Lecture 20: Notes to Self: the visual culture of selfies in the age of social media – Derek Conrad Murray

In Class Presentation:

  • The Selfie:
    • Greg Spielberg:
      • Journalist
      • Spielberg argues that women take up most of the capital in social media usage
    • Vivian Fu:
      • Taiwanese – American photographer
      • Internet based forms of “selfie styled” self-portraiture
      • Self-definition: one that enables for the undoing and interrogation of ethnic stereotypes
      • “self-portraiture” became a way for me to own my own identity as an Asian -American women”
      • “own my sexuality are MINE”
      • Asian Girls: ongoing photographic series
        • Subtly suggestive
        • Fu’s photography is engaged in more explorations into the intricacies of race, gender, and sexuality
    • Noorann Matties:
      • Active blogger
      • Documents the on-going of her life
      • Gender-based and Racial consciousness:
        • A new representational politics
          • Complex lives of younger women of colour
        • Started imaging herself because she wasn’t seeing young brown women depicted in the way she was photographer herself anywhere else
          • A little sense of self
        • Explore themes related to beauty, physical modification
        • Rituals: photographic series
          • Snapshot portraits of young women as they look into the mirror
          • Captures a very private and intimate movement
            • Intimately aware of ourselves
  • Discussion Questions:
    • Should the government control where you can take selfies?
      • No because A it is a very hard policy to enact upon individuals
    • Where would you say it is not appropriate to take selfies?
      • Taken a selfie at a funeral is more at ease depending on the context of the matter compared to spaces that hold a different and larger historical and controversial context ex. Holocaust tombs  
      • Context matters
    • What do you think of the word “selfie” making it into the Oxford English Dictionary? Do you think it is a legitimate enough to be included?
      • No its should because the term the selfie was formulated as a form of language and communication through societies use and integration of the term far before being deemed an official English word
    • Do you agree with Spielberg that women are starting to control content on social media and the internet?
      • Control
      • Women are taking control of the content of the internet especially in the way they are perceived by individuals or the social masses in terms of social norm and ideal of women, and i think women on the internet and there presence allows women to change the conversation and view of women within modern society
    • Do you think that individuals purposely post selfies to emphasize a certain “self”, or do they post them, just to post them?
    • Is this an effective way to display acts of social political issues such as racism or feminism, Why or Why now?


  • Intended learning outcomes
    • Discuss the aspects of a selfie
    • Discover briefly, learn about historical engagement of photographs
  • What is creative expression?
    • A unique way you decide to present yourself in person, on social media
    • Express your personality – Performative modes of expression
    • Physical expression: emojis, memes,
    • Cultural objects: some aspect of creativity that goes behind that cultural object we choose to portray
    • Creating cultural objects: taking photographs
    • Creative expression refers to practices for developing a unique self, for example through the crafting and sharing of cultural object, including photographs
  • Brief Author Profile:
    • A professor in the department of Art and Visual Culture at UV Santa Cruz, Derek Conrad Murray “is an interdisciplinary theorist specializing in the history, theory of cultural objects”
  • What is a selfie:
    • A spontaneous self-portrait, taken with a range of consumer-based devices: smart phones, tablets, laptop computers, as well as digital and film cameras” (Murray, 491)
    • OED defines [selfie] as a photograph that one has taken of oneself typically one take with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website” (491)
      • Importantly: he doesn’t just give the definition. He uses it . He plays with it. He considers what that definition means for his argument. What does this definition prohibit or about the practices of selfie in contemporary culture
      • A mode to engage in creative expression
  • History of Western Culture’s relationship with photographs:
    • “in the analogue age, personal photography was first and foremost a means for autobiolograpgical remembering, and photographs usually ended up as keepsakes in someone’s album or shoebox” (Van Dijck, Mediated Memories, P.99)
    • Thus personal relationship grew from the increasing technical ability of photography towards mass (mechanical) reproduction
    • “the development of a mass audience for photography required the creation of a simple method for printing high-quality images on paper” (Bagery)
    • In the age of mechanical reproduction the accumulation of photographic materials enabled the development of new devices and technologies for displaying memories
    • Van Dijck suggests that the revolution in digital photography afforded “photography’s primacy as a tool for remembering” (99)
    • Note: Van Dijck is writing in 2007, before apples launch of the iPhone (including the mass adoption and convergence of mediated
  • Who takes selfies?
    • Generations and “Selfies”
    • Millennials are the highest %saying they have shared a selfie
    • According to Pew Research data in 2014, only 26% of Americans had shared a selfie
  • What are teens posting:
    • Social media profiles: What teens post – 2008vs 2012
      • People are sharing more then we did in previous years and generations
      • People are sharing more personal information about them self then ever before
  • Selfie practice by age and gender:
    • Personal info posted to social media profiles: Gender and Age
      • Teen girl 14-17 are most likely to be posting selfies
  • Where are selfies being taken?
    • In 2014, “[t]o investigate the geography of selfie-taking, TIME built a database of more than 400,000 Instagram photos tagged “selfie” that included geographic coordinates. In total we ranked 459 cities to determine the selfiest places on earth
    • Top city was Makati City and Pasig Philippines with 258 selfie-takers per 100,00 people
  • Are selfies creative expression?
    • 8 types of selfie faces (image)
    • Selfies display new forms of “personality expression” (Oui et al, 2015)
      • These forms may be largely imitative (i.s. Duckface)
      • Past studies have nonetheless found that selfies can contain “valid personality cues,” based on facial features (Nestler, Egloff, Kuifer, and back, 2012)
      • Compared to other types of photos, selfies
  • Jose Van Dijck methodology for analyzing cultural status of photographs ( including selfies)
    • Consider the co-extensive development of photography with sociocultural practices
    • Account for condition of:
      • Materiality
        • Made using what means? Use what conditions?
      • Performativity

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