Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication and Rhetorical Studies

Advisor(s)

Lyndsay E. Gratch

Keywords

food media, identity, Instagram, performance, selfies, surrogation

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Food is the very lifeblood of who we are; it brings us together, defines our cultures, and provides us the vital nourishment we need to survive. However, with the rise of social media platforms that encourage image-sharing, images of food have become increasingly significant in regard to how we understand our communicative choices and habits online. In this project, I trace a lineage of popular food media aesthetics from cable and streaming television shows through the online social media platform Instagram, to argue that an expanded understanding of the “food-selfie” helps one articulate how and why they share images of food online. The food-selfie – a genre of selfie-photography described by sociologist Bhavna Middha in which “people take pictures of food they like, cook, and/or eat and subsequently upload them on social media” – has been influenced by popular, stream-able food media like Triple D, Kitchen Nightmares, Man V. Food, and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (to name a few), is a communicative performance, both through the exhibition of the photographed meal and how we choose to present ourselves in and alongside these images. These performances are both of the self (for the user’s imagined audience) and for the self (for the user’s own understanding of who they are/how they want to be viewed). Finally, these practices become problematic when much of the current mediascape surrounding food and food tourism is gendered through inherently Western and masculine normative performance practices. Overall, a better understanding of how the food-selfie helps shape and maintain Instagram users’ online identities, and how the norms of the food-selfie aesthetic is informed by larger sociocultural structures, affords us new ways of conceptualizing performances of digital identity in social media spaces.

Access

Open Access

Available for download on Sunday, August 15, 2021

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