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#artoninstagram: engaging with art in the era of the selfie
journal contributionposted on 2021-03-01, 00:00 authored by Chiara Piancatelli, Marta Massi, Andrea VocinoAndrea Vocino
This study aims to understand how people engage with art in the era of selfies, digital devices, and social media. It examines the audience experience of an art exhibition, where visitors are encouraged to use social media to share their art experience, to understand how such an approach might change the nature of visitor engagement with art. Arguably, selfies taken in the art space enrich the visitor’s experience and engagement with art and function as co-creational, empowering, and authentic marketing tools for museums. Data for this research were collected through non-participant observation (ethnography) and netnography at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia. The results show that rather than promoting disengagement from the art piece, selfies in the art space become “networked material-discursive entanglements” empowering art consumers to co-create value and arts organizations to reduce their distance from consumers and reproduce the iconic authenticity of the artwork in the virtual space. The article contributes to selfie theory by overcoming the traditional view of selfies as manifestation of narcissistic self-expression. Instead, it promotes an interpretation of selfies as an empowering and democratizing means used by art consumers to develop narratives and identity projects in a context such as the museum where traditionally the development of the narrative is apanage of an elite. A further contribution provided by this research stems from the identification of clusters of visitors (i.e., reality escapers, art lovers, photoholics, and selfie lovers), placed on a continuum of value co-creation, which arts administrators need to be conscious of as they enter a more dynamic era of art consumption. By outlining managerial implications, this study provides an initial reflection on how arts managers can navigate the emerging era of the selfie in the museum context.