My Snapcode

Storytelling behind Snapchat Stories.

Claudia Gordo
c:/ CyberStories and others


Recently, I decided to start a new project to analyze social media aspects by experimenting on my own daily uses. This approach pretends to inspire a series of researches related to social platforms mixing theory and practice. So it, this Medium will be my ongoing dairy and fieldnotes for reporting thoughts and advances on the current research. To start, the first topic will base on the trendiest app of the moment, Snapchat.

The app opens up a new form of communication amongst peers that allow data being sent in a spontaneous way to narrate the live moments. Unlike sending photographs or simple text messages, Snapchat encourages users to set a 1–10 seconds expiration date on their piece of communication (from now, Snap). Users are able to send time inhibited photographs and videos that can be crazy without the fear of being viral or overexposed as in other social media websites such as Twitter or Facebook.

On the centre of the study, I will focus on a particular feature the app offers to their users to express themselves in a public way, the Stories. They are a compilation of Snaps in a chronological order and public for the user’s followers. Stories live on the screen for 24h. and disappear (unless users screenshot them) for one time and people can interact with them (if the creator allow it). Therefore, users (or Snapchatters) can show their daily live by creating narratives with a never ending structure (beginning, middle and ending) and mixing content (photo, video, drawing, filters, etc).

To know more about the app, I would recommend to surf into the fantastic explanations of the support page and blog page.


The objective of this study is to look into the different context of Snapchat to see how users tell stories using their art. The way they talk, the tools they use and how they are creating these particular stories.

I am also interested in analyzing the expanded practices through Snapchat features of telling real life and alive narratives.


In order to settle down this research it is necessary to consider the following dimensions:

  1. Sample. Overseeing the different users on Snapchat for a while, It has been marked certain groups which show frequent activity on their profile. It was discarded sponsored profiles on Discover or Live events because they are the result of professional marketing strategies and deliberated content. At this point, it rather fix the sample on personal or institutional accounts using the day-to-day timeline, even if they respond to a professional purpose. So it, the research looks into the spontaneous narrative that users create on the daily practices of the app. To be more precise, it was selected two profiles from the following groups: fashion bloggers, celebrities, mass media, political institutions and learning institutions.
  2. Tools. Snapchat has multiples ways to personalize a snap: video, photo, filters, text, stickers, drawing or geolocated features. It can be used combined or simple and adding as many as you want. The way snapchatters uses the tools is essential to understand the minimum piece of information that conforms a snap. In this sense, the study collects the composition of each snap in a story.
  3. Order of snaps. As it focuses on the 24h public stories, to note down the snaps on the order the user post it is crucial to determine afterward the structure of each story. On this dimension, we should highlight two difficulties and make a decision to be coherent:
  • Timezone. The chose sample goes from China to the USA, so it is important to settle a fixed time to recapitulate the snaps of a story. That affects the way the story is created and how we digest it. As is impossible to collect from the user vision, the timezone would add a subjective point of view, specifically the Central-Europe meridian, GMT+1 (summer time). In this case, 9 P.M. (GMT+1).
  • Cycle. The nature of a Snapchat Story is to last for 24 hours after it is created. For example, if somebody postes a first snap at 9 am on 2nd of June, the second at 9.37 am on 2nd of June, etc. It will disappear the 1st on 9 am on 3rd of June, becoming the second snap (the one on 2nd of June at 9.27) the first during the 37 minutes it last before dying. It means each story will be marked by the moment the researcher (me) looks into the Snapchat Stories.

The research

First a conceptual approach to the world Snapchat has been raised. One of the first task is to make a glossary of terms on Snapchat language to understand how it works. It is not with the intention of explaining the app but to settle the concepts in the way the research will consider them.

Then it is carrying out a set of participatory research techniques to explore the Snapchat world. At this point, the main purpose is to observe the behavior of people the app. So I will start collecting data through self-experience and experience of the others using participant-observation methodologies. For seven days, I will be recording how the selected individuals communicate and combine the tools provided to tell their own days by stories. Starting by looking at structure of the smaller piece of information (the Snap), framing and sticking it together with others. Probably, it could not be possible track all users in a row so, they will be divide by areas (fashion bloggers, celebrities, etc.) to have the whole picture. At the moment, It is being hard to find educational so this could be the last group recorded. The data collected will be available at an open worksheet.

Once a set of data in a particular area is collected, it will be exposed in a post guessing an early composition of a story. In the meantime, it is decisive to fix some concepts and frame the research with theories and previous reviews of academic papers on virtual ethnography, storytelling and social construction.

Starting question

  • Do they snap different according to their areas of action (fashion, education, politics…)?
  • Do demographics affect on the tools they use?
  • How often do they use filters and the purpose?
  • Do they have a snap pattern?
  • How much could affect the timezone and the cycling snap nature?