still images, filters and so on, but not to excess. This is a good example of how an individual can actually publish something useful every day to Snapchat without having thousands of collaborators like danthedirector or an entourage taking half the shots like djkhaled.

Ulrika Linnea (slottelinnea) is a young Swedish woman who is listed as a “storyteller” by Today’s story shows leisurely videos of her riding her bike out into a beautiful sunset and then panicked selfie videos of her having lost her bike in the middle of nowhere. Apparently this was not fiction, but it just as well might have been. I’m intrigued, anyway.

Some universities are on snapchat mostly letting students show what student life is like but some, like Colorado State Univeristy (coloradostateu) and Univeristy of Michigan (uofmichigan) are doing interesting things – both those have had wellmade stories available recently.

There are some interesting Norwegian examples, too. A Bergen art museum, Kode (kode_bergen), posts almost daily stories consisting of still images of artworks in their current exhibitions, with scrawled writing across them or added text. The national broadcaster, NRK, posts news stories as series of images with text (P3nyheter). I have to admit that now that the stories play automatically as a sort of visual feed where you can’t see what is coming next, it just keeps playing, the still images feel a little, well, still, among all the video. I’ve already gotten used to video, it seems.

4. What can scholars do?

I haven’t found any scholars on Snapchat yet, at least not sharing stories about their research or about the process or day-to-day experience of being an academic. This might be because:

  1. Academics are too old for Snapchat (except all the excellent young scholars…)
  2. Academics who get Snapchat actually want to keep it personal.
  3. Stories disappear after 24 hours, and academics don’t want to waste their time on something that won’t have lasting value. (But you can save your own story and repost it on your blog or YouTube or something.)
  4. Academics see their peers on Facebook and Twitter and so they think everyone important is on Facebook and Twitter.

Snapchat is obviously not a durable archive for scholarship, but its basic premise of immediacy and impermanence shouldn’t frighten us: that’s pretty much what television and radio have always been, right? And yet talking about your research on TV is seen as a big deal when universities measure impact and research dissemination. Academics generally don’t have enough time to be creating intricate daily stories, but short series of videos about what we’re currently working on, interspersed with relevant still images, might not be out of reach. Short reports from conferences or events seem like obvious academic uses of Snapchat. A few seconds of video of a presentation with a line of text explaining it – sure, why not?

A question is who we would be talking to as academics on Snapchat. We could use it like we tend to use Twitter and talk to each other. Or we could think of it as outreach adn try to engage young people. Those audiences are pretty different from each other.

I am sure there are zillions of other stories I should be looking at. Please let me know which ones, or send me a snap to tell me! I am jilltxt on Snapchat. I haven’t quite started posting research stories yet, but I plan to give it a go soon. I think my first story will be about the biometrics involved in the selfie lenses. I’ll let you know when I post it!

01. April 2016 by Jill
Categories: social media | 5 comments

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