BCM241 Research Project and DA Pitch

My topic is travel content, I am researching Jay Alvarrez a USA lifestyle and travel influencer. This media niche ranges from travel, photography, videography and extreme activities (e.g. sky diving). Most influencers have a strong connection to their audience “by sharing details of their personal lives, interacting with followers across social media platforms, and encouraging a sense of community” (Lawson, 2020).

Jay Alvarrez has a broad field site, he is a business owner for an online digital assets company called The Creator Studios. In addition to this he posts regularly on instagram, youtube. Over the years, Jay has expanded his network and become popular by keeping his followers up to date with his lifestyle and travels around the world 

My ethnographic research is a “methodology for studies of cultures and peoples, with the assumption that they have something in common” (Sobolewska, F. Smith & Turner, 2009). By researching all of Jay Alvarrez’s social media platforms, I believe that there will be similarities. 

A common ethical issue for lifestyle influencers is authenticity. Wellman, Stoldt & Ekdale (2020) identifies that “ethics of authenticity is premised on two central tenets: being true to one’s self and brand and being true to one’s audience”. 

My DA will be a travel Instagram @aquilahproductions, This will be a fun experiment to see how much I learnt about his lifestyle over the semester and see if I can replicate his Instagram feed. I will also attempt to edit the photos and videos in a similar way and use the same aesthetics he does.

References:

Lawson, C. E. (2020) ‘Skin deep: Callout strategies, influencers, and racism in the online beauty community’, New Media & Society. 

Sobolewska, E., Smith, C.F. and Turner, P., 2009. Auto-ethnography: problems, pitfalls and promise. HCI Educators 2009-playing with our education, pp.91-97.  

Wellman, M.L., Stoldt, R., Tully, M. and Ekdale, B., 2020. Ethics of Authenticity: Social Media Influencers and the Production of Sponsored Content. Journal of Media Ethics, 35(2), pp.68-82.

Background Research and Ethical Concerns

In week one, Travel Instagram’s as a media niche that I am interested and have experience in. In the following week, I began to map this niche out. Last week, I began to problematise my media niche and narrowed my topic down to Travel Instagram’s and why do people follow them. In this week’s blog post, I will consider the ethical concerns of conducting an ethnographic study and begin to source the background research for my digital artefact. Although ethnography was initially challenging to understand, my research for the previous blog posts have taught me a lot.

Background Research

Anali Ambani Baruah’s AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF TRAVEL INFLUENCERS AND THE “ONLINE TOURIST GAZE” is one of the main secondary sources that will be referenced throughout my own digital artefact and has already helped shape the direction of my work. Baruah references many other ethnographic studies however none explicitly focus on Jay Alverrez the approaches and theoretical frameworks used can be applied to my own study. For example, Baruah begins defining specific Travel Instagram’s through analysing how other ethnographers have categorised it either as Photographer and Adventure Travel Influencers, Food Travel Influencers, Fashion Travel Influencers. This conversation could be included in my first audio episode for my digital artefact, where I could start to define Jay Alverrez’s account and decide what aspect will be focused on for my study.

Ethical Research

In my research, I have an ethical responsibility to accurately represent my findings and keep the identities of anyone that I observe confidential. Mertens (2014, p. 521) says that “researchers have an ethical obligation to give serious consideration to what they are giving back to members of the communities in which they work” and I agree with this completely. 

Although the majority of my research will be conducted online, there are still users who are not entirely anonymous but I can avoid any ethical issues by not directly quoting to referring to certain users but instead paraphrase their comments and draw conclusions from my observations across multiple social media platforms. Another ethical concern that I have is using incorrect terminology and discuss the subject matter carelessly. Due to the nature of the topic, I will make sure to use the appropriate language and approach the media niche with empathy and understanding. Furthermore, as an ethical researcher I will ensure I remain respectful and responsible before, during and after my research.

In the next week or so, I will be releasing a pitch video summarising my four blog posts before beginning to release episodes of my digital artefact. Stay tuned!

References:

Baruah, A.A., 2017. Travel imagery in the age of instagram: an ethnography of travel influencers and the “online tourist gaze” (Doctoral dissertation, Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology and Sociology SOAS, University of London).

Mertens, D. 2014, Ethical use of qualitative data and findings, The sage handbook of qualitative data analysis, Sage, Los Angeles, pp. 510-523

Research Plan – Jay Alverrez

In my previous blog I explored the field site of Jay Alverrez. I also stated that I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to continue researching Jay Alverrez as my media niche and base my Digital Artefact around him. At first I didn’t think ethnographic study would be needed or wanted but as time went on and I thought about it more, I came to the decision that understanding the appeal behind Alverez would help me and possibly others in my career path.

PROBLEMATISING

The First step in my research was to problematise Jay Alverrez as a niche. I think a good way to start to problematise my niche would be to ask myself, “what is it about Jay’s persona and work that I’m drawn to?”. By asking myself this question I can challenge my perceptions of my chosen niche and gain new perspectives. I could also ask myself “what is it about Lynch and his work that could be seen as problematic ?”. A very recent critique of Jay’s work is his portrayal of women with recent photos posted to his social medias with questionable captions. I think this could be an interesting perspective to look at his work from, but as of now I’m still deciding what issue I want to focus on. This lead me into my research plan.

RESEARCH PLAN AND AUDIENCE

I plan to Document my research plan by incorporating the methods of Observation and Autoethnography into the research of my niche. Observation is ethnographic research can be defined as “a researcher observing and recording human behaviour in a particular setting (often referred to as ‘the field’)” (Marvasti 2014, P. 355). This will be implemented into my research by engaging with Jay’s work and his community/audience and the platforms they take place (Instagram, Youtube). Autoethnography is a more autobiographical experience of research. Its described as “an emerging qualitative research method that allows the author to write in a highly personalised style, drawing on his or her experience to extend understanding about a societal phenomenon” (Wall 2006, P. 1). Using both of these methods as guidelines in my research will let me reflect and make sense of my thoughts and emotions on the field site of Jay Alverrez. During my research process I will be constantly taking notes on my thoughts, ideas, emotions and opinions of the field site and be critical of them. These are what’s known as ‘Field Notes’. These field notes will help me to compare my findings and gain insight into my true beliefs about my Niche. When it comes to audience and who I’m trying to attract to my research and findings, I believe my focus would be aimed towards myself, future employers, aspiring filmmakers, people trying to get into the industry.

RESEARCH SCHEDULE

Week 5
+ Observational research (Watch and engage with Jay’s content, and forums)
+ Analyse observations
+ Create Project Pitch.
Week 6+ Observational research ((Watch and engage with Jay’s content, and forums)
+ Analyse observations
+ Present pitch
Week 7+ Observational research (Watch and engage with Jay’s content, and forums)
+ Analyse observations
+ Create content for Digital Artefact
Week 8+ Observational research (Watch and engage with Jay’s content, and forums)
+ Analyse observations
+ Create content for Digital Artefact
Week 9+ Analyse observational research
+ Draft Research Report
+ Create Content for Digital Artefact
Week 10+ Analyse observational research
+ Draft Research Report
+ Create Content for Digital Artefact
Week 11+ Analyse observational research
+ Draft Research Report
+ Create Content for Digital Artefact
Week 12
+ Finalise and submit assessment

I created this schedule as to keep a clear guideline and time frame for research, due dates and analysing my research. It will help me to keep track of what work has been completed and the work that is yet to be completed. In my next blog I will be discussing how I will be analysing my research and the ethics that might emerge during my research and how I will control them.

REFERENCES

Marvasti, A 2014, ‘Analysing Observations’ https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2450389/mod_resource/content/1/Analysing%20Observations%20354%20Amir%20B.%20Marvasti%20The%20SAGE%20Handbook%20of%20Qualitative%20Data%20Analysis.pdf P. 355 [26th August 2020]

Wall, S 2006, ‘An Autoethnography on Learning about Autoethnography’ https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2450393/mod_resource/content/1/Wall%20S%202006%20An%20Autoethnography%20on%20Learning%20about%20Autoethnography.pdf P. 1 [28th August 2020]

The Field Site

Jay Alverez

A field site is loosely defined as the space in which field work is carried out. In terms of ethnography, a field site is not a single physical or digital space, but rather an interconnecting system of relationships between actors; both human and non-human. As ethnography is the study of a particular group of people, a field site is essential in conducting research as it can better refine the topic at hand.

By investigating the ‘Jay Alverez’ for my field site, I can gain insight into how the online travel and adventuring community’s  response to Jay’s content. My reason for choosing this as my focus is because of my future career. I am interested in getting into the travel and content creation industry in the future and working in either small or large company in marketing as I am currently studying Digital and Social media as my major. Through studying this media niche ethnographically, I will be able to give me insight into how this influencer uses social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to persuade, influence, and inspire customers to purchase their items and gain influence. Using academic research to further extend my awareness and appreciate how influencers use social media can help me gain innovative marketing expertise.

I have created a mind map on Canva to map a general outline and network of my field site;

Field research requires actually being within the field in order to gain knowledge, and can either be via observation or participation observation.  As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have been an active member of the travel/adventure, lifestyle community on social media while running my own digital artefact for the last 3 years. I myself am part of the audience, and so my fieldwork would be participatory.

As of August 13 2020, Jay Alverez YouTube channel has just over 1.27 million subscribers, 15 videos, and gains about 1-3 million views per video. Jay also uses Instagram @jayalvarrez wherein her 6.3 million  followers see his content and promotion for his digital products and specific brand deals. He’s online persona across all channels reflects he’s true personality, which includes being very down to earth, relatable, and genuine.

What is my Media Niche?

Travel Instagrams

In BCM241 ‘Media Ethnographies’, we are beginning a research project about a media niche that interests us. As a communication and media student, I am engaged with many areas of media. However, the popular group of content creators ‘Travel/Adventure Instagram Feeds’ stood out to me as something I would be very passionate about researching especially as most of my interests and hobbies fall around surfing, being around the ocean, lifestyle, adventure, travel as well as being a photographer and videographer lover and constantly checking my favourite Instagram’s and YouTuber’s for new content to engage with.

I have been consuming and engaging with the various types of travel Instagram creators for years now which will give me an important perspective when conducting my research

I am one to travel hours to a location to create content of with friends and upload to my previous digital artefact from last year. With Instagram being my go to app and very efficient for branding of business products which includes influencer sponsorships. I believe it is a great app through visual public content and private messaging which can build a huge following, displaying the like-ability of profiles.

As discussed by Daymon and Holloway in Chapter 9, ‘Ethnography’ of ‘Qualitative Research Methods in Public Relations and Marketing Communications‘, an evolving application of “ethnographic research is the investigation of virtual communities such as those that emerge via the interent” (Daymon and Holloway, 2011, pp.145)I therefore believe the travel instagram community is an excellent community to research!

In the context of ethnography in BCM241, I am interested in how and why people consume content from adventure content creators in their everyday life. I feel as though the diversity of age, gender and content styles within the community consequently provides a diverse audience which will be really interesting to explore. For example, I would predict that the majority of fans who follow these accounts would be of a older age due the context of their creators.

In the future I imagine myself in social media advertising which could include social media assistant. The subject of media Ethnography is recorded analytics of observed cultures behaviour including social media. Dividing by characteristics and platforms using qualitative research based on a shared collective meaning of a group. I feel a niche can change personally or adapt over time with generations.

References:

Daymon, C. and Holloway, I., 2011. Qualitative Research Methods In Public Relations And Marketing Communications. Abingdon (Gran Bretaña): Routledge, p.145. Available at: <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2416715/mod_resource/content/1/Qualitative%20Research%20Methods%20in%20Public%20Relations%20and%20Marketing%20Communications%2C%20Second%20edition.pdf> [Accessed 8th August 2020]