SVA MA Design Research

SVA MA Design Research, Writing & Criticism1 is a one-year graduate program2
devoted to the study of design, its contexts & consequences.
Our graduates have gone on to pursue research-related careers in publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, entrepreneurship, & more.3

  1. Formerly known as D-Crit
  2. About the program
  3. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. All successful candidates awarded a significant scholarship!
SVA MA Design Research

136 W 21st St, 2nd Floor

New York, NY 10011


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(212) 592-2228

Instagram’s Repetition of Desire – SVA MA Design Research

Cassandra Gerardo

Instagram’s Repetition of Desire

Instagram exists as a facilitator between individuals seeking validation. As Elaine Scarry discusses in her book The Body in Pain, we figuratively turn our bodies “inside-out” by making our private internal desires “exterior and sharable” (284). Instagram also works as an extension of our bodies by allowing us an outlet for selective memories. As one cannot carry around a fresh pie from the oven and walk down the street fishing for compliments, nor be seen in a swimsuit in the most flattering light and angle at every given moment, Instagram allows us to capture these moments and share instantaneously, forever preserving that seemingly perfect moment from which we demand praise and recognition.


Through the platform’s interface, users edit or “filter” the content of their photo further amplifying attributes they want to project, while at the same time, Instagram stores a documented visual for a user to recall at any time. Our needs are met with the “minimum level of objectified human compassion,” however, when the platform prompts our image on other’s feeds, giving them the opportunity to affirm and satisfy the subject’s need merely by clicking an icon (291). Instagram permits one to comment on a photo, but emoji symbols have become the stand in language of communicating a brief, trite sentiment. Aside from generating and editing photos, Instagram expedites not only the process by which photos are shared, but also the return of approval from viewers. Viewers or “followers”, in turn, internalize desire for approval which produces them to generate similar photography for validation as well.   


There is a blurring between reality and fantasy that occurs between this exchange. What appears on one’s feed, one presumes to be reality without seeing beyond the frame. The production behind creating the photo disappears and, as a result, the photo looks like effortless reality. Therefore, the user’s followers perceive the photo “make-up” what extends beyond the frame. The plethora of attributes we seek to project is thus continually fed to us when we open Instagram. This “feed” of images creates a hunger for self-revision, which in turn, is projected through our own posts. The platform acts as a lever in constant motion, mediating the exchange of approval with minimal human effort. If our sentience revolves around the recurring snap, post, like, have we objectified ourselves by requiring the most minimal expectations of social worth?   



Scarry, Elaine. “The Interior Structure of the Artifact.” The Body in Pain: the Making and Unmaking of the World, Oxford Univ. Press, 2006.