Snapchat Research Story


One of your objectives in DIG 101 is to “analyze an artifact of digital culture using evidence-based reasoning.” This project takes advantage of Snapchat’s Story feature to do exactly that, in video form.

A Snapchat Story is a sequence of still images or short videos (no more than 10 seconds each) viewed as one video. If you haven’t used Snapchat Stories before, think of each photo or video as a single cut making up the longer film, i.e. the story. You can use Snapchat’s various filters, lenses, doodles, and so on with each photo or video in your story.

The inspiration for this project comes from the media scholar Jill Walker Rettberg, who argues that Snapchat Stories can be powerful tools to share knowledge and analysis. She calls them “Snapchat Research Stories.” For example, in one Snapchat Story, Rettberg explores how Snapchat uses facial biometrics. In another Snapchat Story, Rettberg provides some historical context for how we share images on social media. Notice how in each video Rettberg uses filters, lenses, captions, and cuts. She’s playful, but she also delivers an insightful message, informed by research. It’s like a moving image thinkpiece.


Your Snapchat Research Story should offer a short analysis of some artifact of digital culture. It could be an app, a website, a meme, a videogame, a piece of hardware, a service, or something else entirely. Whatever artifact you choose, remember that you’re offering an analysis not a review. A review tells someone why they should or shouldn’t buy something. An analysis tells us why something matters.

Review Analysis
Subjective response Subjective response informed by history and theory
“This is interesting” “This is important because…”
Provides information Provides perspective

Analysis means that you will have to bring in some outside perspectives. Our class readings are a good place to start, but I have also provided some other resources in the bibliography below.


A B-range Snapchat Research Story will meet the following criteria:

  1. The story is between 3-4 minutes long.
  2. The story is about some artifact of digital culture or technology (and not one we have discussed at length in class).
  3. The story offers a non-obvious argument about the artifact. The analysis goes beyond what a Wikipedia entry might cover and integrates a historical and/or theoretical perspective.
  4. The story’s argument is coherent.
  5. The story’s argument uses evidence.
  6. The story integrates one outside scholarly source beyond what we’ve read for class. Find a creative way to “cite” this source as well.
  7. The story uses Snapchat’s lenses, filters, and other features.
  8. The story includes images or video of the artifact it’s about.
  9. The story is posted to Snapchat by class time on Friday, September 22, and shared with the class.
  10. The story is saved to your Memories and Camera Roll, uploaded to YouTube as a private link, and shared with me.

An A-range Snapchat Research Story does all the above plus:

  1. The story integrates at least two scholarly sources beyond what we’ve read for class. Both sources must also be “cited.”
  2. The story’s argument reaches higher levels of originality and synthesis.
  3. The story uses more effective rhetoric and style to advance its argument.


I have two contradictory words of advice for you:

  1. Plan ahead. Don’t let the playful aesthetic of Snapchat fool you. The most compelling stories are highly produced. They may look spontaneous, but they are often storyboarded, scripted, and rehearsed. Figure out what you want to say before your record. Gather all your materials beforehand. Don’t make it up as you go along.
  2. Mess around. Explore the creative possibilities Snapchat offers. Be weird. Open yourself to happy accidents. You can’t edit Stories very easily, which means perfection is an impossible goal. That’s actually kind of liberating.

Further Reading on Snapchat Research Stories