The “selfie,” a photograph taken of and by the same person, is a surprisingly malleable genre. Selfies can be taken of one person or of groups, at different angles, in different environments. The photographer-subject can be clothed, intending to showcase their OOTD (“outfit of the day”) or nude, aiming to entice romantic partners. The filters offered by popular platforms like Instagram can make a selfie appear as if it was taken forty years ago. The image geotagging feature of most cell phone cameras even allow users and viewers to use selfies to track the subjects’ daily whereabouts. There are also “selfie” offshoots: “belfies” are of photographer-subjects’ derrieres and the primary subject of “lelfies” are legs. In recent years, the selfie has become something more than a means to capture a look or moment; selfies, in all their forms, have been deployed for a variety of creative and critical purposes.
This forum takes up the hows and whys of selfie creation and circulation, paying special attention to the ways selfies act as a means of asserting agency in a variety of different contexts. Our hope is to combine perspectives on gender, sexuality, and surveillance as well as historical selfie precursors and the use of selfies in the classroom into one concentrated, scholarly forum. In our minds, the benefit of this forum over a scholarly article is that it can showcase the many ways the purposes and functions of selfies clash and create new configurations of creativity and power.
Here are some of the questions we are interested in:
History of the Selfie
What are the forms selfies have taken in the past? What purposes have selfies served historically? How are these purposes different from our current use of selfies? How have the audiences for and circulation patterns of selfies changed?
In what ways does the temporal context of the selfie matter in order to understand its social/historical importance?
Gender and the Selfie
How has the selfie trend contributed to a sense of female community?
How do selfies function in terms of self-care as well as self-representation and narrativization?
Sexuality and the Selfie
In what ways are selfies an important genre for sexual self-representation,expression, and action? How have they functioned this way historically?
Surveillance and the Selfie
How does the EU’s recent law allowing one to remove unwanted search results about oneself impact how we think about identity?
How are machines constructing our identity based the content we post ourselves?
Teaching the Selfie
How can we use selfies to engage with students about critical digital literacies, the potentials of digital spaces, digital self-representation, etc.?
Why might selfies in particular be a valuable way to engage students with critical digital literacies?
What might we accomplish in the classroom by bringing in selfies?
In what ways have students/teens been using selfies themselves in educational/activist contexts? How might these contexts be valuable models for our own students?
Future of the Selfie
- What’s next? What new, related forms are emerging in digital spaces? How is the selfie changing, being adapted for new purposes by new kinds of users?
Hosted by HASTAC Scholars:
- Jenae Cohn, University of California, Davis
- J.J. Sylvia IV, North Carolina State University
- Lauren Rae Hall, University of Pittsburgh
- Bridget Sweet, Florida Atlantic University
- Annie Fee, University of Washington
- Stephen Groening, University of Washington
- Magdalena Olszanowski, Concordia University
- Lev Manovich, The Graduate Center, CUNY
- Jill Rettberg, University of Bergen
- Theresa Senft, New York University
Forum banner image: "Selfie," by Paško Tomić, cropped.