Cartes postales du bagne

Adventures in Instagram #1

Some preliminary notes on Instagram as a research tool

One of the main aims of this project is to think seriously about ways in which different experiences and narratives of incarceration are framed and presented to a general audience. We are particularly interested in how objects and photographs are displayed and annotated within museums and exhibitions focused on the bagne. We are also thinking about how maps are used in different formats in guidebooks and postcards as well as museums to help conceptualise the location and space of the bagne according to different geographical markers.

While we are using photography fairly extensively to document the sites, displays and material we encounter and have already begun to use some of these images to annotate our blog and on twitter, we are cautious as to the role such images can play in affirming rather than contesting both current forms of incarceration and the ongoing impact of now defunct models of imprisonment such as transportation.

Over the course of the project we plan to use Instagram to share images linked to our fieldwork and other activities. But we also want to explore more critically the potential and limitations of Instagram for this type of research. While there are a number of excellent academic blogs dedicated to research blogging (Pat Thomson’s excellent blog is a go-to resource here), there seems to be little on the effective use of Instagram. It would be great to hear from anyone developing ideas and best practices around this.

Finally, our initial thoughts are that Instagram can offer a great way to document the positive, exciting experience of carrying out research at different historical sites. It can also provide a wider, messier, more ad-hoc context for the carefully framed images that will be used as illustration and undergo analysis when we come to write up our findings. Yet we will continue to ask if and how this practice becomes in itself a form of tourism (inevitable it must) and how this operates alongside or at odds with the main claims of our project. SF & CR

The project Instagram handle is: cartespostalesdubagne

Our twitter handle is: @postcards_bagne

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