Instagram and intermodal configurations of value: Ideology, aesthetics and attitudinal stance in #avotoast posts

Michele Zappavigna, Andrew Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores how ideological positions associated with food are construed multimodally in Instagram posts produced by everyday social media users. Discourse about food choices is an important site for revealing syndromes of values that characterise the ideological positions that are embedded in everyday life. An example of a highly valued food is the avocado which is an important bonding icon in semantic domains from veganism, clean eating, keto/low-carb eating, ethical/sustainable eating to fitness. We explore how values associated with avocado toast are enacted intermodally through the interplay of meanings made in the images, captions, and tags in a corpus of 64,585 Instagram posts tagged #avotoast. The study draws on previous social semiotic work on visual intersubjectivity and everyday aesthetics in social photography ( Zhao and Zappavigna 2018a ) to interpret the visual meanings made in these posts. It also draws on research into intermodal coupling (image-text relations) and ambient affiliation (online social bonding) ( Zappavigna 2018 ) to understand how different values are construed in these texts. A modified grounded theory approach is used to isolate and exemplify the visual and textual features at stake, and then to explore ideological positionings through close multimodal analysis. A particularly interesting pattern in the corpus is the interaction of aesthetic and moralising discourses. For instance, a regulative metadiscourse realised through hashtags is used to project an instructional discourse about how to eat and what is considered ethical, sustainable, and nutritious food consumption. Rather than being directly encoded as judgement of behaviour these assessments tended to be expressed as appreciation of food items and their aesthetics or worth (e.g., clean, healthy, etc.).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-226
Number of pages30
JournalInternet Pragmatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes


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