FROM DIGITAL INFLUENCERS TO INFLUENCER-LABORATORIES. A CASE STUDY OF LIL MIQUELA
Keywords:Instagram, Digital Influencers, Platform Studies, Digital Methods, Lill Miquela
This research focuses on an emerging influencer category called CGI influencers. CGI influencers are fictional characters created with computer modeling techniques that have profiles on social networks and sociomaterial trajectories built with the aid of digital marketing, business intelligence and media companies. As an empirical object, we chose Lil Miquela - "the robot influencer", one of the most successful examples of this genre of micro celebrity on Instagram. Our main goal was to map the ways in which Miquela acts on Instagram and to find traces that allow us to explore better the interrelationship between the strategies adopted by Miquela's creators team and her appropriations of Instagram affordances that shapes the ways in which she acts both as a fictional character and as a digital influencer. We extracted 1089 posts available in Miquela’s feed up to June 2021and used content analysis and mixed digital methods techniques to explore the data. We observed three ways of acting (practices) that are characteristic of Miquela and operate interdependently: (a) The Fictional Character, (b) The Experiment and (c) The Influencer. These findings could suggest that the three versions of Miquela act as an experimental model of what we here call “influencer-laboratories”: a type of digital influencer for which the influencer itself acts as a controlled experiment used to investigate which sociomaterial arrangements create conditions that favor the production of online influence on digital platforms.