Visual Languages of InfluencersAn image-hermeneutic exploration with the means of visual sociology of knowledge

One of the most impressive developments in the realm of contemporary platform-based internet visual cultures is without doubt the rapid ascendancy and powerful communicative presence of influencer. This social figure combines a variety of communicative abilities and dexterities in the field of digital attention economy: high range and resonance, knowledge and expertise, knowledge transfer and dissemination competence, entertainment skills, opinion leadership, trustworthiness and authenticity, community building. The multivalent communicative effects the presence of platform-based influencing exercises rest usually upon the deployment of various film and image aesthetics. These avail themselves of the life-world embeddedness of the networked digital media and by these means generate high levels of public attention. Focussing on the platform-based visual approaches and strategies of the influencer helps make it clearer, to what extent medial mediated vision as constructive performance is nowadays hardly distinguishable from social vision. The reason for this lies in the fact that the visual orders based on the digital mediality of aesthetic practices constitute gaze communities, i. e. commonly shared social patterns of visual perception. Furthermore, what one can observe regarding this merging of media-based and social visual perception are continuous and – by means of expanded interactive possibilities – increasingly intensifying communication flows. They are carried und sustained by image surfaces and aesthetic codes that are objects of communicative interaction and negotiation between influencers and communities or followers. However multidirectional these codes and image practices across diverse communities (of followers) may be, the visual action of influencers seems to display a common essential trait: The easily recognisable, repetitive, typified and mainstreamed patterns of visual aesthetics they deploy are permeated by a visual language that stresses the exceptional status of the performer and extolls her sensational singularity.

This interplay of type and exception, streamlined patterns of visual performance and singularity claims, proximity (community building) and distance (charismatic outstanding) is the object of the proposed research project. The visual hermeneutic and sociology of knowledge approach purports to examine and work out patterns of sense-making, perception, orientation and action that structure the field of visual praxis of the image based digital influencing. The focus lies by video productions on the platform YouTube and Instagram-Postings. As regards the former research shall deploy the method of sequential analysis, whereas the interpretation of the designed photography of Instagram shall be carried out on the basis of a triangulation method.