In my first post about my #AustralianBeachspace Instagram project, I tried to capture the what and the why: what the project was and why I was motivated to start it. In this post, I want instead to focus a little on the how. I think it’s important to document my process in an effort to provide transparent information on how this project has been collated in order to provide context for any further discussion. This may mostly serve to highlight my inefficiencies, or be obvious to many readers. However, I certainly know that if I don’t capture it now then I won’t accurately be able to speak to this process’ usefulness in the future.
While the project is still underway, and therefore elements of this process may change in the future, it is possible to identify specific steps I’ve undertaken thus far. In particular, this post is going to focus on the organisation of the content, the content curation, and the posting process. The motivations and some academic underpinnings of the project can be found in an earlier post here.
Organisation of the content
Firstly, I decided to use my PhD thesis as a foundation for the content – although published in 2013, it remains my biggest collation of material of research thus far, and provides a useful (open-access) access point for any interested viewers. My thesis was primarily an investigation into the spatial representation of the Australian beach in cultural texts (primarily literature and film). I used a particular spatial tool – Soja’s Thirdspace – to develop my own framework, beachspace. (It is worth mentioning that this methodological approach has been difficult to capture thus far in the project). Since 2013, some new texts have been released that are of interest to this research and as such I haven’t limited myself to strictly information included in my thesis. However, I did use the thematic organisation of my thesis as a way of organising this project.
As outlined in my #AustralianBeachspace page on my website, I have curated content for this project around five themes:
- The beach as a site of healing
- The beach as a ‘badland’
- The beach as an urban site
- The beach as a lived site, and
- The beach as an egalitarian site
This is directly formed by the chapters in my thesis (2 – 6, which respond to these ideas). Once I had established a structure, I was able to begin curating content.
In order to organise this content on a large scale, I utilised Trello, an online application that functions like a pinboard, letting you organise and manage content (these are split into ‘boards’ and ‘cards’).
This let me begin to organise material across the five themes mentioned above, as well some introductory and final posts.
Once I established a timeframe – six posts per week for three months – I then decided on a number of posts: 3 introductory posts; 13 posts for each of the five themes; and 3 final posts to summarise the project and my research findings.
As you can see in the above figure, Trello allows for text and images to be placed together on a ‘card’ with my very basic categorisation technique: allocating a letter for the theme (A through to E) and a number. Therefore, the first ‘Healing’ post is A1 and the last ‘Eglitiarian’ post is E13. This numbering system has proved invaluable in the filing organisation of the images as well as mapping a posting schedule.
I have (as noted publicly on the #AustralianBeachspace page) used images taken by myself, my partner, or images that are available to be used through a creative commons license. I specifically made sure only to use images that have the greatest freedoms allowed through the license – editing, commercial use, no attribution required. Where possible, I have chosen to attribute the images to the original photographer; although I have not always been able to locate this information.
I have called this stage content curation as much of the content already existed in some form or another, and much of this process involved reworking or reframing the content to suit the Instagram platform. There are two aspects to this stage: the captions and the images.
The process of content curation has happened organically. My first step was to gather beach images – I searched creative commons photographs (using websites like Unsplash) and collated my own images sourced over years of visiting local beaches.
I wrote text – sometimes this was inspired directly by a photograph; other times I matched the photograph to the text. I made sure to complete one month of content before beginning to post. This phase is ongoing. I’m trying to respond to any contemporary information (e.g. the recent release of the SBS show Deep Water, which is of direct relevance to both my thesis and the project). At this stage, my approach appears unchanged but only time will tell if shifts will emerge over the remaining two months.
Once I completed a month’s work of content, I developed a (rudimentary!) posting schedule. This allowed me to keep track of which post should be released on which day and – as I’m now discovering in writing these blog posts – lets me confirm the date of publication for my posts.
The most useful tool I have discovered in this phase is actually Instagram itself. Conveniently, prior to the start of my project, Instagram created the ‘draft’ function. It’s not the easiest technique: it requires you to create the post and then delete it just prior to sharing, upon which it prompts a ‘save as draft’ option.
This means I am able to copy the text from my Trello’s card, save the image from VSCO into my phone library, and prepare all of my posts for the week in advance. This makes the posting quite a smooth process, which takes place at roughly 11:00am each day.
It is worth noting I have been investigating hashtags to try and improve the reach of my photographs. I used a quick search of Hashtagify to identify any useful hashtags and have used comments to include some on each post: e.g. #beach #australia #visitNSW #visitQLD #goldcoast #bondi and so on. I intend to use some basic analytics data at the project’s conclusion to see if there’s anything I can glean about this type of content on Instagram. That said, that type of data analysis is quite new for me so I’ll need to do some more researching first!
And now, to keep writing content…