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.
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.
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 >.>)
— kelli~ (@helterskelliter) March 3, 2019
In my second DDA this week, I let my inner child loose >.< I hope my entry isn’t too uncouth~
— kelli~ (@helterskelliter) March 3, 2019
~Till next time all you pretty people ;)~