What is a selfie?
Did you see SELFEED yet? It’s an art project by Tyler Madsen, Erik Carter, & Jillian Mayer, that quite simply displays a live feed of the recently posted photos tagged #selfie that are posted to Instagram. Here’s an animated gif showing a random selection of just a few of the selfies that came up when I watched it this afternoon:
My first thought on seeing it was that the images are much more different from each other than the images in Manovich’s Selficity.net project. Here are some of the Selfiecity images:
On checking Selfiecity’s methodology, of course I remembered that they deliberately only looked at single person selfies:
We randomly selected 120,000 photos (20,000-30,000 photos per city) from a total of 656’000 images we collected on Instagram. 2-4 Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workers tagged each photo. For these, we asked Mechanical Turk workers the simple question “Does this photo shows a single selfie”?
We then selected top 1000 photos for each city (i.e., photos which at least 2 workers tagged as a single person selfie).
You can say a lot about the methodology of this kind of research, and especially the biometric analysis that follows (Terri Senft called it a kind of phrenology ;), but obviously if you’re trying to understand selfies and eliminate any images that show anything but a single person you’re ruling out a lot of images. The self-described selfies that the Instagram #selfie tag shows are an interesting counterpoint.
So what is a selfie? Is it what the person taking the photo says it is in the hashtag, or is it what Selfiecity – and, I think, mainstream media – say it is?