“Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs” — Susan Sontag
@insta_repeat collects adventure/travel influencers’ Instagram posts and repurposes them into a visual critique of the way we produce and consume content on Instagram. Canadian-based artist, insta_repeat said,
“There is a lot of mimicry everywhere in media, not just on Instagram, the purpose of insta_repeat is to critique originality in media creation through the lens (pun intended) of this one ‘genre’ of Instagram photography accounts.”
Insta_repeat suggests that we are now all producers and live by certain metrics. We share photos, we write updates, we affirm the existence of our peers and ourselves through likes, shares, and follows by engaging with 4.2 billion images every day. What is driving these metrics?
The consistent repetition of familiar visual cues provides a cognitive shortcut, one that identifies a travel blogger as a travel blogger, a brand as a brand, a holiday as a holiday. We are drawn to these cognitive shortcuts partly because of our predisposition to express ourselves through mimicry. Insta_repeat’s photographs look the same because they all say the same thing, “I was there. Look at me: this is who I am. You know this because you have seen it before.”
At the time of writing this, there are 382,517,939 posts with #travel. #travelgram has over 93 million posts. #travelphotography has close to 69 million posts. According to a hashtag analytics provider, there are over 8000 more iterations of #travel. That is a lot of potential visual cues.
According to a recent survey by Schofields, more than 40 percent of millennials consider “Instagrammability” when selecting their next travel destination. We have to ask ourselves — with this abundance of information and a proclivity to slice and dice our reality into picture-perfect moments — what visual cues matter?
CreativeX uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to unearth statistically significant correlations between certain visual properties and their key performance metrics (which exist as historical data).
We found that swimming pools over-indexed in the top performing imagery when we audited the 15+ top travel accounts on Instagram. People associate swimming pools with travel; that’s where the emotional recognition lies.
The implication - and one answer to the question - is travel and hospitality brands should consistently include visual cues of swimming pools because that’s the heuristic link. That’s how we immediately recognise #travel.
Travel influencers teach us that consistently delivering the visual properties that matter is the way to signal that you have a particular voice and that it is worth hearing. Influencers teach us that self-expression must be delivered consistently if you want to be recognised.
Consistency is how you stand out in a digital crowd.
However, does consistency lead to a lack of visual diversity? Yes, but, this shouldn’t alarm us.
In his seminal piece titled Postproduction, Nicolas Bourriaud illustrated how artists were reprogramming the world through the consistent and constant reuse of distinctive elements of culture — of the forms of everyday life. Artists cite each other, creating a web of artwork that shapes modern culture, which becomes less precisely defined. The modern, minimalistic coffee shop aesthetic that is being replicated around the world is a fantastic example of the physical manifestation of visual trends and the way that art reprograms the world.
Trends which propagate on platforms like Instagram.
Insta_repeat suggests that the abundant repetition of visual elements shape the way we see ourselves in relation to the world around us, how we react to certain things and ignore others, and perhaps even how we craft an identity that can traverse the digital and physical world.
But, there is also the bigger picture to consider.
Our attention span isn’t getting shorter; we just have more to navigate with the chaotic web of hyperlinks, pop-ups, and notifications.
It isn’t a question of attention, it is a question of abundance.
The internet is fragmenting information. Books become inspirational quotes; television series become compilations and stand-alone clips. Holidays become hashtags, filters and updates. In other words, we produce content as we consume it.
This rapid expansion of production and consumption has a significant effect on visual culture and communication. More than 84% of brand communication is now visual, but consumers shape how it looks.
We are defining which visual cues matter most.
Insta_repeat’s rendition of travel suggests that we consume a holiday and produce snapshots of moments to identify ourselves as travellers. A photograph is a universal language — a signifying mark — that affirms our existence in relation to what we are photographing through the heuristic links of visual cues. The democratisation of photography — through smartphones and social media — has altered the routines of normal experiences. Travel is dictated by distinct visual cues hidden in our Instagram feeds.
She is suggesting that this wasn’t always the case and that social media has changed the relationship we have with photography. Abundance dictates consumption. Susan Sontag argued that photography opened up a new way of seeing. Insta_repeat suggests that social media is not the filter we apply to life, but the lens we use to experience it.