“Seeing” into the future: Anchoring strategies in future-oriented Twitter visuals
Keywords:Social media, visual rhetoric, elections, anchoring, future-oriented discourse, temporal affordances, digital campaigns
How do public actors visualize the future? Mediations of the future often construct audiences’ prospective actions, and offer insights into society’s imagination of desirable and undesirable futures. In the visually-saturated environment of social media, projections are often visual. Unlike their textual counterparts, future-oriented election visuals have remained understudied. Thus, our paper explores how public actors substantiate their future-oriented, multi-modal claims and the rhetorical outcomes of different strategies. Building on the notion of technologies’ “temporal affordances”, we utilize an inductive qualitative approach to visual rhetoric and analyze projection anchoring strategies using a sample of 400 future-oriented multi-modal tweets. We find that anchoring is carried out in two layers: evidential (the validity of the future-oriented narrative), and visual (the level of aesthetic realism in the image). Examining recurring patterns of anchoring strategies across the sample result in a rhetorical typology of future-oriented visuals, in two modes (consumerism and competition). Overall, our findings highlight the rhetorical pliability of visual anchoring, through which actors utilize an interplay of temporal and technological strategies to generate alternative anchoring in sharing their projections, and to remain authentic in visualizing the unknown.
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