The One-Sided Looking Glass…

Hey~

This week was an interesting one for me. In class, we began delving into the selfie and into concepts around self-representation in the digital age. My fave topic~

Waxing Poetic on the Selfie (Take 50 Bajillion)

For those who may be unaware, my thesis project revolves around self-representation in the digital age. Specifically, I’m investigating this subject through a Neo-Dada lens, analyzing emergent forms of digital content creation as new forms of not only self-expression but also as representative of a resurgence of traditional Dada ideals. I think there is a case to be made for recognizing emergent forms of digital content like memes, gifs, shitposting, and, even, selfies as a kind of Degenerate Art 2.0 (check out that post). If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts surrounding this subject matter, you can check out my thesis blog.

Anyway, self-representation and, by extension, selfies are a subject of hella interest to me. I’ve discussed my thoughts around the selfie at length here and here and my bonus post this week is all about a Vulture article which explores the selfie medium as a new genre of art. To me, I believe recognizing the selfie as an art-form is not beyond reason. Though I personally think of the selfie as more of a communication tool and selfies as a  new kind of discourse, I do think there are plenty of attributes of the selfie that could qualify it as art.

To see how some artists are incorporating the selfie into their work, I recommend checking out artist Alex Saum’s #SelfiePoetry project. It is a collection of eight digital poems that, “explores the intertwining of two ideas: the untruth behind artistic or literary histories, and our (il) legitimacy to intervene them to create narratives that make teleological sense”. This is my favorite poem from the collection and it incorporates Saum’s own Instagram and selfies:

In addition to discussing our own thoughts about the selfie as contemporary citizens of the digital age, we also explored Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956). In class, we read the introduction aloud. In the introduction, Goffman discusses a myriad of issues complicating not just the presentation of self but the performance of self, which is something I find to be quite interesting. Personally, I do believe that the onset of digital technology has made life an increasingly performative experience. Because of social media, it”s accessibility, and the 24/7 news cycle, I do believe that a large percentage of people are performing life more than living it. That said, I find it interesting that this was a concern before digital technology. Goffman states, “I shall consider the way in which the individual in ordinary work situations presents himself and his activity to others, the ways in which he guides and controls the impression they form of him, and the kinds of things he may and may not do while sustaining his performance before them”. Essentially, as Shakespeare said, we’re all players and all the world’s stage.

If life has always been a performance, then, to me, digital means are just providing a new stage upon which to perform. The problem being that this stage is not only large but the audience as well. And, that audience is quite unforgiving in their critiques.

That said, bringing the scale back down, I tend to think of selfies in a more positive light. For me, at least, selfies have been a way for me to regain self-confidence as well as reclaim a sense of self. I’m in control of the viewer’s gaze when I take a selfie rather than at the mercy of it. I find that to be empowering as do many others. Some people, though, are critical about the empowering aspects of the selfie and argue that it is still a form of objectification. Or, mire, they argue that the selfie is simple vain and frivolous. Many people dismiss the selfie as being anything significant.

I think utter dismissal of the selfie is a very narrow-minded act. Also, I think that dismissing the selfie, which is a medium popularized by the constantly scolded Millennial generation, is a way to similarly dismiss Millennials and the notion that such an “irresponsible” and “shallow” could ever be responsible for anything meaningful. In my opinion, the dismissal of the selfie is a vilification of the Millennial generation. At least. I think dismissing the selfie is a symptom of a greater sociocultural problem.

Anyway, back to self-representation in the digital age. I feel that the selfie along with many other emergent forms of digital content expresses the partiality of self. At least, all of these different mediums together create this collage of self that communicates that self is so much more than any one thing. If anything, the #selfieunselfie project really emphasizes the performative qualities of the selfie but also how there is no one medium through which to express self. Even the selfie is incapable of conveying any holistic sense of self. To me, this doesn’t indicate a shortcoming so much as it illustrates the complexity of self and the affordances digital technology provides to expressing this inherent but often irrevocable aspect of self: that self is prismatic and multi-faceted.

Overall, I think an exploration of the selfie reveals that it is not so simple a subject as many people think or would like to believe. As Goffman’s book indicates, self has never been easy to express or capture. In fact, so much of self seems to be dependent upon the interactions we have with each other, again, removing control of self from the equation. While the onset of the digital age has certainly complicated our relationship to ourselves and each other, I think it has also provided us with new opportunities to explore complexities that we yet to comprehend. More, new technology and creative uses of this technology, such as the selfie, allow us to experiment with our identities and explore how far we can extend who we are. The digital age may come with new problems for us but it also comes with new opportunities to shed light on who we are and who we can be. I think there is so much potential for us to be so much more than we ever thought possible.

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#SelfieUnselfie Project

Though I participated in the first round of the project already, I decided to make another entry. Personally, I wanted to see if there was any change in my thoughts or perspective since a lot of things have changed in my personal life between these two Makes. I don’t think much has changed in my core concepts but I do think my latter entry is more raw, perhaps. I felt a little torn open writing it but it was a good kind of pain. Despite how often I talk about self and self-representation, I still find it incredibly painful to talk about myself and my own sense of self and what makes me feel real. Please, excuse any of my posts if they seem a little too frenetic or otherwise anxious; this topic really takes a lot of energy for me to write about.

Discussing the #Selfieunselfie Project

Make: My Selfies Keep My Secrets

Daily Digital Alchemies

In my first DDA this week, I memed my cat, Dove. I took an origami class at my local library this week and learned how to make a little samurai hat which I promptly placed on Dove’s head when I returned home and snapped a pic of. In my DDA, I imagined what she must be thinking about the undignified gesture. (She is quite the diva–which I think means something coming from me >.>)

In my second DDA this week, I let my inner child loose >.< I hope my entry isn’t too uncouth~

My Annotations on the Goffman Article

~Till next time all you pretty people ;)~

Exploring the History of the Selfie~

So, I know this post wasn’t formatted exactly as suggested but I was in “the zone” and didn’t even think of writing this post as suggested. Sorry >.< Just know I contain plenty multitudes~

When it comes to discussing emergent forms of digital content creation, I think there are few more disputed or more controversial forms than that of the selfie. It has been vilified across the board, reaffirmed, vilified again, then reaffirmed….and so on. It appears we as a people can’t seem to make up our minds abut whether or not selfies are insignificant and vain or profound expressions of self and the experience of life in a finite form. (Perhaps selfies can be a little of both???)

Anyway, regardless of your personal feelings on the medium itself, I think many of us realize that selfies do constitute their own genre of sorts. There are standard conventions that guide selfie creation and proliferation as well as entire digital platforms designed to “house” these new artifacts. Most, if not all, of us can recognize a selfie when we see one. The specific purpose of the selfie may be subjective but we can all objectively identify a selfie as a selfie.

Some people, like myself >.>, have even begun to identify selfies as art.

In a Vulture article by Jerry Saltz, there is a case made for viewing selfies as their own distinct art genre, separate from the self-portraits of artistic tradition they have often been compared to. Saltz cites the cultivation of very specific conventions as well as the “cultural dialogue” selfies seem to engage in as prime evience for why selfies should be considered as their own artistic genre. In the article, Saltz states,

These [Selfies] are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms—of framing, of technique—traditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn’t dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn’t become a distinct thing, didn’t have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It’s possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.

According to Saltz, not only do selfies constitute as their own genre that is distinctly different from traditional self-portraiture but selfies also represent new forms of communication and socialization. Selfies are not just images, removed from a particular context. No, they are these very present, immediate messages that have a kind of agency. Selfies can be responses or reactions or affirmations or assertions or any number of poignant forms of communication. Saltz states, “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are little visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize—that say, ‘I’m here; look at me.” Selfies are becoming not just an extension of our own language but almost a language unto themselves. Which is fascinating.

One one hand, selfies seem to be about self-representation and extending self beyond previously imposed finite limits but, with their increasing ubiquity, they are also becoming this cultural phenomenon that is able to express something about who we all are. Which, isn’t that what are does? It speaks to something transcendent yet so visceral. Something we can almost touch, but can’t quite hold. Which, isn’t that what self is?

The line between art and self is blurry, at best. Even if you don’t see selfies as particularly artistic or expressive, I think it’s fair to say that they are, currently, culturally significant. Which, to me, necessitates a need to look more closely at them and at what it is about selfies that resonates with so many people. What are selfies saying that we want to say? Or, that we want people to hear? What is in a selfie that is so important to share? Or, for those of us who keep our selfies private, what doe a selfie capture that is so important to save? I think these are all important questions and ones that are worthy of our investigation and consideration.

To dismiss selfies as simply trivial or frivolous or vain is to ignore what seems like the experience of more than half of the world. Like Saltz says, selfies are a way to communicate the experience of being here, of being me experiencing me in this very moment and how absolutely wild and unfathomable it is to exist. How can you ignore that???

It seems like a message that humanity has been trying to communicate for so long. It’s like some Thoreau-esque, transcendentalist bull. Just writing these words sounds like I’m trying to get at something sublime. Something that is integral to the human experience but is ineffable. I’m not trying to say that selfies are a manifestation of the sublime or that they hold some secret to ultimate self-realization but they could. 

I think it’s important that we continue to investigate the selfie and other emergent forms of digital content creation if for no other reason than because they are us, they increasingly represent us. And, we’re important subjects.

Don’t you think so too?

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~Till next time~

Thoughts on Selfies

More Thoughts on Selfies