Hashtags, Selfies, and Emoticons

Education has always been position as a cognitive enterprise, focusing on intellectual development and knowledge-production. This is especially so in the context of Singapore, where education is positioned as being paramount to producing human resources to drive the economy. Thus, it is unsurprising that with the focus on what is in the ‘mind’ in the realm of education, the function of the body and bodily sensations are often neglected. However, much as we are ‘minding’ education, most of us are also ‘feeling’ it in many ways. If you are to reflect on your memories of your first day of school, of making friends, and of studying really hard for your exams- these are experiences that are very emotionally situated.

Thus, this project is very much about emplacing ‘feelings’ in the middle of education. But how does one ‘do’ something as fleeting and as elusive as emotions? While scrolling through the ‘popular/suggested feed’ on the social media application, Instagram one day, I realised that secondary school students are uploading photos documenting their schooling and social lives on the app. I also discovered that it is not uncommon for each of their pictures to receive more than a hundred ‘likes’. Looking at their pictures, I was inspired to use Instagram as a platform to conduct a collaborative project so as to understand their schooling lives better.

Participatory and collaborative work is not something new, especially in the realm of social sciences or developmental studies. In particular, participatory research using images, such as inviting participants to draw pictures, or maps, or even taking photos are common methodologies so as to spread out the ownership of the research to encompass both research participants and the researcher. My methodology builds on these existing work by seeking to dismantle the power-relations between myself and the students. Furthermore, Instagram is also more cost-effective than traditional methods (without having to buy and distribute cameras to the students), and allows the students a greater sense of control because they are using something they already know.

This exhibition is a provisional attempt to showcase some of the pictures submitted by the students, with cost and technical challenges. All of us had fun thinking, photographing, curating, and discussing about the photos. I hope you will too!

Hashtags, Selfies, and Emoticons-2 edit

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