Journal article Open Access

Between the Extraordinary and the Everyday: How Instagram's Digital Infrastructure Affords the (Re)contextualization of Art-Related Photographs

Sarah Ullrich and Katharina Geis

Art Style | Art & Culture International Magazine


Digital technology and practices of photographic self-representation, captioning, tagging and sharing on social media have effectively transformed the museum experience by blurring the lines between museum visits and everyday life. The many visitors today who take photographs while at art collections or other exhibits and then upload them onto Instagram render the exclusive experience of museums a part of ordinary medialized space. In understanding affordances in relation to how people interact with material environments, technology and media, we examine routinized actions and their entanglement with incorporated knowledge, stressing the importance of their social dimensions. Based on empirical data gathered in an ongoing ethnographic research project, we analyze the affordances of Instagram and how they are enacted by users. For this article, we investigate in detail how the platform’s infrastructures are appropriated by users in order to address current events and express personal opinions with the help of seemingly unrelated visual content. We argue that the habit of using Instagram for everyday communication is what allows individuals to attach alternative meanings to digital images from museums and art galleries. In the discussion, we consider the economies of valuation and attention within the context of socially distributed practices along with the temporal structures of social media and their impact on visual sense-making. Finally, we ask whether the afforded practices of recontextualization have contributed to a shift in authority away from museums and other influential institutions in the artworld.

Art Style, Art & Culture International Magazine is an open-access, biannual, and peer-reviewed online magazine that aims to bundle cultural diversity. All values of cultures are shown in their varieties of art. Beyond the importance of the medium, form, and context in which art takes its characteristics, art is considered the significance of socio-cultural, historical, and market influence.
Files (2.7 MB)
Name Size
2.7 MB Download
All versions This version
Views 14536
Downloads 19916
Data volume 569.1 MB44.0 MB
Unique views 13433
Unique downloads 19015


Cite as