Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology

Curating the Feed: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Digital Image Feeds and their Curatorial Assemblages


DFG (DFG priority prgramme "The Digital Image")


Prof. Dr. Christoph Bareither (Universität Tübingen LUI), Jun.-Prof. Dr. Sabine Wirth (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar), Prof. Dr. Benno Stein (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)


2023 - 2026

The key goal of the DFG-funded interdisciplinary research project “Curating the Feed” is to gain a better understanding of digital image feeds and their curatorial assemblages. We ask how ever-evolving networks of digital practices, user interfaces, and algorithms co-curate image feeds on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or Pinterest. How are digital image feeds designed? How are they embedded in user interfaces and complex media environments? How are they algorithmically controlled, especially through the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning? And how are they entangled with the everyday lives of countless social media users?

The project is part of the DFG priority programme The Digital Image and based at the University of Tübingen and the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. It combines 1) digital anthropology (PI Christoph Bareither, University of Tübingen), 2) media studies and interface studies (PI Sabine Wirth, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar), and 3) computer science and natural language processing (PI Benno Stein, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar). The three areas analyze different facets of the curatorial assemblages that shape image feeds. Digital anthropology will use the methods of digital ethnography (participant observation, interviews, media diaries) to study the complex relationships between technology and human beings. Specifically, we consider a young generation of users who are experts in the curation of image feeds and examine how the feeds and their AI-based algorithms affect their everyday lives. In contrast, media and interface studies work toward a historical and media theoretical contextualization of image feeds, and they ask how user interfaces, design strategies, and affordances become part of the curatorial assemblages. Finally, computer science and natural language processing (NLP) illuminate the ways in which algorithms and those who control them participate in the curation of image feeds. Through them, we can also explore how algorithmic interventions can critically reflect on one-sidedness in contemporary social media and provide a basis for work on the next generation of image feeds.