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The HLBLL Rotation Curation Experiment

When I created an Instagram account in 2015 for the PhD Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages, I admit, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Instagram was a fairly unknown platform for me, despite its wide use among Millenials and in our program. Being so different than the two social media platforms we were already using in the program—Facebook and Twitter—proceeding in much the same way as on those was not practical or yielding results, although I tried.

The Platform Problem

In a nutshell, Instagram is a photo-sharing application for mobile devices, and because it has maintained this identity throughout its growth, Instagram purposefully maintains several limitations not shared by Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Instagram’s website allows users to view photos shared by others, as well as perform certain functions such as liking a photo, adding comments, or following other users. Instagram is not designed to add content from a desktop computer.
  2. Instagram is designed to be real-time, showcasing photos taken and nearly instantaneously shared on the platform. This poses two limitations:
    1. A social media manager such as Hootsuite can only get an Instagram user halfway there when it comes to scheduling a post. In effect, Hootsuite merely functions as a reminder service to post your content, as you must access Instagram to finalize, add captions, and send any scheduled posts.
    2. Facebook has a “share” button, and posts that receive likes or comments are prioritized in news feeds. Twitter has “retweets” and now also features an “In case you missed it” section of your stream with tweets taken out of the reverse-chronological order which may interest the user. Without the use of secondary applications, Instagram does not permit the reposting of previously created material back into its stream, whether that material comes from within Instagram or without, so it is not an effective platform for material designed to be shared multiple times on social media.
  3. Uploading content to Instagram that was not created as a photo on your mobile device is cumbersome and requires secondary applications such as Hootsuite. This makes Instagram a less-than-ideal platform for sharing such things as event posters and flyers.
  4. Individual Instagram posts also can not share clickable links to outside content, like web pages for conferences or other events, so interaction with the Instagram post is limited to site itself.

All of the factors above were reasons why the social media strategy applied to our Facebook and Twitter accounts was not an effective Instagram strategy. And the account sat, mostly unused, for many months of the year.

Why #RotationCuration?

Several weeks ago, I joined Instagram myself, partially because I wanted an outlet for the pictures I like to take while running in the city and partially because a friend of mine adopted a puppy and shared adorable puppy photos on Instagram daily. And also partially because I thought that through using the platform personally, I’d be more prepared to tackle it as a Social Media Fellow. After several weeks of personal Instagram use and browsing through the often quotidian, often captivating photos of others with their witty hashtags, I was struck with an idea. Actually, the idea is not mine, but I remembered that the Twitter account, @sweden, has a new Swede Tweeter every week. I thought this model, called Rotation Curation, would be particularly interesting, novel, and a more fruitful use of the program’s Instagram account.

The intention of Rotation Curation on Instagram is to use the platform not so much as an account broadcasting news and upcoming events from our program, but rather keeping in line with its strengths showcasing spontaneously captured photos rather than planned images and information. The first Rotation Curation post on our account is mine: an adorable minor frustration during my dissertation writing.

 

As the curation of the program’s Instagram account moves throughout the members of the HLBLL community, we will have glimpses into the lives of students from the first year to their last, taking classes, preparing for exams, teaching on various CUNY campuses, writing dissertations, organizing and attending events, looking up in awe at the Midtown skyline.

On Instagram, the everyday moments, such as a weekly class…

 

…are given as much weight as a lecture in our spring Colloquia Series.

 

 

We are now beginning our third week of this Rotation Curation experiment. New curators announce their guardianship of the account in its profile and I have encouraged each one to invent their own hashtag signature for their posts so that it remains identifiable with the curator who posted it originally.

 

And so I invite you to follow the HLBLL Instagram account and check out all that this Rotation Curation experiment has to offer.

Prospective Students! It’s a window into our program!
Graduate Center community! We’re having fun and working hard!
HLBLL PhD Candidates! Feel nostalgia for first exam preparation!
HLBLL Level 1 Students! Your dissertation-writing colleagues are scarcely seen but churning out the pages!

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