Mar 2

Standard

I’m just going to post some notes here for tonight’s discussion.

This is from Miriam Posner’s syllabus website for her class “Selfies, Snapchat, & Cyberbullies”

“Our goal is to develop a vocabulary for talking about technological and cultural change that accommodates the diversity and contingency of human experience.”

What should students hope to take away from this class, and what are they working toward?

This is from the site for “The Selfie Course” from the Selfie Researchers Network

  • Selfie as discourse: Examples: What is the history (or histories) of the selfie? How do these histories map to contemporary media and scholarly discourses regarding self-representation, autobiography, photography, amateurism, branding, and/or celebrity?
  • Selfie as evidence: Examples: What are the epistemological ramifications of the selfie? How do selfies function as evidence that one attended an event, feels intimate with a partner, was battered in a parking lot, is willing to be ‘authentic’ with fans, or claims particular   standing in a social or political community? One uploaded, how do selfies become evidence of a different sort, subject to possibilities like ‘revenge porn’, data mining, or state surveillance?
  • Selfie as affect: Examples: What feelings do selfies elicit for those who produce, view, and/or circulate them? What are we to make of controversial genres like infant selfies, soldier selfies, selfies with homeless people, or selfies at funerals? How do these discourses about controversial selfies map to larger conversations about “audience numbness” and “empathy deficit” in media?
  •  Selfie as ethics: Examples: Who practices “empowering” selfie generation? Who does not? Who cannot? How do these questions map to larger issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, religion and geography? What responsibilities do those who circulate selfies of others have toward the original creator of the photo? What is the relationship between selfies and other forms of documentary photography, with regard to ethics?
  • Selfie as performance/presentation of self: While this aspect might be considered self-evident. We must pay attention to the tension between spontaneity and staging in the way that selfies serve as a performance and presentation of self in global and social media contexts. Also – when does the selfie as genre become a standard and format for staging authenticity in marketing and social activist campaigns across cultures? To what effect and what purpose?

This looks to me like a pretty good breakdown of the different ways to study selfies. All provocative questions. My question is, what value is this to academia, and in what discipline? Is this a direction for scholarship, or a topic to explore for the sake of ethics and being a human being?

Here are some other questions we might want to talk about.

  • Does the selfie cultural phenomenon, most popular in teens and young people, also encourage a culture of self-indulgence and prolonged adolescence? (Star Wars, Marvel, BuzzFeed, “frenemy”) If yes, could there be a correlative or causal relationship between this and the increasingly vitriolic and decreasingly intellectually rigorous nature of our dialogues regarding controversies, e.g. building a border wall?
  • Because selfies typically exist with very limited context, given the temporal nature of our very lives, is the selfie the next iteration of our attempt to document our experience and leave a mark on the word, or an inane squandering of our “one precious life?”
  • “Cam girl” as mentioned in article 3, is a term widely used to describe internet sex workers. We have no way of knowing what the circumstances are under which people do this, so we’ll just have to leave that alone. But assuming they’re not under duress, they’re exchanging content people want for monetary gain. Does this not fall at the extreme end of a sliding scale occupied by many people who might bristle at being compared to sex workers, who post things on the internet for audiences hoping to gain something of benefit to themselves, e.g. endorsements, notoriety, prizes, etc..
  • Selfies have been called a vital form of self expression. In a networked atmosphere, is it misleading to encourage individual posts that value centrality and primacy Was a way of participating in collaboration? When are these practices mutually exclusive and when do they work?
  • If we accept selfies as composition in the classroom, are they replacing other forms or adding to them? Let’s talk about those other forms.
  • Is a selfie not an intensely personal thing, more so than any form of expression we’ve used pedagogically before?
  • What is driving professors and institutions to explore this topic, and what field can most competently do so?
  • Is it fair to use selfies and other forms of digital media that students use for self expression as a classroom tool?

Consider the selfies below. Care to try to interpret them? Let’s talk about that. What’s happening in these photos? What are their contexts?

 

Feb 10

Standard

I’m having a hard time writing, I think because I don’t know that I have that much to say, and I don’t want to be negative. I feel like a lot of the material in these chapters has been a mix of “I knew that already” and “so what.” The irony of reading a print book about how to be current with digital media is starting to grate on me. Beyond that, I think it’s just like I said last week: What we’re reading and talking about are just suggestions for how to be an adult, slightly adapted to the world of digital media and communication. It has me feeling like, if you can’t figure out how to behave with other people, online or in real life, then go sit in the corner and let the grownups handle things. I get that some people have varying degrees of familiarity and comfort with digital tools, and that it’s a book meant to help people “thrive online.” I guess I was just expecting something different. I read some other students’ blogs that had nice things to say. I don’t know, I just don’t feel that. I feel like all of this writing about how great Twitter is for getting people together, and I know it can be and has been, largely ignores any possible negative of the whole internet. I know in earlier chapters Rheingold talks about the dangers of being taken advantage of by a corporation online. I just feel like maybe its a little unbalanced. It’s very inspiring that the inventor of the internet didn’t want to own it, and that we evolved from apes through our ability to help each other and form relationships, and that there are online communities out there that support each other and do good in the world, though all but the third are perhaps irrelevant. But at the same time, Kim Kardashian has 40 MILLION followers on twitter. That’s over 40,200,000 individual accounts that are exposed to whatever she or her PR people decide to share at any given time. Even if a full million of them or more are bots and other junk or spam accounts, that’s still 39 million accounts. Which is 38,999,925 more than I have. 33 million more than Neil deGrasse Tyson. 31 million more than the pope. The reason that I’m yelling about that is, that I guess I’m frustrated. But also important is that the internet is not a rosy place. The internet is just the world transposed into digital space, and in the world people with money and fame influence others to their ends, whatever they are. Some are beneficial to the world, others are nefarious, others still and probably most are dumb. I don’t want to just complain. I guess I feel like coverage here is a little one-sided. I know it is mentioned at some point that there are trolls on the internet, and that some of the stuff on twitter is inane and mind-numbing. But that sidelong acknowledgement I don’t really feel is a sufficient representation, especially in the context of a guide for supposed neophytes to the internet and social media. I’m going to stop, because I don’t feel I’m doing a good job, and it’s possible that my attitude is contaminating this whole project and I don’t want to write a 2000 word screed sounding like a jerk.

 

-Matt